1988: UN Peacekeeping Forces: 'The Impartial Soldiers'

Article excerpt

The fact that the Nobel Peace Prize was given to soldiers serving the United Nations in its efforts at securing peace might appear as an anomaly. One of the stipulations of Alfred Nobel for the ideal recipients is that they should have done the most or the best work for the "abolition or reduction of standing armies". But the award needs to be seen in light of world events at that time It reinforces the universally accepted idea that the United Nations peacekeeping forces operate in the spirit of the Nobel Prize, that they exist to prevent hostilities, and to pave the way for peaceful solutions to emerge in conflict areas by the use of negotiation and persuasion instead of violence.

The cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States and the resultant nuclear arms race were realities the world faced in the decades following the Second World War, causing global insecurity and fear of catastrophic annihilation. In this insecure climate, the new technique of peace-keeping came about as an alternative to war and conflict. A "practical reassessment of the realities of international peace and security has...emerged. Sixteen peacekeeping operations and countless good offices missions by successive Secretaries-General have been the backbone of this effort", said then Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar in his Nobel Lecture, calling the peacekeeping operation "the United Nations' most successful renewal"

The role of UN peacekeepers has since evolved into a more "interventionist" nature; troops are generally available for dispatch to troubled areas on a voluntary basis and upon the approval of the UN Security Council, They can be stationed in areas where a ceasefire has been established but a formal peace treaty is still being finalized Comprising both lightly armed troops and unarmed observers, they represent non-partisan authority and can help greatly in diffusing volatile situations by their mere presence.

Advocating the route of "consensus, conciliation, good offices, diplomatic pressure and non-forceful, cooperative peacekeeping", Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar saw the evolution of peacekeeping as a useful, practical indication of how international authority could be built and sustained. Using soldiers as "catalysts for peace rather than instruments of war", he characterized peacekeeping as the exact opposite of military action against aggression, and non-fighting soldiers of peace as a symbol of internaLional authority providing "an honourable alternative to war and a useful pretext for peace". …