UN peacekeeping under review

Wednesday, 23 August, 2000

An international panel is due to release a major report on Wednesday on the future of United Nations involvement in armed conflicts.
The report was commissioned by the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, who wants to ensure that troops are deployed quickly and with adequate resources.
The BBC UN correspondent says that while UN peacekeepers have traditionally been called on to monitor ceasefires between conventional armies, they are increasingly being sent to halt civil wars fought by undisciplined rebel factions.
Our correspondent says the sight of UN peacekeepers taken hostage by Sierra Leone rebels earlier this year has underlined the risk attached to such operations.

The panel of 10, chaired by the veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhtar Brahimi, was appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in March.
The appointment followed a report released last year which was critical of the failure of the UN to prevent the genocide in Rwanda and the massacre of Muslim civilians at Srebrenica in Bosnia.
The Bosnian ambassador to the UN, Mohammed Sacirbey, told the BBC Today programme that the UN has to learn to intervene more decisively on the side of the right.
"There is a natural inclination to be a peacemaker, to be neutral," he said.
"Sometimes to be impartial you certainly must avoid being neutral. [Otherwise you would] be neutral in the face of genocide, in the face of victimisation, in the face of murder."

  • Some 500 peacekeepers kidnapped by rebels in Sierra Leone in May
  • In 1994, the UN failed to prevent a genocide in Rwanda
  • Civil war has returned to Angola despite years of UN involvement
  • Thousands killed in the Bosnian UN Safe Area of Srebrenica in 1995
  • In Somalia in 1993, US marines were dragged into a series of gun battles with Somali militia - hundreds died
The Brahimi report is intended to make practical proposals to avoid UN troops not having the firepower or the authority to intervene when they witness such atrocities.
Diplomats say it will also cover questions such as the speed with which soldiers are deployed to troublespots, the adequacy of their equipment and the resources and organisation of the peacekeeping department at the UN's headquarters in New York.

Rapid reaction
"The major challenge facing the UN in responding to a conflict is to deploy quickly," Lieutenant Colonel Dermon Early, who commanded peacekeepers in Lebanon, told the BBC.
"I think that international opinion will not accept in the future a situation where things are left to develop - the conflict rages on and there is limited response."
Col Early has also worked as an advisor to the UN secretary-general in New York.
One issue that continues to be discussed is whether the UN should create some kind of "rapid reaction force", which would be a pool of military forces that could be deployed quickly in trouble spots.
But some members states object to the creation of what they term as "UN army".
The report is expected to provide food for thought for the world leaders who will congregate at the UN for its millennium summit at the start of next month.
US President Bill Clinton is scheduled to join heads of states and governments from many of the 188 member states at UN headquarters in New York.

Original article