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United Nations Peacekeeping in the Third World Essay

1. The forerunner of the United Nations (UN) was the League of Nations, an organization conceived in similar circumstances during World War 1, and established in 1919 under the treaty of Versailles “ to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security”. The League of Nations seized its activities after failing to prevent the Second World War. The advance of science and economic activity also brought in their wake, increased military capability which was put to devastating use by World War 1. As a result of the havoc wrecked by that conflagration, nations began to think of ensuring international peace and security through international cooperation. Thus the League of Nations was established under the treaty of Versailles, as an organization through which through which world peace could be ensured through collective security, by means of organization, discussion and agreement. Unfortunately, that body partly as a result of its own inadequacies, collapsed in the sequence of events leading to the Second World War. 1 By the time the Second World War broke out in 1939, the league had passed on in the annals of history.

2.In April 1945 at the end of the second World War, representatives from 50 countries met in San Francisco to create the Charter of the organization that would be called The United Nations. The new body, the UN, which learning from the weaknesses and failures of the LN, was better structured and strengthened for the task of maintaining international peace and security. The UN’s primary objective was focused on saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war. Hence the aims of the UN at its inception were stated in Article 1 of its Charter as: To maintain international peace and security and to that end to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of peace, and to bring by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of peace.

3.Since its establishment in 1945, as an organisation dedicated to preventing the scourge of war, the UN’s role in conflict management and more broadly, in international security, has evolved in ways unforeseen by its founders.4 Therefore, in the 1990s, the evolution took the form of an enormous expansion in the number and size of the UN operational roles in conflict management especially in Peace Support Operations (PSOs).5 Conflict were observed to be interstate, intrastate and / or transnational in nature and usually involved the cross-border movement of refugees, internally displaced persons, migrants and widespread human rights abuses.6 Such conflicts were fought by sub-state actors or warlords, militias, criminal elements and armed civilians and not always between regular armies. As such, social cohesion and state institutions collapsed, law and order broke down, banditry and chaos prevailed and the civilian population fled the conflict region or the country.

4.Efforts by the international community to respond to such crisis and to restore and create a self-sustaining peace are meant to address both the crisis and conflict-related disaster. A crisis response or PSO will therefore generally include political, diplomatic, military, and humanitarian efforts to control any conflict and to promote reconciliation, the re-establishment of effective government and a self-sustaining peace.7 Unfortunately, the manner with which Western Nations responded within the framework of the UN mandate to security threats from the civil wars and other internal disturbances that are now the dominant sources of conflict around the world, especially in African countries has been suspect.

5. Critics of peacekeeping operations have likened them to a new form of neo-colonialism. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) have tended to maintain an ambiguous attitude towards regional organisations, that is, rejecting to fund them and then recognising them while attempting to maintain control over certain missions (Adebajo 2007). This point is supported by the fact that some of the UNSC veto-wielding members have shown greater willingness to sanction deployments of peace missions only in their former colonial or geo-strategic ‘spheres of influence’. The cases often cited are the British in Sierra Leone, the US in Liberia and Somalia, and France in Côte d’Ivoire (Adebajo 2007). Critics argue further that some peacekeeping missions have provided the opportunity for former colonial powers to interfere in the internal affairs of their former colonies, especially against unpopular governments, using newly adopted controversial norms of intervention in international affairs

5.There is usually this interplay of politics by the UN such as delays in intervention, asking the regional or sub-regional organisations to intervene without support or out-rightly ignoring Third World countries. It is against the backdrop, that the UN has a daunting task of managing conflicts around the world that motivated the interest of the researcher.


6.The establishment of the UN in 1945 by the victorious allies in World War II, reflected the thinking of the super powers on how best to organise the world to obviate the outbreak of another world war.9 However, by 1994, the UN was coping with the political and moral fallout of a series of disastrous failures; some of which were of their own making, while others were foisted upon them by the super powers, mostly the US. In Somalia, Angola, Rwanda and Bosnia, literally millions of people were dying or brutally killed under the UN’s watch, sometimes under the UN protection, or partially as a result of the collapse of the UN-brokered and or guaranteed peace agreement.10 As a result, the UN hardly legislates on international issues concerning the maintenance of peace and security as enshrined in the UN Charter to reflect these realities.

7.This situation has degenerated to such a point as to be responsible for the lukewarm attitude of the UN in conflict situations especially in the Third World. It is against this background that this study seeks to find answers to the following questions:

a.What is the relationship between the UN PSOs and the Third World?
b. What extent has the politics of the UN determined its intervention in the Third World?
c.What are the implications of the politics of UN PSOs for the Third World countries?
d.What are the challenges confronting the UN in conducting PSOs in the Third World?
e.What strategies can be proffered to enhance UN PSOs in the Third World?


8.The main objective of the study is to discuss the politics of the UN PSOs in the Third World. The specific objectives are to:
a.Establish a relationship between the UN PSOs and the Third World.
b.Identify the extent to which the politics of the UN has determined its intervention in PSOs in the Third World.
c.Analyse the implications of the politics of the UN PSOs for the Third World.
d.Examine the challenges confronting the UN in PSOs in the Third World.
e.Proffer strategies to overcome the current politics in the future UN PSOs in the Third World its impact.


9.The significance of the study is that it would be useful to the Nigerian Armed Forces in finding ways to improve her approach to PSOs. It will equally be useful to Nigerian policy makers in the formulation of policies and relevant guiding principles for the nation’s participation in PSOs in the 21st century. Furthermore, the study would be useful to the African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as add to the existing literature or body of knowledge on PSOs.


10.The scope of the study covers the period 1988 to 2008. This is the period that the UN activities in the maintenance of international peace and security increased considerably. Furthermore, by January 1988, approximately 11,121 military, police and civilian personnel were deployed in different UN PSOs worldwide.11


11.The research design adopted in this study is exploratory research. The study explores the politics of UN PSOs in the Third World. This method has the advantage of allowing a thorough investigation of a phenomenon with a view to providing information and evaluating trends that can form a basis for explanation. The population for the study was drawn from UN, AU, ECOWAS, Peace Keeping Department (PKD) in Defence Headquarters (DHQ), the Army, Navy and Air Force Headquarters respectively. Also included in the population are scholars and researchers from Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), African Centre for Strategic Research and Studies (ACSRS), Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Unstructured interviews were then conducted on a segment of this population to extract relevant information. The study was conducted as follows:

a.Primary Data. Primary data were generated through unstructured interviews and interactions with major stakeholders in the field of PSOs. They include serving and retired military officers who served or are serving in UN, AU, ECOWAS, the Peace-Keeping Departments in Defence, Army, Navy and Air Force Headquarters and scholars and researchers from the IPCR, Abuja, ACSRS of the National Defence College (NDC) Abuja and NIIA Lagos.

b.Secondary Data. Secondary data were from libraries, published and unpublished materials such as books, journals, magazines, seminar papers and workshops on PSOs. Research works presented at various fora including the NDC Abuja were also consulted.

c.Method of Data Analysis. The data collected were analysed qualitatively to draw conclusion that guided the recommendations.

d.Method of Data Presentation. Descriptive method was used to present the data collected.


12.In the course of this study, the researcher was constrained by the problem of seeking audience with some key policy makers on the UN desk in almost all the offices visited at MOD and AHQ due to their tight schedules. However, these limitations did not affect the quality of analysis, as enough secondary materials were consulted to enhance the validity of the work and augment the identified limitations.

1.International Peace Academy. United Nations Peacekeeping, Management and Operation, (Journal of IPA) New York, 1992. p. 41.

2.Ibid. p. 41.
3.Article 1 of the UN Charter.
4. Bruce D Jones, The United Nation’s Evolving Role in Peace and Security, (Center on International Cooperation, New York University. 1990), p. 1.

5.Ibid., p. 36.
6.Ibid., p. 38.
7.A Ogomudia, Peace Support Operations Command and Professionalism: Challenges for the Nigerian Armed Forces in the 21st Century and Beyond, (Ibadan, Gold Press Limited. 2007), p. 6.

8.Chiyaki Aoi,http:www.rips.orjp/English/publications/ripspp3.html. Accessed 2/2/08.

9.Bruce D James. Op. Cit.
10.Ibid. p. 11.
11.International Peace Academy, Op. Cit.


13.This chapter defines and discusses the key terms and variables used in the study. These are concepts of peace and security, collective security, PSO with its major components of peace-keeping, peace-enforcement, peace-making, peace building, preventive diplomacy and humanitarian operations, and Third World. It also anchors the work on a theoretical framework on which the research is based.


14.According to Nwankwo, peace in everyday usage is understood as the state of freedom from hostilities, civil commotion, dissension, war or strife.1 From the intellectual perspective, where conflict already exists, peace implies the elimination of the causes of conflict through the restoration of justice. This removal of the causes of conflict is “what is known as conflict resolution in the real and true sense of the word.”2 This is why Martin Luther King Jnr once asserted that: “true peace is not merely the absence of tension but it is the presence of justice.”3 Peace is a necessary condition for security, production and development. Therefore, disturbing the peace of a people or nation is a threat to security.4

15. Security is a social phenomenon that scholars have viewed from 2 perspectives; namely military and non-military. It could also be viewed at national and international levels. However, without national security, it would be impossible to discuss international security. Imobighe sees security from the military perspective when he submits that, “a secure nation is one free from aggression or unwanted threat or violation of its territorial integrity”5 Lipman posits that national security “is the ability of a nation to maintain its core values, avoid war and if challenged, its ability to maintain such core values, by victories.”

6 Thus, military perspective to national security postulates that peace and tranquility could only be attained through sophisticated military weapons and an intimidating arsenal. This position is however challenged by McNamara who posits that: There is among us an almost ineradicable tendency to think of our security problem as being exclusively a military problem and to think of the military as being exclusively a weapon or manpower… we are haunted by this concept of military hardware.7

16.Contemporary events have revealed the inadequacy and gross shortcomings of the militaristic approach to national security. The collapse of the former Soviet Union, despite her intimidating military profile readily comes to mind. Ogunbanwo and McNamara are some of the intellectuals who view national security from a holistic perspective.

Thus, according to Ogunbanwo:

Security is more than military security or security from external attacks…. Henceforth, African security as a concept should be applied in its broadest sense to include economic security, social security, environmental security, food security, the quality of life security and technological security.8

Linking development with peace and security, McNamara submits that:

In a modernised society, security means development. Security is not military force, though it may involve it. Security is not traditional military activity, though it may encompass it. Security is development and without development there can be no security.9

17.The above statements indicate that peace and security are more complex than the military capability of a state. To guarantee international peace and security, there is the need to shift from just military perspective to the developmental level. Hence this study sees peace and security from a holistic point that incorporates military power, economic, social and political development as necessary elements to achieving peace and security.


18.The establishment of UN in 1945 represented the world’s second attempt at developing a feasible system of collective security.10 The concept of collective security entails the centralisation of a society’s coercive mechanism.11 The idea of collective security is basically a politico-legal concept.12 Articles 1 and 2 of the UN Charter made mention of international peace and security which means that international peace and security would be guaranteed through the collective measures adopted by all members of the UN organisation. Therefore, Adeniran posits that: It is not a situation whereby individuals pursue individual interests. Collective security…implies some degree of universality such as we find in UN or in regional organisations such as the Arab League. Usually, the provisions for collective security entail voluntary system of regulation and non use of sanctions or other measures …for the prevention of aggression or for the purpose of ending aggressive behavior by a particular nation.13

This definition of collective security is in line with the UN position. Most regional and sub-regional organisations also subscribe to it.

19.In a functional system of collective security, the problem of security would no longer be the concern of one nation but the prerogative of all nations. The purpose of collective security is to make war impossible by marshalling, in defence of the status quo, such overwhelming strength that no nation will dare to resort to force in order to change.14 The idea of collective security is basically a mutual insurance plan.15 It means all members of the organisation would assist any member attacked. Gbor disclosed that:
The concept of collective security is a strategy adopted  by members of the UN to jointly or collectively restrain the use of force among its members. Collective security tagged “each for all, all for each,” stipulates that members would take effective collective measures to assist any member under acts of aggression by another member.16

20.The above definition is equally apt as it views collective security through international organisations like the UN and through other security arrangements which can be regional, bilateral or multilateral. More importantly, collective security also compromise the organisations own ability to use force against a member if peaceful settlement fails. This was witnessed in the Iraq’s invasion and subsequent annexation of Kuwait and the response of the UN Security Council. 17 To this end, states have come to the realisation that any aggression exhibited against a state by another will affect the security of all states in different ways.18 Therefore, the concept comes into existence due to the desire to prevent war and restrain aggression against states.19

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