Namibia as a Successful Peace Operation

NamibiaWhile there have been numerous peace operations, the United Nations peacebuilding mission in Namibia is regarded as one of the United Nation’s most prominent successes. Peace operations were not originally mentioned in the 1945 U.N. Charter, however the modern condition of warfare has allowed for flexibility in international law, norms, and actors. The extension of the definition of “threats to peace and international security” has broadened over time, as evidenced by legal positivism and treaties such as the Responsibility to Protect and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It has been argued the Security Council embraced an innovative character throughout the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  A large contribution to this was the extension of “threats to peace” after the Cold War to include widespread violations of international humanitarian law and the massive flow of refugees. Since the 1990’s, the Security Council has acted past its authorized powers by means of flexible interpretation of the charter, but mostly expressed consent.There have been numerous peace operations, specifically during after the 1990’s, and many of these operations have taken place in civil war conflict areas. While there are various debates on the efficacy of peace operations, the mission is Namibia provides a case of a successful and sustainable peace.

Namibia is a country that was colonized by the Germans until a defeat by South Africa in 1915. South Africa ruled colonized Namibia until the Security Council confirmed the illegality of South Africa’s presence in the Territory in 1970, and later declared the necessity to hold free elections in Namibia as to ameliorate the oppressive presence of the South African Administration on the Namibian peoples. The United Nations adopted Resolution 435 in 1978 for U.N. supervision over Namibia’s independence, the mission was titled United Nations Transition Assistance Group, also referred to as UNTAG.According to the U.N. Mandate, the mission aimed to “Assist the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to ensure the early independence of Namibia through free and fair elections under the supervision and control of the United Nations. UNTAG was also to help the Special Representative to ensure that: “All hostile acts were ended; troops were confined to base, and, in the case of the South Africans, ultimately withdrawn from Namibia; all discriminatory laws were repealed, political prisoners were released, Namibian refugees were permitted to return, intimidation of any kind was prevented, law and order were impartially maintained.”

UNTAG proved to be different from previous peace operations, for its goals were focused on political rather than military goals. The success of the mission in Namibia had many ingredients. Not only was the timing appropriate due to the regional desire for peace, but UNTAG involved a great deal of civilian involvement. This is a critical component, for civilian input is invaluable when a society is being constructed into a democratic entity. Since the United Nations had been involved in Namibia for a substantial amount of time, the personnel and senior offices were very familiar with the situation. This is significant, for outside parties need dense insight into the conflict of which they are intervening. The wide mandate of the UN, combined with the sense of legitimacy by the Namibian people was necessary for the lasting peace in the region. Namibia gained independence in March 1990 and joined the United Nations as an independent country in April 1990.

– Neti Gupta

Sources: Taylor & Francis Online, University of Colorado, United Nations 1, United Nations 2

Photo: Fotolibra