Why is the UN a broken system

UN peace missions

Sending peace missions to conflict areas is a key instrument of UN peacekeeping. Peace soldiers, police and civil forces from different countries pursue the goal of curbing violence, preventing the escalation of conflicts and guaranteeing the basic security of people and institutions in crisis regions.

Current peace missions

While peacekeeping operations during the Cold War were still a marginal phenomenon due to the blockade in the Security Council, over the past 25 years they have developed into an important means of international peacekeeping. The missions today are multi-dimensional and multi-layered, they combine "classic" peacekeeping with peacebuilding and, in addition to a military component, include civil functions, with the spectrum of tasks ranging from maintaining security to taking on government tasks. The UN is increasingly cooperating with regional organizations and delegating the implementation of peace operations to NATO, the European Union and the African Union, among others.

Implementation of peace missions in the United Nations system

Peace operations are decided by the UN Security Council. The executive management lies with the UN Secretary General. This appoints special representatives for the management of the peace missions on the ground. UN country teams consist of representatives from UN organizations and UN programs in the areas of development policy and humanitarian aid. In the UN Secretariat, the peacekeeping operations department (DPKO) is responsible for planning and managing peace missions. The Peacebuilding Commission, established in 2006, acts as an advisory subsidiary body to the Security Council and the General Assembly and coordinates post-conflict reconstruction. The peace operations are financed by all UN member states, with the budget committee of the UN General Assembly setting the budget, which takes the economic strength of the countries as a basis.

UN peace missions in transition

"Classic" peacekeeping is the deployment of lightly armed forces or unarmed military observers by the UN Security Council to monitor ceasefire agreements and create buffer zones between the conflicting parties. The presence of impartial peacekeepers ("blue helmets"), so the idea is to reduce tensions in a conflict and pave the way for a negotiated solution. Peacekeeping can use the means of peaceful dispute resolution according to Chap. VI of the UN Charter, although it is not written into the Charter. Since it is also a military measure, peacekeeping was also referred to as Chapter VI 1/2 measure. An important prerequisite for sending blue helmets is the consent of the conflicting parties. In addition, the principle of using gun violence only for self-defense applies.

With the increase in internal conflicts since the early 1990s, it became clear that the presence of impartial peacekeepers was often not enough. Civilian conflict prevention and peacebuilding measures therefore became increasingly important. This is how multidimensional peacekeeping developed, which includes the stabilization of peace agreements in the transitional phase after conflicts, support in building democratic institutions, monitoring elections, returning refugees and disarming the conflicting parties. Military personnel are supplemented by police officers and civilian employees such as administrative staff. In some cases, however, UN peace missions do not have a purely military mandate and, for example, carry out observer missions to monitor elections, hold referendums or uphold human rights. Political missions are also usually civilian missions.

International Day of UN Peacekeepers

With the International Day of the UN Peacekeeper on May 29th, the United Nations is honoring the efforts of the more than 120,000 international soldiers, police officers and civilian workers who contribute to peace in UN missions. The day is also dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives in a UN mission. It was committed for the first time in 2003. The UN General Assembly chose May 29 for International Peacekeeper Day, because on this date in 1948 the United Nations' first peacekeeping mission, the UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organization) observer mission in Palestine, had been decided.

The failure of the UN peace missions in Somalia, the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda plunged UN peacekeeping into a serious crisis in the 1990s and showed that the mandates of traditional peace operations were incompatible with the reality of violent internal conflicts: the peace soldiers lacked them necessary competencies for peace enforcement. The Security Council reacted by allowing the use of military force to defend the mandate (e.g. to protect the civilian population). Most missions today have such a robust mandate.

UN peace missions were given additional competencies by taking on executive tasks (executive mandate). This means the temporary assumption of government tasks and the establishment of an interim administration with the aim of gradually preparing the handover of government functions to democratically legitimized representatives of the population.

Problems and approaches to reform

Since the UN peacekeeping crisis of the 1990s, there have been and have been reform efforts aimed at eliminating the deficits of peace missions. The fundamental problem is that the demands on peace missions are now very high, but the resources provided by the UN member states are too few. The mobilization of financial contributions and the provision of international troops are often time-consuming and arduous. At the same time, peace missions have been more personnel and resource intensive, especially in the last 15 years, due to their broad range of tasks.

The catalogs of measures that the then UN Secretary General Boutros Ghali formulated in his Agenda for Peace in 1992 for all forms of peacekeeping are among the early reform proposals. Among other things, he proposed the creation of a system of standby arrangements (UNSAS). The goal is an international volunteer army that can be deployed at short notice in order to avoid an escalation of the conflict. This should enable a quick reaction and shorten the troop formation process. By concluding bilateral agreements with the UN, UN member states should declare their readiness to provide support services (including soldiers, experts, material). However, this willingness has remained low to this day.
Eight years later, the Brahimi Report - named after the head of the Commission of Experts appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Lakhdar Brahimi - addressed problems of UN peacekeeping, developed comprehensive proposals for solutions and triggered a comprehensive reform debate.

In the recent past, cases of sexual violence by UN peacekeepers have also been in focus. Since 2006, all allegations of wrongdoing by peacekeepers have been collected centrally.


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