When the Security Council is confronted with a problem that can represent a threat for international peace and safety, it must first try to resolve the problem peacefully. In die past, the Security Council has acted as mediator or, in cases of armed conflict, proposed a cease-fire. The Council can also reinforce its decisions by enacting sanctions. Sanctions are a way for the Council to apply its decisions, constituting a step between a simple condemnation and armed intervention. Sanctions can include an arms embargo, trade and finance restrictions, the ceasing of air and sea contact, or diplomatic isolation. Furthermore, the council can also opt for measures that call for more people and material.
Peacekeeping missions allow the Security Council to watch over the cease-fire and participate in the creation of conditions for peace. On a few occasions, the Security Council has authorized member States to use all the necessary’ means to keep the peace, including collective military action.
General Indar Jit Rktye, the former president of the International Peace Academy who has participated in several peacekeeping missions, defines peace keeping as being ”the prevention, limitation, moderation and cessation of hostilities between or within States due to the intervention of a third party, which is organized and directed at the international level and which calls upon military, police and civilian personnel to restore peace.”
Up until the end of the Cold War, the UN only intervened in the majority of cases if the conflict involved two or more States. This is known as the principle of non-interference. The principle of State sovereignty was ‘officially’jeered to more than it is today. The first UN mission §an in 1948 in Palestine and is still in place. The United Nations is the truce supervising organization in Palestine. The missions have changed considerably since then. Indeed, UNTSO was only made up of observers mandated to observe whether the truce was obeyed. However, with the insistence of Lester B. Pearson, UNEF I, the fist United Nations Emergency Force, was set up during the Suez Canal crisis in 1956. It was the start of veritable peacekeeping missions supported by military, police and civilian contingents.
Since the end of the Cold War, peacekeeping has undergone a new change. The operations now occur more and more often within one country. There are several reasons behind this. First of all, due to a greater access to information, international public opinion and governments are more aware of what is happening in a country than in die past. Now when images of extraordinary violence reach us, we no longer accept that such barbarous conflicts take place, be they religious or ethnic in origin and whether or not they occur within a single country This was the case for Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and, more recently, Sierra Leone. Not so long ago, we would not even have been aware of conflicts such as these, which occur within a single country.
The other reason comes from the establishment of formercolonial powers of State models in countries that had tradition of this kind. Totally arbitrary borders were laid down, bringing together different ethnic groups, some of which were able to impose their will on others due their number and education. We can no longer allow the powers that be of a State to dictate to other minorities. We must establish or impose peace so as to stop belligerents from committing greater massacres. However, this demands a stronger, more interventionist approach in defiance of State sovereignty and the principle of non-interference. To accomplish this, peacekeeping missions must have greater capabilities.
They must be able to rebuild, disarm, supervise elections and ensure that human rights are respected. Intervening is no longer enough. After such missions, democratic institutions that have never existed or that were destroyed must be rebuilt and be capable of ensuring equal rights for all citizens. This is the type of mission that took place in Kosovo and East Timor.
Still, it may be very difficult to establish a durable peace if justice has not first been obtained. There is often no judicial apparatus left in a country coming out of a conflict. The UN is therefore working to equip itself with the effective institutions needed to fill the institutional void in countries that are rebuilding after a conflict.