April 1, 1998: Headlines: COS - Tunisia: United Nations: Diplomacy: USINFO: UN Peacekeeping Operations: Worthwhile Investments in Peace by Tunisia RPCV Edmund Hull

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tunisia: Peace Corps Tunisia : The Peace Corps in Tunisia: April 1, 1998: Headlines: COS - Tunisia: United Nations: Diplomacy: USINFO: UN Peacekeeping Operations: Worthwhile Investments in Peace by Tunisia RPCV Edmund Hull

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UN Peacekeeping Operations: Worthwhile Investments in Peace by Tunisia RPCV Edmund Hull

UN Peacekeeping Operations: Worthwhile Investments in Peace by Tunisia RPCV Edmund Hull

UN Peacekeeping Operations: Worthwhile Investments in Peace by Tunisia RPCV Edmund Hull

By Edmund J. Hull
Director, Office of Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Operations
Department of State

UN peacekeeping operations, in many situations, enable the United States "to influence events without assuming the full burden of costs and risks," says Hull. Americans "have a deep stake in whether conflicts are contained, social disruptions are minimized, and international standards of behavior are respected....We must retain the flexibility to employ UN peacekeeping as a viable alternative" for responding to international emergencies. Hull is Director of the Office of Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Operations, Bureau of International Organization Affairs, Department of State.


During the Cold War, the United Nations could resort to multilateral peace operations only in the few cases in which the interests of the Soviet Union and the West did not conflict. In the 40 years from 1948 -- when the first UN peacekeeping mission was established -- to 1988, the UN Security Council approved a total of 13 such operations. Thus there was little need for a formal U.S. peacekeeping policy during this era.

The end of the Cold War brought historic opportunities but also historic challenges to the international community. With the world no longer divided into rival ideological blocs, the warring sides in places like Cambodia, El Salvador, Mozambique, and Angola turned to the international community, and to the United Nations in particular, for help in putting an end to the fighting and achieving political reconciliation. Unfortunately, at the same time, in other parts of the world, the reduced potential for East-West conflict was accompanied by the eruption of a range of conflicts that were not traditional wars, nor were they as amenable to traditional peacekeeping efforts. Meanwhile, the success of the Gulf War coalition in repelling the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait enhanced hopes that international coalitions were now more possible for repelling aggression.

In the Balkans and in parts of the former Soviet Union, the demise of Communist control allowed long-standing ethnic and religious conflicts to resume with new fury. In Africa, governments and political movements took advantage of personal, clan, and ethnic hatreds to lead campaigns of human savagery on a scale matched only rarely in this century. These types of conflict were marked by displacements of large numbers of civilians whose flight into neighboring states threatened to destabilize their regions and require large-scale international humanitarian and refugee assistance. In several cases, no major power had an interest significant enough to form and lead a coalition, as in the case of Kuwait. Attempts to address these conflicts centered initially, therefore, on the deployment of UN peacekeeping missions.

The result was a revitalization of the long-paralyzed UN Security Council. Conceived as the international community's guardian of peace and security, the United Nations was faced with an unprecedented demand for intervention and higher expectations regarding its ability to respond. In Rwanda, Somalia, and Bosnia, these efforts foundered, proving to be well beyond the capacity of the United Nations per se. In other cases, UN operations proved especially helpful in ending conflicts that had cost the United States dearly during the years of the Cold War. UN peacekeepers have been instrumental in assisting Cambodia, Mozambique, El Salvador, and, most recently, Guatemala and Liberia to end devastating civil wars.

U.S. Interests

During his administration, President Bush observed that the United Nations was "emerging as a central instrument for the prevention and resolution of conflicts and the preservation of peace." About the same time former President Reagan called for "a standing UN force -- an army of conscience -- equipped and prepared to carve out humanitarian sanctuaries through force if necessary." Former Secretary of State James Baker said in 1992, "UN peacekeeping is a pretty good buy and we ought to recognize that....We spent trillions of dollars to win the Cold War and we should be willing to spend millions of dollars to secure the peace...." Successive U.S. administrations have understood that U.S. participation in the United Nations serves to advance America's interests and to promote the cause of world peace.

UN and other multilateral peace operations will at times offer the best way to prevent, contain, or resolve conflicts that could otherwise be more costly and deadly. These conflicts have cost the U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars in support and humanitarian assistance. Emergency aid to conflicts in Africa rivals, and often exceeds, our entire development budget for the continent. Americans pay for conflict in many ways, and we benefit from peace. Where the United Nations continues to use neutral military personnel to separate combatants -- in the Middle East, on Cyprus, and on the India-Pakistan border -- the risk of renewed conflict is real, and in every one of these cases, important U.S. interests would be affected by renewed war.

UN peacekeeping continues to offer the United States a valuable option for dealing with threats to international peace and security before they affect our interests so directly that we would consider unilateral U.S. military action. The United Nations also provides us an agreed framework for burdensharing. Today, there are fewer than 700 Americans among the 14,700 civilian police and military personnel serving in the 16 missions the United Nations has around the world. And while we are committed to paying 25 percent of the cost of the operations we agree to in the Security Council, working through the United Nations means that others pay the vast majority of the costs. We also benefit by being able to invoke the voice of the community of nations on behalf of a cause we support.

UN peacekeeping fits in a spectrum of options for dealing with conflict and instability. Depending on the nature of the crisis and the degree to which vital U.S. interests are at stake, we may rely on diplomacy or resort to direct U.S. military action. What UN peacekeeping provides for us is a middle ground between those ends of the spectrum and an agreed structure for sharing the responsibility with others. It is an instrument that, correctly used, has proven its value many times over.

Lessons Learned

The experience of UN peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia and Somalia taught us all some powerful lessons about the limits of what peacekeepers can achieve when the parties to a conflict are still bent on violence. That is not to say that these operations did not save thousands of lives and allow the delivery of humanitarian relief to innocent bystanders. But the record of these operations made clear that the international community had to consider other options if it judged that a threat to international peace and security required intervention, even though the parties themselves had not yet decided to begin a political process to resolve the conflict.

In mid-1994, the administration adopted a formal policy on reforming multilateral peace operations. Recognizing the UN's limitations, the administration committed to bringing the rigors of military and political analysis to every new UN peace mission. At our urging, the Security Council acted at about the same time to adopt a similar set of guidelines for its deliberations. The United States will support well-defined peace operations, generally, as a tool to provide finite windows of opportunity to allow combatants to resolve their differences and failed societies to begin to reconstitute themselves. Peace operations should not be open-ended commitments, but instead be linked to concrete political solutions. To the greatest extent possible, each UN peace operation should have a specified timeframe tied to intermediate or final objectives, an integrated political-military strategy well-coordinated with humanitarian assistance efforts, specified troop levels, and a firm budget estimate. Where U.S. troops are contemplated for participation, factors for consideration are even stricter. U.S. participation must advance U.S. interests and be considered necessary for the operation's success. President Clinton has never -- and will never -- relinquish command of U.S. forces.

Coupled with greater rigor in decision-making has been substantial improvement in the UN's capacity to plan for and manage its expanded peacekeeping responsibilities. The UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations has been expanded and reorganized. A 24-hour Situation Center was set up with modern communications and information processing capabilities. The United States has loaned American military personnel to help staff and professionalize this department. We continue to work with the United Nations to enhance its ability to respond rapidly worldwide.

This cooperation, which builds upon work begun by previous administrations and is informed by the concerns of the Congress and our recent experience, aims to ensure that our use of peacekeeping is selective and more effective. As one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, we have the ability to veto any UN operation that is inconsistent with our interests. The United States does not support a standing UN army, nor will we earmark specific U.S. military units for participation in UN operations. We will provide information about U.S. capabilities for data bases and planning purposes.

As a result of this more disciplined approach, the past several years have seen a dramatic decline in the scale and costs of UN peacekeeping. At the height of UN peacekeeping in the summer of 1993, there were 78,000 blue helmets worldwide. Today, there are fewer than 15,000. Accordingly, the total U.S. annual cost of UN peacekeeping has declined from over $1,000 million to less than $300 million for each of the past several years.

UN Peacekeeping Today

Since the adoption of this new approach to peacekeeping, there have been fewer new UN missions established and a greater tendency on the part of the Security Council to turn to other organizations to carry out operations that exceed the UN's capabilities. This was the case in Haiti, where a U.S.-led multinational force went in first to establish a secure and stable environment in which peacekeeping responsibilities could be turned over to a traditional UN mission. After the Dayton Accords, there was a division of labor between NATO and the United Nations, with IFOR (Interim Force) and now SFOR (Stabilization Force) assuming responsibility for the military aspects of implementation in Bosnia, while the United Nations handled police reform and the peaceful reintegration of Eastern Slavonia into Croatia.

Other regional organizations have taken the lead in areas of concern to them, often with an endorsement from the Security Council. This happened in Albania, where an Italian-led OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) mission deployed to help stabilize the situation and allow the delivery of humanitarian relief supplies, as well as in the Central African Republic, where a French-backed African multinational force intervened to successfully quell a series of military mutinies. There also have been regionally based peacekeeping operations in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Caucasus, with large-scale deployments of peacekeepers from the Economic Community of West African States (in Liberia and Sierra Leone) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (in Georgia and Tajikistan). In all cases except Sierra Leone, small UN observer missions currently serve as neutral authorities working in concert with these regional efforts.

In the future, the United Nations is most likely to be tasked with leading peacekeeping missions where the parties to a conflict have agreed to a cease-fire and peace accord, but require outside help in implementing that agreement. The UN's record in carrying out that kind of mission is impressive. Successfully concluded peace operations in Cambodia, El Salvador, Mozambique, Guatemala, and Eastern Slavonia are all examples of the UN's ability to fulfill this role. Ongoing missions of this nature in Angola and Tajikistan are making good progress toward achieving their objectives. Increasingly, UN civilian police will be called upon to monitor, to mentor, and to train local police forces that play an essential role in restoring stability and facilitating the exit of peacekeeping troops.

UN operations served U.S. security and foreign policy objectives in a variety of ways over the past years. For example:

The UN Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL), working in cooperation with the West African cease-fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), helped to provide a suitable environment for a free and fair presidential election, which brought to an end a decade of turmoil in that country.

In Guatemala, a small UN observer group successfully oversaw, during a three-month period, the demobilization and first steps of reintegration into society of a guerrilla force that had operated there for almost 40 years.

The UN Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia (UNTAES) successfully facilitated the peaceful reintegration of the region into Croatia and defused a potential flash point between Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic.

In Haiti, all UN military forces were able to withdraw, leaving behind only a small UN civilian police operation to continue to work to professionalize, according to international democratic policing principles, the Haitian National Police.

In Tajikistan, a small UN observer mission continues to assist the government and principal opposition movement to implement a peace agreement ending their civil war.

In Angola, a small UN mission, drawn down from a UN force of 7,000 in 1996, is supervising the final phases of implementation of the Lusaka protocols.

UN operations are helping prevent a flare-up of violence in Cyprus between two NATO allies, Turkey and Greece; between India and Pakistan over Kashmir; and between Israel and her neighbors in the Middle East.

Along the Iraq-Kuwait border, a UN observer mission (financed primarily by Kuwait) is monitoring Iraqi troop movements and demonstrating the world's continued resolve against the expansionist ambitions of Saddam Hussein.

In Central Africa, a small UN force will work in concert with an Inter-African force to assist in providing basic civil order while the government implements the fundamental political, military, and economic reforms that can help guarantee the Central African Republic's long-term stability.


We do not look to the United Nations to defend our vital interests, nor can we expect the United Nations to be effective where the decisive application of military force is required. But, in many circumstances, the United Nations will enable us to influence events without assuming the full burden of costs and risks. It lends the weight of law and world opinion to causes and principles we support. It can provide a measure of confidence to competing factions that are weary of war, but undecided whether to make peace. And the more able the United Nations is to end or contain conflict, the less likely it is that we will have to deploy our armed forces. The United States is not the world's policeman, but we Americans have a deep stake in whether conflicts are contained, social disruptions are minimized, and international standards of behavior are respected. When emergencies arise, we will respond in accordance with our interests, sometimes on our own, sometimes as part of a coalition, and sometimes through the mechanism of an international organization. We must retain the flexibility to employ UN peacekeeping as a viable alternative, lest we be faced with the cruel choice each time a foreign conflict threatens our interests: a morally unacceptable choice between doing nothing and intervening unilaterally with American soldiers taking all the risks.

Peacekeeping has the capacity, under the right circumstances, to separate adversaries, maintain cease-fires, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian relief, enable refugees and displaced persons to return home, demobilize combatants, and create conditions under which political reconciliation may occur and free elections may be held. Such UN peacekeeping operations -- carefully conceived, constantly maturing, and successfully concluded -- are worthwhile investments in peace. They can help to nurture new democracies, lower the global tide of refugees, reduce the likelihood of unwelcome interventions by regional powers, and prevent small wars from growing into larger conflicts that would be far more costly in lives and treasures.

U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda
USIA Electronic Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2, April 1998

When this story was prepared, here was the front page of PCOL magazine:

This Month's Issue: August 2004 This Month's Issue: August 2004
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?

Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."

In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.

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Story Source: USINFO

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