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un and global governance lit review

Tags: UN and Global Governance


Peacekeeping operations has changed dramatically with time

  • pre-cold war, cold war, post cold war, armed non state actors

  • peacekeeping has changed as well

  • the universalism of chapter 5 vs chapter 7 peacekeeping

  • from the formations of intl orgs and the diffusion of power and the concepts of collective security

  • evolution of peacekeeping operations

  • use of force, protection of civilians, more complex peace operations

  • stabilization, from DRC, haiti, CAR, Mali

  • assessing the effectiveness of peace operations

    • coin and becoming an extension of the state
  • topics:

    • ideas of universalism
    • foundation -> collective security
    • state based -> chapter 5 vs chapter 7
    • human security based -> poc, rise of independence
    • combination based -> extension of the state


UN peacekeeping operations (PKO) have evolved dramatically over time, with four notable “ages” of peacebuild <diehl_not_2017>, with documents such as the Brahimi report <blocq_fog_2006> and the HIPPO report <gorur_prioritizing_2016> spurring doctrinal changes within the last two decades. Moments such as the massacres in Sarajevo has spurred the UN to adopt new mandates over time, and the variety of environments for PKOs, from gang violence in Haiti to the failed state of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has brought about new tactics and angles in the discourse around the purpose of peacekeeping. Debates around the protection of civilians, viablility of mandates, and the use of force, set within the stage of the burcractic turf wars of the UN has lead to a fractal of problems. Yet the discourse around peacekeeping operations largely fails to question the underlying logic, the logic of international universialism that the UN espouses. Peacekeeping operations do not exist in a vacuum, and the logic of the UN is to treat “the state as the basic unit for the macro scale and presumed backdrop for the individual behavior on the micro scale.” <li_universal_2020>. It is this logic that hampers UN missions from fulfilling their protection of civilians mandates.

In this paper, I turn to understanding PKOs by looking at their problems, rather than their evolution. It is my belief that looking at doctrinal shifts obscures the structural issues, akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Instead, I identify three core problems that are common to PKOs: inconsistency on the usage of force, restrictions on funding, and the need for the UN to appear legitimate. Like cell signals, these three problems can be used to triangulate towards the real problem: approaching PKOs from the perspective of states is flawed if a protection of civilian mandate is required.

Diehl and Druckman identify four different stages of peacekeeping: the “golden age” of the 1956-1978, the “lost decade” of 1979-1988, the “revival” of 1989-1990, and finally the post-2000’s restructuring <diehl_not_2017>. Founded as a result of the Arab-Israeli and Indian-Pakistan conflicts, PKOs found it difficult to carry out peacekeeping operations during the Cold War due to a lack of regional organizations to cooperate with, and with the absolute respect towards state soveriegnty <diehl_not_2017>. PKOs can largely be bucketed into six different types: preventive deployment, traditional peacekeeping, implementation of settlements, humanitarian corridors, replacement of a collapsed state, and ceasefire enforement <goulding_evolution_1993>. Alongside creating this taxonomy in 1993, Goulding also remarked on the perpetual funding problems of PKOs, the need for a codified rules on the usage of force, and that the greatest tool of the UN was its legitimacy.

Legitimacy lies at the core of the PKOs, the UN secretary general (SG) cannot be seen to be overly cautious, lest they be seen as weak <goulding_evolution_1993>, but cannot deploy forces to all places, such as any location where the P5 (China, US, France, UK, Russia) are soverign <stedman_evaluating_2002>. Legimaticy is the greatest strength of international organizations, as legitmacy can be conferred. For example, the UN and confer legitmiacy and set agendas between different actors during a peace accord, determining who gets a seat at the table <barnett_international_2018>. Libya’s freefall into the abyss of civil war has largely been centered around who gets the spoils of the new government, showing that the power to determine agendas is very real.

The UN’s legitimacy stems from the “International Community”, an almost deliberately bland terminology. Grounded by the legal theory that the UN Charter is signed by most countries, the International Community is dominated by the liberal world order <barnett_international_2018> but not reducibly so. However, PKOs are projects that may undertake violence to achieve its goals, and the existence of the International Community is to regulate violence. Therefore, it is the Security Council that promulgate mandates for PKOs, ultimately authorizing violence through the burecratic process of the UN. The UN, an organization that “is not party to the Geneva Conventions (1949) or the Additional Protocols (1977), or to the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)” <sheeran_intervention_2014>, has its force “washed” through the system of the UN, even as it is not a formal party to the most commonly accepted terms of violence.

While omission of the UN from these treaties may seem like a flaw, the UN has utilized this “feature” to claim an impartiality for peacekeepers. Recent peacekeeping operations have moved towards authorization under Chapter VII, which would fall under the “peace enforcement” in Goulding’s taxonomy. This authorizes PKOs to undertake operations where the local state cannot maintain order, such as the DRC, Bosnia, and Haiti <de_coning_what_2019>. However, the process of authorization of violence is muddled, states retain control of their own armed forces even as they are deployed under the UN banner, leading to complex command chains and procedures, such as the missions in Somalia, where the accepted minimum usage of force lead to catestrophic consequences <hunt_all_2017>. In the DRC, there is legal ambiguity as to the status of UN brigades. While the UN recongizes that the Intervention Brigade in the DRC is a party to the conflict, the UN also claims that other peacekeepers are impartial, even as the International Committee of the Red Cross sees the entire UN mission as a party to the conflict <sheeran_intervention_2014>. A further step forwad is the trend towards “stabilization” missions, PKOs that attempt to enforce state authority. The stabilization missions in Mali and the DRC are two examples of this, where the Mali mission has acquired significant operational capability to conduct counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations, while the DRC mission is on track to conduct the same types of operations in the future <karlsrud_at_2015>.

The evolution of the usage of force is not a small change. While earlier peacekeeping missions held state authority with absolute respect, stabilization missions are seen as a extension of state authority. As a result, stabilization missions have been critisized for “liddism”, or ignoring the root causes of conflict in favor of “keeping a lid” on violence and instability <curran_stabilization_2020>. Scholars have critisized the mission in the DRC for collaborating with the national army of the DRC, who have been credibily accused of human rights violations <sheeran_intervention_2014>. The UN cannot be seen as an legitimate actor when its partners in the host country are commiting human rights violations, and cannot be seen as an coherent independent entity when the rules of engagement differ per brigade, but cannot be distinguished by outsiders. This loss of legitimacy and independence threatens the UN mission itself, and hampers it from carrying out protection of civilian mandates.

Burecratic restrictions on funding also hamper UN missions. Troop funding must be provided by different countries, and often times funding is not provided upfront and only once the mission has started. Relief funding is capped by budgetary processess, which are then focused on short term projects. The IOM noted, in the case of South Sudan, funding is largely for short-term relief projects with the protection of civilian camps, despite heavy evidence pointing towards the opposite <iom_if_2016>. In multiple reports from 2011 and 2015, the UN has identified problems with unpredictible funding <united_nations_future_2015,united_nations_restructuring_2017,united_nations_challenge_2015>.

Unpredictable funding means that, even with the best intentions, only short term objectives can be carried out. In general, the lack of consensus in the SC leads to common denominator type mandates, often with unrealistic deadlines and overinflated goals <stedman_evaluating_2002>. In the case of Haiti, it was identified as decisive military force, at the discretion of the in-country commander with information provided by the Joint Misison Analysis Center embedded within the mission, and the most effective units were Brazilians, who had supplied their own equipment <dorn_intelligence-led_2009>. In Cote I’vore, it is the French, operating under the banner of the the UN mission but supplied and funded by their own country, who has had the most success <bovcon_frances_2009>. The UN itself has identified the gap between humanitarian response and peacekeeping, humantiarian response has more than 16 billion dollars allocated to it than peacekeeping <united_nations_challenge_2015>. Moreover, a global color line runes through PKOs, where countries of the global South are largely troop contributing countries, and richer countries contribute funds <de_coning_what_2019>. The UN’s avoidence of engaging in civil wars where the government possess a large army, or any mission inside a member of the P5 <stedman_evaluating_2002> leads to a situation where countries of the global south are expected to police themselves and fall into line under the UN banner, whereas western troops, when engaged in PKOs, often have a parallel chain of command, such as in the case of the US and Somalia <murphy_united_2003> or France and Cote I’voire <bovcon_frances_2009>. This

Beyond the UN’s own inability to raise funds, the strive for legitimacy among the International Community has lead to an overly focused statist approach. Legitimacy, in the form of a “successful” mission, has lead missions to race towards procedural democracy as a barometer. In El Salvador, even though the most public opinion has considered the mission a success, de Soto and del Castillo have identified that the “the proclamation of success is premature”. They find that there are significant problems, even though the UN has prodded parties within El Salvador towards a declaration of peace, the on-scheduled elections allowed the UN to retreat under the banner of success <de_soto_implementation_1995>. The situation is worse in East Timor, where the Timorese have claimed that the UN mission has “failed them”, with the UN mission claiming a success based on an orderly election in 2001 <chopra_building_2002>. Even more scholars have identified the difficulties in measuring success <gilligan_interventions_2008>, as the lack of clear guidelines for mission success leads UN missions towards revising down their goals, such as in the case of East Timor.

It is tempting to think that better measurements of civilian casualties <fortna_does_2004>, or violence <stedman_evaluating_2002> with more limited mandates <adamczyk_twenty_2019> can lead to greater success on the protection of civilians. However, the problem is not just one of evaluation. The protection of civilians mandate exists as a result of the international norms, which are problematic when reduced to rules of engagement <blocq_fog_2006>. In multiple cases, such as the Sudan, it has become clear that UN commanders are hesitant to use force to carry out protection of civilians, and even have difficulties determining who is eligible under the protection of civilians mandate <iom_if_2016>. The requirement for UN peacekeepers to work through the local government encourages missions to achieve the minimum goals of success for the specific mandates (such as elections), often at cost of unsuccessful mandates (such as the protection of civilians). But the unspecific mandates result from compromises at the SC and the host country, there is no way to write a clear protection of civilians mandate without offending anyone. The UN seeks to claim legitimacy among a group of states, which leads it to chase surface level results, such as procedural democracy of stabilization. The protection of civilian mandate aims to do just that, protect civilians. Civilians are not smaller form of states, and civilians are not directly part of the group the UN gains its legitimacy from. The UN is accountable to states, not civilians, yet expected to protect civilians. This incongruence of goals will always lead to the easiest results.

The unclear rules on the usage of force, structural problems within the UN bureacracy, and a race towards surface level results without addressing the roots of conflict will always prevent the UN from achieveing a protection of civilian mandates. Ultimately, the logic of internationalism, where the UN is accountable to only states and not the groups it polices and protects, is unworkable within the framing of protection of civilians. The global color line that runs through PKOs, where richer countries operate under a separate chain of command and troop countributing countries are asked to fall in line with the UN encourages problems to be evaluated from the state approach. Peacekeepers are ultimately accountable to either their own governments or the UN, neither of which has a stake in the local population. The bureucratic funding problems within the UN arise from its need to raise funds from individual countries. It is no wonder that a complicated buracry begets complicated rules of engagement and usage of force. Peacekeeping is a violent act made legitimate through the normative statements of the SC and the International Community. The fraught debates around usage of force stems from the vagueness of how this violence can be used. As a result, the UN will tend towards conservative intreptations, whereas a true protection of civilians mandate requires a liberal one. As long as the UN approaches civilians as extensions of the state, who can be protected vis-a-vis the state, the UN will never achieve its lofty goals on the protection of civilians.

  • Newer force missions carry out state based stabilization, even at the cost of protection of civilians
  • Funding cannot allow for protection of civilians in the long term, only short term
  • Race towards procedural democracy is against protection of civilians
  • Since the cold war, “international community”
    • talk about the formation
  • talk about chapter 5 vs chapter 7
  • talk about burecratic restrictions on funding
  • talk about legitimacy (mali, drc, east timor, el salvador)
    • race towards procedural democracy
  • talk about how insconsistency of the usage of force means that the UN will not be seen as an “independent” actor, even if that was possible
    • talk about how the funding inconsistency means that projects will never be long term, and perpetuate the cycle of emergency
    • talk about how the need to leave appearing legitimate, and a rush towards procedural democracy does not facilitate a good state (kabuki theatre).
  • “when the UN “safe area” of Srebrenica in Eastern Bosnia was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces. The bloody and horrific aftermath of Srebrenica’s capture, just one year on from the genocide in Rwanda, inevitably and quite understandably influenced the subsequent evolution of UN peacekeeping and the discussion about its purposes. As the spate of new operations since 1999 has shown, the apparent determination to ensure that the horrors of Rwanda and former Yugoslavia would never again be repeated on the UN’s watch has emphatically not resolved the deeper tension between ends and means highlighted by the Supplement, tensions which, if anything, have become more acute.” (Berdal 2019:117)