The year 1998 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first United Nations peacekeeping operation - the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), which came into being in 1948. The UN Chronicle asked one of the most distinguished and career-varied of international peacekeepers, Brigadier-General Klaas C. Roos, to contribute this assessment.
It is 53 years after the horrors of the Second World War and also 53 years after the world has been blessed with the decision of 51 peace-loving nations to establish a world body "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind ...". Thus on 24 October 1945 the United Nations was founded, an international organization with an explicit interest in peace, as the founding fathers clearly have stated in the preamble of the Charter of the United Nations, where they determined: "... to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest ...".
The Charter leaves open the possibility to use armed force, in article 42 of its chapter VII, a provision which has become known as the peace enforcement provision.
However, one would look in vain for a similar provision dealing with the concept of peacekeeping. There is no such an article to be found in the Charter, despite the fact that peacekeeping has almost become a trademark for the UN's efforts to maintain peace and security.
This year will mark 50 years since the first deployment UN peacekeepers, a landmark which unfortunately indicates that only three years after founding the United Nations, already the ideals of a lasting peace in the world had to be corrected.
On the other hand, however, with the deployment in 1948 of the first military observers of UNTSO in support of Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden, the Security Council's Mediator, the United Nations showed to the world that it took its 1945 ideals on world peace seriously.
More than 30 missions, ranging from full-fledged military forces to military and civilian observer missions, as well as combinations of those, were deployed in various trouble spots practically all over the world ever since that first, still ongoing mission in the Middle East.
It has to be observed that the word "peacekeeping" for these Security Council activities is not as old as these activities in support for peace are. The concept slowly developed with the UN practice over the years.
As mentioned, the UN Charter only provides for peace enforcement action in Chapter VII, whereas Chapter VI deals with "pacific settlement of disputes" through, among other things, "negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or to other peaceful means ..." (Article 33). The former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold once mentioned peacekeeping as the "chapter six and a half" of the Charter.
Though over the years quite a few definitions have been developed, the United Nations has never formulated an exact definition for peacekeeping. But instead a few "peacekeeping principles" have been developed like the principle of consent of the parties, the non-use of force, except in strict self defence, and the neutral position of the peacekeeping force to all factions or parties.
The domain of peacekeeping used to be almost entirely owned by the military. But over the years a civilian input slowly arose. Looking at today's composition of peacekeeping operations, one can notice a relatively diminishing military component and growing civilian components. Among the various civilian components these days, civilian police (CIVPOL) and electoral experts form an integral part of the whole mission. …