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En librairie

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

Aux Éditions Charles Léopold Mayer (ECLM)


Brussels, novembre 2007

Complex missions: character and goals

New types of peace-keeping missions developed since 1988.

While classical peacekeeping missions are still being carried out, new types of peace-keeping missions have been developed since 1988. These newer types of mission are different in their function, in their application and in their composition (1), and they usually operate in an environment very different from those of classical peacekeeping missions, an environment of intrastate conflict where one or both sides are often hostile to the peacekeepers (2).

The main characteristics of these missions are:

  • 1. Multidimensionality/complexity: In addition to control of violence (peacekeeping), peacebuilding tasks and sometimes even executive mandates to govern a country have been added to the missions.

  • 2. Heavier armament of the peacekeeping force, and license to use these weapons not only in self-defence, but to make sure that the mission’s mandate can be carried out (so-called robust peacekeeping) (3).

  • 3. A new interpretation of impartiality as not meaning equi-distance between the parties in conflict (4).

  • 4. Participation in peacekeeping missions by powerful states (including the USA and the nuclear powers of Western Europe and Russia – the se countries formerly were not asked to play a role because of their real and perceived interests related to the Cold War.

  • 5. Military take-over of more and more humanitarian aid and peace-building tasks on the ground.

New types of peace-keeping missions to deal with new kinds of conflict

The reasons for these changes are mainly the new kinds of conflict the missions have to deal with: internal wars with, rather than two sides in conflict, a multitude of unconnected interested actors involved, more people on the ground profiting from the continuation of war (so-called spoilers), cease-fire agreements not holding, and in consequence of these a higher level of risks for humanitarian personnel as well as for the peace-keepers themselves (5).

It is further remarkable that two-thirds of UN peacekeeping missions have been established since 1991 (36 of 54). Accordingly, there is a much larger total number of peacekeeping personnel deployed to missions, both in regard to soldiers and to civilians. The number of soldiers involved in UN peacekeeping grew from 9 570 in 1988 to 73.393 in 1994. Over the same period, the number of civilian personnel increased from 1516 to 2260 and costs rose from 2 304 Million US$ to 3 610 Million US$ (6). Recent missions (7) include UNTAG in Namibia (1989-90), UNAVEM II and III and MONUA in Angola (1991 to date), ONUSAL in El Salvador (1991-1995), UNTAC in Cambodia (1992-93), and UNPROFOR I and II in Croatia and Bosnia (1992-1995) (8).

The debacles of the missions in Rwanda, Somalia and, specifically, Bosnia in 1995 when two of the UN-protected enclaves were overrun by Serb forces, led to a quick waning of the enthusiasm (9) for UN peace missions which had been felt after the end of the Cold War. Since 1995 the numbers have declined sharply, but with four new larger missions beginning in 1999 and 2000 (UNMIK in Kosovo, UNTAET in East Timor, UNAMSIL in Sierra Leone and UNMEE in Ethiopia and Eritrea), these numbers are still much higher than the figures in the 1980s: as of March 2001 there are 15 operations in total, employing 38,905 military personnel and civilian police, 4048 international civilian personnel and 7587 local civilian personnel. The estimated cost of operations from July 1, 2000 to June 30, 2001 is between 2600 and 3000 Million US$.

After a period of missions that were multidimensional and robust, there is now a different change of direction in peacekeeping missions. After the debacles of Somalia, Rwanda and UNPROFOR in Bosnia, the UN is now returning to its older maxim of never deploying peacekeeping missions without a prior ceasefire agreement in place, recognising that it “lacks the capacity for directing large-scale military enforcement operations” (10). This does not mean that the idea of peace enforcement (see below) has necessarily been given up. In the future, member states of the UN or forces under other member-state alliances (NATO, CIS, etc.), will likely be charged with the military enforcement of a ceasefire, as has been done already in Haiti 1994 and Bosnia in summer 1995. NATO has taken over the role of monitoring the ceasefire afterwards in lieu of a UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and Kosovo after the - unauthorised - bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 (11).


  • (1) : Ramsbotham/Woodhouse 1999:XIII pp.

  • (2) : Hillen 1998:141

  • (3) : There have been multidimensional missions with no robust use of force, e.g. UNTAC in Cambodia. But today being multidimensional and robust usually are considered as going together: “UN military units must be capable of defending themselves, other mission components and the mission’s mandate:” (Brahimi-Report No 49). This does not automatically mean that Chapter VII of the UN Charter is invoked although in some of the cases of robust peace-keeping UN Security Council resolutions made use of Chapter VII: Northern Iraq 1991-1996 (resolution 678 and 688), Somalia 1992-95 (resolution 974 and 814), Bosnia-Herzegovina 1992-1995 (resolution 749 and 771), Rwanda 1994-95 (resolution 929), Haiti 1991-1996 (resolution 940) and Albania 1996. See Weiss 1999. These were the first Chapter VII-cases since Korea in 1950. The attack of the Allied Forces against Iraq in January 1991 were sanctioned by Chapter VII but certainly no peace-keeping mission, and the attack on Yugoslavia/Kosovo in 1999 was not sanctioned by the UN Security Council but decided on unilaterally by NATO.

  • (4) : Kühne 2000

  • (5) : Brahimi-Report no 18 ff.

  • (6) : Ramsbotham/Woodhouse 1999:XIII

  • (7) : ONUC (in Congo 1960-64), UNTEA (in West Iran 1962-63) and UNFICYP (on Cyprus since 1964) have had, compared to the other missions of that time, a larger civilian police and/or civilian specialists contingent. See Bardehle 1993

  • (8) : Miall et al 1999:196

  • (9) : This may be one of the reasons why the Western military alliance NATO decided to attack Yugoslavia in 1999 without a Security Council mandate. Some think, as does the OSCE diplomat Grabert, that the United Nations have been, 50 years after their foundation, almost divested of their task. (Grabert 1999:20). Weiss quotes Richard Holbrooke “The damage that Bosnia did to the U.N. was incalculable”. Source: NY Times 4.9.1996 (Weiss 1999:3)

  • (10) : Background Note: United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, 1 March 2001. Source:

  • (11) : Annan 1998. Annan mentions that there has even been some consideration of outsourcing military tasks to private firms.