Note: The following viewpoints are purely my own, and do not represent my organization in any way. Instead, I am merely pretending to be a delegate for the sake of the article.
It is a distinct honor to address this committee to reaffirm our collective commitment to “maintain international peace and security . . . [and] save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (United Nations Charter). Since the United Nations was created in 1945, we have enjoyed the opportunity to come together to discuss the best ways to further these ends, and address the challenges to it. Today, we are responsible for merging the past, present, and future by looking at the history of United Nations peacekeeping operations to inform the current debates and challenges we may face in the future. I look forward to working with all members to generate a better understanding of our history in order to write the next chapter of it.
I. History of United Nations Peacekeeping
As per the United Nations Charter, the Security Council is primarily responsible for initiating and facilitating peace processes. Pursuant to the Charter, the Security Council shall “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.”
Yet, while the Charter explicitly mentions that the Security Council may employ different measures to enforce their decisions, such as sanctions, it makes no explicit mention of peacekeeping measures and missions. By extension, it would appear that peacekeeping missions were not considered until 1948. United Nations founders did not consider peacekeeping peacekeeping was not considered United Nations Charter, the Security Council is primarily responsible for facilitating peace processes.
Instead, the United Nations officially began peacekeeping missions three years after its creation. The first peacekeeping mission, UNTSO, was launched in 1948 to aid countries in their transition from periods of conflict to peace. The United
Nations Truce Supervision Organization marked the first instance of peacekeeping. Following Resolution 50, the Security Council established the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization to “monitor the Armistice Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbours” (United Nations Truce Supervision Organization).
Since 1948, the United Nations has engaged in over 68 peacekeeping missions. However, over the years, the nature of peacekeeping missions have changed to reflect new challenges to the maintenance of peace.
In its early stages, peacekeeping missions were comprised of a few barely armed observers that aided in confidence-building while reporting on the state of affairs.
Over the years, however, we have seen a radical change in the way that the United Nations has defined and addressed their peacekeeping missions. I will explain these missions, and some of the deficiencies with them to better inform the challenges we face today.
When the Suez Crisis created more challenges to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the General Assembly established the United Nations Emergency Force I to “secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities, including the withdrawal of the armed forces of France, Israel and the United Kingdom from Egyptian territory and, after the withdrawal, to serve as a buffer between the Egyptian and Israeli forces and to provide impartial supervision of the ceasefire” (United Nations). However, unlike previous missions, observers were given weapons because of the intensity of the situation.
Similarly, the United Nations peacekeeping began expanding their reach after the UN Operation in the Congo (UNOC). Under this mission in 1960, 20,000 peacekeeping troops were deployed to bring stability to a nation plagued by perpetual conflict. Yet, in spite of the large number of troops deployed, the mission was relatively unsuccessful as 250 people died in the process.
At the same time, the Cold War challenged the objectivity of peacekeeping missions. Although two small scale missions, UNFIYC and UNIPOM, were launched and the Security Council deployed peacekeepers to facilitate decolonization in Africa, peacekeeping missions during the Cold War highlighted the many issues with the Security Council. During the Cold War, the Security Council carefully chose their missions to avoid exacerbating tensions between two of its members, the United States and Russia, that were engaged in ideological conflict. As a result, the Security Council limited their oversight to conflicts that did not have Cold War implications, thus testing the Security Council’s ability to “maintain peace and international security” in conflicts that involve members’ interests.
After the Cold War, the Security Council began revitalizing its peacekeeping programs. The end of the Cold War marked the end of political stalemate in the Security Council, and, as a result, a new period of cooperation began. In this period, the Security Council engaged in more peacekeeping missions to ameliorate ideologically-fueled civil wars1 and ethnic disputes. Unfortunately, while some of the missions were successful, others exacerbated the conflicts and led to increased political turmoil and disenequilibrium.
II. Current Debates
Unfortunately, while the United Nations has been successful in a number of peacekeeping missions, the Rand Corporation’s 2005 study highlights some logistical failures that have, paradoxically, exacerbated some of the issues. For these reasons, it is imperative that certain reforms be made. I will limit my suggestions to two: funding, and veto powers.
According to Article 17 of the United Nations Charter, all member-states are required to contribute to the peacekeeping fund. As per the Charter, each member- state must pay an amount that is based on their GDP, and the members of the Security Council are required to pay the most. Ironically, while all members are required to contribute, only five of them get to determine where and how that money is being spent. Essentially, members are paying for the peacekeeping missions, but do not get a say in the allocation of it. As a result, we are seeing that five of the richest nations are monopolizing the funds, and are making decisions based on their personal interests. As we saw with the Cold War, this could be extremely problematic because these nations are acting in their own self-interest instead of the collective good.
This leads to the second issue with peacekeeping operations: veto powers. Because peacekeeping missions are the Security Council’s jurisdiction, they are subject to their rules of procedure. Sadly, this means that any member of the Security Council could veto a peacekeeping mission because it does not coincide with their national interest. This could delay peacekeeping missions, and, actually, exacerbate the circumstances in the process. To some, this could be seen as counter-intuitive because, as we saw with the Cold War, the peace process can be hindered by the national interest of one of the five richest nations in the world.
Yet, instead of asking ourselves what the problems are, we should be focused on the ways we could fix them. Unfortunately, this the harder question because it could go one of two ways: we could either make the General Assembly responsible for facilitating peacekeeping missions, or we could make the Security Council fund it themselves. Both of these options would not be plausible. While giving the General Assembly the authority to preside over peacekeeping missions would be fair because nations would have a say over how their money is being spent and the missions would not be subject to any one actors’ interests, it would be unproductive because it would take a really long to deliberate; consequently, that may compromise the peacekeeping process more than the veto power. Yet, one may argue that we should make the Security Council fund their own endeavors, but that would not be feasible, and, even if it were, it would lead to more disenfranchisement.
So, what is the solution? I would propose that we delegate power to all nations, but reorganize the way that meetings are presided. If I had the power to reform the UN, I would make a lot of changes. Firstly, I would give the power to the General Assembly, but, in order to account for the many member-states in it, I would have members meet in their regional blocks. In these regional meetings, I would have them discuss the crises, let each member have a say, and formulate a roadmap complete with the budget and implementation strategy. I would give this a day. Then, I would have one elected member from each region come to another meeting where these ideas would be presented, discussed, and voted on. The elected member from each region, who would serve a one year term, will cast the regional votes, and the regional representative from the affected region will preside over the meeting. In my ideal world, each region’s voting power would be proportional to the number of member-nations in that region. I feel that this plan would foster more equality and give all nations a say in the matter while expediting the process.