The New Mandate for UN Peacekeeping

By Lamont, Beth | The Humanist, January 2001 | Go to article overview

The New Mandate for UN Peacekeeping


Lamont, Beth, The Humanist


Although the United Nations' primary mission, since its founding after World War II, has been to prevent wars, the organization suffers from a dual and conflicting mandate: to act in the best interests of We, the Peoples of Earth, while respecting the absolute sovereignty of individual nations. The UN Security Council, with disproportionate and unbalanced power assumed by its permanent member states, has dominated UN actions. Peacekeeping operations, initiated in the UN Security Council, have tried to meet the needs in numerous crises but have had little continuity or oversight. The council hasn't shown an evenhandedness in choosing or refusing to commit to a situation, nor has it afforded open information exchange from affected parties or nations, nor has it ever been assured of a commitment from every nation for funding or troops and personnel to conduct a peacekeeping operation.

In the November 2000 New York Times, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed doubts that a Palestinian request for UN peacekeeping forces, to provide safety and security for the Palestinian people in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, will even be honored. According to Annan, there must first be agreement by Israel, but Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak has ruled out such a mission. The article further states that, while diplomats are divided, it's certain that the United States will support Israel and that Russia and China won't favor intervention, considering their own strife in Chechnya and Tibet.

After the 1994 Rwanda genocide, Kofi Annan himself was criticized for having failed to heed warnings of impending disaster and for withdrawing the UN peacekeeping troops at the very moment they were most needed. Moving to protect the peacekeepers seemed a humane priority at the time, inasmuch as they were without any means of enforcing peace or even a mandate for them to protect one segment of society from the other. What a tragedy it took to focus attention on the painfully flawed mandate itself.

As a result, Annon ordered "a comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects," as well as "a clear set of specific, concrete and practical recommendations to assist the United Nations in conducting such activities better in the future." A panel of luminaries from around the world, with a wide range of experience in the fields of peacekeeping and peace-building, as well as development and humanitarian assistance, was assembled. The chair was Lakhdar Brahimi, the former foreign minister of Algeria, who, after a seven-month investigation examining tons of documents and testimony from hundreds of sources, analyzed the data and outlined an extensive set of recommendations in a seventy-four-page report.

On August 21, 2000, The Brahimi Report was submitted to both the General Assembly and the Security Council with an introduction by Kofi Annan, in which he asked for support from both entities in enacting the far-reaching agenda. According to Annan, "The expeditious implementation of the panel's recommendations ... is essential to make the United Nations truly credible as a force for peace."

The executive summary of the report begins with a historical perspective:

   The United Nations was founded, in the words of its Charter, in order "to
   save succeeding generations from the scourge of war." Meeting this
   challenge is the most important function of the Organization, and to a very
   significant degree it is the yardstick with which the Organization is
   judged by the peoples it exists to serve. Over the last decade, the United
   Nations has repeatedly failed to meet the challenge, and it can do no
   better today....

     It should have come as no surprise to anyone that some of the missions of
   the past decade would be particularly hard to accomplish: They tended to
   deploy where conflict had not resulted in victory for any side, where a
   military stalemate or international pressure or both had brought fighting
   to a halt, but at least some of the parties to the conflict were not
   seriously committed to ending the confrontation. … 

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