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Editorial
Last Updated: 03/18/2004
From peacekeeping to peacebuilding

The current general predicament facing UN peacekeepers has been highlighted by the recent front-page news of the fatal bitterness that still exists between Serbs and  Albanians in Mitrovica, Kosovo (or Kosova as the Albanian majority prefer it.). The BBC for instance (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3522230.stm) reports as many as 22 deaths with the UN peacekeeping forces UNMIK caught in the middle and commanders calling for more troops. NATO is sending 350 troops from Bosnia and the UK are dispatching 750 more troops. While NATO is developing its peacekeeping capacities, the UN peacekeeping “blue helmets” are stretched worldwide, and this has been the case since 1948, during which time some 1,879 soldiers have been killed and many more wounded. Over the last three years 64 per year have died.

 

Many of the missions have been in place for a generation or even more, and it is all too easy to underestimate many of them or even forget them altogether. How many people even know the number of current peacekeeping missions let alone are able name them all or where they operate?

 

For the record, 13 UN peacekeeping missions are operating: UNDOF (Golan Heights), UNIFIL (Lebanon), UNTSO (Middle East), UNFICYP (Cyprus), UNOMIG (Georgia), UNMIK (Kosovo), UNMISIT (East Timor), UNMOGIP (India and Pakistan), UNMIL (Liberia), MONUC (Democratic republic of the Congo), UNMEE (Ethiopia and Eritrea), UNAMSIL (Sierra Leone), MINURSO (Western Sahara). Full details can be found at the United Nations Peacekeeping site along with the history of the 42 missions that have been discontinued: http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/dpko/home.shtml

 

The longest standing force is the very first one, UNTSO, dispatched to the Middle East in 1948. UNMOGIP dates back to 1971 while UNIFICYP and UNDOF both originated in two separate crises of 1974.

 

In the current crisis in Mitrovica there are those that say neither NATO nor the UN are committed to ensuring a long lasting solution that guarantees Serbian rights. While it is easy to criticize the role of peacekeepers in keeping warring parties from killing each other, without them the situation round the globe would be a lot less safe. Progress is being made, and peacebuilding now takes its place beside peacekeeping as a major policy concern. Calls are being made for UN peacekeepers to make their contribution to the destabilized situation in Iraq. One caution would have to be that once the UN go in, they may be there for a very long time. Standing between warring parties may keep fatalities down but it does not necessarily solve the problems that caused violent conflict in the first place. Let’s hope that peacebuilding becomes a growing reality.

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