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Modus Operandi

En librairie

Transformation de conflit, de Karine Gatelier, Claske Dijkema et Herrick Mouafo

Aux Éditions Charles Léopold Mayer (ECLM)


Brussels, novembre 2007

Conclusions from the case studies for future large scale interventions

  • 1. Success with these missions seems to rely on one condition: that both sides in the conflict really want peace, with a stake in international support and in retaining some minimum respectability (1) (as in El Salvador) (2). Only when this condition is present can the civilian intervenors use available incentives and threats (3). In South Africa, there was the possibility of reports to the international world and of sanctions in the case of undue violence (4). On the situation in Bougainville one Mission commander stated: “I was always confident that the Bougainvillean leaders were aware that contributing governments could be expected to withdraw their personnel if the security situation deteriorated.” (5) It has been argued above that the lack of this element was one factor for the failure of the KVM, and of UNAMET in East Timor.

  • 2. The character of a mission changes when it has to rely on the local people for security. All civilian missions had to rely on this protection to some degree; therefore it was important to establish good contact, and win trust and acceptance. Instead of just keeping people apart, civilian peacekeepers seem to have to bring them together, at least by making themselves the link between the parties. “Relying on the Bougainville people to ensure the safety of peace monitors reinforces the realisation that peace on Bougainville is the responsibility of the Bougainville people. They are only too aware that, should the safety of the PMG be placed at risk, there is a very real danger that the peace process will falter. This was emphasised on a number of occasions when Bougainvillians assisted patrols in difficult circumstances.” (6) “The decision to go to Bougainville unarmed caused some angst … at the time, but it was the right one–there were at least two occasions I encountered which may have gone differently if we had been armed.” (7)

In the case of the KVM, there seems to have been a lack of understanding of the character of an unarmed mission. To contrast a quote from Mission head Walker with the quote of his colleague above: “It’s a dangerous place; it’s very risky. I think that people who are coming there, coming in unarmed under the agreement–and all of our people are unarmed–makes a very dangerous situation, as I’ve said. And the quote in the paper as recently as today, we’re probably the only people in Kosovo who do not carry side arms of some sort, if not bigger weapons. So, we’re hoping that is somehow going to protect us from those with weapons.” (8)

  • 3. Combining peace strategies: Civil peacekeeping always seems to imply a peacemaking component as well, both on the higher levels in order to create the framework and lead the peace process onward (El Salvador, Bougainville, South Africa), and on the ground to negotiate in the case of local/regional or sectoral occurrences. Ample examples of such activities have been given above. Both need to go hand in hand, although perhaps not carried out by the same persons (9).

With regard to peacebuilding activities, the missions apparently engaged in them to varying degrees, depending on their mandate and the overall framework (e.g. partner organisations) of their situation. Some activities were obviously undertaken to win trust and acceptance, while others were part of the mandate (e.g. reconstruction work in the context of supporting returning refugees).

  • 4. Knowledge of local background, and establishing a base in the community: the Swedish evaluation of the South African election monitoring, and that of Schmidt on the later mission in KwaZulu/Natal, both strongly emphasised this aspect: a comparable strength in contrast to the UN monitors in South Africa, but with impaired effectiveness due to insufficient local anchorage in some communities–the monitors being sent from some central office, leaving the local churches to deal with them. While the establishment of good contacts with all sides has been mentioned as an important factor in the success of ONUSAL in El Salvador, the TMG/PMG in Bougainville has been criticised by some Mission participants for not paying enough attention to this factor.

  • 5. Non-partisanship or impartiality: it has been important for all the civilian missions to establish this position although some struggled with it, especially the South African NGO missions which, at least initially, were viewed as being close to the ANC–an image they managed overcome broadly but not completely (10).

Another problem was combining investigations into the reasons for political violence with their image as an impartial observer or negotiator (11). This tension could also be observed with the KVM. In Bougainville a problem arose with the participation of Australia which had been involved on one side of the war in the peacekeeping mission (12), although their leadership was eventually accepted since they could not be ignored as a regional power, and so had to be included a stakeholder in the peace process.

  • 6. Length of stay of monitors: while simple monitoring seems possible for teams staying for only a few weeks, the evaluators of the Swedish contribution to EMPSA and NIM came to the conclusion that a minimum stay of six months is necessary to fulfil a broader mandate (13). This was also the average length of stay of monitors in most other missions.

  • 7. With regard to the constitution of the peace force, several aspects can be highlighted from the examples:

    • Language: In South Africa in the Ecumenical Peacemakers Programme a minority of internationals worked together with a majority of locals on a ratio of 1:5 (3 internationals to 15 locals). The report of one international participant emphasizes that, while the internationals could speak in English with most people, local team members working in their mother tongue were crucial.

    • Cultural affinity: The international monitors working with NIM felt it was important for them to show that not all whites are racists or persons who avoid the struggle against apartheid (14). On the other side, the overall ‘white’ character of NIM and its observers was remarked upon negatively by others in South Africa. The inclusion of people from Fiji and Vanuatu was very important symbolically (Melanesians) as well as practically, since personnel from these countries shared a comparable cultural background (15). People also reacted very positively to an Australian Aborigine woman with whom they felt a special affinity (16).

    • Gender: In Bougainville one woman was included in each Mission patrol in recognition of the important role women play in Bougainvillean society (mostly matrilineal clans); men would not have been able to link effectively to the women (17). This aspect is not mentioned in reports from the other missions although it is certain that women were included in all of them, and it may be assumed that their contacts varied from those of their male colleagues.

  • 8. Organisation and Deployment: the importance of available infrastructure and equipment has been the especial experience of peace monitors with NIM in South Africa and the KVM in Kosovo. The ad hoc organisation of missions has always resulted in a slow initial response. Perhaps even more important is the need for quick deployment of monitors in sufficient numbers. As mentioned above, this deficiency caused serious personnel problems for the KVM in particular. At the time of their withdrawal they had just reached 65 % of targeted capacity. Their inability to cover the whole province has been mentioned as one of the contributing factors to their eventual failure (18).


  • (1) : Depending on the good will of the local parties is also an important factor for normal UN Observation Missions. Even if they are staffed by soldiers carrying side arms, they also rely on their symbolic presence. Hillen states. “The ration of force to space in UN observer missions would be considered completely impractical by any military standards. As a rule, UN observers themselves could not fulfil their observation mandate because of their small force and the large amount of space under their control. This reinforced the UN role as an impartial and limited force - an honest brother and secondary player in the conflict… As a result of these features, the chief operational imperative of these missions was that they relied entirely on the co-operation and goodwill of the belligerents… The consent and co-operation of the belligerents toward the UN force was reinforced by the unquestioned neutrality and impartiality shown by the UN observers during the mission.” Hillen 1998:34 p.

  • (2) : Stuart 1994:64 p.

  • (3) : “Monitoring and Verification of Peace Agreements”, 2000.

  • (4) : Schmidt 1997, Ewald/Thörn 1994:16f.

  • (5) : Quote from the commander ofthe PMG in 1998, Brigadier Bruce Osborn. Contribution to the Seminar Monitoring Peace in Bougainville,

  • (6) : Quote from Major Luke Foster from the Australian Defence Force, Contribution to the Seminar Monitoring Peace in Bougainville,

  • (7) : Quote from Andrew Rice, Department of Defence, Contribution to the Seminar Monitoring Peace in Bougainville,

  • (8) : Quote from Ambassador William Walker, “On-the-record-briefing on the Kosovo Verification Mission”, Released by the Office of the Spokesman, January 8, 1999. There is also the observation that the Europeans did not believe in a possible success of the mission right from the beginning. (Loquai 2000:67)

  • (9) : The evaluation of the South African missions identifies a tension between two simultaneous and equally important objectives: to lessen or stop the on-going violence through acute effort and to work for longer-term conflict resolution through negotiation. However, the evaluation does not go into details. (Ewald/Thörn 1994)

  • (10) : Ewald/Thörn 1994:77 p., 90 p., 109 p.

  • (11) : Ewald/Thörn 1994:20 p.

  • (12) : Which was kept low-key, Australia mainly concentrating on logistics .(Böge 1999:13)

  • (13) : Ewald/Thörn 1994:31 p.

  • (14) : Ewald/Thörn 1994:103 p.

  • (15) : Because of the same reasons, the New Zealand contingent included many Maoris. (Böge 1999:13) Similar: Major Luke Foster from the Australian Defence Force, Contribution to the Seminar Monitoring Peace in Bougainville,

  • (16) : Tracy Haines, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Contribution to the Seminar Monitoring Peace in Bougainville,

  • (17) : Major Luke Foster from the Australian Defence Force, Contribution to the Seminar Monitoring Peace in Bougainville,

  • (18) : All commentators agree on this problem, namely that the OSCE had enormous problems in finding a sufficient number of civilian verifiers on short notice. As a consequence, the REACT (Rapid Expert Assistance and Co-operation Teams) program has been started in 2000/2001. REACT establishes a matrix of personnel requirements, unified recruitment procedures, and pre-mission training standards.