Peacekeeping is one of the many activities of the United Nations to ensure international peace and security around the world.
Other activities are:
Conflict prevention and mediation;
It is rare that these activities are a linear process. Experience has shown that these are more mutually reinforcing activities. If they are conducted piecemeal or isolated, they will not allow for the comprehensive approach that is needed to address the root causes of conflict and thus stop conflict from breaking out again.
Conflict prevention refers to diplomatic measures that are taken to prevent tensions and disputes that arise between states, or within a state, from turning into violent conflict.
This involves setting up early warning mechanisms, gathering information and carefully analyzing the elements that gave rise to the conflict.
The Secretary-General’s “good offices”, the preventive deployment of United Nations missions or mediation efforts led by the Department of Political Affairs can also be used.
In general terms, peace-making means all measures aimed at stifling an ongoing conflict, which usually involves diplomatic efforts to bring the parties to a negotiated agreement.
The Secretary General of the United Nations can exercise his “good offices” to facilitate the resolution of conflicts. Intermediaries involved in peacemaking may also be special envoys, governments, and groups of states, regional organizations or the United Nations itself. Peace-building efforts can also be undertaken by informal and non-governmental groups or by a prominent independent personality.
United Nations peacekeeping operations help countries torn apart by conflict to create the conditions for a return to long-lasting peace. Peacekeeping operations have proven to be one of the most effective tools available to the United Nations to assist countries in need.
To fulfill their mandate, peacekeeping operations have unique strengths, including the legitimacy of the action, the sharing of the burden, and the ability to deploy and maintain troops, police and civil personnel from around the world.
UN peacekeepers provide security and political support for peace building by helping countries through the difficult stage of transition to peace.
Peace-enforcement requires the application of various coercive measures, including the use of military force. These measures must be expressly authorized by the Security Council.
These measures are used to restore international peace and security when the Security Council has decided to act against the threat to peace, a breach of peace or an act of aggression. The Council may, where appropriate, use regional organizations or institutions to implement the measures agreed upon, under its authority and in accordance with the United Nations Charter.
In 2007, the Secretary General of the United Nations defined peacebuilding:
It is a complex and time-consuming process designed to create the conditions that must be in place for a lasting peace. Peace-building measures are aimed at addressing the fundamental problems affecting the functioning of society and the State. It aims at improving the ability of the State to fulfill its core functions effectively and legitimately.
There are two means of peace-building:
Direct, which focuses on the factors that can calm a conflict, and aims to directly reduce violence;
Deep, which refers to an effort to coordinate funding and communication, as part of a multi-sectoral strategy, among humanitarian aid, development aid, government action, security, justice and other sectors that do not always see themselves as peace-building sectors.
The dividing lines between conflict prevention, peace-making, peacekeeping, peace-building and peace-enforcement are becoming blurred, and peace operations rarely involve only one type of activity.
United Nations peacekeeping operations, although normally deployed to support the implementation of a ceasefire or peace agreement, are frequently called upon to play an active role in peacemaking efforts and to participate in the early stages of peace-building efforts.
Today, the United Nations’ multi-faceted peacekeeping operations facilitate the political process, protect civilians, assist disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, support the organization of elections, defend and protect human rights and help restore the rule of law.