Academic journal article Global Governance

Beyond the Technological Turn: Reconsidering the Significance of the Intervention Brigade and Peacekeeping Drones for UN Conflict Management

Academic journal article Global Governance

Beyond the Technological Turn: Reconsidering the Significance of the Intervention Brigade and Peacekeeping Drones for UN Conflict Management

Article excerpt

In 2013 the United Nations applied two new peacekeeping instruments, the Intervention Brigade and unmanned aerial vehicles, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This article argues that the significance and novelty of the Brigade and UAVs for UN peacekeeping are not only attributable to their technologically advanced and robust capacities, as maintained in previous accounts. Most importantly, these instruments also function as the harbingers of a new paradigm for peacekeeping--sovereignty building. The current technological turn of UN peacekeeping is only an epiphenomenon of a more profound paradigm shift in UN peacekeeping toward sovereignty building. Sovereignty building can be defined as an emerging set of peacekeeping practices that aims to create or reinforce four constitutive elements of sovereignty, which have previously been sidelined in state building; namely, sovereign agency (the political will of the host government), sovereign space (the area of supreme state authority), related sovereignty (the sovereignty network of subregional and regional peers), and popular sovereignty (the protection of the population). Keywords: peacekeeping, unmanned aerial vehicles. United Nations.

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THE UN PEACE OPERATION IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC), Mission de l'Organisation des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation en RD Congo (MONUSCO), has functioned as a laboratory for testing new peacekeeping techniques. Many of those instruments have subsequently been approved and applied throughout the UN peacekeeping system. One new technology is the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for MONUSCO's surveillance purposes. The Security Council's decision to deploy UAVs as a part of MONUSCO in January 2013 marks the first-ever authorization of UAVs in UN peacekeeping. (1) The template for peacekeeping drones is expected to be replicated in the UN peacekeeping operations (PKOs) in southern Sudan and in Cote d'Ivoire. (2) The second new instrument employed by the UN in the DRC is the so-called Intervention Brigade (henceforth, the Brigade) authorized by the Security Council in March 2013, which also provides a model of offensive operations for future UN peacekeeping. A third, normative, innovation is the "due diligence policy," officially termed the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy on UN Support to Non-UN Security Forces (HRDDP), which was introduced and tested in MONUSCO and then adopted as a universal policy for all UN entities in late 2011. (3)

My purpose in this article is to examine the main significance and added value of the Brigade and UAVs for UN peacekeeping. Previous accounts have revealed that these new peacekeeping instruments put into use the technological innovations of surveillance, robust peacekeeping, and the offensive concept of operations at the operational and strategic levels. (4) However, the mainstream literature has thus far overlooked the fact that the Brigade and UAVs also, more crucially, serve as a laboratory for experimenting with a new paradigm for peacekeeping (i.e., sovereignty building). In order to grasp their significance for UN peacekeeping as a whole, it is necessary to look beyond the operational, strategic, and doctrinal levels of analysis and take into consideration their implications at the paradigmatic level.

In the first section of this article, I outline the theoretical framework of the sovereignty-building paradigm. I apply that framework in the case study of the DRC in the subsequent part of the article; namely, in the section concerning the Brigade and in the third section regarding UAVs. Sovereignty building cannot be characterized as a doctrine since it is not codified in official UN documents such as the Capstone Doctrine of 2008. These documents define the doctrines of "post-conflict peace-building" and "state-building" in precise terms, but do not mention sovereignty building at all. To draw on Thomas Kuhn's classic theory, sovereignty building could instead be defined as a paradigm; namely, a set of peacekeeping practices (5) that the UN is actually performing, experimenting with, and testing in the DRC with the help of the Brigade and UAVs. …

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