PEACEKEEPINGPeacekeepers are responsible for observing and helping to implement peace processes by maintaining a stable, secure environment in conflict zones. Peacekeeping missions are based on the idea that multilateral (two or more countries working together), non-military action creates the most suitable conditions for a lasting peace.
The United Nations leads the majority of peacekeeping missions, although peacekeeping is sometimes done through regional organizations like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), or by Ďpeace armiesí composed of trained civilians. UN peacekeepers include soldiers, police officers and civilian personnel, with the UN Security Council authorizing their missions. In mid-2004, the UN managed 17 operations, including the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC). Established in November 1999, MONUC has the difficult task of maintaining stability in a country devastated by war and governed by a transitional government with minimal infrastructure and deep ethnic divisions.
Peacekeeping operations cost approximately $2.6 billion per year, a small sum compared to the $1.2 trillion spent by governments worldwide on weapons in 2006.
The cost of peacekeeping missions is funded by all of the member states of the UN. The UN Charter requires all member states to contribute human and material resources for peace missions. In 2007, over 71,000 personnel from 117 countries were contributing to UN peacekeeping missions. MONUC alone currently numbers 20,000 personnel from more than 100 countries, including Canada. The majority of peacekeepers come from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ghana, India, Ethiopia, South Africa, Uruguay, Jordan and Kenya. The UN is also striving to increase the participation of women in peacekeeping and has begun to include gender sensitivity training in peace missions.
Canada has a long tradition of involvement and leadership in peacekeeping operations. In fact, former Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson first introduced the concept of peacekeeping. Pearson successfully proposed peacekeeping as a method of stabilizing inter-state tensions during the Suez Crisis in 1957. Since the Suez Crisis, 125,000 Canadians have served as peacekeepers for the UN, more than any other country.
Controversy and Change
There has been controversy over the years regarding the traditional non-military mandate of UN peacekeepers not being permitted to use force except in self-defense. Many saw this as a limitation on peacekeepersí ability to bring peace and stability to the regions in which they were serving, while others maintained that it was not the role of peacekeepers to become involved in the fighting. As missions increased in scope and danger, and as attacks on UN peacekeepers grew in frequency and intensity, the Security Council began to mandate peacekeepers to use force when necessary to protect themselves and civilians in their vicinity. The right to defend the mission and those who it is established to protect by using force should always be used as a last resort. While MONUCís early mission did not give it the mandate to use force to achieve its mission, this was later altered in light of the difficult situation faced by these peacekeepers, including the deaths of 60 peacekeeping personnel since the mission began.
Since being established, MONUCís role has developed according to the needs of the country and the resources available to the mission. Originally intended to end the fighting between rebel groups and to monitor the truce, it later supported post-conflict disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programmes. Now, MONUC is assisting in the political transition, including national elections which took place in March 2006. MONUCís operation in the DRC has seen the withdrawal of 23,400 Rwandan troops, along with withdrawals of Ugandan, Zimbabwean and Angolan troops. This is significant as the presence of troops from these countries, with the purpose of looting the mineral wealth of the DRC, was one of the main causes of the conflict. Thanks in part to MONUCís presence and work in the DRC, most regions of the country are stable and moving towards re-unification. Though conflict continues in the Eastern part of the country, the authorization of MONUC troops to be stationed in this region offers hopes of conflict resolution, stability, and peace. It will also be a challenge that may require further development of MONUCís mission specifically, and in the mandate of UN peacekeepers in general.
War Child Projects that Make a Difference:
To learn about what War Child Canada is doing in the Democratic Republic of Congo, visit our international projects page here: http://www.getloud.ca/en/gpi_project.asp
Want to Learn More?
1. United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC)
2. United Nations Peacekeeping
3. Government of Canada: Canada and Peace Support Operations