The term “peacekeeping” is not found in the United Nations Charter. The Organization has developed it as a way to help countries torn by conflict and create the conditions for lasting peace. Under the unique and dynamic instrument of peacekeeping, the first UN peacekeeping mission was established in 1948, when the Security Council authorized the deployment of UN military observers to the Middle East to monitor the Armistice Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Since then, there have been at least 63 UN peacekeeping operations around the world.
Dag Hammarskjold, the second UN Secretary-General, referred to peacekeeping as something between traditional methods of resolving disputes peacefully, such as negotiation and mediation under Chapter VI, and more forceful action as authorized under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Over the years, UN peacekeeping has evolved to meet the demands of different conflicts and a changing political landscape.
Initially, UN peacekeeping goals were primarily limited to maintaining ceasefires and stabilizing situations on the ground, so that efforts could be made at the political level to resolve the conflict by peaceful means. Those missions consisted of military observers and lightly armed troops with monitoring, reporting and confidence-building roles in support of ceasefires and limited peace agreements.
With the end of the Cold War, the strategic context for UN peacekeeping dramatically changed. It prompted the Organization to shift and expand its field operations from “traditional” missions involving strictly military tasks, to complex “multidimensional” enterprises designed to ensure the implementation of comprehensive peace agreements and assist in laying the foundations for sustainable peace.
At present, UN peacekeepers undertake a wide variety of complex tasks which include helping to build sustainable institutions of governance, monitoring of human rights, security sector reform, and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants.
UN peacekeeping has changed over the years along with the change in the nature of conflicts from inter-State to intra-State. Although the military remains the backbone of most peacekeeping operations, the many faces of peacekeeping now include administrators, economists, police officers, legal experts, de-miners, electoral observers, human rights monitors, specialists in civil affairs and governance, humanitarian workers and experts in communications and public information.
In recent times, the rising demand for increasingly complex peace operations has challenged the UN peacekeeping operations as never before. The new challenges and political realities have been met by the Organization by working vigorously to strengthen its capacity to manage and sustain field operations. Thus, peacekeeping has contributed to the most important function of the United Nations – maintaining international peace and security.
The list of UN peacekeeping operations in the past include its missions to Lebanon, Congo, West New Guinea, Yemen, Dominican Republic, Afghanistan, Iran-Iraq, Angola, Central America, Iraq- Kuwait, El Salvador, Cambodia, Somalia, Mozambique, Uganda- Rwanda, Georgia, Liberia, Haiti, Tajikistan, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, East Timor, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Burundi.
At many other places around the world, UN peacekeeping missions are presently engaged in the process of building and maintaining peace. Some of them are the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), United Nations Operation in Cote d’lvoire (UNOCI), United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), and United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT).
In these missions, more than 110,000 men and women serve as peacekeepers including military, police and civilian. The police and military personnel are being contributed by 120 countries which clearly demonstrate the widespread respect for, dependence on and confidence in United Nations peacekeeping.
In 2000, the UN Security Council adopted its landmark Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. For the first time in an omnibus resolution, the Council recognized that women bear the brunt of armed conflicts, and should have a commensurate role in their prevention and resolution. The resolution stressed the importance of women’s equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.
Among its many recommendations, the resolution called for an expansion of the role and contribution of women in United Nations peacekeeping operations, including in military, police, and civilian roles, as well as in positions of leadership.
Peacekeeping has evolved from its traditional role of monitoring ceasefire agreements and borders between sovereign States to carrying out large scale multi-dimensional peacekeeping operations often addressing civil wars. The newer UN missions are mandated to facilitate political processes through the promotion of national dialogue and reconciliation; protect civilians; assist in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants; support the organization of elections; protect and promote human rights; promote reform of the domestic security sector; and assist in restoring the rule of law.
These expanded responsibilities make the need for more women peacekeepers more pressing than ever. In all of these fields, women peacekeepers have proven that they can perform the same roles, to the same standards and under the same difficult conditions, as their male counterparts.
In many cases, women are better-placed to carry out peacekeeping tasks, including interviewing victims of sexual and gender-based violence, working in women’s prisons, assisting female ex-combatants during the process of demobilizing and reintegration into civilian life, and mentoring female cadets at police academies.
Female peacekeepers also act as role models in the local environment, inspiring, by their very example, women and girls in the often male-dominated societies where they serve. Demonstrating to these women and girls that they can do anything – in the realm of politics, security, law and order, medicine, journalism and beyond – the female blue helmets truly embody the concept, “Power to Empower.”
The Peace building Commission (PBC) is a new intergovernmental advisory body of the United Nations that supports peace efforts in countries emerging from conflict, and is a key addition to the capacity of the International Community in the broad peace agenda. The PBC plays a unique role in (1) bringing together all of the relevant actors, including international donors, the international financial institutions, national governments, troop contributing countries; (2) marshaling resources and (3) advising on and proposing integrated strategies for post-conflict peace building and recovery and where appropriate, highlighting any gaps that threaten to undermine peace.
The concurrent General Assembly and Security Council resolutions establishing the Peace building Commission also provided for the establishment of a Peace building Fund and Peace building Support Office.