Peace Keeping

POLS 304

Essay Question 5

o Elaborate the factors contributing to the success and failure of the United Nations peacekeeping operations supporting your arguments by specific examples.
Peacekeeping as we know it grew up as a compromise, using minimal force and generally only being employed with the consent of the warring parties. Military observers, usually unarmed, might monitor a ceasefire or peace agreement. Later came peace enforcement operations, in which armed peacekeepers were authorised to use force to prevent further bloodshed. Today more complex peacekeeping operations use a great variety of specialist skills to give societies, shattered by war, an essential space in which to rebuild themselves. To research and understand the goings on within a United Nations peace keeping mission is an emotion-laden task. A critique of such missions necessitates interpretation of the implications of loss of life, ill-treatment of civilians and peace keeping personnel; such an undertaking is emotively challenging and deeply affecting. Having said that, it serves only to strengthen and reaffirm the increasing necessity of an organisation such as the United Nations to exist and operate with conscience and cause in our globalised world.

The factors contributing to the success and failure of the United Nations peacekeeping operations are examined in this essay with the support of four specific examples. These examples are all post-cold war era so as to reflect a more recent and up to date idea of how the operations might function and to give a more contemporary view of the ongoing influence that these missions have had, especially in a post-‘9/11’ climate.

The four operations to be examined are classified by country, rather than mission. Accordingly, this essay focuses on those operations deployed in Somalia, Rwanda, Kosovo and Sierra Leone. As recent history, balanced resources in the form of published assessment of these operations are both limited and scarce. Therefore the critique is, in large part, my own and based upon the weight of facts which dictate the history of these operations. As will become apparent, the history of these peace keeping operations is one of perseverance and endurance for all involved. Although this essay may well appear critical in parts a strong respect remains at all times for the operations and all which is involved in them. Their efforts, successful or not, continue to make a positive difference as an international moral stand against operations and violation of humanity.


Somalia can be seen as one of the first examples of post-cold war peace keeping and marked a new era for the United Nations. It was a chance for the United Nations to exercise its effectiveness and to demonstrate the necessity and effectiveness of peace keeping in what had become a new, progressive, political climate. It became an experiment to see whether or not it was possible. Of course it was thought that an international organization of such size and international support would easily be effective in the Somalia conflict, but like the checkered history preceding the peace keepers this would prove to be untrue.

The deployment of United Nations Peace Corps was slow and inefficient[1].This was linked not only to their concurrent involvement in various operations in Iraq but also to the fact that United Nations representatives and infrastructure had already been withdrawn from Somalia which made it even more difficult to set up in a dysfunctional collapsed state[2]. A minor success was the agreement, in New York, of a cease-fire which allowed for further action to take place with little resistance. Throughout 1992 the United Nations Security Council made a number of resolutions that would help the establishment of a peace keeping operation. This was to be seen as a “bottom up” strategy within the various tribal elements which made up Somalia’s political landscape [3].

UNOSOM I (United Nations operations in Somalia I) was deployed with some difficulty, including a two month wait to establish an agreement to have unarmed observers in the country[4]. This highlighted a frustrating element of bureaucracy within the administration of the United Nations. It appeared to many [5]to be detrimental to the United Nations idea of dealing with situations in a timely fashion before they worsen. The main functions of the operation were to monitor the agreed upon cease fire and secure harbours and airports thus ensuring the