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Challenges of the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations International Law Essay

Info: 5435 words (22 pages) Essay
Published: 9th Jul 2019

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Jurisdiction / Tag(s): International Law

1. War is said to be as old as the civilization. First World War was the proof of devastation that took millions of lives. After this, the League of Nations was formed to bring some ground rules to prevent aggression. But no sooner the First World War was over, the Second World War started and the world observed how helpless the League was to prevent misery. Then the United Nations (UN) emerged with the commitments to exterminate war, maintaining international peace and security, securing justice and human rights and promoting social progress and friendly relations among the nations. The UN charter was signed on 26 June 1945 in San Francisco by the 50 founding states for maintaining international peace and security through close cooperation. The UN started its true journey through the Peace Keeping Operations (PKO) in May 1948, with the introduction of United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in the first Arab Israel war. But due to the tension of the cold war era, UN could not perform its role. After the end of the tension when both the superpowers wanted to contribute to the world peace, the UN took its rebirth.

2. But there were some significant changes after the end of cold war. The classic interstate rivalry ended and more complex and cruel intra state conflict was emerged. Wars were fought to control power and resources in a single state and were not usually between states. Civilians, not the armed combatants, became the intentional targets of violence. Wars in the former Yugoslavia, Africa and Latin America saw huge number of civilian casualties compared to the killed and wounded in either the regular Armed Forces of a state or in the ranks of insurgents. [1]

3. The Sri Lanka Armed force with her huge experience in the recent past has got an enormous potential in becoming one of the most important troops contributing nations in the world. Therefore it is of great importance to analyze the present state of Sri Lanka Army in dealing with changed peacekeeping environment and how best it can adapt itself in meeting the new demand of the United Nations.


4. Sri Lanka is an island nation which has an Armed Force of a considerable strength. Unfortunately the emergence of terrorism put a huge challenge to the Army. At the very outset of the conflict with Liberation Tiger of Tamil Elam (LTTE), the political aim could not be set in accordance with the national interest which allowed the LTTE to grow and emerge as the deadliest terrorist in the world. [2] But after 2000, the leaders of the country could set the aim and strategy to defeat the terrorist once and for all. Thereafter we could experience the win of Sri Lanka Army over LTTE where the total leadership of the terrorist group was wiped out. This victory over terrorism is the testimony of the brilliant performance and professionalism of the Sri Lanka Army.

5. Because of the decade old involvement of the Army in the battle, the Sri Lanka Army could not participate in the UN missions where the neighboring countries of the region could establish their presence the arena. Though there were modest contribution, but it was not enough in comparison to the potentialities of the forces. As time went on, the peacekeeping environment changed in great extent with which most of the countries could adapt themselves. It seems that due to the non involvement in the peace missions, the Sri Lanka Armed Forces could not achieve expected proficiency in the peacekeeping fields. But the fact is, the Sri Lanka Army rather gained a unique expertise in dealing with the Intra State conflict which made them more suitable for dealing with changed peacekeeping environment.

6. At this backdrop, this paper will analyze the facts of the present preparedness of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces and find out if the Sri Lanka Armed Forces is prepared to take the multidimensional challenges put by the changed peacekeeping environment.


7. The war with the LTTE is now over and the Sri Lanka Armed Forces can now concentrate to prove its potential in the international forum. Most of the South Asian countries are greatly participating in the UN peacekeeping missions by which they have proved their worth in the world. The acceptance of the forces of this region in the ‘conflict prone countries’ have put greater demand to the Armed Forces of South Asian countries. Therefore there is a great requirement to study the state of preparedness of Sri Lanka Armed Forces and identify the strength and weakness of the force for greater participation in the UN missions.


8. This paper will initially state the history and background of the UN peacekeeping operations and thereafter discuss the changing nature and challenges of the peacekeeping environment. The involvement of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces will then be discussed after which the training requirement of the potential peacekeepers will be stated. Then the training system of the Armed Forces will be analyzed to find out how well the institutions are meeting the requirements of UN. Thereafter some recommendations will be put forward to make the training more realistic and mission oriented.

9. The preparedness of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces for the UN mission is a vast subject which demands a thorough study of the three services namely the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. Therefore, without going into the details, this paper will be limited in discussing the issues mostly related to the Sri Lanka Army.


10. The chapter outline will be as followed:

a. Chapter one will cover the background of the study, research problem, significance of the study and the scope and limitations.

b. The literature review and assumptions will be covered in the second chapter.

c. Chapter three will include the research hypothesis, the justification of the study and method of data collection.

d. Chapter four will cover the evolution of peacekeeping operations, the changing nature of peacekeeping environment and the challenges of the peacekeeping missions.

e. Next chapter will illustrate on Sri Lanka’s involvement in the peacekeeping operations.

f. Chapter six will explain present training system and the training requirements for meeting the challenges of present peacekeeping environment.

g. Chapter seven will include the conclusion and recommendations.



11. Major T W G D M Amarasinghe(2003) in his research paper ‘Efficacy of employment of Sri Lanka Armed Forces’ has described that the UN peacekeeping mission has great impact in developing professional attitude of the personnel. Major W M A B Wijckoon(2004) in his paper ‘United Nations Peacekeeping Mission, present and future opportunities for South Asian nations’ stated the involvement of the South Asian nations who are both operationally and militarily benefited by such missions. The problems and challenges of the future peace keeping operation are elaborately discussed by Major D I S Jayasinghe (2005) in his research paper ‘United Nations Peacekeeping Operations- problems and challenges of the future’. In abovementioned researches, many dimensions on the peacekeeping missions have been discussed by researchers where the challenges faced by the peacekeepers in the new peacekeeping environment have not been discussed so far.

12. In gaining knowledge of the peacekeeping missions, knowing the mandate, role of national and international actors are must for peacekeepers. Former Secretary General of United Nations Mr Kofi Annan(2002) in his paperback Prevention of Armed Conflict has not only clarified those issues but also highlighted other important aspects from ‘humanitarian actions’ to ‘prevention of armed conflict’.

13. Conflict, negotiation, mediation are some crucial factors which need to be dealt with in the mission area. Mr Jayadeva Uyangoda(2003) in his ‘Guide to Learning Peace I and II’ has focused all these issues. He aimed to provide conceptual introductions to the themes where the ground rules of implementing negotiation and mediation are stated.

14. Disarmament and Demobilization is an important factor where the peacekeepers play major role to disarm and rehabilitate the belligerents. Mr Mats R Berdal(1996) in his paperback ‘Disarmament and Demobilization after Civil Wars’ gave a comprehensive idea about those critical issues.

15. Training is the most important factor before embarking into the peacekeeping operations. John Paul Lederach (1996), has illustrated an analytical approach to training and mediation in his paperback ‘Preparing for Peace’.

16. A consolidated illustration about the peace process is done by Luc Reycher and Thania Paffenholz (2001) in the paperback Peace Building – A field guide. In that book the selection of personnel, awareness, mediation, media handling, stress management and last but not the list security aspects are elaborately discussed.

17. After the unilateral Belgian intervention, various Congolese officials sent out contradictory appeals for international assistance. The country was divided and the infrastructure was poor which eventually compelled UN to recognize that Congo was a threat to the peace and security in the region. By the end of 1990, over 15000 UN troops arrived in Congo which rapidly increased in the following years. Similarly, following the crises of Liberaia in 1989, UN resolution was passed by which UN troops were deployed in 1993. Oliver Ramsbotham and Tom Woodhouse, in their book International Peacekeeping Operations has described the issues and illustrated how different nations contributed as peacekeeping forces. Specially the South Asian countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan and India took the lead in those missions who portrayed exemplary


18. Changing the role from War to Peace is not easy for any Armed Forces. Sri Lanka has recently crushed the world’s strongest terrorist organization and gradually converting its role to peacetime missions. It is therefore not easy to embark on new missions immediately. By training for different domestic and overseas employment, it can in one hand give itself a time for recuperation and at the same time prepare physically and mentally for challenging missions in future. Therefore a consolidated training program is required that can serve the both intentions.




19. This paper seeks to experiment the ability of the Sri Lanka Army to face the challenges of the new peace keeping environment and successfully contribute to Peace Support Operations.


20. Peace keeping is an arena where with the growing challenge of the peacekeeping environment, the demand for troops is increasing. Given the fact that the intra-state conflicts are presently stirring mostly in the African Nations, the demand for troops has got different dimensions where troops of the subcontinents are more popular amongst belligerents. While most of the countries of the subcontinents are taking advantage of this opportunity, Sri Lanka can no longer deprive herself from reaping benefits out of it. While serving in peace missions help to earn foreign currency, it also establishes credibility of the Armed Forces in the international forum. As the war is over and terrorists are wiped out, the Sri Lanka Army can now concentrate on overseas missions. For example, after the liberation war of 1971, the Bangladesh Army was in an infant stage. But within a very short time she developed into a professional Army and could start contributing to UN mission from 1988. [3] And presently she has become the second largest troops contributing country in the world. [4] In contrast, the Sri Lanka Army has already become very matured and professional Army. It also has immense potentiality to contribute like any other countries of the world. Therefore, it is immensely important to study if the Sri Lanka Army is prepared to face the new challenge. The study is also likely to bring out the drawbacks and difficulties faced in different area in serving for peace. The recommendations given at the end of the paper might be of great use in meeting the challenges of Peacekeeping Environment by the Sri Lanka Army.


21. This will be a secondary research based on the data collected from book, journals, publications and other research papers. Some data will also be taken from the interviews and opinions from the participants in the UN mission.





22. To understand the history of peacekeeping operations, we need to know the related operational definitions and terminologies which are given at annex A. The traditional model of UN peacekeeping developed during the Cold War era as a means of resolving conflicts between States. Peacekeeping at that time involved the deployment of unarmed or lightly armed military personnel between belligerent parties. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, number of intra-state conflicts rose to a great extent. The rise in the number of intra-state conflicts, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, has resulted in a shift towards multidimensional peacekeeping operations that are often mandated to support the implementation of a comprehensive peace agreement between parties to a civil war. This has, in turn, led to an expansion of the non-military component of peacekeeping operations whose success is increasingly dependent on the work of civilian experts in key areas such as the rule of law, human rights, gender, child protection, and elections.

23. The difficult experiences of the mid-1990’s in countries such as Bosnia-Herzegovina and Rwanda prompted the UN to reassess its approach to peacekeeping. In March 2000, a Panel on United Nations Peace Operations issued a report known as the “Brahimi Report” (A/55/305-S/2000/809), named after the Panel’s chairperson, Under-Secretary-General Lakhdar Brahimi. The report offered an in-depth critique of the conduct of UN peace operations and made specific recommendations for change. The report also underlined consent by the warring parties, a clear and specific mandate and adequate resources as minimum requirements for a successful UN mission. Consequently, the UN and Member States initiated a number of reforms aimed at improving UN peacekeeping, such as the establishment of a pre-mandate financing mechanism to ensure that adequate resources are available for new mission start-ups.


24. UN had to suffer considerable set back in early 1990’s when situation got out of control in Somalia, Bosnia, and most tragically Rwanda. These much publicized failures forced reduction of budget by the Security Council to authorize, and finance new operations. All these incidents resulted mistrust in the minds of the host countries and they began to deny intervention by multinational countries. Then the Security Council had to become far more modest in the mandates. The peacekeeping environment then started taking dramatic changes with the increasing involvement of the civilian and humanitarian organizations. In an analytical construct, one can identify six broad categories of changes in peace operations in the post Cold War period. The categories are, change in the nature of conflict, threat, mandate, authorization and nature and structure of PKO.


25. Complexity to the UN Environment. With change of conflict of the world, UN peacekeeping has become more important in the recent days. It has also become very complex in nature because of the nature of the intra state conflict. International governments failed to protect civilians from systematic violence through 1990’s. Brutal conditions created by the modern conflict forced the international community to recognize its responsibility to protect civilians from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and other crimes against humanity. In order to meet this responsibility, governments increasingly look for UN peacekeepers. Peacekeeping mandates have steadily become more complex and difficult to achieve, but the ability of the UN system and the political will of member states to adequately staff and equip those missions, have not evolved with expectations. [5] Considering this fact, the expectation from the peacekeepers has increased in many folds. Peacekeepers have been deployed in wider perspective to resolve conflicts in conjunction to the civilians.

26. Need for Competent Force. The latest surge in demand for complex peacekeeping operations has placed new strains on an already overstretched system. A robust military presence is considered essential during the initial stages of a peacekeeping operation in order to deter potential spoilers and establish the mission’s credibility. Finding troops with the necessary training, equipment and logistical support to effectively undertake the complex and often dangerous tasks required by the UN peacekeepers remains a key determinant of an operation’s success. The member states that possess such troops have often proven unwilling or unable to make them available for UN peacekeeping operations. Threats to the safety and security of UN field personnel has also become an issue of great concern, particularly after the 2003 terrorist attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad, prompting the Secretary-General to order a review of the entire United Nations security system. [6]

27. Budgetary Constraints. UN peacekeeping is far cheaper than the alternative, which is war. In 2003, UN peacekeeping cost about US$2.6 billion, while, in the same year, Governments worldwide spent more than US$794 billion on arms. The approved peacekeeping budget for the year 2004-2005 is US$2.8 billion. However, with the additional requirements of the new and recently expanded missions, as well as the possibility of a new mission in Sudan, that amount could grow by a further US$2.38 billion. All Member States are legally obliged to pay their share of peacekeeping costs under a complex formula that they themselves have established. Despite this legal obligation, Member States owed approximately US$1.2 billion in current and back peacekeeping dues as of June 2004. [7]

28. The Humanitarian-Military Complex. In the new peacekeeping environment, generally the women, children and elderly are increasingly becoming the victims of armed conflict. Human right organizations do not whole heartedly support the peacekeepers because of the sense of partial attitude of the peacekeepers. But after some hesitation they were also seen assisting peacekeepers in distributing live saving drugs and medicines. Sometimes the peacekeepers are not empowered with necessary mandates. There were many occasions where they were not given necessary resources and power to protect civilians against the violation of human rights by the belligerents. The human rights organizations criticized the UN for such attitudes and many a times refrained themselves in interacting with peacekeepers. Others, especially the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), expressed grave reservation at the increasing “blending” of humanitarian action and military operations/personnel. The ICRC feared that with increasing military participation in humanitarian action, the cardinal principles of “impartiality and neutrality,” which the ICRC is by its founding act bound to uphold, might be compromised. Humanitarian actors, working closely with the military peacekeepers, could become identified with one side to the conflict, opening themselves up to charges of acting without impartiality and neutrality, which could place the lives of ICRC personnel or other humanitarian actors in danger. [8] All these factors need more attention to implement assertive actions by all who involve themselves in peacekeeping. Confidence building among military and civil agencies might overcome many complexities of the present peacekeeping environment.

29. Understanding with other Civil Organizations. Working with other humanitarian civil agency thus has become one of the greatest challenges of the peacekeepers. Necessary training and technique in dealing with the civil agencies is very important as any misunderstanding may become a big issue and jeopardize the image of the peacekeepers.

30. Impartiality vs Inactivity. Traditional military peacekeeping doctrine also emphasized the importance of neutrality. This made sense when peacekeeping involved nothing more than standing between two warring sides to insure a truce or cease-fire. The inadequacy of this approach became apparent in the complex modern peacekeeping environments of Haiti, Bosnia, Cambodia and Rwanda in the first half of the 1990s. [9] When one side commits horrific human rights violations or even genocide, then inaction based on concerns for neutrality makes one complicit in the crimes. Some militaries took the lesson to heart even earlier. The Dutch forces in UNPROFOR were responsible for insuring the safety of people sheltering in the “safe haven” of Srebrenica. The Dutch soldiers’ failure to fulfill their duty in the face of aggressive Serb forces helped lead to the massacre of at least 7,000 Bosnian Muslim males. To its great credit, the Dutch government conducted an exhaustive study seeking to understand why its troops failed at such a crucial moment. The sitting Dutch government even resigned once the report was released, underscoring its sense of responsibility for this disaster. One problem identified in the study was confusion over the concept of neutrality and when action must be taken to stop violations of the laws of armed conflict and human rights. [10] Impartiality must not be confused with non-involvement. An attitude of non- involvement limits the possibilities for developing initiatives and acting with flexibility, stimulates passiveness, and, as a result, will fail to bring about the desired end state. A peace operation, regardless of the level (strategic, operational, and tactical) will always be conducted with impartiality and never with an attitude of non-involvement towards the parties.

31. Protecting IDPs: Special Challenges for the Peacekeepers. IDPs present especially difficult challenges to peacekeepers which most of the major militaries in the world have identified and have tried to incorporate in their training and doctrine. The first and most demanding challenge stems from the very nature of a peace operation in a sovereign country. Most modern peacekeeping occurs in states torn apart by internal conflict, usually based on ethnic, racial or religious grounds which in turn are manipulated by various factions seeking political power and control of vital economic resources. Those put to flight are often the victims of systematic human rights violations and are especially vulnerable since they remain in the territory of those persecuting them. Managing the IDPs is one of the most sensitive issues to the Human Rights Workers. The achievements of the military forces can be undermined if necessary care is not taken by the military forces. Therefore the sensitivity and complexities should be understood by the peacekeepers. A comprehensive training program is needed to impart such training. This also needs specialists to impart such training in an effective way.



32. Sri Lanka’s journey for world peace started in August 1960 by serving in Congo wearing the blue helmet. Four officers and two other ranks were the proud contributors in the mission. Thereafter the journey continued and till date they have proudly served in Haiti, Chad, Sudan, Congo, Western Sahara and Lebanon. [11] Generally the mission continues for six months. Troops do not go for any leave except for emergency during the mission. Most of the peacekeepers go through a comprehensive training program before embarking on to the mission area. The training duration varies from one month to six months in the Institute of Peace Support Operations and Training, Kukuleganga. But most of the times they have less than 1 month which is depicted by the following chart. [12]

Chart 1

33. Before embarking on to the mission area troops train of various subjects like the rules of engagement, present situation in Haiti, cultural differences, International Humanitarian Law and Human Resources Management, HIV/AIDS, Sexual Exploitation, UN Log system, UN provost duties, past experiences of the mission area, Creole language and stress management. [13] While subjects like Mediation/Negotiation are given less emphasis in the institute. [14] The best part of the training is the co existence of officers and troops which play a greater role in mutual understanding which is vital for smooth conduct of the mission. The following chart shows that only 11% officers did not have training together with the troops before embarking on to the mission area. [15]

Chart 2

34. Generally the locals show helping attitude towards the Sri Lanka forces during the mission. But local elites do not always cooperate with the UN forces during peace keeping process. Less cooperation from the other agencies and multinational forces were also observed by some members of the Sri Lanka forces. There is virtually no joint exercise or training conducted amongst the multinational forces which could play a major role in improving mutual understanding amongst the forces. [16]

35. Troops Contribution. Sri Lanka Armed Forces contribution to UN mission is stated in the table bellow [17] :

Troops contribution of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces in the UN mission



Staff Officers


Contingent Members
















Western Sahara


Table 1

36. Sacrifices. The Sri Lanka Army has also sacrificed a great deal in the peacekeeping missions which are a testimony of the dedication of the officers and men. The casualty states in Haiti are given in the following table [18] :

Sacrifices of Sri Lankans in the UN mission





Killed in Action




Wounded in Action







Table 2

37. Future. Recently Sri Lanka Army has announced a fivefold increase in troops deployed on UN peacekeeping duties around the world boosting its commitment to 5000 soldiers. Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya said that “the defeat of Tamil Tiger separatists last May meant more troops could be sent on UN mission”. [19] Sri Lanka has had a deployment of around 950 soldiers working with Haiti since 2004 when government troops were observing a truce with tiger rebels in the island’s northeast. Despite the truce collapsing in early 2007, Sri Lanka maintained its peacekeeping mission in Haiti. Recently Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) will send a contingent of its troops to the United Nations peace keeping mission in Haiti. The tenth contingent of SLAF troops scheduled to be deployed in Haiti completed their training at the United Nations Peace Keeping Operations (UNPKO) Training Centre of Sri Lanka Army in Kukuleganga on the 11th of May 2010. [20] The future of Sri Lanka Army in the UN mission is very bright. As the war is over the authority is trying to increase the involvement of the Sri Lankan peacekeepers in the other parts of the conflict area. With the recent skill and experience of the troops they are capable of performing very effectively. [21] Such feat, not only earn good name for the Army, but also contribute to uplift the image of the country in a great extent. But there are some challenges as well. The image of Sri Lanka in the west is not as good as one can expect. The more the efforts are taken to improve the image of Sri Lanka; some controversial issues are putting hindrances on the way. [22] The political procession in front of the UN office in Colombo is an example. Moreover the ‘Tamil Net’ is very effective where as government web sites are not very agile to respond to the allegations which is building negative image of Sri Lanka Army in the west. [23] All these factors might pose serious threat in fulfilling the aspiration of the increased involvement of the Army of Sri Lanka in the UN mission.




38. Sri Lanka has an Institute of Peace Support Operations Training that presently provides required training for the potential peacekeepers. The vision of the institute is to train members of the Army to be employed satisfactorily in Peace Support Operations in any part of the world and also to become good will ambassador of Sri Lanka. While the mission of the institute is

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