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The Role of the UN in Conflict and Peace Building

The United Nations (UN) was instituted in 1945 as an international organization with a view to ensure world peace. The UN had taken the place of the League of Nations as it was unsuccessfulin preventingThe Great War. The United Nations was set up by 51 nations and led by the Allied powers after the Second World War. Now the UN has 193 members. The configuration of the UN echoes the geopolitical conditions present at the time of its origin. The Security Council of the UN is the body that has the responsibility to enforce its decisions. It has five permanent members, the United States, Russia, UK, China and France. In the beginning, Russia and China were not themembers of the Security Council, but they took the place of the Soviet Union and the Republic of China. 

It can be said that the UN is an organization of nations that have been intended to avert the incidents of war between nations, but this organization has struggled to deal with the issues of civil and ethnic strife within the nations. Particularly after the end of Cold War, there has been a shift in the trends in conflict from international to intra-national conflicts. Hence, nations are no more the defining framework when itcomes to describing a conflict (Fasulo, 2003). The UN Security Council, the enforcement tool of the UN had to deal with intra-State as well as non-state threats by expanding the scope of jurisdiction even if questions have been raised regarding the suitability of intervention by the UN in internal conflict situations (Kingsbury and Roberts, eds. 1994). 

The United Nations still deals with the issues in context of relations between the states, although, many times there are common problems within the states. Similarly there are several governments that are part of the UN and other authoritarian regimes butthey had come to power by force. These do not echo the welfare of their people. Due to this reason, a large number of the people of the world feel that they do not have the presentation at the UN. Hence, it has been proposed that representation should be given in the UN to the members of society, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and religious leaders who can stand for or better deal with the disenfranchised populace and allow a larger role.

There have been a number of broad trends that characterize the international environment after the end of the Cold War. There has been the rise of centrifugal and centripetal forces due to which interdependence and also different types of conflicts were generated. The peace building architecture of the United Nations reveals several tensions and difficulties that are present in global governance today. The peace building framework of the UN was established to introduce a concerted approach to the fragmented responses of the international community to the nations that were emerging from conflict (Scheffer, 1999). It was believed that the peace building efforts of the UN would act as an innovative experiment to break away from the usual business of myriad international actors who were involved in peace building. Therefore, although it was based at the UN, the peace building infrastructure, acted as a catalytic mechanism to introduce a new approach to peace building as it convened all the relevant actors, who belies the new resources and also served as a positively of actors, policy and knowledge (Meron, 1998). There have been a number of changes during the last few decades in international context and several important lessons have been learned from the operations of the UN peace building architecture.

The Rise of Centrifugal and Centripetal Forces

It can be certainly claimed that during the last few decades, several lessons related with these buildings have been learned by the international community. During the 1990s, there was a series of ad hoc, piecemeal interventions in different countries ranging from Cambodia and El Salvador and Sierra Leone which provided a wealth of experience to the international community and resulted in the creation of new policies, entities, as well as new programs and practices (Robertson, 2002). Peace building was further institutionalized by the creation of peace building architecture in 2005 at the UN. It also confirmed its significance, as a part of the repertoire of the conflict management tools that are available with the UN to assist the nations in overcoming the legacy of violent conflicts and also to stop their lapse or relapse in conflict. 

As mentioned above, after the end of the Cold War, there was a new generation of peacekeeping operations. These new situations required more robust peacekeeping operations, so that they can effectively deal with intra-state conflicts. However, in 1990s, UN was facing difficulties in achieving this objective, which changed the initial optimism towards a more pessimistic position. The complexity related with intra-state conflicts that were going on within the population of the country, along with the governments and significant managerial problems, needed multidimensional peacekeeping missions. This was the decade when interventions in different states in conflict have been justified as the humanitarian intervention (Bassiouni, 1998).

The peacekeeping operations that took place during this time left and negative trace - Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia etc. As a result of the rarely successful peacekeeping operations of the UN, the organization are to consider introducing major changes in the peace operations structure. As a result of lack of consistency and determination of the mandate was not sustainable anymore. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that peace operations are meant to intervene: to prevent conflict where we can, to put a stop to it when it has broken out, or -when neither of those things is possible- at least to contain it and prevent it from spreading. The results of this change in perspective can be seen in the form of UN mandates in Sierra Leone and in Haiti.

“With growing awareness that a new problem is serious enough to warrant attention by the international policy community of states, new norms in which the newly acquired knowledge is embedded need to be articulated, disseminated, and institutionalized (Thakur and Weiss, 2009).

The UN Peace Building Architecture

Peacekeeping is a complicated concept that has complicated uses. As a result of the difficult coordination that exists in the political sphere - the UN, secretary general, Security Council and member states and also in the operational sphere, the type of conflict, parties confronted and geographical area, the required distance he was not present that was necessary. For these operations to be effective. The problems start with the fact that there is no definition of peacekeeping, mentioned in the charter of the UN. There is no particular Article of the chapter that precisely refers to the meaning of peacekeeping operations or the criteria to establish these operations or the guidelines related with the deployment of these operations. Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali had stated that the peace operations entail the deployment of the UN in the field, hitherto with the consent of all the parties concerned and for the purpose of ending the conflict and to recover security in the area (Weller, 2002). Therefore, it can be said that the objective of peacekeeping forces is to protect the civilians, supervise the cease-fire, provide aid, ensure the demobilization of military and elections so that the particular nation can be restored back to peace and stability. 

Annan had identified five policy pillars of a counterterrorism strategy. These were “dissuasion of people from resorting to or supporting terrorism; denial of access to funds and materials to terrorists; deterrence of states from sponsoring terrorism; capacity development so states can defeat terrorism; and defense of human rights.” (Thakur and Weiss, 2009).

The UN peacekeeping operations are the result of a mandate by the Security Council. The Security Council has the responsibility to make a resolution after the secretary general has made a recommendation for a peace mission. In order to approve the mandate, a majority of nine members of the Security Council is required. Apart from the body mission required to get the minimum votes, any of the five permanent members of the Security Council can block the resolution by using the veto power. The decision to use the veto power depends on the interests and aspirations of the member country and is also known as the veto problem. For instance, in January 1997. The veto power was used by China to block a peace mission to Guatemala that was designed to verify the signed peace accords of Guatemala. However, the reason due to which the veto power was used by China was that it did not like the close ties of Guatemala with Taiwan.  

Lessons Learned from UN Peace Building Efforts

Article 1, Charter of the United Nations, provides that it is a purpose of the UN to bring about by peaceful means and by confirming the principles of justice and international law, settlement or adjustment of international disagreements or the situations that may result in a breach of peace. In this way, it is ensured by the rule of law that international law and the doctrines of justice are equally applied to all the States and the equally followed by them (Gurr, 1993). The respect for rule of law results in creating an environment to achieve the purposes of the UN charter. The Charter also provides the normative basis for maintaining friendly relations between different countries. Along with the wider body of international law, a structure has been provided by the Charter related with the conduct of international relations. It results in reciprocity between different countries as sovereign equals and provides legitimacy and predictability in their actions within the agreed multilateral system (Held, McGrew, Goldblatt and Perraton, 1998). It also provides the means to resolve a dispute that may arise between them. In this regard, particular significance has to be given to peace and security as the principles of territorial integrity, not using force or threat in any way that is not consistent with the charter as well as the commitment to implementing international legal obligations of different nations.  

When it comes to preventing conflict and peacefully settling disputes, particular attention has to be given to Article 33 of the Charter. Hence the parties to an international dispute can use various measures and mechanisms divided for resolving disputes, which includes enquiry, mediation, negotiation, arbitration, conciliation, the teacher settlement and by using regional agencies (Joseph, ed. 1998). A strong rule of law that is capable of protecting human rights also helps in preventing and mitigating violent crime and conflict (Lauren, 1998). It provides the legitimate processes that can be used to resolve grievances and in this way, it disincentives crime and violence. On the other hand, if there is inequality and lack of economic development, it may result in an increase in crime and violence. In this regard, the principle related with the responsibility to protect that has been adopted by the Gen. Assembly of the UN in the 2005 World Summit also needs to be mentioned. It has highlighted the significance of supporting national rule of law and the institutions of human rights so that it can be ensured that the governments have access to all the tools that are required to fill their obligations of protecting the people from crimes against humanity, genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes. It also requires the international community to provide support to all such efforts (Mastny, 1991).

The Challenges Faced by the UN in Peacekeeping Operations

In case of an armed conflict, the priority of the United Nations is to protect the civilians. Any protection activity, physical, political or by the means of establishing a protective environment, has to be based on the rule of law. It should also give practical relevance to the applicable laws in difficult circumstances. It has also been mentioned that the applicable normative framework, as well as the obligations of the states are significant for all protection work. In order to protect the civilians in a better way, the Member States should follow the relevant international treaties. The provisions of these treaties should be included in their domestic legislation. Similarly, they should establish internal controls and well functioning institutions for this purpose. Equal significance needs to be attached to the education and information related with compulsory norms and prohibited practices, as well as the criminal enforcement in cases involving serious breach (Ratner, 1998).

It is vital to establish the rule of law institutions in order to make sure the immediate security and the vital stability of peace building. The existence of robust justice and protection institutions along with responsible police and law enforcement agencies, that respect the human rights, are also vital to restore peace and security immediately after the conflict. Through these agencies, the perpetrators of crime can be brought to justice. It also encourages the peaceful resolution of disputes and restores the social cohesion and trust. That is based on the equality of rights (Ruggie, 1993). It is equally important to establish such conditions as it is important to maintain peace and security for achieving sustainable development. The UN has recognized the need for using a broad approach by supporting entire chain of criminal justice in this regard. The comprehensive approach also includes enhancing the rule of law and human rights. Similarly it is also very important to support the domestic efforts of reforming the security.

Several changes have been recommended in the UN peacekeeping operations. It has been suggested that in order to deal with the lack of centralization in the management of the peacekeeping operations of the UN, the centralization of these operations can be adopted by the delegated authority and also by empowering the regional bodies in this regard. There are certain advantages associated with centralization. For example, it provides the unity of purpose and better coordination among different organizations taking part in the peace operations. These include the UN organizations, as well as national governments, nongovernmental organizations and businesses. Hence, centralization promotes agreement among different players regarding common goals and the strategy for preventing conflict (Russett, 1993). Similarly, centralization also promotes better control on the activities, greater economies of scale, a division of labor and the better use of resources. On the other hand, the centralization has also been recommended in the peacekeeping operations at the regional level. It also has certain advantages of its own. The regional security systems provide the opportunity to consider the unique features and requirements of each region. For example, the peacekeeping operations in Africa are different from the peacekeeping operations taking place in Asia. Therefore, centralized knowledge and expertise can also be developed in order to deal with the particular circumstances of each region. Without the need for traveling long distances, and the lesser players to take part in the process of decision making, the regional systems can respond more quickly to for the escalation of the crisis. Apart from it, the local mediators who have better knowledge of local customs and issues are also likely to be more acceptable to the parties (Russett, 1993).

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Five Policy Pillars of a Counterterrorism Strategy


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