Home Future Trajectory of UN Peace Support Operations | Seminar

Future Trajectory of UN Peace Support Operations

June 18, 2009
By Centre for Land Warfare Studies

The Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) organised a Fellows Seminar on ‘Future Trajectory of United Nations Peace Support Operations’ on 18 June 2009. The seminar was chaired by Lt Gen Aditya Singh (Retd), former GOC-in-C, Southern Command. Maj Gen Chander Prakash, Additional Director General Staff Duties, delivered the Keynote Address. Brig Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd), Director, CLAWS, and Wg Cdr E. Rajappan, Senior Fellow, Centre for Air Power Studies, discussed the paper presented by Col M L N Sravan Kumar, Senior Fellow, CLAWS. Lt Gen J S Lidder, former Force Commander of United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), presented his views on the subject as a guest speaker. The seminar, attended by armed forces officers and members of the strategic community, successfully created larger awareness and discussion on various aspects of UN peacekeeping.

Keynote Address: Maj Gen Chander Prakash

Peacekeeping is evolving rapidly, as is the strategic environment in which it occurs. Till the 70s, most peace operations were conducted under Chapter VI of the UN Charter. With the rise of intra-state conflicts, thereafter, the question of enforcement of peace and stability gained currency. This has been undertaken under the Chapter VII. In post-Cold War era, UN Peacekeeping evolved in at least three phases: the expansionism of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the disappointments and failures of the mid-1990s and the ensuing retrenchment and a new generation of missions, called “hybrid” missions, involving new sets of responsibilities, especially in the civilian, post-conflict sphere, and new actors, often in partnership arrangements.

The UN is increasingly being used as a ‘dumping ground’ of orphan conflicts, for which respective governments are unable to think of any solution. This creates operational difficulties like delayed response, intricacies of intra-state conflicts, vested interests, paucity of troops, domestic opinion, national policy directives, premature withdrawal, absence of early warning system, and insolvency crisis. In addition, there are some conceptual difficulties like choice of use of force, intervention in internal affairs of a country, lack of political support, withdrawal of consent, and robust mandate.

There is, therefore, an imperative need for a detailed review to understand emerging trends and prospects of the conduct of international peace operations. Such a relook is required for types of peace operations, responsibility of the Security Council, availability of military forces and civilian police, standby forces, rules of engagement, command and control, and the role of regional organisations. The Brahimi Report highlighted the need for better equipped, better trained and better commanded peacekeeping missions that are more robust and rapidly deployable. All post- Brahimi mandates are therefore called “Integrated Missions”.

Chairperson: Lt Gen Aditya Singh (Retd)

Despite all ills, the present day world needs the United Nations. The UN heavily depends on funding, but with altruistic motives. The future will witness may intra-state conflicts with more complicated but with clearly defined enemies. To meet future challenges peacekeepers should be equipped adequately.

Lead Presentation: Col M L N Sravan Kumar

There are certain key factors that should be considered before deciding on a mandate for a peacekeeping mission:
• Whether a situation exists the continuation of which is likely to endanger or constitute a threat to international peace and security;
• Whether a cease-fire exists and whether the parties have committed themselves to a peace process intended to reach a political settlement;
• Whether a precise mandate for a United Nations operation can be formulated;
• Whether a clear political goal exists and whether it can be reflected in the mandate;
• Whether the safety and security of United Nations personnel can be reasonably ensured; and,
• Whether regional or sub-regional organisations and arrangements exist and are ready and able to assist in resolving the situation.

Challenges before UN peacekeeping are broadly two fold. Firstly, the security paradigm has titled more towards ‘human security’ as against state-centric security. Secondly, 95 per cent of all armed conflicts in the world are intra-state either due to identity, deprivation, resource constraints or trust deficit. To manage these conflicts, the UN has to have a clear and achievable mandate and adequate personnel and resources. There are other problems like severe overstretch of missions, states forming temporary alliances to sidestep UN, muscle flexing by regional organisations, inroads by private sector, and growing demand and shrinking budgets.

To overcome all these challenges, it is recommended that UN be reformed both organisationally and functionally. Reforms in organisation should include review of UN Security Council mechanism, abolition of Veto, regional representation to UNSC, empowerment of UN General Assembly, effective use of ‘Uniting for Peace Resolution’ and revamp of Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Reforms in functional sphere should include doctrinal clarity, complementarity with regional forces, review of procurement norms, recruitment of female peacekeepers, better regulation of employment of private military forces (PMFs) and enhancement of transparency at the highest level (UNHQ).

Discussant 1: Wg Cdr E. Rajappan

Peacekeeping is a combination of diplomatic and military means to stimulate or create a suitable situation for resolution of conflict. Key principles of peacekeeping are consent, use of force for self defence, impartiality, effective military support, balance of forces, clear and achievable mandate, centralised command, and respect to sovereignty of state. Peacekeepers in general are governed by international humanitarian law, human rights laws, international criminal law, laws of the participating country, and laws of the host country.

In addition to traditional functions like Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR), peacekeepers’  mandate must encompass humanitarian relief, assistance in post-conflict reconstruction, facilitation of elections, peace building through training, and development of state’s indigenous institutions such as military, police and judiciary etc. Peace operations are now mandated to establishing or re-establishing democratic government, promotion of civil society, facilitate economic reconstruction and growth of conflict affected nations.

India has been a consistent supporter of UN peacekeeping since 1950. It contributes substantial amount of troops numbering about 10,000 at any point of time. India’s contribution ranges from land force, airpower, maritime force and sea control and strategic mobility to Special Operations forces.

Discussant 2: Brig Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd)

Peacekeeping has now become more complex and dangerous. Today’s peacekeepers perform diverse roles like monitoring and verification of cease fire, providing safe areas, Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration (DDR), humanitarian aid, protection of UN assets, mine clearance, infrastructure provisioning, and training of local forces. It is now being called “comprehensive” peacekeeping.

At the macro level, some of the important problems afflicting UN missions are disagreements over chain of command, political considerations in UN Security Council, increasing demands and inadequate resources, low First World participation, inadequate training, lack of unity of command, conflict of interest, manipulation on deployment, inadequate force levels, reluctance to take casualties, lack of clarity of mandate, tendency to take the middle path and prolonged operations. There is widening gap between crisis and the capacity to handle it.

Some of the important emerging trends in the UN peacekeeping are worth noting. One, traditional peacekeeping missions are increasingly turning into enforcement and humanitarian operations. For instance, some of the recent operations have involved demobilisation of troops or armed paramilitaries, promotion of national reconciliation, restoration of effective government, and monitoring of elections. Two, UN peacekeeping has of late gained more regional orientation; SFOR and KFOR in Europe and ECOMOG in Africa are few examples. Three, some of the recent interventions have been led by the Western Alliance with multinational coalition forces that often make extensive use of naval and air power. Such interventions are justified on the grounds of defence of democracy, violation of human rights, protection of minority groups, prevention of acute environmental degradation, and prevention of acquisition/development of WMDs. Four, at the functional level, there is increasing use of artillery and helicopter gunships, modern surveillance devices, and non-lethal weapons.

Given these emerging trends, future tactics would involve robust rules of engagement to handle the full spectrum of threats, concept of “UN Guards” for providing security to relief personnel in war-like situations, emphasis on humanitarian approach, and involvement of local people in operations.

Guest Speaker: Lt Gen J S Lidder

The credibility of the United Nations is stronger than ever before. Of late, a lot of accountability has come in, but, when it comes to peacekeeping, there is an immense gap between directional and executional levels. Most of the member states do not fully understand the real scope of peacekeeping. For UN peace support operations, all go with different mindsets. There is immense hesitation to get deeply involved. Present day mandates for peace missions are confusing. They require proper definition and coherence. There is a gap in the understanding of what is civilian protection. A single document comprising all guiding principles of peacekeeping, therefore, would help to meet operational challenges. Scenario building is necessary before commencement of every peacekeeping mission. There is urgent requirement for a clear-cut chain of command. Yet another problem is budgetary constraints. Presently, annual UN budget is a meager US$ 5 bn, far less than US budget for Iraq and Afghanistan.

All present day UN peacekeeping operations are multi-dimensional and hybrid. In such missions, there is not much difference between Conventional and sub-conventional operations. Chapter VII is built-in all peacekeeping missions today. Modern Peacekeeping missions are termed as “Robust Peacekeeping” in which robust application of force under Chapter VI of the UN Charter at tactical level is involved. The first hybrid UN mission was in Darfur (Sudan).


During the lively discussion that followed the presentations, the following interesting points emerged:
• UN is a success despite various pitfalls. It is not true that UN peace operations are slow. Efficient functioning of organisaiton of humanitarian affairs is a good example.

• There has to be fairness and transparency in UN peace operations. Aspect of leadership with clear intention is important. Fairness and homogeneity in peace missions will make all varied participatory countries feel as one.

• Each UN mission is unique. All undercurrents of the problem should be thoroughly understood well before UN involvement. Every mission should be kept simple. One cannot expect a perfect solution in peacekeeping. There are no quick fix solutions for human problems.

• The number US troops participating in UN peacekeeping operations is relatively small. They argue that they compensate by providing more funds.

• Indian troops have been the best ambassadors of peace. As an emerging power, India should continue to contribute troops keeping its national interest in mind. India must involve its troops in peacekeeping without expecting any return on moral grounds.

• For financial independence of UN, Kofi Anan suggested contribution from big corporations who are interested in business opportunities in a particular country. It will be a win-win solution, provided it is implemented with proper checks and balances. Creating a ‘Peace Corpus’ or imposing a small fraction of tax on global financial transactions and goods can be considered.

• NGOs – local and international – are important in today’s context. For efficient peacekeeping, the UN should coopt them without any hesitation.

• Involvement of private security personnel may be considered for peace missions, but only for allied services.

• Those countries that are nurseries of terrorists should be debarred from taking part in peacekeeping operations. At the same time, calling such states pariah is not going to help.

• Cyber crime is going to one of the major threats for the UN to confront in the near future.

(Report compiled by Dr N Manoharan, Senior Fellow, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi)


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