United Nations peacekeeping was initially developed during the Cold War as a means of resolving conflicts between States by deploying unarmed or lightly armed military personnel from a number of countries, under UN command, to areas where warring parties were in need of a neutral party to observe the peace process. Peacekeepers could be called in when the major International powers (the five permanent members of the Security Council) tasked the UN with bringing closure to conflicts threatening regional stability and international peace and security.
These included a number of so-called proxy wars waged by client states of the superpowers. As of October 2004, there have been 59 UN peacekeeping operations since 1948, with sixteen operations ongoing. Suggestions for new missions arise every year. The first peacekeeping mission was launched in 1948. This mission, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), was sent to the newly created State of Israel where a conflict between the Israelis and the Arab states over the creation of Israel had just reached a ceasefire. The UNTSO remains in operation to this day, although the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict has certainly not abated. Almost a year later, the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) was authorized to monitor relations between the two nations, which were split off from each other following the United Kingdom’s decolonization of the Indian Subcontinent.
In 1988 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the United Nations peacekeeping forces. The press release stated that the forces 'represent the manifest will of the community of nations ' and have 'made a decisive contribution ' to the resolution of conflict around the world.
Since 1991 the end of the Cold War precipitated a dramatic shift in UN and multilateral peacekeeping. In a new spirit of cooperation, the Security Council established larger and more complex UN peacekeeping missions often to help implement comprehensive peace agreements between protagonists in intra-State conflicts and civil wars. Furthermore, peacekeeping came to involve more and more non-military elements that ensured the proper functioning of civic functions, such as elections. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations was created in 1992 to support this increased demand for such missions.
Since 2007, PSC members have held annual consultative meetings with Council members and peace operations have featured prominently in these discussions. The last of these meetings, which alternate between New York and Addis Ababa, took place in Addis Ababa on 12 March 2015. In recent years, there has been a joint press conference with the president of the UN Security Council and the chairperson of the PSC (something resisted in the past by certain Council members, concerned that it could be perceived as undermining the standing of the UN Security Council as the principal body responsible for maintaining international peace and security). In the last communiqué, it was agreed to conduct a joint field mission to a conflict situation or area in Africa, to be identified through consultations during 2015. Although this mission did not take place, the Council stopped in Addis after its visit to Bujumbura, Burundi in January, to have discussions about mediation efforts and the possible deployment of an AU force to Burundi.
A key issue is to ensure that the partnerships are effective at the strategic, operational and tactical level and for the Council to devise an effective, sustainable and fair working relationship with the AU, including a solution to the issue of financing of Council-authorized operations.
A related issue is for African Council members to articulate concerns that African regional organizations may have regarding Council decisions.
The Council could issue a joint communiqué with the AU PSC reiterating their intention to undertake a joint visiting mission with the AU PSC in 2016, as originally foreseen in 2015.
The Council could also adopt a presidential statement:
- Addressing the need to enhance the predictability, sustainability and flexibility of financing for regional organizations when they are implementing Security Council mandates; and
- Encouraging its ad hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa to meet more regularly on topics pertaining to the efforts of African-led initiatives in support of UN-mandated operations.
COUNCIL AND WIDER DYNAMICS
In addition to the annual consultations between the Security Council and the AU PSC, the relations between the UN and the AU on peace operations have been discussed in several open debates. The last discussions took place in July 2014 (at the initiative of Rwanda) and in December 2014 (under the presidency of Chad).
Although Council members agree in general terms on the importance of partnerships with regional organisations in Africa and elsewhere in maintaining International peace and security, acting on that principle continues to be a challenge. This is the case, for example, regarding the financing of AU operations. In the negotiations over a 25 November 2015 presidential statement, Council members could not even agree on a reference to the Prodi Report by name. As a compromise, the statement merely noted the recommendations of the HIPPO report, including with respect to the strategic partnership with the AU.
THE UN SYSTEM
The UN system is founded in constitutional terms upon a relatively clear theoretical distinction between the functions of the principal organs of the organisation. However, due to political conditions in the international order, the system failed to operate as outlined in the Charter and adjustments had to be made as opportunities presented themselves. The Security Council was intended to function as the executive of the UN, with The General Assembly as the parliamentary forum. Both organs could contribute to the peaceful settlement of disputes through relatively traditional mechanisms of discussion, good offices and mediation.
Only the Security Council could adopt binding decisions and those through the means of Chapter VII, while acting to restore International peace and security. But the pattern of development has proved rather less conducive to clear categorization. An influential attempt to detail the methods and mechanisms available to the UN in seeking to resolve disputes was made by the UN Secretary-General in the immediate aftermath of the demise of the Soviet Union and the unmistakable ending of the Cold War.
In An Agenda for Peace, the Secretary-General, while emphasizing that respect for the fundamental sovereignty and integrity of states constituted the foundation-stone of the Organization, noted the rapid changes affecting both states individually and the International community as a whole and emphasized the role of the UN in securing peace. The Report sought to categories the types of actions that the organization was undertaking or could undertake.
Preventive Diplomacy was action to prevent disputes from arising between States, to prevent existing disputes from escalating into conflicts and to limit the spread of the latter when they occur. This included efforts such as fact-finding, good offices and goodwill missions.
Peacemaking involves action to bring the hostile parties to agreement, utilizing the peaceful means elaborated in Chapter VI of the Charter. Peacekeeping is the deployment of a UN presence in the field. Peace-building is action to identify and support structures that will assist peace. Peace Enforcement is peacekeeping not involving the consent of the parties, which would rest upon the enforcement provisions of Chapter VII of the Charter.
The attack on the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001 ‘dramatized the global threat of terrorism’, while focusing attention upon ‘reconstructing weak or collapsed states’. The Secretary-General has also emphasized the need to replace the culture of reaction by one of prevention and by developing inter alia a thirty to ninety-day deployment capability.
A) THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Although the primary responsibility with regard to the maintenance of International peace and security lies with the Security Council, the General Assembly may discuss any question or matter within the scope of the Charter, including the maintenance of International peace and security, and may make recommendations to the members of the UN or the Security Council, provided the Council is not itself dealing with the same matter. Under similar conditions, the Assembly may under Article 14 ‘recommend measures for the peaceful adjustment of any situation regardless of origin, which it deems likely to impair the general welfare or friendly relations among nations’. In the Construction of a Wall case, the International Court emphasised that under Article 24 the Security Council had a primary and not necessarily an exclusive competence with regard to the maintenance of International peace and security, while the constraint placed by Article 12 on the powers of the Assembly to make recommendations for the peaceful adjustment of situations had been interpreted by evolving practice to permit both the Assembly and the Council to deal in parallel with the same matter concerning the maintenance of International peace and security, with the former often taking a broader view.
In practice, the resolutions and declarations of the General Assembly (which are not binding) have covered a very wide field, from colonial disputes to alleged violations of human rights and the need for justice in International economic affairs. The role of the General Assembly increased after 1945 due to two factors: first, the existence of the veto in the Security Council rendered that organ powerless in many important disputes since the permanent members [USA, UK, USSR (now Russia), France and China] rarely agreed with respect to any particular conflict; and secondly, the vast increase in the membership of the UN had the effect of radicalizing the Assembly and its deliberations. More recently the increased role of the Security Council has overshadowed that of the Assembly.
B) THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Just as the impotence of the Security Council stimulated a growing awareness of the potentialities of the General Assembly, it similarly underlined the role to be played by the United Nations Secretary-General. By Article 99 of the Charter, he is entitled to bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which he thinks may threaten the maintenance of International peace and security and this power is in addition to his function as the chief administrative officer of the United Nations organisation under Article 79. In effect, the Secretary-General has considerable discretion and much has depended upon the views and outlook of the person filling the post at any given time, as well as the general political situation. The good offices role of the Secretary-General has rapidly expanded. In exercising such a role, Secretaries-General have sought to act independently of the Security Council and General Assembly, in the former case, in so far as they have not been constrained by binding resolutions (as for example in the Kuwait situation of 1990–1). The assumption of good offices and mediation activity may arise either because of independent action by the Secretary-General as part of the exercise of his inherent powers or as a consequence of a request made by the Security Council or General Assembly. In some cases, the Secretary-General has acted upon the invitation of the parties themselves, and on other occasions, the Secretary-General has acted in concert with the relevant regional organization. In many cases, the Secretary-General will appoint a Special Representative to assist in seeking a solution to the particular problem.
The development of good offices and mediation activities first arose as a consequence of the severe restrictions imposed upon UN operations by the Cold War. The cessation of the Cold War led to greatly increased activity by the UN and as a consequence the work of the Secretary-General expanded as he sought to bring to fruition the wide range of initiatives undertaken by the organization. The experiences of Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia in the mid-1990s and Iraq from 1991 to the 2003 war have been disappointing for the organization.
C) THE SECURITY COUNCIL
The primary objective of the United Nations as stipulated in Article 1 of the Charter is the maintenance of International peace and security and disputes likely to endanger this are required under Article 33 to be solved ‘by negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements or other peaceful means’. Indeed, the Charter declares as one of its purposes in Article 1, ‘to bring about by peaceful means and in conformity with the principles of justice and International law, adjustment or settlement of International disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace’. By Article 24, the members of the UN conferred on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of International peace and security, and by Article 25 agreed to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council. The International Court in the Namibia case drew attention to the fact that the provision in Article 25 was not limited to enforcement actions under Chapter VII of the Charter but applied to ‘“decisions of the Security Council” adopted in accordance with the Charter’. Accordingly a declaration of the Council taken under Article 24 in the exercise of its primary responsibility for the maintenance of International peace and security could constitute a decision under Article 25, so that member states ‘would be expected to act in consequence of the declaration made on their behalf ’. Whether a particular resolution adopted under Article 24 actually constituted a decision binding all member states was a matter for analysis in each particular case, ‘having regard to the terms of the resolution to be interpreted, the discussions leading to it, the Charter provisions invoked and, in general, all circumstances that might assist in determining the legal consequences of the resolution of the Security Council’.
Under the Charter, the role of the Security Council when dealing with the specific settlement of disputes specifically under Chapter VI differs from when the Council is contemplating action relating to threats to or breaches of the peace, or acts of aggression under Chapter VII. In the former instance there is no power as such to make binding decisions with regard to member states.
In pursuance of its primary responsibility, the Security Council may, by Article 34, ‘investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to International friction or give rise to dispute, in order to determine whether the continuance of the dispute or situation is likely to endanger the maintenance of International peace and security’. In addition to this power of investigation, the Security Council can, where it deems necessary, call upon the parties to settle their dispute by the means elaborated in Article 33. The Council may intervene if it wishes at any stage of a dispute or situation, the continuance of which is likely to endanger International peace and security, and under Article 36(1) recommend appropriate procedures or methods of adjustment. But in making such recommendations, which are not binding, it must take into consideration the general principle that legal disputes should be referred by the parties to the International Court of Justice. Where the parties to a dispute cannot resolve it by the various methods mentioned in Article 33, they should refer it to the Security Council by Article 37. The Council, where it is convinced that the continuance of the dispute is likely to endanger International peace and security, may recommend not only procedures and adjustment methods, but also such terms of settlement as it may consider appropriate.
Once the Council, however, has determined the existence of a threat to, or a breach of, the peace or act of aggression, it may make decisions which are binding upon member states of the UN under Chapter VII, but until that point it can under Chapter VI issue recommendations only.
Under Article 35(1) any UN member state may bring a dispute or a situation which might lead to International friction or give rise to a dispute before the Council, while a non-member state may bring to the attention of the Council any dispute under Article 35(2) provided it is a party to the dispute in question and ‘accepts in advance, for the purposes of the dispute, the obligations of pacific settlement provided in the present Charter’. It is also possible for third parties to bring disputes to the attention of the Council.
D) PEACEKEEPING AND OBSERVER MISSIONS
There is no explicit legal basis for peacekeeping activities in the UN Charter. They arose in the absence of the contribution of armed forces and facilities to the UN as detailed in Article 43. Accordingly, a series of arrangements and operations have evolved since the inception of the organization, which taken together have established a clear pattern of acceptable reaction b