International Peace Operations: what they are-what they could be


Facilitation: Howard Clark

After introductions, expectations ,etc on Day 1, Christine Schweitzer presented a short typology of peace operations in which the UN and regional inter-governmental bodies - NATO, the Organization of American States, the Organization for African Unity (now the African Union), the OSCE - were the actors.

UN peace operations have taken place when the governments of countries have agreed to UN intervention. Excluded from this typology were wars -that is, the war against the Taliban and the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia -although these have a rhetoric of "peace" and are followed by a species of "peacebuilding". The UN has also intervened when there is a threat to internal peace, as authorized by Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Since 1945, 55 operations have taken place, two thirds of them since 1991 (with the end of the Cold War, the Security Council of the United Nations has been more likely to authorize operations). "Complex" missions involve military and civilian actors, for instance in Kosovo NATO leading the military side and the OSCE the civilian side.

In recent years, especially since the Rwanda and Srebrenica massacres, the rules of engagement for blue helmets and the means of peacekeeping have changed enormously. Traditional peacekeeping involved armed forces that were employed when there was a bi-partisan agreement. They did not use force unless for self-defence and were composed of units of personnel sent as voluntary contributions from smaller countries in order to keep strict neutrality. For example, armed forces might be used to watch over a ceasefire.

Peacekeeping has now developed to include many more functions and players: there is more freedom to use weapons -lethal force may be authorized not only for self-defence but also to further the mission of the intervention. Accordingly a new interpretation of impartiality has evolved. There is more power play in the contributions that the large military and superpowers make in personnel, infrastructure and weapons. The UN stance is that the military is needed to protect civilian interventions. It could be that NATO and perhaps the new European Force will in future perform this military role during interventions.

The group then began to make explicit some of the assumptions of our own discussion and identify issues to which we should return. Motives for peacekeeping operations range from the states' pursuit of their own political and economic interests to a response to public outcry. They may include humanitarian motives.

Different situations and forms of conflict make it necessary to distinguish several types of operations, including peacekeeping, peacemaking, and peacebuilding. The different moments in the process of a conflict make different responses relevant, genuine peacebuilding is appropriate both pre-and postwar.

The second day, the group looked specifically at the example of Kosovo, drawing on the experience of Howard Clark and of a Serb from Kosovo, Sonja Nikolic.

In 1992, the Conference (forerunner of the Organisation) for Security Commission in Europe sent a 16-person team to three areas of rump-Yugoslavia. In Kosovo, it monitored court cases and mediated to end the journalists' hunger strike. The Belgrade government didn't allow this team to stay after July 1993, and there was very little international presence in Kosovo until after the appearance of the Kosovo Liberation Army (1996). The nonviolent student demonstrations of 1997 made diplomats take more notice, but it was really the Drenica massacres of February-March 1998 that put Kosovo top of the international agenda. Negotiations with Belgrade to stop the Serbian offensive in Kosovo finally led to an agreement for ceasefire and to the establishment of the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM), a mission to be run by the OSCE with 2,000 civilians. Some points about the KVM:

It was set up too late to stop the war, and indeed among major actors (the KLA, Belgrade, Washington) there was little interest in stopping the war -the US used the KVM to prepare public opinion for war.

The OSCE was not capable of mounting such a mission rapidly (at the time of its withdrawal in March 2000, it was still only at 70 per cent of its anticipated strength). Although anti-war activists complained that it was headed by US general William Walker, and although some countries favoured recruiting "verifiers" with military experience, we should also recognise that some countries asked for people with experience of nonviolence and conflict resolution and could not get them -- e.g. France approached MAN (Mouvement pour une Alternative Nonviolente) asking for 50 verifiers and got one!

If the war could not be stopped, at least a number of small and local successes were achieved (calming a flashpoint, etc).

After the war, the victors set up UNMIK to govern Kosovo plus 50,000 troops of the NATO-led KFOR. Although their slogan was "bringing peace to Kosovo", the mission lacked a clear strategy and, among Albanians, groups aligned with the KLA seized the initiative, while most Serbs either fled or took their lead from Belgrade. UNMIK staff are very highly paid but have in general been poorly prepared and have short-term contracts. They function without transparency on key matters and without accountability to the residents of Kosovo. There is much to criticise in the civilian side of the operation. Sonja, who was perhaps the last Serb to leave Prishtina, spoke of her efforts to organise protection for Serbs who wanted to stay and how, in the end, there was no alternative to the protection of the international military.

The group was well aware that there are many instances in Kosovo (as elsewhere) where the military have taken on roles that could better be played by civilians, but also faced the dilemma that, while at times it may seem as if some military protection may be useful for vulnerable people in the short term, military engagement tends to come as a whole package.

The future of nonviolent peace operations

The third day began with Christine Schweitzer presenting a typology of nonviolent intervention, with examples from particular actors ranging from governments and military alliances to grass-roots peace groups. While the discussion focused on what peace groups do, it had to take into account the effect on the situation of bigger players. People found Christine's framework helpful in clarifying what could be expected from nonviolent intervention and how interventions in which we were involved might coexist (and either conflict with or complement) what others were doing. The group contained people with experience of Balkan Peace Team (BPT), Peace Brigades International (PBI), Austrian Civilian Peace Service, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) (against Israeli attacks on Palestinians), election monitoring in South Africa, and the proposed Nonviolent Peace Force, plus several specific actions of nonviolent intervention, and following the presentation we discussed these activities within the framework offered by Christine.

Into the category of peacekeeping came nonviolent activities such as accompaniment, monitoring, inter-positioning and advocacy internationally. Peacemaking (in the limited sense of "helping parties find a negotiated solution") is generally a strategy for diplomats or particular NGOs who have credibility in the situation. Grassroots people-to-people initiatives in this framework come under peacebuilding, where external peace groups often play a supportive role to local civil society groups and in general design their activities in order to "expand the space" open to local groups.

Every conflict requires the use of all three strategies, and simultaneously -whether the goal is prevention or post-war reconstruction and reconciliation. Intervention also takes place on a spectrum ranging from non-partisanship to solidarity. WRI as a network always seeks to act out of solidarity with its local counterparts, sometimes acting out of simple humanitarian solidarity (for instance, in opposing military blockades), but also may take part in "non-partisan" ventures such as the Balkan Peace Team, where it was important to be seen as open to hearing the views on all sides of the ethnic divisions. PBI very much stresses that it operates "by invitation" and adopts a "non-partisan" position, whereas Christian Peacemaker Teams enter a situation more as protagonists: as well as offering accompaniment, they are themselves willing to engage in nonviolent confrontation and to organise independent actions to express their opinions.

From the experience of recent nonviolent intervention, a number of issues come up about decision-making and training. Projects with long-term volunteers often throw up conflicts between those in the field and those in the support structure. Different problems were encountered in projects where people went to the field for a shorter term. For instance, activists who went to Palestine with the International Solidarity Movement found that the instigators did not have a culture of, nor the infrastructure for, participatory decision-making, nonviolence training and post-action collective reflection and evaluation.

As there was a separate workshop on the possibilities (and problems) of a Nonviolent Peace Force, this group only touched on the issue of how to build up more capacity for large-scale interventions. Clearly the Nonviolent Peace Force envisaged would depend heavily on institutional funding, would have a general policy of non-partisanship and would not be an appropriate infrastructure for something as oppositional and confrontational as the ISM.

The final morning was devoted to a series of "barometer" discussions about questions generated the previous day, the evaluation and preparing the report back. Questions in the barometer were variations on "Is military protection sometimes necessary?" and "With sufficient resources, could nonviolent intervention eliminate the humanitarian need for military intervention?", leading on to discussion of what can we best do with the resources we have.

In the evaluation, great appreciation was expressed of the convenors/facilitators, especially to Christine for the inputs she had written up on the walls. Several people felt that it had strengthened what they had to say as spokespeople for groups opposing military intervention. Some would have liked a more thorough discussion on preventive strategies. The typologies presented by Christine had offered great clarity about what has been and what exists, but there may be visions for action that do not fit.

(See for this typology)

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