The UN is an Ineffective Peace-Keeper. Discuss.
Peacekeeping is defined as 'the activity of keeping the peace by military forces (especially when international military forces enforce a truce between hostile groups or nations)' Although the UN charter does not specifically mention peacekeeping as a function it does refer to '...peaceful settlement of disputes.' (Paul Wilkinson, International Relations, a Very Short Introduction). The nature of peacekeeping operations has changed dramatically since the end of the cold war and it could be said that peacekeeping operations have gone through three distinct generations. The traditional view of peacekeeping as the observation of ceasefires through mutual consent from parties to the dispute, these were usually two separate states as after the First Gulf War on the Kuwait-Iraq border. This typically occurred to prevent intervention by the two dominant superpowers, the USA and the USSR during the cold war. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, conflicts within states became more common and the UN began to use peace enforcement, whereby armed UN forces were given a mandate which allowed them to use physical force to pacify an area. This was a way of preventing civil war and the creation of failed states in places like Somalia. Finally the third generation of peacekeeping operations have included peace-building. Peace-building identifies and strengthens internal structures within states which will prevent conflicts from breaking out. The role of the UN in peacekeeping operations has declined dramatically but there has been an increase in the need for both peace-enforcement and peace-building operations. The same factors determine the success or failure of the UN in all these situations.
First, the UN security council determines the action taken by the UN and is responsible for the mandates given to UN forces. In Rwanda, the UN forces in position when the conflict broke out had a mandate of peacekeeping and were therefore unable to act quickly enough to prevent full scale genocide from taking place, during which 800,000 Tutsi were massacred. This is a result of a reluctance of the UN security council to act, possibly due to an apathy towards Africa or a kind of global bystander effect. The security council also failed to change the mandate to peace-enforcement and instead withdrew the troops they did have stationed there based on the logic that there was no peace left to keep. The number of troops stationed in Rwanda reduced from 2,500 to 270 after an attack by Hutu rebels on a group of Belgian troops which killed ten UN representatives. This gave the impression that the UN was not prepared to protect the Tutsi population of Rwanda and that the Hutus could continue their genocide with impunity. Similarly in Sierra Leone conflict had arisen since 1991 as the RUF waged war on the corrupt government in place and yet the UN did not intervene until 2000. During this time of inaction approximately 50,000 people died.