Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

The Brahimi Report: At a Glance. (the Future of the United Nations)

Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

The Brahimi Report: At a Glance. (the Future of the United Nations)

Article excerpt

Peacekeeping is a blurry business, often as opaque as war itself. Since the end of the Cold War, conflicts increasingly lack a defined line between the warring sides. Simply maintaining peace can be a far greater challenge than reaching a ceasefire. Compromise often intentionally avoids clarity, putting off the devilish details for later. Peacekeepers are left to work them out on the ground.

The military and political peacekeeping debacles of the 1990s made reform an imperative for the United Nations. The unique nature of each conflict complicates the goal of formulating a uniform policy that could apply to the vast range of peacekeeping scenarios.

In August 2000 a panel led by Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister, presented to the UN secretary-general a report (1) of unusually straightforward recommendations for improving the UN's peace and security operations. Kofi Annan, the UN chief and former head of its peacekeeping division, praised the report and offered it to UN member states for consideration. The report has sparked vigorous discussion and debate over one of the world body's most important roles.


The report essentially called for an invigoration of the entire peacekeeping operation. The panel advocated adding more professional staff and an intelligence-gathering capability to the peacekeeping department. It also suggested that peacekeeping officials should limit the role of more powerful countries who often heavy-handedly impose their will unfairly on daily decisionmaking. In the far-reaching document, the panel pressed for a more flexible operation with the capacity to respond more quickly to fluid situations. It acknowledged that preventing conflict before it explodes can cost less than trying to patch things together later.

The report also questioned the principle of neutrality in clear cases where one side was egregiously violating humanitarian law: "No failure did more to damage the standing and credibility of United Nations peacekeeping in the 1990s than its reluctance to distinguish the victim from the aggressor." This is a perennial problem that goes to the core of the peacekeeper's role. …

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