Global Governance 11 (2005), 331–350

The Ralph Bunche Centennial: Peace Operations Then and Now
James Cockayne and David M. Malone
A century after the birth of a father of peacekeeping, Ralph Bunche, UN peace operations have changed dramatically. The narrowly defined, lightly armed, strictly neutral operations of Bunche’s day have become complex, multidisciplinary state-building operations. Then, peacekeeping buttressed essentially self-enforcing cease-fires; now, it aims to build the foundations of a self-renewing peace. These changes reflect six deeper shifts: the end of the Cold War; engagement with “internal” conflicts; rising regional organizations; North-South politics; the U.S.-UN relationship; and changes in peace operation mandates. These shifts create three future challenges: state building; the reconception of sovereignty; and the need for realism. The December 2004 High-Level Panel report proposes modest steps toward meeting those challenges, but the burden of realizing the proposed framework rests squarely with UN member states. KEYWORDS: peacekeeping, peacebuilding, state building, High-Level Panel, Ralph Bunche.


cholar, civil rights activist, and Nobel Peace Laureate, Ralph Bunche left his most enduring legacy in the field of United Nations peace operations. The centennial of his birth in either 2003 or 20041 served not only as an opportunity to celebrate that legacy, but also as the occasion to reflect on the changes that have occurred in UN peacekeeping since Bunche’s day. In Bunche’s day, peacekeeping was a term narrowly defined and clearly understood. Today, UN peace operations cover a multiplicity of UN field activities in support of peace, ranging from essentially preventive deployments to long-term state-building missions. In this article we analyze the major shifts in UN peace operations since the mid1900s. After describing how peacekeeping operations looked in Bunche’s era, we seek to identify continuities and changes in today’s peace operations. We then analyze the reasons for these changes and conclude by examining the consequences of these changes for the UN’s involvement in world politics today and speculating on the shape of future UN peace operations.



The Ralph Bunche Centennial

Peacekeeping Then

Peacekeeping emerged not by design but out of necessity. The founding members of the UN had included in Chapter VII of the UN Charter provisions (Article 42) that allowed the UN to take “action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.” The vision of a body of national military forces permanently available to the Security Council “on its call” (Article 43) and serving as the instrument of collective security did not materialize due to Cold War antagonisms. Paradoxically, Cold War tensions served to increase the need for an independent and impartial actor on the world stage, ensuring that conflicts did not spiral out of control and further fuel the confrontation between capitalist and communist camps. Bunche—and a cast of other notables, including secretaries-general Trygve Lie and Dag Hammarskjöld; members of the UN Secretariat, such as Brian Urquhart; and key players from the member states, particularly Lester Pearson, Canadian minister for external affairs (and later prime minister)—stepped into that gap. They generated an operational capacity for the UN that had not been imagined for the organization. The Secretariat staff “started from scratch,” as Bunche himself suggested, unaware of what peacekeeping would involve, improvising as they went along, and making mistakes.2 The system of peacekeeping they generated involved UN missions staffed by lightly armed Blue Helmets (as they came to be known), operating under the strict instruction to use force only in self-defense. Falling between Chapter VI (Pacific Settlement of Disputes) and Chapter VII (Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression), these peace operations were creatively crafted “Chapter VI 1/2” and required, in principle, invitation or consent on the part of the recipient state(s).3 They operated under UN command, primarily undertaking activities agreed on by belligerents, such as separating warring parties, monitoring borders, overseeing withdrawal of foreign troops, and ceasing aid to irregular or insurrectionist movements. The guiding principle of early peacekeeping was that it must not give an advantage to either side involved in the conflict. Blue Helmets sought to adopt an attitude of strict neutrality and objectivity. The aims of peacekeeping in this earlier era were limited. In the Middle East, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO)4 started out as a truce monitoring operation, later taking on the task of supervising the implementation of the General Armistice Agreements, which Bunche facilitated on Rhodes in 1949 and for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950. Similarly, the UN Emergency Force (UNEF),5

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established by the General Assembly in the wake of the Suez crisis, was mandated to supervise the withdrawal of foreign troops and, later, to act as a buffer between Egypt and Israel. Other peacekeeping operations— in Cyprus,6 Kashmir,7 and Yemen8—had similarly limited mandates.9

Peacekeeping Today—What Is the Same?

Important aspects of peacekeeping remain now as they were in this earlier era. A small number of the operations that Bunche oversaw remain alive today, notably UNTSO in the Middle East, the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) for the Kashmir region, and the UN Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). In other areas, notably the Congo, crises of Bunche’s day were resolved, only to reappear, in different forms, back on the Security Council’s agenda today. In part, that continuity is a product of the approach adopted by Bunche and his colleagues, which they saw largely as buying time to allow political and diplomatic developments to yield a solution where none had previously been apparent.10 The resulting risk—ossifying an unresolved situation or only deferring further conflict until a later date, a charge made against the UN mission to Cyprus since 1974 and the UN’s role in the Middle East in 1967—can be detected in the UN’s approach to Kosovo today. Contemporary peace operations also face many of the same operational challenges as early missions. Weak command and control, inadequate communications and logistical equipment, little prior opportunity for detailed planning, and underequipped and ill-trained military personnel are as much issues today as they were in Bunche’s day, if not more so. In at least one area there has been an apparent decline: the promptness with which the UN can deploy a peacekeeping force. In Bunche’s day, a mission might be on the ground within weeks—even days—after the decision to deploy; today it takes months. The reasons for this are complex. Early missions sometimes deployed without adequate support or equipment. Today’s missions undertake a greatly enlarged range of operational tasks requiring larger numbers of personnel. And the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has undergone serious shake-ups affecting recruitment and deployment times.11 The size of DPKO is also contentious. As the Brahimi Report12 of 2000 highlighted, the growth and complexity of today’s peace operations have at times led to a diffusion of responsibility to a point where it fails to be discharged. The challenge of financing peacekeeping remains constant. Bunche knew the problems of the “tin cup,” as he called it, only too well.13 So,


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too, the vulnerability of peacemakers is similar now to the situation in Bunche’s day.14 The devastating attack on UN offices in Baghdad on 19 August 2003, which killed Sergio Vieira de Mello and twenty-one other UN staff, demonstrated that terrorism has reemerged today as a threat to the organization just as it was when Count Folke Bernadotte, UN mediator in Palestine, was assassinated in September 1948.15 It is a cold comfort that these attacks, separated by more than half a century, stand as testament to the ongoing appeal of the UN as a symbol of effective change, change that can prove highly threatening to some in conflict situations.

Peacekeeping Now—What Has Changed?

Although there are continuities between peacekeeping then and now, much has also changed. Today’s peace missions do not simply monitor cease-fires or supervise the implementation of a peace agreement between states; more often they aim to resolve internal conflicts characterized by intercommunal strife, crises of democracy, and fighting marked by struggles over national resources and wealth, among other precipitating causes of war. Peace operations aim increasingly to implement a preventive approach to the recurrence of conflict, creating an operational and political space in which international actors undertake peacebuilding activities. In Bunche’s day, peacekeeping aimed to buttress essentially self-enforcing cease-fires; today it aims to build the foundations of a self-renewing peace. These surface-level differences are the consequence of six deeper shifts affecting peace operations: changes resulting from the removal of Cold War constraints; a deeper engagement with conflicts traditionally considered “internal”; an increased role for regional organizations; the impact of North-South politics; the evolving U.S.-UN relationship; and changing considerations in mandating peace operations.
From Cold War to P-5 Concord

The end of the Cold War brought a new complexion to Security Council discussions of peacekeeping. The end of that era, which partially paralyzed the Security Council, was signaled by Soviet president Gorbachev’s famous Pravda and Izvestia article on 17 September 1987 calling for “wider use of . . . the institution of UN military observers and UN peace-keeping forces in disengaging the troops of warring sides, observing ceasefires and armistice agreements.”16 With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the five permanent members (P-5) adopted a more

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cooperative approach to peacekeeping, underwriting almost a decade of unprecedented Security Council activism. Buoyed by the success of the UN-mandated enforcement operation against Iraq in 1990, the Council massively accelerated its pace of work. In the period between March 1991 and October 1993, it passed 185 resolutions (a rate about five times greater than that of previous decades) and launched fifteen new peacekeeping and observer missions (as against seventeen in the preceding forty-six years).17 Vetoes also dropped by roughly 80 percent on a year-by-year basis.18 P-5 cooperation largely continued throughout the 1990s, with Russian concerns over Yugoslavia and Chinese concerns over Taiwan mostly quarantined from other issues. There were, of course, exceptions to this concord, notably on IsraelPalestine, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq. In some ways, however, these exceptions serve to prove the importance of the new pattern of P-5 concord, which paved the way for UN peace operations in Iran and Iraq, Angola, Namibia, Central America, Western Sahara, Cambodia, Somalia, Bosnia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, Georgia, Liberia, Chad, Libya, Tajikistan, Haiti, Croatia, Macedonia, Eastern Slavonia, Guatemala, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, East Timor, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. In sum, the removal of Cold War constraints has largely freed the Council to engage in peacekeeping in places and forms that would have been unthinkable during the Cold War—including internal conflicts.
From Interstate to Internal Conflict

A key characteristic of the Council’s new approach has been its willingness to intervene more often in essentially internal conflicts19 and complex humanitarian situations. Contemporary UN peace operations adopt a more multidisciplinary approach than their precursors,20 emphasizing not simply the cessation of military hostilities, but the creation of conditions for a durable peace. Recent peace operations have attempted to implement complex mandates significantly more ambitious than most in the past (Opération des Nations Unies au Congo [ONUC] being the one clear exception).21 These operations often center on objectives such as humanitarian assistance (in the short term), civil administration functions, police monitoring and training, human rights monitoring and training, economic reconstruction, and other essentially civilian functions. This diversification creates significant challenges of coordination, which increasingly are addressed by a civilian leadership. Although the military components of these missions often remain the largest, the mission objectives


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are not necessarily ones to which the military can or wish to contribute greatly. Sometimes, as in the Balkans and Afghanistan, the military components retain their own lines of command and control outside the UN structure. These changes in the structure and objectives of UN peace operations have occurred in slow motion, with practice in one mission often influencing the design of ensuing ones in the same country (for example, Haiti) or elsewhere. The evolutionary nature of this change has robbed it of media coverage. Some acute observers, such as Elizabeth Cousens and Karin Wermester, have argued—rightly in our view, though not uncontroversially—that the type of peacebuilding in which the UN engages is much more political in nature than are most developmental or narrowly defined peacekeeping efforts.22 The UN has needed to identify new tools for peace. The Security Council has looked increasingly to sanctions regimes, as an alternative—or in addition—to the use of force. After the early and disappointing experiences with sanctions against Southern Rhodesia in 1966 and South Africa in 1977, the Security Council has since 1990 imposed sanctions or embargoes on fifteen different countries or groups. The regimes have grown increasingly sophisticated, targeting specific individuals, groups, and asset or goods types. Blanket economic sanctions have fallen out of vogue as their humanitarian costs have become apparent—first in Haiti, then in Iraq—and as the ability of the targeted governments to manipulate sanctions for their own ends has slowly become apparent.23 The UN has also begun to explore the role that accountability mechanisms can play, both in removing the architects of violence from political power and in regenerating the social fabric of war-torn societies. The Security Council’s use of its Chapter VII powers to create ad hoc international criminal tribunals for, first, the former Yugoslavia and, then, Rwanda was a watershed that resulted in the UN’s involvement in the establishment of war crimes tribunals in Sierra Leone, Kosovo, East Timor, and now Cambodia. It also led to significant pressure for a more universal International Criminal Court, which has now come into being.24 There has also been increased experimentation with alternative accountability mechanisms, notably truth commissions.25
The Rise of Regional Organizations

The removal of Cold War constraints has also allowed regional organizations to take a more active role in peacekeeping. The Security Council’s exclusive role in authorizing the use of force has been challenged,

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due to its own inaction, by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Liberia and Sierra Leone, by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Kosovo, and most recently by a U.S. and UK–led coalition of the willing in Iraq. The UN increasingly relies on regional mechanisms to discharge peace enforcement responsibilities, mandating regional organizations to this end in the former Yugoslavia (NATO), Liberia and Sierra Leone (ECOMOG—the military arm of ECOWAS),26 Democratic Republic of Congo (European Union), and Afghanistan (NATO). The Security Council’s recent endorsement of the lead role the African Union has taken in the Darfur conflict in Sudan emphasizes the trend.27 There are many arguments in favor of the integration of regional arrangements and organizations into the UN peacekeeping system.28 They often enjoy a special legitimacy, access, and influence within their regions and may be more familiar than UN actors with local conditions, particularly with the regional dimensions of conflict. They may be able to mobilize incentives among affected actors in ways that the UN cannot,29 and they might play a key role in generating a culture of human rights, transparency, accountability, and democracy. Where the UN’s attention and resources are inevitably split between multiple conflicts worldwide, and where the Security Council’s attention span is notoriously short, regional organizations have strong incentives to stay the course. However, key arguments against regionalization focus on political opposition to regional peacekeeping and on the disparity between resources available to different regional arrangements, which could lead to a “de facto class system” of regional responses, depending on the interest a particular crisis holds for the major powers.30 The politicization of regional mechanisms is at the heart of the controversy surrounding their place within the UN system. The prohibition contained in Article 53 of the charter against enforcement action by regional organizations without Security Council authorization remains salient as a check on great power unilateralism and for that reason is particularly welcomed by the global South; but it has also been seen—often by those in the North—as an unwelcome restriction on humanitarian efforts.
The Impact of North-South Politics

The removal of Cold War constraints signaled a shift away from EastWest cleavages in world politics to North-South divides. This pattern originally emerged in the heyday of decolonization, but several UN decisionmaking bodies, notably the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, have thus far failed to overcome them.31


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North-South politics play an important—if complex—role in contemporary UN peace operations. The Security Council’s increased involvement in essentially internal conflicts led to peace operations tackling the legacies of state failure in the global South. Northern states—most notably the United States, as a consequence of attacks on its troops in Somalia—quickly lost their appetite for such interventions. At the same time, though, the severity of these internal emergencies often required a more assertive military strategy than the UN had become accustomed to, and which required the kind of high-tech military punch that only Northern militaries could pack. In light of failures in Bosnia and Somalia, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali concluded by 1994 that the UN should not itself seek to conduct largescale enforcement activities. Consequently, the Security Council increasingly “outsourced” to “coalitions of the willing” peace enforcement operations: Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti in 1994–1995; Implementation Force (IFOR) and then Stabilization Force (SFOR) in Bosnia since 1995; Mission Interafricaine de Surveillance des Accords de Bangui (MISAB) in the Central African Republic in 1997; Kosovo Force (KFOR) in Kosovo since 1999; International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) in East Timor in 1999–2000; International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan since early 2002; and now the Multinational Interim Force in Haiti since March 2004.32 Enforcement action occurs where there is an adequate coalition of countries willing to make available the necessary lift, troops, finance, political capital, and military hardware. Notably, Western powers are not the only such intervenors: ECOMOG has intervened in several West African conflicts with prior or post facto Security Council support. Overall, this has had profound results on the demography of UN peace operations. Increasingly, with the exception of West Africa, enforcement actions are advocated, then carried out, by the global North, whereas traditional peacekeeping operations are executed mostly by the global South,33 something Brian Urquhart—Bunche’s closest and longest-standing collaborator at the UN, and his biographer—suggests would have appalled Bunche, if he had lived to see it.34 Developing countries today make up over three-quarters of the troop contributors for peacekeeping operations under the command of the UN, notably in Africa. By contrast, a number of industrialized countries (especially those in NATO) provide troops that operate under national command but with UN authorization, in effect allowing the militaries of the industrialized world to “play” with each other.35 The United States, in addition to participating selectively in NATO activities, effectively operates as a free agent.

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U.S.-UN Relations

U.S. hegemony—most pronounced in the military sphere, where Washington spends as much on defense as the next dozen or so countries combined—creates a further challenge for the UN. In Bunche’s day, bipolarity was the key problem; many today would suggest that the key challenge for peacekeeping is unipolarity. The approval of the Dayton Peace Accords (on Bosnia), brokered by Washington, was a turning point in UN affairs, rendering the United States, according to one Security Council ambassador in early 1996, “the supreme power.”36 The Security Council’s task in constraining this power without alienating it was made infinitely harder by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in the eastern United States, which instilled a new sense of vulnerability in the United States, epitomized in the 2002 National Security Strategy. Greater hostility in Washington toward attempts in the UN and elsewhere to constrain U.S. power has been matched by growing suspicions elsewhere of Washington’s intentions and of the wisdom of some of its actions, notably in attacking Iraq. The challenge for the Security Council is meaningfully to engage the United States on the major security challenges without acquiescing in dangerous initiatives; to “have the courage to disagree with the USA when it is wrong and the maturity to agree with it when it is right.”37 The Council must “keep intact its integrity, while improving its effectiveness.”38 A clear risk for the Council is that Washington will conceive the Council’s role mainly, at best, as one of long-term peacebuilding following short and sharp U.S.-led military interventions (the latter whether mandated or not by the Council). UN “peace operations” risk becoming “picking-up-the-pieces operations” of the sort we see emerging in Haiti and Afghanistan. Movement in that direction would only serve to undermine the legitimacy—and consequently the effectiveness—of UN peace operations. Urquhart again suggests that Bunche “would have deplored an increasing tendency to regard the UN as incapable of ‘first-instance’ peace-keeping, and as only being good enough for a follow-up.”39
Changing Considerations in Mandating Peace Operations

The UN system has long been concerned with the humanitarian plight of refugees and other civilian victims of armed conflict. In the 1990s, however, the Security Council increasingly invoked the plight of refugees and their implied destabilizing effect on neighboring states as grounds for its own involvement in conflicts, as it did in Yugoslavia,


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Somalia, Haiti, and (later) Kosovo. The globalization of civil society, feeding on the so-called CNN effect of selective but intensive media coverage of humanitarian disasters, mobilizes public opinion and creates pressures on governments to “do something.”40 They, in turn, look to the UN, with its specialized expertise and “critical mass” in the areas of refugee protection and humanitarian assistance, to take the lead in acting and in serving as an instrument for burden sharing.41 The mainstreaming of human rights discourse and the growth of nongovernmental activist networks has reinforced this trend.42 The creation of the position of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 1994 served further to highlight the humanitarian imperative in the UN’s political and security work. Kofi Annan, elected to the post of secretary-general in late 1996, staked out new ground in championing human rights and concern for civilians in war as key themes. As he recently acknowledged at a conference to mark the tenth anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, his own thinking was much influenced by the failures of the UN system in Bosnia and Rwanda.43 By the late 1990s, the pressures for a more proactive approach to humanitarian crisis and serious human rights violations had led some states to break with the Security Council and undertake their own unauthorized “humanitarian interventions,” as NATO did in Kosovo in 1999. Resistance to such an approach came from several quarters within the UN, including some countries of the South, but also from Russia (over Kosovo) and China.44 Other governments supported a more interventionist approach: the July 2000 Constitutive Act of the African Union featured a right of the Union to intervene in a member state “in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.”45 Since the end of the Cold War, UN peace operations have also increasingly been mandated in support of internal political processes, the organization of elections, and the defense of democracy—for example, in Haiti, Cambodia, El Salvador, Mozambique, Kosovo, East Timor, Afghanistan, and Iraq.46 Democracy has become both a reason for intervention and an exit strategy: the holding of free and fair national elections, perhaps after a longer democratic process of constitutional reform, marks one of the few clearly agreed indicators of performance success in complex state-building peace operations. At the same time, the reliance on democratic elections alone carries terrible risks, most clearly illustrated in East Timor in 1999. The Security Council today understands that one successful election says little about the sustainability of democracy and the durability of peace.

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Tomorrow’s Peace Operations: Challenges for the Future

What can we expect of tomorrow’s peace operations? It is difficult to predict long-term trends; we can, however, offer some speculation on the challenges of the immediate future: state building, with all its operational and policy complexities; the shift under way in the UN’s approach to both sovereignty and security; and the need for realism.
The Challenge of State Building

The UN’s involvement in state building47 is not likely to cease anytime soon. If anything, the difficulties faced by the U.S.-led coalition in postwar Iraq have only highlighted that the UN is, to adapt a phrase used by former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright, the “indispensable organization” for the political management of international crises involving the interests of several powers and regions—if often an exasperating one. The difficulties outsiders face in helping a people build a state are so great—from the technical expertise required to the need for coordination among contributing states—that perhaps only a multilateral organization with the experience and universal legitimacy of the UN can hope to pull it off.48 In some ways, though, the UN may face state-building challenges that states do not, particularly since it has not traditionally been in the business of day-to-day government. Its learning curve as “virtual trustee” has been steep.49 The policy content of specific exercises in trusteeship and state building often remain unclear. What kind of state should the UN attempt to build? What are the indicators of success? There is convergence around the paradigm of representative democracy, but peace operations too often arise as an ad hoc response by the Security Council to a situation spiraling out of control. To be successful, state building demands something more than firefighting. It requires taking seriously the connection between conflict prevention and development, between human rights and security.50 It requires the involvement of members of the multilateral community whose mandate has traditionally been perceived as falling outside that of “peace operations”: the World Bank, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and even the World Health Organization. That may mean that complex peace operations require a more deliberate, whole-of-organization approach, with the secretary-general and the Security Council acting as the coordinating actors. This approach might require the Council to delegate portions of that role elsewhere within the organization, as the UK, the Netherlands, and Italy


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suggested in 2001 might occur through the Economic and Social Council.51 The “Peace-Building Commission” proposed by the secretarygeneral’s High-Level Panel on Security Threats, Challenges and Change in December 2004 may do much to achieve these objectives. The devil will, inevitably, rest in the details of final implementation, even if the proposal is broadly approved at the UN summit to be held in September 2005.
Reevaluating Sovereignty and Security

The convergence of peacekeeping and state building points to a deeper trend at work in UN processes: a slow-moving reinterpretation of sovereignty. Although sovereignty is still the lingua franca of UN diplomatic discourse, the degree of intrusiveness the Security Council was prepared to mandate throughout the 1990s was striking, responding as it was to a sharp redefinition in practice of what constitutes a threat to international peace and security and justifying the piercing of the veil of sovereignty. That said, the sovereignty of states, more than ever, is not equal in the practice of the Council, with the P-5 being more equal than the rest. This gap between de jure and de facto sovereignty fuels perceptions of a North-South divide in world politics. It serves to intensify concern that currently fashionable discourses on human rights and humanitarianism serve as a Trojan horse for the political interests of the North. The UN’s increased humanitarian focus is, for the South, a two-edged sword: on the one hand, it offers a basis for arguing that the North should focus its resources as much on dealing with the threats of poverty, deprivation, and disease as on terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; on the other hand, it offers the North a platform from which to argue for greater intervention in Southern countries where governments fail to guarantee their citizens’ human security. Accordingly, when the Brahimi Report recommended the creation of a new information and strategic analysis unit to enhance conflict prevention activities, representatives of the South worried about the potential intrusiveness of improved UN information management. In contrast, the North worried about financial, personnel, and materiel overcommitment in the peacekeeping field. Increasingly, sovereignty is coming to be seen not just as a source of rights, but also as a source of duties to provide security to individuals and groups within society, a “responsibility to protect.” This idea was born from the Canadian-inspired International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in December 2001.52 However, taking the responsibility to protect seriously would have consequences not

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only for states, but also for the UN, forcing it to work ever harder to forge “coalitions of the willing” for humanitarian purposes, even where member states’ short-term political interests apparently run counter to such action. Countries working together within “Groups of Friends,” often spanning the North-South divide, can serve to build support at the UN for intervention in specific instances.53 Terrorism places a further premium on cooperation; but it also poses enormous challenges for UN peacekeeping.54 Not only can it make UN peacekeepers targets; it also calls into question whether the UN is equipped to deal with today’s security threats. Addressing transnational nonstate terrorism certainly falls outside the paradigm of UN peace operations. Some states are increasingly pushing to use Chapter VII powers of the Security Council not as the basis for UN peace operations, but as the basis for global legislation and regulation against terrorism. This legislative penchant emerged first in the 1990s with the establishment of the ad hoc criminal tribunals and the oil-for-food program in Iraq, but it has moved to center stage with the establishment and operation of the Counter-Terrorism Committee under Resolution 1373 and with current moves in the Security Council to criminalize activities resulting in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Thus, in the future, UN peace operations may have to compete for scarce resources with other forms of Security Council intervention designed to legislate or regulate for peace.
The Need for Realism

The salience of state building and new approaches to sovereignty and security has evolved gradually from Bunche’s day to the present. One challenge remains constant: to marry the UN’s idealistic, long-term objectives with realistic tactics. Today’s peace operations reflect a number of hard lessons calling for greater realism, whether in the changed approach to impartiality in peace operations55 or in the mandating process. Looking ahead, the UN needs to be both bold and realistic about what it can achieve in the short term: pushing harder for a rapid response capacity, making a virtue of necessity in the move to greater regionalism, and accepting that Africa (with its “orphan conflicts”)56 is likely to remain at the center of the peacekeeping agenda for many years to come. Rapid deployment could certainly be achieved today, given that it was achieved more than forty years ago in the Congo. Two keys to improved performance on this front are reducing the time it takes to hire staff for peace operations and, on a parallel track, providing greater sup-


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port to attempts to establish a rapid response capacity, such as the Standby High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG) project, or through closer UN cooperation with regional rapid reaction initiatives (such as that of the European Union). A better-defined relationship between the UN and regional organizations is highly desirable on a number of levels. Regional organizations and other, more flexible enforcement and sometimes peacekeeping arrangements involving several states will likely play more, and the UN less, of a role in international security in the future unless the UN can demonstrate greater capacity for operational effectiveness.57 Realism also dictates that the UN must accept that Africa will remain at the center of its peacekeeping agenda for many years to come, if only because “coalitions of the willing” are likely to address conflicts in more geostrategically significant regions. The Security Council already spends the majority of its time on African issues, with mixed success. The regionalization of conflicts in West Africa and the Great Lakes has posed challenges to the UN’s traditional models of mediation and peacekeeping. The severe underdevelopment of most of Africa contributes tremendously to the severity of many of these conflicts, and this is unlikely to be reversed soon. The key question is whether the UN will be able to mobilize the resources, and then administer them adequately, to address these most murderous of today’s conflicts.

Conclusion: Building on Ralph Bunche’s Legacy

The end of the Cold War led to heightened activism on the part of the Security Council and a more cooperative approach to peacekeeping among the P-5. Although the Council remains split on some issues, notably the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iraq, it has demonstrated an increased willingness to engage with a broader range of conflicts, including a number of essentially internal ones. This has produced mixed and complex results, including a new multidisciplinary approach to peace operations, a reevaluation of impartiality, and experimentation with new tools for peace, such as accountability mechanisms and new forms of sanctions. Regional organizations play an increasingly important role in discharging peacekeeping and peace enforcement mandates. At the same time, UN politics has shifted from outright confrontation across an EastWest chasm to more subtle tensions across a North-South divide, with the consequence in peace operations that the North increasingly takes on peace enforcement activities, particularly in geostrategically salient regions, and the South plays more traditional peacekeeping roles,

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particularly in Africa. This risks making peace enforcement appear a tool of Northern policy, especially in the context of U.S. military superiority. Peace operations are increasingly mandated with human rights and democratic development objectives, reflected in a broader engagement with state building. This poses enormous operational challenges for the UN system, which requires a more integrated whole-of-organization approach. More attention must be paid to clarification of the objectives of state building and indicators of success. Nevertheless, the UN remains the “indispensable organization” (if not always a successful one) in many postconflict contexts, as the United States has learned in Iraq. The UN has learned hard lessons about the dangers of “old” conceptions of sovereignty and now stands on the brink of a fundamental repositioning. Growing support is emerging for concepts of sovereignty and human security serving the notion of states’ responsibility to protect, but much work remains to be done to develop and operationalize these ideas. This is made all the more challenging by the scourge of terrorism, which influences many contemporary attitudes to military interventions in the name of “peace and security.” Following the presentation of the High-Level Panel’s report, A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility,58 in December 2004, the responsibility of building further on Bunche’s legacy rests primarily with member states. From the peacekeeping perspective, the centerpiece of the panel’s report is the proposal to establish a peacebuilding commission to assist states in the transition from the immediate postconflict phase to longer-term reconstruction and development. It also offers careful compromise proposals in a number of other areas, such as Security Council enlargement, that will help to ensure the organization’s continuing relevance to the most pressing issues of international peace and security. The secretary-general’s own report In Larger Freedom,59 presented in March 2005 and formulating a package of reforms from the menu provided by the High-Level Panel, takes up many of the most significant proposals and proposes, in addition, significant reform of the UN’s human rights machinery to create a human rights council on par with the organization’s other organs, or as a direct subsidiary of the General Assembly. The burden of reaching consensus on these proposals and their implementation rests with member states. Although UN delegates tend to regard the UN as their preserve, rather than theirs in trust for humanity, and to see the organization evolving by incremental reform and not radical overhauls, many outsiders, not least at the political level, hope to see this reform process lead to fundamental change. Tinkering at the margins will be viewed as failure. Ultimately, however, it will be member states


The Ralph Bunche Centennial

that determine how to take these proposed solutions forward. It is only member states that can breathe life into the proposals. The strictures of the Cold War conditioned Bunche’s tremendous contributions to developing techniques for multilateral mediation and to creating UN peacekeeping. These no longer apply and have been succeeded by new challenges. The High-Level Panel has proposed modest steps toward a framework for dealing with the challenges of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, state failure, and related economic and social phenomena. Now it rests with member states to make that framework real. Without such solutions, we risk squandering Ralph Bunche’s legacy, failing to move the UN “toward digging up the deeply imbedded roots of war.”60

James Cockayne is a graduate scholar at the Institute for International Law and Justice at New York University. David M. Malone is assistant deputy minister (Africa and the Middle East), Department of Foreign Affairs Canada. This article was completed prior to Malone’s return to the Canadian Foreign Ministry. It does not necessarily represent that ministry’s views on peacekeeping or other topics addressed. The authors thank Brian Urquhart and George Sherry. 1. Many sources cite 1904, rather than 1903, as Bunche’s year of birth. He, in fact, appears (incorrectly) to have inclined toward 1904. See Brian Urquhart, Ralph Bunche: An American Life (New York: W. W. Norton, 1993), pp. 25–26. 2. Comments by Ralph Bunche on Palestine delivered to the UN Secretariat, 16 June 1949, quoted in Urquhart, Ralph Bunche, p. 187. 3. George Sherry has recently revealed that Bunche “expressed interest in the possibility of invoking Article 40” of the UN Charter as a basis for peace operations. Peace operations would have formed a “provisional measure” taken by the Security Council under Chapter VII, giving those peace operations a greater independence of their hosts, but at the cost of those operations being more tightly controlled by the Security Council. By choosing not to go down this route, Bunche imprinted Secretariat control over peace operations. Sherry interview, New York, 26 March 2004. 4. UNTSO, established in 1948, Palestine. 5. UNEF, 1956–1967, was the first to supervise withdrawal of forces following the Suez crisis, then to act as a buffer between Egyptian and Israeli forces. 6. UN Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), established in 1964, was mandated to prevent a recurrence of fighting and to contribute to the maintenance of law and order and a return to normal conditions. 7. UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), established in 1949, monitored the cease-fire in Jammu and Kashmir; and the UN India-Pakistan Observation Mission (UNIPOM), which operated from September 1965 to March 1966, and supervised the withdrawal of Indian and Pakistani troops in Jammu and Kashmir.

James Cockayne and David M. Malone


8. UN Yemen Observer Mission (UNYOM), which ran from July 1963 to September 1964, was mandated to observe and certify the implementation of the disengagement agreement between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Republic. 9. The mandate of Opération des Nations Unies au Congo (ONUC) involved removing foreign forces and preventing civil war and was thus the exception. 10. See, for example, the record of meeting with Abba Eban, 12 December 1956, quoted in Urquhart, Ralph Bunche, p. 273. 11. See Report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on the Audit of the Policies and Procedures for Recruiting Department of Peace-keeping Operations Staff. Note by the Secretary-General, UN Doc. A/58/704 (6 February 2004); the report found that recruiting to DPKO in 2002 took 347 days on average. See also Jean-Marie Guehenno, “A Plan to Strengthen UN Peacekeeping,” International Herald Tribune, 19 April 2004. 12. Report of the Panel on UN Peace Operations, UN Doc. A/55/305S/2000/809, 21 August 2000. 13. Ralph Bunche, “The UN Operation in the Congo, 1964,” in Charles Henry, ed., Ralph J. Bunche: Selected Speeches and Writings (Detroit: University of Michigan, 1995), pp. 203–204. 14. See Benjamin Seet and Gilbert Burnham, “Fatality Trends in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, 1948–1998,” Journal of the American Medical Association 284, no. 5 (August 2000): 598–603. 15. Urquhart, Ralph Bunche, p. 178ff. 16. Mikhail Gorbachev, “Reality and the Guarantees of a Secure World,” in FBIS, Daily Report: Soviet Union, 17 September 1987, pp. 23-28. 17. See David Malone, “The UN Security Council in the Post–Cold War World: 1987–97,” Security Dialogue 28, no. 4 (December 1997): 394. 18. This may be due in part to greater informal coordination by the Security Council, making formal vetoes less frequent. We are indebted to an anonymous reviewer for this point. 19. We describe internal and civil conflicts as “essentially” so because they rarely remain strictly internal for long. Neighboring countries spill in (as in the Democratic Republic of Congo) or the conflict spills over (as with Colombia’s turmoil spilling into Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela). 20. Multidisciplinary Peace-keeping: Lessons from Recent Experience, United Nations, DPKO, April 1999. 21. See Thomas Weiss, David Forsythe, and Roger Coate, The United Nations in a Changing World, 2d ed. (Boulder: Westview, 1997); see also Michael Williams, Civil Military Relations and Peace-keeping (London: Oxford University Press, 1998). 22. See Elizabeth Cousens, Chetan Kumar, and Karin Wermester, Peacebuilding as Politics: Cultivating Peace in Fragile Societies (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2001); Stephen John Stedman, Donald Rothchild, and Elizabeth Cousens, eds., Ending Civil Wars: The Success and Failure of Negotiated Settlements in Civil War (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2002); and Chester Crocker, Fen Osler Hampson, and Pamela Aall, eds., Herding Cats: Multiparty Mediation in a Complex World (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Institute of Peace, 1999). 23. See generally David Cortright and George Lopez, Sanctions and the Search for Security: Challenges to UN Action (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2002); Making Targeted Sanctions Effective: Guidelines for the Implementation of UN


The Ralph Bunche Centennial

Policy Options, Report of the Stockholm Process, 14 February 2003, available online at 24. See Philippe Kirsch, John Holmes, and Mora Johnson, “International Tribunals and Courts,” in David Malone, ed., The UN Security Council from the Cold War to the 21st Century (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2004), pp. 281–294. 25. See generally Priscilla Hayner, Unspeakable Truths: Confronting State Terror and Atrocity (New York: Routledge, 2001). 26. ECOMOG is the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Military Observer Group. 27. UN Security Council Resolution 1556 (2004), S/RES/1556 (30 July 2004). 28. See generally Michael Pugh and Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, eds., The United Nations and Regional Security: Europe and Beyond (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2003). 29. See, for example, Michael Pugh and Neil Cooper, with Jonathan Goodhand, eds., War Economies in a Regional Context (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2004). 30. See Shepard Forman and Andrew Grene, “Collaborating with Regional Organizations,” in Malone, The UN Security Council from the Cold War to the 21st Century, pp. 302-304. 31. See David Malone and Lotta Hagman, “The North-South Divide at the United Nations,” Security Dialogue 33, no. 4 (December 2002): 399–414; and David Malone, “L’affrontement Nord-Sud aux Nations unies: Un anachronisme sur le déclin?” Politique Étrangère 1 (2003): 149–164. 32. See UNSC Resolution 1529 (2004), 29 February 2004. 33. David Malone and Ramesh Thakur, “Racism in Peace-keeping,” Globe and Mail (Toronto), 30 October 2000. 34. Urquhart argues that Bunche “would have been appalled at the current tendency of Western governments to allot peacekeeping duties more and more exclusively to third-world governments.” Brian Urquhart, correspondence with the authors, 16 March 2004. 35. Other countries are often invited to participate in such coalitions, as Russia was in both Bosnia and Kosovo, but they often come to represent military “afterthoughts.” 36. Confidential interview. 37. Interview with Mexico’s ambassador to the UN Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, 26 January 2003. 38. Interview with Michael Doyle, New York, 16 May 2003, cited in David Malone, “Conclusion,” in Malone, The UN Security Council from the Cold War to the 21st Century, p. 644. 39. Urquhart correspondence; see note 34. 40. See, for example, Stephen Livingston, Clarifying the CNN Effect: An Examination of Media Effects According to Type of Military Intervention, Research Paper R-18, Joan Shorenstein Center, Harvard University, June 1997. 41. See Thomas Weiss, “The Humanitarian Impulse” in Malone, The UN Security Council from the Cold War to the 21st Century, p. 37; and Joanna Wechsler, “Human Rights,” in ibid., p. 55. 42. See Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998).

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43. Secretary-general’s remarks at Memorial Conference on the Rwanda Genocide, New York, 26 March 2004, available online at sgstats.asp?nid=840. 44. Support of Muslim countries for the NATO strike did much to defeat criticism of the West at the UN over Kosovo. 45. See Constitutive Act of the African Union, adopted in Lomé, 11 July 2000, Art. 4(h), available online at 46. For the only clear-cut case in which the Security Council authorized the use of force to restore democracy, see David Malone, “Haiti and the International Community: A Case Study,” Survival 39, no. 2 (summer 1997): 126– 146. See generally Gregory H. Fox, “Democratization,” in Malone, The UN Security Council from the Cold War to the 21st Century, p. 69. 47. See Simon Chesterman, You, The People: The United Nations, Transitional Administration, and State-Building (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). 48. See Simon Chesterman, “Bush, the United Nations and Nation-building,” Survival 46, no. 1 (spring 2004):101–116. 49. See Simon Chesterman, “Virtual Trusteeship,” in Malone, The UN Security Council from the Cold War to the 21st Century, p. 219. 50. See, for example, Chandra Lekha Sriram and Karin Wermester, From Promise to Practice: Strengthening UN Capacities for the Prevention of Violent Conflict (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2003). 51. To date these efforts have resulted only in a modestly conceived Council-ECOSOC Working Group on Guinea-Bissau. 52. See 53. One of the key means of securing this cooperative approach to security governance may be reform of the working procedures—if not the structure— of the Security Council. See Teresa Whitfield, “Groups of Friends,” in Malone, The UN Security Council from the Cold War to the 21st Century, p. 311. 54. See generally Edward Luck, “Tackling Terrorism,” in Malone, The UN Security Council from the Cold War to the 21st Century, p. 85; and Andrés Franco, “Armed Nonstate Actors,” in ibid., p. 117. 55. Bosnia and Rwanda both taught that peacekeepers must be empowered to defend not only themselves and the mission mandate, but also civilian victims of war. The UN system learned the hard way that impartiality cannot be equated with moral equivalence among the parties to a conflict, nor with unwillingness to intervene to prevent atrocities. See especially Report on the Fall of Srebrenica, UN Doc. A/54/549 (15 November 1999); Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Actions of the United Nations During the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, UN Doc. S/1999/1257 (15 December 1999); and the Brahimi Report, Report of the Panel on UN Peace Operations, which argued for the primacy of “impartiality” over “neutrality” in peace operations. 56. This expression was used by former French ambassador to the UN Jean-David Levitte to describe the relative lack of interest some of the most murderous contemporary conflicts elicit in key capitals. 57. Revealed in early 2004, multiple systemic failures relating to the UN’s security functions—from multiple lapses in ensuring security for the UN Mission in Baghdad at the time of the August 2003 destruction of the UN offices there, to suspected mismanagement of and possible corruption within the


The Ralph Bunche Centennial

oil-for-food program in Iraq—undermined perceptions of the UN’s operational capabilities. 58. UN Doc. A/59/565 (2 December 2004). 59. In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All, UN Doc. A/59/2005 (21 March 2005). 60. Ralph J. Bunche, “Man, Democracy and Peace—Foundations for Peace: Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 1950,” in Henry, Ralph J. Bunche, p. 166.

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