The post-Cold War peacekeeping operations have mainly focused on civil wars and armed conflicts within states, unlike the traditional peacekeeping operations deployed in intergovernmental conflicts aimed at guarding a ceasefire. The assignments have thus become increasingly complicated, multifaceted and risky. Protecting civilians has become an important part of more peacekeeping operations.
The peacekeeping force in Cambodia (1992-1993) had a greater number of tasks than ever before, including monitoring the ceasefire, disarming the warring factions, ensuring that human rights are respected and protected, and organizing and conducting free elections.
Some peacekeeping operations have also included tasks such as building up effective legislation, various social institutions and contributing to economic development. According to Homethodology, the UN operations in Kosovo and East Timor, beginning in 1999, included being responsible for the management and control of the areas until the inhabitants themselves could take over. The UN operation in Liberia, which was set up in 2003, had, in addition to peacekeeping tasks, also a mandate to support the transitional government’s work to build up a police force and military, among other things, and to help hold elections. Similar information was given to the UN operation in Haiti from 2004.
Contributing to the holding of elections has continued to be a common and important task for several peacekeeping operations. The parliamentary and presidential elections in Liberia in November 2011 and the elections in Côte d’Ivoire, Congo-Kinshasa and Haiti in the same year are some recent examples in which UN operations have played an important role.
Civilian police have increasingly been used in UN operations, as well as personnel focused on human rights, humanitarian aid, election observation, disarmament and demining.
The operations have become more risky. More and more UN soldiers and civilians have been killed in the service in recent years. Several UN operations, such as the Untaes in Croatia 1996-1998, the Monuc in Congo-Kinshasa which was strengthened from 2004 and the Minustah in Haiti in 2004, have been equipped with significant military capabilities for self-defense, protection of civilians and not least for deterrence and thereby stopping attacks from the parties to the conflict. Following the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, in which 220,000 people lost their lives, including hundreds of UN staff, Minustah was strengthened with more personnel and resources. Monuc changed its name to Monusco in 2010 in connection with the UN operation becoming more focused on stabilizing the situation in the country. In March 2013, the Security Council decided to set up a special “intervention brigade” within the framework of Monusco. The force would work to disarm military groups and was the first UN peacekeeping force ever to have an offensive mission. The Congolese government army was supported by Monusco and the intervention brigade and achieved military success, and at the end of 2013 a peace agreement was signed with the rebel group M23 in Congo-Kinshasa (see Congo-Kinshasa).
Security Council resolutions have increasingly included wording that allowed the use of military force under Chapter VII of the Charter. In 2013, 5 of the 14 ongoing peacekeeping operations were mandated by the Security Council to use force in self-defense and to protect civilians, as the situation was considered a threat to international peace and security. These included UN operations in Côte d’Ivoire, Congo-Kinshasa and South Sudan. In December 2013, the Security Council decided to double the UN operation in South Sudan, Unmiss, due to the fighting that erupted in the country following an alleged coup attempt by former Vice President Riek Machar against the incumbent government led by President Salva Kiir.
In May 2013, the UN Security Council appointed a special peace operation in Mali, with a very broad mandate, from supporting a political dialogue and an electoral process to protecting civilians and maintaining state control over the country. The backbone of the force would be the African force of about 6,300 men already in Mali (see Mali). Another example was the Central African Republic, where violence escalated in 2013 after the country’s leader François Bozizé was forced to flee the country after the rebel movement Séléka captured the capital. Warnings came about mass murder and severe abuse in the country (see Central African Republic). The Security Council acknowledged that their numbers were not enough to defeat Al Qaeda’s forces, and said that it was in the interests of the French Government to use “all necessary means”. In the spring of 2014, several African and international human rights organizations demanded that the UN Security Council appoint a UN operation with a strong mandate to protect civilians in the Central African Republic.
Failed UN operations, especially during the first part of the 1990’s, clearly showed the major problems in UN peacekeeping operations. Thereafter, the number of peace operations decreased for a few years and the UN Secretariat carried out evaluations of what had gone wrong. The process led to several changes for the peacekeeping operation. It was realized that the mandates for the operations would have sufficient resources and sufficient powers to meet the requirements set.
In connection with the Millennium Assembly in 2000 (see Framväxten) proposed in the Brahimi report, named after the group’s chairman, former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi, several changes to peacekeeping operations. Many were carried out during the first years of the 21st century, including the UN headquarters for peacekeeping operations, increased personnel resources, equipment for operations began to be stockpiled to be readily available, while the mandates of the Security Council became clearer and more adapted to the needs of various conflicts.
Several UN operations were judged to be successful, ie they had fulfilled the tasks assigned to them in their mandates. The effort in Sierra Leone has been highlighted as a role model. What appeared to be a catastrophe in 2000 – when British troops intervened to rescue 500 UN soldiers abducted by RUF rebels – was turned into one of the UN’s most successful operations since 2001, when the Security Council increased its resources. A few years into the 2000’s, the warring factions had been disarmed, security forces built up and refugees returned to the country. An important task for the UN force then became to support the reconciliation process in the country.
Although the UN’s peace work gained a better reputation in the early 2000’s, there were also downsides. These were in particular UN soldiers in Congo-Kinshasa who were accused of sexually exploiting those they were supposed to protect, as well as corruption and bribery that were discovered in procurements in connection with operations. Several attempts to resolve these issues were subsequently carried out, including the establishment of special monitoring teams within the UN operations.
By the end of 2013, the UN had organized 68 peacekeeping operations throughout its operation. Of these, 55 had been added after 1988. There were 15 peace operations, which employed more UN staff than ever before, over 117,000 people. The budget for the period July 2013 to June 2014 was $ 7.5 billion. In 1997, the budget was only about a billion dollars.
A fundamental problem has been the difficulty of mobilizing resources, both in the form of troops and money, for complex and risky peacekeeping operations. Cooperation with organizations such as the African Union, the EU, NATO and Ecowas is often mentioned as a way forward to solve these problems. There has also been an ongoing process to try to strengthen the effectiveness of the UN’s peacekeeping work. In the autumn of 2013, the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN peacekeeping operations announced that the department had succeeded in reducing the cost of military and police personnel by 16 percent per individual.
It has been pointed out in various contexts that the UN should have its own permanent force that can be deployed quickly in crises before they escalate. Such a force has not yet been formed. But the UN has established a system (Unsas) where countries can list troops in advance that they can make available. A special multinational rapid reaction brigade, Shirbrig, headquartered in Denmark, was formed during the second half of the 1990’s. 15 countries, including Sweden, participate in the brigade, which can be used by the UN on a six-month basis. During the twentieth century, Shirbrig participated in UN operations in Ethiopia-Eritrea, Liberia and in Sudan.