Why UN peacekeeping is indispensable


Ambassador (ret.) Peggy Mason, now President of the Rideau Institute, discusses why Canada must re-engage in supporting UN Peacekeeping operations in the new 2014 edition of The United Nations and Canada: What Canada has done and should be doing at the United Nations (edited by J. E. Trent). She writes:

Specifically the UN has learned that peacebuilding is a complex, long-term process of helping the conflicting parties to create the necessary conditions – political, economic, security – for a sustainable peace. At the centre of this effort is the peace process. Complex political problems lie at the heart of violent conflict and require political solutions, negotiated and agreed by the parties. A robust security element may be essential in both the negotiation and implementation phases but it is a supporting element nonetheless. As the Afghanistan debacle has so dramatically and tragically illustrated, no amount of military ‘robustness’ on the part of international military forces can make up for the lack of a credible peace process.


For a collective enterprise of this magnitude to succeed – as UN peacekeeping does more often than not – the international effort must be perceived as legitimate and impartial by all or most of the parties to the conflict. And it must have the broadest possible international support within a coherent legal and operational framework. Only the UN Security Council (UNSC) can mandate such an operation and only the UN Organization can even notionally lead it, if only because there is simply no other single entity acceptable to the international community. Headed by a civilian in the role of the Special Representative of the [UN] Secretary-General (SRSG), with all the other components, including the military and police reporting to him or her, the very structure of the UN PKO reflects the centrality of the peace process. This stands in sharp contrast to NATO-led missions, authorized by the UNSC to assist in stabilizing a conflict. How can the military effectively support the peace process under a separate command structure? My ten years of training exercises with senior NATO commanders have demonstrated time and again that a divided command structure at the operational level is a recipe for an ineffective command structure.


The demand for UN Blue Helmets has never been greater. But UN peacekeeping cannot begin to live up to its potential to assist countries in transition from civil war to stable governance unless it has the resources to do the job.”

Read the full article and view the 2014 volume here.

Photo credit: CC BY 2.0 image “Reconciliation: The Peacekeeping Monument” by Tony Webster on Flickr.

Tags: Blue Helmets, Canada, NATO, Peacekeepers, Peacekeeping, Peggy Mason, United Nations, World Federalist Movement