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3. Peacekeeping: keeping pace with changes in conflict


I. Introduction

II. Rethinking peacekeeping

III. Peace missions in practice in 2006

IV. Conclusions 



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The massive expansion of multilateral peace missions in 2006, and unforeseen political and strategic developments in mid-year, prompted the United Nations and other multilateral security organizations to address some recurring political and operational dilemmas in peacekeeping and to re-evaluate the role of peacekeeping as a strategic tool in the resolution of contemporary conflicts.


The conflict in Lebanon and the mounting violence in Afghanistan necessitated major expansions of the long-established UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Both the UN and NATO—which in 2006 took over nationwide command of ISAF—struggled to realize these expansions as contributing countries hesitated and imposed restrictive conditions on the deployment of their troops.


One important innovation related to the expansion of UNIFIL was the creation of a special Strategic Military Cell at the UN to take strategic military command of the mission. This cell liaises directly with the UNIFIL Force Commander and reports directly to the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. Strategic command of UN peace missions has always previously been the responsibility of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations.


In Timor-Leste, a breakdown of order necessitated deployment of a large, multidimensional mission, the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), just as the UN was intending to withdraw entirely from the country. This sparked new debate about the shortcomings of past international peacebuilding efforts. The apparent failure in Timor-Leste also demonstrated the crucial importance of local ownership in peacebuilding.


Long-standing core principles of peacekeeping, such as consent, impartiality and neutrality, came to the fore in policy discussions and were severely tested in their practical implementation in 2006. After the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement in May, intensive negotiations were needed to obtain the Sudanese Government’s consent to the deployment of UN peacekeepers in the Darfur region of Sudan. A joint African Union–UN ‘hybrid mission’ was eventually accepted. Political resistance to UN engagement in the stalled peace process in Côte d’Ivoire meant that UN and French peacekeepers were obliged to leave the country. Similarly, following a decision by the European Union (EU) to include the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in its list of international terrorist organizations, the LTTE demanded that EU monitors be expelled from the Norwegian-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), arguing that the mission was no longer either impartial or neutral. While the established principle of the use of force only in self-defence has withstood the test of time, it has undergone considerable reinterpretation in the light of the new range of tasks being given to peace missions and has now come to include defence of the mission’s mandate.


This comes at a time when peace missions are becoming increasingly robust in nature, as illustrated most starkly and controversially by ISAF.


Sharon Wiharta (Indonesia) is a Researcher with the SIPRI Armed Conflict and Conflict Management Project.


Sharon Wiharta