The United Nations Peacekeeping force can be described as an international military force

contributed by Member States to assist countries torn by conflict onto the path of peace and stability. Its

mandate of impartiality and “non-use of force unless in self-defense or defense of a mandate” clearly

revealed how they can resolve conflict through peaceful means [1]. It was originally established in 1948 in

the Indian subcontinent (just been through the Partition Act) and the Middle-East (the undergoing Arab-

Israeli conflict) to address the crisis that plagued both regions, with both missions still continues to this day

[2]. Since then, it had expanded its range and area of operations. It had helped the UN to protect civilians,

disarm combatants that threat peace and stability, and oversee countless transitions of countries torn by war

to economic prosperity. It has over 100,000 soldiers, police force, civilian, and volunteers deployed in

regions where national intervention would not solve the problem or would make it worse, and its neutrality

had protected its personnel from attacks by either side of a conflict most of the time [1]. Along its long

records of successes there is also a list of failures where in some cases the peacekeeping forces just stood by

and witness inhumane acts perpetrated by insurgents. Questions had been raised by the public on whether or

not the UN’s military force can actually solve international crisis and advocate human rights; and this blog

would provide an insight for the readers to decide for themselves.

The conflict in Sierra Leone was one of the UN’s upheld successes as it helped the country restored a

fragile but secured peace during and after the Sierra Leone civil war that lasted for ten years. Beginning in

1991 when the rebel group Revolutionary United Front (RUF), with the help of Liberian rebel forces, tried

to overthrow Momoh’s government, the nation began a plunge into political instability, which in turn

affected its economy [6]. The beginning of the war was of not for reasons of political adversary; rather, it

was of an intricate series of reasons and dissent that encompasses social and political problems of the nation

that was rooted back in the 1980s. In 1999, the UN finally intervened to negotiate a peace agreement

between the rebel groups and the government, while at the same time deployed over thousands of

peacekeeping forces into the area to help secure such agreement.

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UN Peacekeepers in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Tensions mount when UN troops were attacked and kidnapped outside the city of Freetown, and the UK

began to intervene. Slowly but successfully, the international community was able to secure peace and

monitor disarmament processes; and UK ended its two-year intervention when Kabbah won a landslide

victory to gain majority in the parliament. By 2005 when the UN had completed its mandate, the UN had

succeeded in disarming 70,000 war combatants from both sides, protected elections, trained police forces,

reconstructed the nation, set up war crime tribunals, and ensured peace [7]. Although the committee was at

times unforeseen to succeed because of the crisis that arose, the new campaign of mediation launched by the

UN in response allowed tensions to lessen on both sides and negotiations began.

During the Bosnian War from 1992-1995 in which different factions fought within Bosnia and

Herzegovina, tens and thousands of refugees fled to nearby country or special enclaves for protection; one of

them being an Eastern city of Srebrenica. The Republic of Sprska was one of such faction, led by General

Ratko Mladic, that fought against the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina in effort to secure its self-

proclaimed state for the Serbian government. As the war deteriorated for the Republic of Bosnia and

Herzegovina, UN Peacekeeping Forces were sent in to ensure the safety of the civilians in one of the

enclaves ensured by the forces and the UN as safe from harm. However, the international community knew

the enclave would fall but did nothing about it; and are willing to sacrifice it in efforts to create peace in the

region [4]. Consequently, General Mladic was able to march into town on July of 1995. Mladic and the

forces of the Republic of Srprska (VRS) separated the women, children, the young, and the old from

military-aged men right in front of the eyes of the UN Peacekeeping Forces.

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Women, the young, and the old separated by Mladic along with UN Peacekeepers in Srebrenica 1995

8,000 men with ages from 18-55 were massacred on that day, and people that tried to seek shelter at the

Dutch Peacekeeping Headquarters were denied access. All of these actions led to the worldwide questioning

and condemnation of the UN, NATO, and several other Western nations. The Srebrenica Massacre was the

single largest genocide ever recorded since the Third Reich in the Second World-War. It was a result of

Western nations fail to intervene and halt the VRS from advancing and their wrongful prediction of the

outcome of occupation of Srebrenica (US and UK believed that the refugees would be detained and used as

hostages in negotiation with the West) [4]. Few months later, the Dayton Agreement was signed as a peace

treaty, in which kept the status quo of the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and dividing the state into two

administrating entity: Federal Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Srebrenica. The fall

of Srebrenica had damaged the reputation of the UN, and it demonstrated on how different nations’ political

decisions (the decision of US and UK to sacrifice the enclaves) were able to influence military decisions of

the UN Peacekeepers. Also, at the time of the occupation, there were only 110 Peacekeepers on site,

extremely insignificant compared to the attacking VRS; and revealing the inefficiency of the Security

Council in the reinforcement of UN personnel in the Bosnian Civil War (34,000 were proposed, but it was

One might argue that the UN Peacekeeping Forces are successful because of its neutrality and non-

combatant nature while on missions, but had a few flaws that included its inadequate number of forces in

certain regions. Some others might argue that it was the conditions and the status quo of the region deployed

of Peacekeepers that allow such mission to be successful, hence the presence or absence of a negotiable

position of both sides of a conflict and the extent of support of the Western nations was what made Sierra

Leone a triumph and Srebrenica a failure. In the self-examining report by the UN on the issue of Srebrenica,

it broke new grounds by condemning the tendency of the organization to remain neutral in a civil conflict.

“These failings were in part rooted in a philosophy of neutrality and nonviolence wholly unsuited to the

conflict in Bosnia,” said Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the UN [8].

Besides its neutrality being put into question in compared to its achievement, there had been rising

voices from the public and Member States wanting the Peacekeeping Forces to have more power and

involvement in conflicts. This is because in many incidents across different peacekeeping missions, the UN

would face dilemmas on actions from either parties where it borders along the charter and mandate that was

assigned to them. When this happens, the UN Peacekeepers have to choose between allowing or restricting

such action. One example of this is was mentioned above in the Srebrenica Massacre when the Dutch forces,

with their inadequate numbers, were unable to decide whether or not they should maintain their neutrality

and do nothing; or should they fight back against VPS, violating the terms of their charter and the command

from headquarters in doing so. The resulting decision of the former was what brought this tragedy among

the international community. If the power to make decisions on front lines was given to them, the

peacekeepers would be able to act on their own while still maintaining the terms of which they swore loyalty

to. India, one of the largest contributors of UN Peacekeeping Forces, was against such implementation

because it believes that the power was not necessary because UN’s mission had been successful in

maintaining peace and security [5].

The two events of Sierra Leone and Srebrenica was one example of a failure and success that the UN

had dealt with in its 70 years of creation. Referring to all past UN peacekeeping missions, it is obscure for

one to simply conclude the extent of whether it is an effective means of mediation between two conflicting

parties or to preserve peace and security in the region. Some argued that its success was because of the

mindset that both parties had and the situation of which the conflict was placed in, in which created a

suitable environment for peacekeeping to take place (whether or not each side were willing to cooperate

with peace agreements and actions). On the other hand, some scholars argued, an equal sign should not be

place on its failures with the actual conflict itself; rather, the presence of such humanitarian-based forces

was what made the crisis less destructive and disastrous than it would’ve been with the absence of UN

intervention. Nevertheless, the UN Peacekeeping Forces remain the only organization in world that retain a

neutral method of mediating conflicts and in dealing with humanitarian issues that consists of formidable

military power, and such organization, disregarding its efficiency, is one of the most effective tools in the

maintaining of world peace and security.


References

1. “What is Peacekeeping?” United Nations Peacekeeping. United Nations, 2015. Web. 7 November

<http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/operations/peacekeeping.shtml>

2. “The Early Years” United Nations Peacekeeping. United Nations, 2015. Web. 7 November 2015.

<http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/operations/early.shtml>

3. Henderson, Barney. “What Have Been the Successes and the Failures of UN Peacekeeping

Missions?” The Telegraph. The Telegraph, 28 September 2015. Web. 7 November 2015.

<http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/bosnia/11729436/Srebrenica-20-years-on-

What-have-been-the-successes-and-failures-of-UN-peacekeeping-missions.html >

4. Hartmann, Florence and Vulliamy, Ed. “How Britain and the US Decided to Abandon Srebrenica to

its Fate” The Guardian. The Guardian, 4 July 2015. Web. 7 November 2015.

<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/04/how-britain-and-us-abandoned-srebrenica-

5. McGreal, Chris. “What is the Point of Peacekeeping When They Don’t Keep Peace?” The Guardian.

The Guardian, 17 September 2015. Web. 7 November 2015.

<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/17/un-united-nations-peacekeepers-rwanda-bosnia>

6. “Sierra Leone Profile – Timeline” BBC News. BBC, 18 March 2015. Web. 8 November 2015.

<http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-14094419>

7. “Sierra Leone: A Success Story in Peacekeeping” UN Major Peacekeeping Operations. UN 2005.

PDF. 8 November 2015.

<http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/publications/yir/2005/PDFs/major_pk_operations.pdf>

8. Crossette, Barbara. “UN Details Its Failure to Stop ’95 Bosnia Massacre” International New York

Times. New York Times 16 November 1999. Web. 8 November 2015.

<http://www.nytimes.com/1999/11/16/world/un-details-its-failure-to-stop-95-bosnia-massacre.html>


 Post by Alex, Yong-Qi Gao – 2015.12.23