Between doctrine and practice: the UN peacekeeping dilemma.

Author:Peter, Mateja
Position:Report
 
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Mandates of recent peacekeeping operations across Africa have shown substantial innovation in the thinking of the UN Security Council. Offensive use of force, use of unmanned aerial vehicles, strategic intelligence and communication, and state-building mandates in the midst of conflicts have all expanded the scope of activities beyond what the UN peacekeepers are accustomed to. The UN is entering a new era of enforcement peacekeeping. Enforcement peacekeeping manifests itself both in enforcement of political solutions through support of a government's state-building ambitions and its attempts to extend state authority in the midst of conflict and in enforcement of military victories through the offensive use of force. These developments further unsettle the basic principles of UN peacekeeping--consent, impartiality, and nonuse of force--resulting in a schism between the doctrine and practice. This contribution argues that such fundamental challenges, when not properly acknowledged, create a wall between operational activities and strategic considerations. They preclude a proper debate on the problematic externalities, in particular on political processes and peacebuilding. Keywords: peacekeeping, peacebuilding, peace enforcement, enforcement peacekeeping, United Nations, African Union, DRC, Mali, Somalia.

... to prevent the expansion of all armed groups, neutralize these groups, and to disarm them.

--UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) list of tasks, UN Security Council Resolution S/RES/2098 (28 March 2013)

... to stabilize the key population centres, especially in the north of Mali and, in this context, to deter threats and take active steps to prevent the return of armed elements to those areas.

--UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) mandate, UN Security Council Resolution SI RES12100 (25 April 2013)

In spring of 2013, the UN Security Council expanded the mandate of a long-standing peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and established a new operation in Mali. Both of these missions are operating in highly challenging environments, environments where the Security Council and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations would traditionally be reluctant to deploy. More important, both missions have unprecedentedly robust mandates, further expanding and drawing attention to the range of activities that UN peacekeepers have recently been engaging in and supporting. Authorization of an intervention brigade, references to unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in mission mandates, invocation of explicit links between terrorism and organized crime, and support for extension of state authority in the midst of open conflicts are all changing the nature of peacekeeping. Moreover, in practice, peacekeeping operations have started to rely on new capabilities such as the use of strategic communication and, more recently, military intelligence. UN peacekeeping is increasingly bearing a resemblance to the stabilization missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is erasing the line between peacekeeping and peace enforcement, opening questions about future developments and repercussions. UN peacekeeping seems to be going down the path not only of enforcing military solutions through offensive action, but also of presuming and precluding particular political solutions by siding with (often contested) governments.

Recent UN peacekeeping practice is not aligned with its doctrine. This tension has not escaped informed observers' or the UN itself. Both the member states and the UN Secretariat through the Department of Peacekeeping Operations are cognizant that they are encountering a range of new problems. Concerns about nonstate actors and nontraditional threats top the list. Consequently, the UN is engaging in major efforts to strengthen its capability-driven approach to peacekeeping with an aim to respond to the challenges of the twenty-first century. However, while these reform initiatives attempt to address many of the practical concerns arising out of increasingly robust missions (including growing budgets and troop commitments), (2) these endeavors have endorsed, advocated, and been underpinned by the basic principles of UN peacekeeping as developed through the Brahimi Report and the Capstone Doctrine: consent, impartiality, and nonuse of force. (3) They heavily invoke the Capstone principles in what amounts to almost a collective denial of the mismatch between the doctrine and practice.

The argument presented here proceeds in two parts. First, I demonstrate that the recent innovations in peacekeeping fundamentally challenge the Brahimi Report, the Capstone Doctrine, and their understanding of what peacekeeping is. Second, I argue that such fundamental challenges, when not properly acknowledged, create a wall between operational activities and strategic/doctrinal considerations. Thus, they preclude a proper debate on the problematic externalities of the new peacekeeping reality. In this article, I address the repercussions of expanding mandates on political processes and longer-term peacebuilding activities. I argue that the lack of acknowledgment of a doctrinal shift complicates developments and planning in host states and regions in the long run.

This article is structured into four sections. First, I look at the reality of contemporary peacekeeping, highlighting that UN peacekeeping practice is learning from stabilization missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Second, I outline the doctrinal mismatch and the UN responses to it. I show that these responses have not recognized the extent of a gap between the reality and the doctrine. Third, I explore implications of these changes for UN peacekeeping and international efforts. Fourth, I address repercussions for political processes and peacebuilding in the host state and region. In the conclusion, I reflect on what this new era of enforcement peacekeeping means for the UN and its role in conflict resolution and management.

New Realities of UN Peacekeeping

After a period of steady growth from the late 1990s on, the UN peacekeeping expansion seemed to have started contracting toward the end of the past decade. Three large-scale operations in Kosovo, Timor-Leste, and Liberia were slowly drawing down, planning their exits, and transitioning to peacebuilding activities. In addition, the global financial crisis of 2008 presented a sobering moment for international peacekeeping, putting substantial pressures on any and all proposals to reduce budgets and curtail tasks. Experiences with the stabilization missions in Iraq and Afghanistan contributed to this broad disillusionment over large-scale and potentially protracted international interventions. Peacekeeping was seemingly in less demand. However, this development did not last long. Not only has the Security Council authorized a deployment of 12,000 troops and police to Mali (4) and 10,000 to the Central African Republic (CAR) (5)--the scale of missions we have not seen since before the financial crisis--but the types of activities that the new missions and the newly enhanced missions are mandated to perform substantially expand and change the nature of UN peacekeeping. After traditional and multidimensional peacekeeping, we are now entering a new era of enforcement peacekeeping. (6)

Enforcement peacekeeping manifests itself both in enforcement of political solutions through support of a government's state-building ambitions and its attempts to extend state authority in the midst of conflict and in enforcement of military victories through offensive use of force. This is connected to the fact that the targets of peacekeeping actions are nonstate actors that enjoy little international legitimacy due to their appalling human rights or war crimes records. As a result, no comprehensive peace agreements with them are sought before peacekeepers are deployed, something that is in stark contrast to both traditional and multidimensional peacekeeping. As outlined below, these missions bear resemblance to the stabilization missions in Iraq and--even more starkly--Afghanistan. Unlike UN operations, the mission in Afghanistan was Security Council-mandated but carried out by a US-led coalition of mostly Western states, with the UN footprint being light in the form of a special political mission. (7) While the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan could hardly be described as successful, the UN is emulating them as it is confronting actors seemingly similar to al-Qaeda and the Taliban (e.g., Al-Shabaab, M23, Boko Haram, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb). However, as the appetite for unilateral or coalition-led interventions has decreased among the Western powers, these operations are now conducted on a smaller scale in the context of UN peacekeeping, with an intention to manage and contain these conflicts. The following paragraphs provide an illustration of some of these new activities and hint that a seismic change is under way.

One of the more striking innovations in UN peacekeeping is the introduction of targeted combat operations and the switch from defensive to offensive peacekeeping. Most noticeably, this has been the case in the DRC, where the Security Council authorized the inclusion of a "force intervention brigade" within an existing UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) mission structure. This is the "first-ever 'offensive' combat force" in UN peacekeeping. (8) The brigade was set up with an intention to "neutralize and disarm"--a euphemism widely used by the military when engaging in offensive operations-- the Tutsi March 23 (M23) militia in the eastern parts of the DRC. This group had previously put increasing pressure on both the Congolese forces and UN peacekeepers and, in November 2012, even managed to seize the regional center of Goma. At the same time, while the expansion of the mission was prompted by recent...

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