By Albert Wu
The UN has been successful for decades since its creation, solving conflicts, providing humanitarian aid, and solving poverty. The United Nations was an organization created after the failure of the League of Nations after World War 2. After seeing so much violence and terror in the period of World War 2, the world wanted to eliminate war and create eternal peace throughout the world. To do this they decided to create a global multinational organization in which all of the problems that existed within the League of Nations did not exist. However, before the UN could actually start their mission, they needed some sort of army. The army they built up was named the UN Peacekeepers. The UN Peacekeepers was a military force made from the donations of all the countries among the organization. Its mission was to settle conflicts around the world and to protect civilians in danger. The peacekeeping organization has been growing immensely. The organization has received a huge increase in money since the 1990s, with its funding growing by almost four times(1). The amount of personnel serving the UN peacekeepers have also grown immensely with the total count of military, civilian, and police staff at 124, 000 in 2010(2). This growth should mean that operations will go more effectively right?
Wrong. Despite the huge growth in budget and troops of the UN peacekeepers, recently, they just have not been able to work productively and efficiently in their peacekeeping missions. In the recent decades, peacekeepers have done poorly and ineffectively in missions. Two of the most prominent examples that show this are their failures in Rwanda and Bosnia. In Rwanda, U.N Peacekeepers stood around and did nothing to defend the Tutsis, as Hutus came in and started massacring Tutsis. Due to the Peacekeepers ineffectiveness, the Rwandan genocide costed the lives of 800, 000 Tutsis(3). In addition, the Bosnian failure, shows the UN peacekeepers’ inability to be effective. In Bosnia, the UN declared multiple safe zones where Muslims could stay safe in, however, after declaring the safe zones, UN peacekeepers just stood by as they allowed Serbs to enter and slaughter thousands of Muslims(3). Thats not all. Not only did Peacekeepers fail to be effective, they ended up being captured and used as hostages. This just further shows how weak and ineffective the organization is. Now, you must be wondering how exactly the UN Peacekeepers could have failed with their increased strength and budget.
Despite their high amount of troops and high supplies, peacekeepers are still unable to carry out their missions effectively. Being a peacekeeper is a very dangerous job as peacekeepers are sent to areas of high conflict and risk. Thus, the death and injury rate for this job is quite high. Foreign Policy reported that, “The Sudanese government and rebel groups are trading accusations over responsibility for the recent deadly attack on the U.N. peacekeepers. Seven U.N. personnel were killed, and more than a dozen were injured in the attack, which took place… as a U.N. convoy moved between two bases” (4). It is no surprise, why such high fatalities exist among the Peacekeepers. Peacekeepers are entering a conflict in which two sides are engaging in armed combat with each other and are at risk of being attacked by either sides. This is due to their neutrality in the conflict. This means that peacekeepers do not join either side of the conflict until one side steps over the line (5). Peacekeepers follow this code in order to create a situation in which they can follow their rule of using minimum force in their missions. Peacekeepers are only allowed to engage in combat and use their weapons in the case of self defence(5). This may be the actual reason behind the recent failures and high fatality rates among UN Peacekeeping mission. Peacekeepers are forced to wait for the enemies to come to them and are forced to stick to the defensive. This causes huge unpredictability in the missions that they take and cause ineffectiveness.
So if defensive operations are not going as well as the UN needs them to, should we go for the opposite spectrum? That is exactly what the UN Security Council has been thinking in the present. They are deciding to test out a new style of operations that they have never tested before, one that is far different from their usual style of defensive operations. In 2013, the Security Council has authorized the creation of a task force specific to these new offensive operations. According to the UN, this task force, known as the “The international brigade—the muscular element, dubbed the “peace enforcer”—will use weapons and equipment that include attack helicopters to mount offensive operations and unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to gather intelligence”(6). These new forces are now able to do what the past Peacekeepers could not have done since their creation, to target dangerous rebel groups and to eliminate them before they can cause a huge amount of fatalities and damage. This force that was created has already shown the huge potential in its operations. According to the International Peace Institute, the intervention brigade in Congo has already seen results in disarming and defecting rebel groups just upon creation(7). The first actual success of the brigade is their defeating of the rebel group M23, which has been causing havoc in Congo for around 20 months(8). This shows the true capability of offensive operations and their ability to solve conflicts. This new reform might be the key to solving the ineffectiveness of defensive operations. Was the success in the offensive operation just a fluke, or was it actually the answer to fixing the UN Peacekeeping Organization? We can only find out, by looking at what the future has to hold for the UN Peacekeepers.