UN Peacekeeping Mission Celebrates its 70th Anniversary
Raising awareness of human rights is one of the key missions of the United Nations (U.N.), founded in 1945. Part of the mission’s responsibilities is to promote peace in conflict-stricken areas such as the African continent. The U.N. peacekeeping mission plays a crucial role with 14 active operations worldwide, and its 70th anniversary in May 2018 was a just cause for celebration due to its impressively impactful efforts.

U.N. Mission’s Main Functions

One relevant fact about the U.N. peacekeeping mission is that it does not interfere with a country’s authority during a conflict; rather, it works as a peace-promoting partner.

U.N. peacekeepers are members of the local military force who can be distinguished by the use of a blue U.N. helmet or beret, and a badge. These workers also have the role of aiding post-conflict areas with extra support so as to rebuild a safe community.

Reestablishing Peace in Côte d’Ivoire

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire, located in West Africa, is one such example of success. When a second civil war broke out right after the election of President Alassane Ouattara, 2011 became an increasingly intense year for the already-weakened country.

The former president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to let the newly-elected President Ouattara take office. As a result, numerous conflicts between their supporters caused the exodus of about 200,000 people to Libya. The death of 400 people marked the three-month period after the 2010 election.

The early days of the U.N. peacekeeping mission consisted of ensuring the implementation of a cease-fire agreement after the 2002-2003 conflicts between the religiously-divided northern and southern regions.

The conflicts kept increasing after the first civil war in 2002, but so did the U.N. peacekeepers — their ranks eventually totaled 11,792 in 2011 in Côte d’Ivoire.

The rape of women and torture were some of the human rights violations the mission worked to combat, and in 2011, 1,726 human rights violations were reported. Thankfully, the presence of the U.N. troops reduced them to the impressive number of 88 in 2016.

Due to such consistent efforts, the refugees that fled the region during the long civil war period could finally return and have the chance to live a stable life again. The mission was successfully closed on June 30, 2017, and Côte d’Ivoire now has a promising future as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

U.N. Mission Challenges in South Sudan

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011, but its citizens have struggled with the effects of never-ending conflicts among President Salva Kiir, and his former Vice President Riek Machar.

Tension escalated between the two parties, leading to the formation of a rebel group lead by ex-Vice President Marchar. Ethnic disputes from the Dinka and Nuer groups marked a series of manifestations of violence such as village pillages and the murder of 50,000 people since 2013.   

The U.N. peacekeeping mission has 16,987 members serving in the area while South Sudan has 2 million refugees. The troops have the responsibility to provide a safe environment for the 210,000 displaced citizens who temporarily live in the Protection of Civilian (POC) sites located in the country.   

Peacekeeping Challenges

Peacekeepers face numerous challenges, one of which being that they were implemented for aid on a short-term level, but as the conflicts continue to grow the sites have become a long-term refuge to the citizens. In fact, $50 million has been allocated to the implementation of POC units as of 2014.    

Another problem for the peacekeepers is the violence that sometimes erupts inside their own camps. In 2016, tension between the ethnic groups Dinka and Shilluk caused the damage of a POC unit located in Malakal. Unfortunately, 1,521 shelters were burned, along with clinics and medical schools.

Women’s Role in Peacekeeping Missions

Women serving in U.N. peacekeeping missions have the important role of bridging relations with groups that can not be easily reached due to national cultural norms.

Female victims of violence have a higher probability of reporting cases to women holding peacekeeping positions. A teenage rape victim in Monrovia, Liberia, opens up: “I can be scared to talk to a man; a woman is better. She is like an auntie or mother.”

The recently closed U.N. peacekeeping mission in Liberia is an example of how women can empower each other through service — 125 female officers from India positively influenced and helped foster success for Liberian women between 2007 and 2016.

Their work was so remarkable, in fact, that the country had an increase in the number of women interested in serving as police officers. This new group of officers will continue to ensure that other females can have a voice if future conflicts emerge.

Maintaining Stability

Women also hold a crucial function in maintaining stability in war-torn areas. Armed robberies went down to 65 percent in Monrovia because of the presence of Indian female officers patrolling the city on foot.

Gerard J. DeGroot, a professor from the University of Saint Andrews who studied cases of women in the armed forces, stated: “Any conflict where you have an all-male army, it’s like a holiday from reality. If you inject women into that situation, they do have a civilizing effect.” 

Global Influence of the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission

World leaders can strongly benefit from seeking partnerships with the United Nations peacekeeping missions. Despite the challenges some of these missions faced, the efforts have provided well-structured plans overall to post-war countries.

The restoration of peace in many communities could have taken much longer without the U.N. peacekeepers’ help. The years of service the peacekeepers have dedicated to the world is an example that selfless acts produce the best results when it comes to crisis response.

– Nijessia Cerqueira
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to Burundi
Burundi is a small, landlocked country in Eastern Africa with a population of 8 million people. It also stands to be one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, ranked 184 out of 188 countries on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. While aiding the struggling country, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Burundi as well.

Burundi’s Political Climate

Burundi suffered a civil war in 1962 and since then has been plagued by ethnic and political conflict amidst continuing efforts to recover as a nation. Poverty has increased due to the spike in violence since the election of Pierre Nkurunziza in 2005. Nkurunziza has since bypassed constitutional limits on his electoral eligibility through announcing a law permitting him to remain in office until 2034.

With the instability in Burundi, continued funding to the country ensures the wellbeing of its citizens. However, the European Union suspended funds to Burundi in March after declaring the president had not done enough to resolve the ongoing political and economic crisis.

But this is not the time to suspend funds to Burundi, for it would do more harm than good. For example, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Burundi in a multitude of ways.

U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to Burundi: Peacekeeping

The foreign aid provided to Burundi would help support America’s goal of peacekeeping in other nations. Burundi is the second-highest contributor to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which focuses on regional peacekeeping.

Through Burundi’s 5,432 troops participating in AMISOM, it is slowly restoring stability around the continent as far as the Horn of Africa.

However, with continued unrest, Burundi faces recalling its deployed troops within and surrounding the country. In this case, the rate of violence and instability will increase not only in the country of Burundi but also in surrounding regions.

Without receiving the foreign aid, Burundi’s military would be unable to assist in peacekeeping throughout the continent, which would most likely lead to the deployment of more American troops onto African soil.

U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to Burundi: Boosting the Economy

Another method for how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Burundi is by pouring financially into the economy of Burundi, which in turn would boost America’s economy.

U.S. investments to Burundi ensure the country can climb the economic ladder, and therefore provide more income for the people of Burundi. When the people of Burundi have higher incomes, they are able to contribute more to the economy of the country.

This benefits American businesses by providing connections with new customers and suppliers. It also prevents additional markets that could be potential competition.

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Burundi through economic growth and development, political stability and respect for human rights; therefore, it is important to continue funding the nation of Burundi.

– Adrienne Tauscheck

Photo: Flickr

FARC Peace Deal

In Colombia, the conflict between the government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has officially ended as of September, after 52 years of unrest. From Havana, Cuba, the historic FARC peace deal between the left-wing rebels and the Columbian government is a vital step on Colombia’s path to prosperity. For Colombians, peace has been given a chance at last, and it is now time for society to create new hope for its children.

According to the Fitch Ratings, the peace deal is already paying dividends and will allow the government to rebuild its revenue base while also reducing debt. The cessation of conflict in previously-uninhabitable areas would prompt investment and allow space for new international markets, especially in mining and agriculture.

Furthermore, President Obama pledged $450 million in aid to Colombia in the next year. While many analysts do not expect a quick change, the economy itself has been recovering for the past decade. With the coming peace package, the economy will receive a much-needed boost.

The peace deal heralds great opportunities for Colombia, but progress will not come without considerable challenges. Reintegration, disarmament and a period of stabilization will have high costs to begin with. Alberto Ramos, head of Latin American Economics at Goldman Sachs, said that “over time, the economic peace dividend is expected to more than offset the initial costs associated with the disarmament and integration of the rebel forces into civil society.”

One possible threat to the FARC peace deal is the reconfiguration of rebel groups, since nothing is stopping guerrilla fighters from forming new extremist political groups and alliances. Violent groups and non-state actors could mobilize individuals to their cause and set their sights on any political power vacuum created by the emerging peace. Therefore, a new security game plan for Colombia is required.


Noman Ashraf

Photo: Flickr

The Role of Unofficial Diplomacy in Peacekeeping
The role of unofficial diplomacy, also known as Track II diplomacy, became increasingly helpful for state crafting. This method of diplomacy started in the U.S. by a group of academics, state department bureaucrats and public intellectuals during the 1970s.

The methods grew out of the conflicts of the Cold War including Soviet-U.S. spy scandals and the Arab-Israeli conflict. By the 1980s and 1990s, many individuals and public institutions were taking part of unofficial diplomacy. Currently, Track II diplomacy is taught in several graduate programs.

The method encourages negotiators and private individuals to meet in an informal and unofficial setting to make common ground where normal diplomatic negotiators can’t.

Governments started worrying that Track II diplomacy is taking over freelance diplomacy but scholars insist that unconventional problems require unconventional solutions. Track II diplomacy efforts help to bring solutions to problems such as in Kashmir, China and North Korea.

An example where Track II diplomacy is used to resolve conflict is in India. For decades, India and Pakistan are fighting for the disputed Kashmir. The tension could escalate again into a conflict between the two countries.

In order to prevent such a situation, Track II diplomacy could bring more stakeholders to the negotiations table. According to the Diplomat, a genuine people-to-people approach would only help reach long-term peace among the two nuclear countries.

In order for unofficial diplomacy process to succeed in the conflict of Kashmir, Track II efforts should include groups who are not necessarily on either side. This includes diverse media and not just local media of both sides.

Also, diplomacy efforts should be conducted in local areas of the conflicts. This includes suburban towns that are not major cities. Agendas for prospective agreements should be open and not limited to biased goals.

A more practical example of the use of unofficial diplomacy is the resolved disputes between the U.S. and Iran. The tensions were high after the Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis.

However, during the time from 1997 to 2005, Track II diplomacy efforts were taken to provide space for productive talk. These talks provided ground to discuss topics that government officials were not ready or willing to discuss. This was unique since the governments were not willing to discuss many issues.

Through implementing frequent use, the role of unofficial diplomacy will aid in the ability to civilly resolve disputes.

Noman Ahmed

Photo: Flickr

The United Nations has been deploying peacekeeping missions since the U.N. Truce and Supervision Organization mission in 1948 which monitored the Armistice Agreement between Israel and neighboring Arab countries. Since 1948, U.N. peacekeeping has evolved to better respond to the world’s ever-changing and increasingly complex conflicts. What started off as a peace monitoring mechanism has become a major international actor in stabilization and development efforts in some of the world’s most volatile and protracted conflicts.

U.N. peacekeeping is managed through the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which was established to succeed the U.N. Office of Special Political Affairs in 1992 under Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. The DPKO may only deploy a peacekeeping mission after receiving the mandate through Security Council resolutions and missions may only be updated or changed through Security Council resolutions. There are three types of peacekeeping personnel that make up mission teams: uniformed personnel including military troops, police and military observers, civilian personnel both local and international and U.N. Volunteers.

Currently, there are 17 different peacekeeping missions around the world ranging in size depending on the nature and scale of the conflict. The largest is the U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which employs over 20,000 personnel and has been operating in various forms since 1999. The mission in Congo also represents a departure from the normal rules and procedures of peacekeeping. Due to necessity and the nature of the Congolese conflict, the first ever “offensive” peacekeeping mission called the Intervention Brigade was launched in 2013 in order to more effectively address instability in the eastern region caused by various rebel groups and militias.

There are three rules to all traditional peacekeeping missions: (1) all parties of the conflict must consent to the deployment of peacekeepers in the area, (2) peacekeepers must remain neutral at all times and take neither side in the conflict, they serve merely as a buffer zone, and (3) peacekeepers may use force only in instances of self-defense or in defense of the Security Council mandate. All uniformed personnel are affiliated with the U.N. Member States. There is no U.N. standing army, so the U.N. depends on the contributions and donations of its Member States to carry out its missions, particularly in the form of uniformed personnel.

Today, U.N. peacekeeping missions are much more than just a buffer zone between two warring parties, peacekeepers are a central part of the stabilization and early reconstruction efforts of the areas where they are deployed. Peacekeepers are actively engaged in rebuilding the rule of law, justice and corrections systems, strengthening social and civil conditions, assisting with elections, aiding security sector reforms, carrying out demining activities and education programs about the dangers of landmines, promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women, protecting civilians, protecting children in conflict areas, assisting with Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration activities and fostering and maintaining respect for human rights.

Peacekeeping missions are a crucial part of the immediate post-war reconstruction phase in countries which are frequently prone to conflict. They are a valuable asset to development efforts in areas that are home to some of the most vulnerable populations on earth.

Erin Sullivan

Sources: NY Times, United Nations, United Nations 2, United Nations 3, United Nations 4, United Nations 5, United Nations 6
Photo: NY Times

History of UN Peacekeeping
The United Nations began during the 1940s and progressed through the height of the Cold War. The United Nations was coined by Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was also the first to use the Declaration of the United Nations during World War II. Consequently, the end of the Cold War changed the United Nations forever. Since then thousands of UN member from 120 countries have been working together in UN peacekeeping operations.

The first operation was known as the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). This operation was the first deployed to keep problems from escalating within the Middle East. Also, the UNTSO monitors ceasefire and peacekeeping within Arab and Jewish citizens in Jerusalem. Accordingly, the UN’s peace keeping stretches across Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic.

The second deployed UN unit was the Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) which oversees the ceasefire in Jammu protecting India and Pakistan from dispute and to resolve fights that break out to due conflict over land.

The first UN peacekeeping involved military force, but now the backbone of the United Nations peacekeeping include everything from administration and economist to police officers to human right’s monitors and humanitarian workers.

After the Cold War, the peacekeeping operations increased immensely. In fact, from the years 1989-1994, the United Nation’s security council authorized peacekeeping operations, rising the number from 11,000 to 75,000.

Currently, The United Nations is leading 16 peacekeeping missions and 1 special mission in Afghanistan. Furthermore, the UNTSO and UNMOGIP are still in progress today. Therefore, leading other peacekeeping missions, like the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFI) which was created to keep peace between Israel and Lebanon should come as no surprise. This is especially the case since, during the 1970s, Israel invaded Lebanon over heated border control issues causing the United Nations to move in to restore peace.

Not only does the United Nations work in the Middle East but also in areas of Africa, Europe, as well as Haiti to help insure safety for humanitarians and civilians.

The United State is a top contributor to help fund the United Nations followed by: Japan, France, Germany, United Kingdom, China, Italy, Russian, Canada and Spain. These nations all work together to fund these operations in order to keep peace in all areas of the world.

The United Nations continues to work to keep peace in areas with high security risks for the people who travel to and live in those areas. This indeed benefits all countries, especially the specific extra border security in those countries that are at risk.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: Forward, United Nations
Photo: The Gaurdian

With violence in the Central African Republic continuing, and complaints of little effectiveness towards the forces from the West coming in, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on April 10 to send in 12,000 peacekeeping troops.

Currently France is holding its 2,000 peacekeeping troops in the nation until the UN force is ready. The hope is that this influx will bring some stability to a struggling nation torn by religious and ethnic violence.

Help from neighboring African nations has been offered, and there are currently 5,000 African Union troops in the nation. However, troops from Chad were recalled earlier in April as reports spread that they were shooting civilians in the capital of Bangui.

Reports like those of the Chadian peacekeepers are troubling and continue to raise questions over who incoming peacekeepers should support. When the efforts began at the end of 2013, the concern was over Muslim militia killing Christians in the region. However, once the peacekeepers came in, retaliatory killings by Christian “anti-balaka” militia resulted in migrations by Muslims and perilous refugee camps set up in the capital of Bangui.

To the credit of the United Nations, they appear to be taking a pro-active response to these complaints. The arrival of more troops meets a pressing need as there had been many complaints over the lack of troops and their reluctance to enter the more dangerous regions of the nation. Hopefully a troop influx will meet victims’ needs.

In the weeks before the vote by the UNSC violence appeared to be escalating in the region. In the days before the vote at least 30 people died in attacks by the anti-balaka militia. UN estimates that were published in the lead-up to the vote estimated that a quarter of the population was “in desperate need of aid.”

The violence in the Central African Republic has gotten little of the media attention that conflicts in Ukraine and Syria have gotten, yet it is a burgeoning problem in a region of growing importance. The peacekeeping announcement is a step in the right direction for the international community. Organizations like the Borgen Project advocate for assistance in regions of turmoil like the Central African Republic is currently dealing with.

While this mission may be meant to encourage peace in the region, it may be some time before that goal is achieved. The work in nations like the Democratic Republic of the Congo shows how difficult that peace efforts in out-of-the way posts are for the West. The efforts will be monitored and followed by the members of the Borgen Project, in the hope that the citizens of the CAR will live better lives soon.

-Eric Gustafsson

Sources: The Week, Reuters, New York Times
Photo: ISN

Last month, on February 24th, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) released a new report, the Water and Conflict Toolkit. The toolkit is part of a series that explores the ways in which development assistance can assess and manage key risk factors that are associated with conflict and instability in developing countries.

One major contributing factor to conflict is in fact, water.

Water is a human necessity, essential for both survival and development. Its management can be complex, as it often generates competition between divided parties.

USAID is using this toolkit to try to mitigate these effects and promote effective water management. This will not only increase access to water and increase agricultural productivity, but also unite communities and lead the way towards peacebuilding.

This is the first time that USAID has created such a water strategy. During the five-year effort USAID hopes to ensure that 10 million more people have access to drinking water, 6 million have improved access to sanitation, and 3 million have improved access to agricultural productivity.

The report noted the multiple challenges that will be faced, with population growth and movement to urban areas at the top of the list. Other factors that also need to be taken into account include agricultural and industrial demands, corrupt governance, water politics, pollution and climate change.

A number of leaders spoke at the launch of the Water and Conflict Toolkit, held at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, D.C. Among them was Gideon Bromberg, the Israeli director of EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East.

Bromberg highlighted the particular importance of this report, noting that the toolkit is about much more than just conflict.

“It’s put very much in the forefront the possibilities of peacebuilding. Water is an opportunity in areas where there aren’t many opportunities.”

He used the example of the Jordan River to show how effective water management can generate the will for change.

The Jordan River has its headwaters in Syria and borders Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. Over the past 50 years, about 96% of its freshwater has been diverted for agricultural and domestic use and the river’s flow has dropped substantially.

In 2013, a committee of local leaders got together and successfully passed an initiative to pump water regularly from Lake Kinneret into the lower Jordan River, to revitalize the overused ecosystem.

Bromberg explained the change that this grassroots, bottom-up initiative generated,

“I had a water minister from both sides come and say ‘You guys, you environmentalists, you’re dreamers, you’re tree-huggers! Water is too scarce! We’re not going to waste water to allow it to flow down the River Jordan. Were not going to allow water to go beyond our borders and empower the other side, the enemy.’ Well, that was said to us a decade ago. Today, that same leadership is carrying the flag of rehabilitating the Jordan River. This is their project, this is their political leadership, this is their success.”

Public awareness and community mobilization were key to the success of the Jordan River initiative.

The Water and Conflict Toolkit will hopefully be another resource that can be used to effectively manage water, mitigate conflict, and promote peacebuilding among communities.

Mollie O’Brien

Sources: New Security Beat, All Africa, USAID
Photo: Aqua Rocks

Aid Effectiveness in South Sudan
South Sudan is looming on the edge of a civil war. An ugly political dispute between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar is at the heart of the fighting, but it is also fueled by endemic poverty and tribal warfare. The United States is especially vexed because of the $1.8 billion in aid it has given to South Sudan since 2011, and also because it has been South Sudan’s champion to the international community.

The pressing goal at the moment is galvanizing a ceasefire so that negotiations can take place. US National Security Advisor Susan Rice has been pressuring both Kiir and Machar to agree to an immediate ceasefire. Machar has voiced that he would not agree unless detainees held by President Kiir were released, but Rice has dismissed Machar’s misgivings as petty considering the continuing lives lost due to the ongoing conflict.

On a positive note, the US has convinced the UN Security Council to mobilize nearly six thousand more peacekeepers to South Sudan. However, this has not proven to be enough, and in what seems like a last-ditch effort, Secretary of State John Kerry has threatened to pull US assistance and diplomatic support from South Sudan, unless Kiir tries to curb his forces. As things stand now, US aid is being underutilized since constant fighting prevents access by aid workers and ultimately undermines aid effectiveness. The conflict has become so violent that the United States is considering military intervention.

Before attempting military intervention, the US will use targeted sanctions in order to pressure both of South Sudan’s senior leaders into submission. The possible sanctions would involve freezing US assets of the leaders and banning their travel to the United States. The prosecution of war criminals is also crucial in breaking the sense of impunity that enables these atrocities to continue.

Although all odds seem to be against them, Sudanese refugees from the state of Blue Nile offer a bright spot in an otherwise dark and violent story. When aid agencies in South Sudan pulled out due to the growing danger of warfare, these refugees stepped in to take over the responsibility of running the refugee camps, including protecting the resources provided by the UNHCR and keeping water pumps in working order.

Despite close proximity to the fighting, Adam Ilmi, UNHCR’s head of operations in Bunj, says that the morale of his staff is high, and UNHCR’s partner, the World Food Program, has ramped up its food rations. Aid provided by the United States may have given South Sudan a chance at greater peace and prosperity with enough time and stability. Unfortunately, war eats up everything in its path and no amount of money can stave off the destruction wreaked by constant fighting. The story of South Sudan thus far, is not an example of the ineffectiveness of aid, but rather of the overwhelmingly ruinous power of warfare.

Jordan Schunk

Sources: AllAfrica , The Daily Beast, Post Bulletin , Reuters
Photo: Guardian LV