United Nations: Over the past 75 years, the United Nations has sent more than 2 million peacekeepers to help countries move away from conflict, with successes from Liberia to Cambodia and major failures in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Today, it faces new challenges in the dozens of hotspots where UN peacekeeping operations are located, including more violent environments, fake news campaigns, and a divided world that inhibits its ultimate goal: to successfully restore stable governments.
Marking the 75th anniversary of UN peacekeeping operations, the organization marked the International Day of UN Peacekeepers on Thursday with a solemn ceremony honoring the more than 4,200 peacekeepers who have died since 1948, when the Security Council took the historic decision to send military forces. Observers to the Middle East to supervise the implementation of the Israeli-Arab armistice agreements. For the 103 peacekeepers added to the list in 2022, the medals have been accepted by the ambassadors of their 39 countries.
The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, asked the hundreds of military officers and diplomats who were in uniform at the ceremony to observe a minute of silence in their memory. And at the start of a UN Security Council meeting on peace in Africa, everyone in the room stood silently in honor of the fallen peacekeepers.
What began 75 years ago as a “bold experiment” in the Middle East “has now become a groundbreaking project for our organization,” said the ceremony’s general secretary after laying a wreath at the peacekeeping memorial. For civilians caught up in the conflict, he said, peacekeepers are “a beacon of hope and protection”.
UN peacekeeping operations have grown exponentially. At the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, there were 11,000 UN peacekeepers. By 2014, there were 130,000 in 16 remote peacekeeping operations. Today, it serves 87,000 men and women in 12 conflict zones in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
The head of UN peacekeeping operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press that there have been two kinds of successes. This is the long list of countries that have returned to a reasonable degree of stability with the support of UN peacekeepers, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Angola, and Cambodia, countries where peacekeepers not only monitor, but maintain pause. – Fires in southern Lebanon and Cyprus.
In terms of failure, he cited the failure of UN peacekeepers to prevent the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which claimed the lives of at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutus, and the 1995 massacre of at least 8,000 Muslim men and boys. In Srebrenica during the Bosnian War, the only genocide in Europe since the Holocaust during World War II.
The UN’s reputation has also been tarnished by numerous allegations that peacekeepers tasked with protecting civilians sexually abused women and children, including in the Central African Republic and Congo. Another blunder was the cholera epidemic in Haiti that began in 2010 after United Nations peacekeepers introduced the bacteria into the country’s largest river via sewage runoff from their base.
Despite this, “UN peacekeeping operations have a surprisingly good record,” said Richard Gowan, director of the United Nations’ International Crisis Group.
While many people understandably focus on the disasters in Rwanda and Srebrenica, he said, “The UN has done a good job de-escalating crises, protecting civilians and rebuilding fallen states in situations from the Suez Crisis in the 1950s to Liberia in the 2000s.”
Looking ahead, the UN’s Lacroix said the main challenge facing peacekeeping is the divided international community and especially the divisions in the UN Security Council, whose tasks must be agreed upon.
“The consequence of this is that we are unable to achieve what I call the ultimate goal of peacekeeping – to propagate it, to support a political process that moves forward, and then gradually rolls back when that political process is complete,” he said. . “We can’t do that because the peace processes aren’t moving, or they’re not going fast enough.”
The upshot is that “we have to basically stick to what I call the middle objective of peacekeeping — maintaining the ceasefire, protecting civilians, protecting hundreds of thousands of them … and doing everything we can, of course, to support political efforts anywhere,” said the Under-Secretary-General for Operations. peace.
Lacroix pointed to other challenges peacekeepers face: the environment in which they operate is more violent and dangerous and the attacks more sophisticated. False news and disinformation “pose an enormous threat to the population and peacekeepers”. Old and new drivers of conflict – including transnational criminal activities, trafficking, drugs, weapons, illegal exploitation of natural resources, and the impact of climate change exacerbating competition between pastoralists and farmers – are also having an “absolutely enormous impact”.
He said the United Nations needed to better tackle all the challenges. And it needs to continue to improve the impact of peacekeeping operations and implement its initiatives on performance, combat fake news, improve safety and security, and recruit more women to serve in peacekeepers.
It’s abundantly clear that the UN is “besieged” in some countries like Mali and Congo where there are not enough peacekeepers to stop the recurring cycles of violence, Juan of the Crisis Group told the Associated Press. He said some African governments, including Mali, are turning to private security providers such as Russia’s Wagner Group to fight the insurgents.
“I think we have to be wary of getting rid of UN operations right away,” said Guan. We learned the hard way in cases like Afghanistan that even heavily armed Western forces cannot enforce peace. The UN’s record may not be perfect, but no one is much better at building stability in troubled nations.”

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