Report of the Conference on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Acute Crisis

Conference on The Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Acute Crisis

London, 11-13 February 1998

Edited by
Co-Directors: Dr Mukesh Kapila (DFID) and
Professor Nigel S Rodley (University of Essex)
Rapporteurs: Professor Kevin Boyle (University of Essex)
and Ms Aisling Reidy (University of Essex)

Report links: website home page
Table of Contents - Search - Introduction - Recommendations - Opening Address - Papers Presented - Acknowledgements - Appendices
Papers Presented (by author):
1. Kate Mackintosh - 2. Nigel S Rodley - 3. Françoise Hampson - 4.Carlo von Flüe - 5. Geoff Gilbert - 6. Nicholas Morris - 7. David Bassiouni - 8. Philip Wilkinson - 9. Emma Shitakha - 10. Ian Martin - 11. Colleen Duggan

Emma Shitakha

From Conventional Peacekeeping to Multidimensional Field Operations

See elsewhere: Author's Biography (appendix C)


In 1993, a former Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr Marrack Goulding, put forward the following possible definition of peacekeeping:

“Field operations established by the United Nations with the consent of the parties concerned, to help control and resolve conflicts between them, under United Nations command and control, at the expense collectively of the member states, and with military and other personnel and equipment provided voluntarily by them, acting impartially between the parties and using force to the minimum extent necessary”. 1

He identified several different kinds of peacekeeping operations carried out by the United Nations, including:

Traditional peacekeeping operations that support peacemaking efforts by creating conditions on the ground which facilitate political negotiations elsewhere. Historically, many traditional peacekeeping operations have dealt with regional conflicts. They were relatively standard operations, small in size and accounted for only a small share of the United Nations budget. Through an impartial presence and inter-positioning, the traditional peacekeeping operation served as an essential channel of communication between conflicting sides, facilitating mutual understanding, dialogue and co-operation.

For these operations to be successful, it was assumed that they had to be based on the consent and co-operation of the parties. Consent and co-operation would, in turn, only be forthcoming if the United Nations remained impartial and did not try to impose solutions onto the parties, whatever the pressures to take sides on legal, moral or political grounds. As these operations were based on the consent of the parties, the use of force in such operations was limited to self-defence.

Preventive deployment of UN troops before a conflict has actually begun, at the request of one of the parties and on its territory only. The main function of the troops would be to monitor and report on developments which could undermine stability and to provide, by their presence, a psychological deterrent to potential aggressors. The only example of UN preventive deployment is the UNPREDEP operation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Implementation of a comprehensive settlement already agreed upon by the parties. These kind of operations involve a wide range of functions including monitoring or organising of elections, demobilising troops and verifying respect for human rights.

Protection of the delivery of humanitarian relief supplies in conditions of war. The best example of these operations are Somalia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Post conflict peace building in a country where the institutions of state have largely collapsed. Under these kind of operations, the United Nations forces would provide a stable environment and assist a country in rebuilding its institutions. The functions of the operation would include humanitarian relief, demobilisation of troops, facilitating national reconciliation and economic rehabilitation.

At the time that Mr. Goulding identified the various types of UN peacekeeping operations, the future for multi-faceted peacekeeping looked bright and he understandably concluded that "the problem now is often not to persuade the Security Council to set up a peacekeeping operation, but to dissuade it from rushing into doing so when the conditions for success do not yet exist".2 Today, less than five years later, the reverse is true.

Under the multi-faceted operations entrusted to the United Nations in the late eighty’s and early ninety’s, the organisation was required to address the complex and myriad problems of collapsing states, characterised by underlying ethnic, nationalistic and/or religious tensions, and real and potential humanitarian disasters. As a result of the complex nature of the conflicts, the new generation of peacekeeping operations required an unprecedented amount and variety of material and personnel resources, leading to an explosion in the cost of peacekeeping which far out-stripped the costs of the regular budget of the United Nations. For the first time, the operations contained a significant civilian component, including large numbers of civilian police monitors.

The case of the UNPROFOR operation in the former Yugoslavia demonstrated how, in complex situations, operations based on the traditional peacekeeping principles of consent and impartiality ran into serious difficulties. The apparent lack of a clear command and control structure within the different warring factions and the proliferation of local “Mafia” undermined the operational basis of the consent principle and made it difficult, if not impossible, to implement the mandate in a consistent manner. The value of being impartial was also questioned when, by being so, ran the risk of freezing an existing imbalance of power or encouraging the stronger side to take advantage of its privileged militarily stronger position.

The minimum use of force was also questioned when widespread and seemingly irrational violence against civilians, captured vividly by the media, outraged public opinion and generated an emotionally propelled desire to “do something”. The increasing perception that such conflicts required a new set of principles in which there should be less reliance on impartiality, consent and the minimum use of force, and more recourse to the robust use of force in implementing the mandate, led to an endless debate on the use of force that plagued the UNPROFOR operation in 1994 and most of 1995.

This debate was in a large part fuelled by the creation, and subsequent tragic failure, of the safe areas concept and, unfortunately, coincided with the absence of a coherent framework for peace for Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a result, it failed to adequately take into account the question of what the ultimate goal of using force in a peacekeeping operation should be or that the use of force alone could not nullify the underlying psychological, ideological and other causes of the conflict, nor change their perceptions and stereotypes. The focus on military intervention rather than on adopting policies to build and sustain peace had the potential of haphazardly pushing the mission into taking sides without necessarily promoting the goals of the peacekeeping operation.

While the debate on the use of force in a peacekeeping operation was not the only issue to eclipse UNPROFOR’s fundamental success in stabilising the situation and mitigating the worst effects of what had already happened and what was happening in Bosnia, it did overshadow those other important elements that are necessary for the success of any peacekeeping operation. Namely, the firm and sustained political will of the international community, the co-operation of the parties, a clear and consistent mandate and the provision of the necessary resources to implement that mandate. One could also add to the list the absence of an ongoing war. All of these factors were missing in Bosnia.

Peacekeeping efforts within Croatia and Bosnia in the aftermath of the UNPROFOR operation have, I believe, taught us some important lessons about our past performance and prospects for future multi-faceted peacekeeping operations. In Bosnia, the international community has chosen to adopt a different approach to resolving the conflict in that country.

The Dayton Agreement establishes a distribution of labour among different actors in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Military enforcement of the agreement has been carried out by IFOR and its successor SFOR. However, it should be recalled that before the transfer of responsibility to IFOR, UNPROFOR implemented and monitored the initial cease-fire in the country. This is a clear demonstration that given the co-operation of the parties and the full backing of the international community, the United Nations was capable of carrying out its mandate.

The elections and human rights issues in the Dayton Agreement were assigned to the OSCE and the Council of Europe while refugee and displaced persons issues remained with the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Annex 11 of the Agreement, which deals with the policing responsibilities, was not assigned to any organisation. The United Nations assumed this responsibility by default - no one at Dayton was interested in taking on the task.

Early in the new operation in Bosnia, it was clear that the important civil affairs activities carried out by UNPROFOR could not be replicated by another organisation. Many civil affairs officers in the country possessed vital institutional knowledge. It was decided, therefore, to place both the police element (the IPTF) and the civil affairs element under the authority of the Secretary-General through a United Nations co-ordinator of the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH). The co-ordinator, who was also the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, would be the co-ordinating link between the activities of the United Nations elements in Bosnia and the High Representative.

The role assigned to the United Nations in Bosnia has, overall, highlighted the strengths of the organisation. The IPTF is a good example of the United Nation’s ability to run unarmed or lightly armed missions with the consent of the parties. The essentially non-threatening United Nations police force encourages co-operation. This has been necessary and important for the training and restructuring activities carried out by the IPTF. These are not activities that can be carried out at gunpoint but must, if they are to succeed, be done on a voluntary basis.

The civil affairs element represents the organisation’s strong ability to make available for operations, at short notice, high quality political staff. Many other organisations have great difficulties in recruiting staff, especially when they have to rely completely on seconded staff.

The NATO-led military presence in Bosnia has provided the UNMIBH mission, particularly the IPTF, with a robust environment in which to carry out its mandate aggressively. IPTF has been able to successfully implement a check-point policy and undertake weapons inspections because of the credible back-up force that SFOR provides. To take away the SFOR element would affect the ability of the mission to function at the limit of its mandate. It would also affect the ability of all other international organisations in Bosnia to implement their mandates.

One of the potential problems that could result from the wide division of labour in Bosnia is that of co-ordination. The High Representative has the responsibility for co-ordination but lacks the means necessary to carry it out effectively. SFOR does not fall under the co-ordination authority of the High Representative and the United Nations mission and agencies fall under the authority of the Secretary-General. Given the strongly guarded independence of actors in the area, the effective co-ordination that the High Representative has been able to achieve has been remarkable.

There is also a lack of unity in the field of human rights monitoring in Bosnia. There are a large number of human rights entities working in Bosnia, including the United Nations and its agencies, and inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations. All of these have their own mandate, priorities and reporting channels. In such an environment, consensus on human rights issues can be difficult to achieve, particularly as the Dayton Agreement has failed to identify a lead organisation to co-ordinate human rights activities.

However, with regard to the strong human rights mandate given to the IPTF in Annex 11, the United Nations has done an admirable job in implementing its mandate. It has initiated a certification process for the police, which is intended to screen applicants for criminal activities and human rights abuses, and has energetically investigated human rights violations committed by local police. As a result of this action, the overall level of human rights violations by police, the most common human rights abuses in Bosnia, has gone down.

In general, the restructuring work carried out by the IPTF goes to the core of the power structure of the old nationalist regimes in Bosnia. The police are gradually being transformed from an organ which protected the state, or the party they identified with, to an instrument of service to citizens. The United Nations’ Mission in Bosnia has underlined that the democratisation dynamic that has started must be maintained and become part of a broader strategy of change in Bosnia if progress is to be sustained. A broader strategy of change means that the IPTF removal of illegal police check-points must be part of a general freedom of movement policy which, in turn, must be encouraged by economic revitalisation and incentives for displaced persons and refugees to return to their homes. People need to be given a reason to want to cross the inter-entity boundary line - the availability of jobs, housing and other opportunities will, hopefully, provide them with that reason. Refugee returns are also important in a broader and integrated strategy if the risk of ending up with a multi-ethnic police force in an ethnically pure village is to be avoided.

Another example of the need for a broader strategy is in police reform. For reform to be effective and long-lasting, it must be part of a general reform of the judicial and penal systems. Experience has shown that monitoring and training of the local police is not enough if the practical work of a peacekeeping mission is to be transformed into the practical application of accepted human rights principles and their long-term awareness.

Turning to the post-UNPROFOR United Nations role in Croatia, which was based on the 12 November 1995 Basic Agreement on the peaceful reintegration of the region of Eastern Slavonia into Croatia, as with the IPTF in Bosnia, the United Nations assumption of direct responsibility for Eastern Slavonia was in some ways by default. Again, few were willing to take on a task which many believed was doomed to failure.

In the early days, when considering how best to implement the Basic Agreement, the United Nations realised that while it would be possible to distribute various civilian tasks outlined in the Basic Agreement to other organisations, this ran the risk of reducing the transitional administration to the role of a supervisory co-ordinating body rather than an executive authority. It was also clear that unless the military force was superior to those in UNCRO and UNPROFOR, and had a clear enforcement role with regard to demilitarising the region, it would fall prey to the accusations of inadequacy that had plagued the UNCRO and UNPROFOR missions.

The UNTAES mission ended on 15 January. It is being hailed as one of the greatest successes of the United Nations. Although it is too early to say whether its success is sustainable, many believed that, given the unprecedented international commitment to Bosnia, that conflict had more of a chance of success than the mission in Eastern Slavonia. The preliminary lessons that can already be learned from the UNTAES experience are the following:

First, that the consistent and unified support of the Security Council contributed greatly to the success of the mission. The support of the United States in particular, and the work of two outstanding Transitional Administrators, were also important factors in the mission’s success. As a result of this strong support, and in cases of non-compliance by the Croatians, it was possible for the international community to put pressure on them in an effective manner. For example, the United States blocked financial loans for Croatia in the IMF and the World Bank.

Second, a well conceived strategy in implementing a mandate is essential. The reintegration of the local police was recognised as the single most important task of the UNTAES mission if a sustainable reintegration of the population was to be achieved. The gradual draw-down of the military component of UNTAES and a shift of focus to strengthening and making more visible the Transitional Police Force allowed the population to build trust and confidence in the authority of the police and, by extension, the authority of the Croatian government.

Third, a strong and credible military force is essential to ensure compliance by the parties. Although the UNTAES military force was only 5000 strong, it possessed credible means of force and made it clear that it was prepared to use it against any violating party. The NATO backup provided the means to escalate that force if necessary.

Fourth, a clear exit-strategy, linked to mutually reinforcing and interdependent benchmarks allows for a smooth and successful downsizing of a mission.

Fifth, a good combination of carrots and sticks can encourage compliance by the parties. At the start of the mission, sticks were an effective instrument of coercion. Once the military component began to down-size in the second year of the mission, UNTAES lost its credibility to enforce compliance. Carrots became the most effective means of encouraging the parties to co-operate.

Sixth, it is necessary, in some cases, to put in place appropriate successor arrangements (the United Nations civilian police support group, the OSCE mission in Croatia) as early as possible. A continued international monitoring presence provides reassurance to the local population that their human rights will be protected.

Seventh, a unified civilian and military structure is generally conducive to success. UNTAES was an integrated mission with a short and responsive chain of command. All the activities of the mission were co-ordinated by the Transitional Administrator and fell under his overall authority.

Eighth, the mandate given to UNTAES was clear and precise and the resources provided to the mission were commensurate with its tasks. UNTAES demonstrated that, when the United Nations is given a clear mandate and the necessary resources to carry it out, and when that mandate and those resources are supported by a strong political resolve and a united Security Council, then the United Nations can effectively carry out multidimensional peacekeeping operations.

Recent experiences in the former Yugoslavia, particularly in Eastern Slavonia, have demonstrated that the United Nations can indeed play an important role in multidimensional operations given the right conditions and resources. However, peacekeeping has entered a new phase in which future operations will be asked to achieve even more ambitious objectives. Their goal is not just stability in their area of deployment but transformation of post-conflict societies, and the creation of working democracies where none existed before. In this context, the role of United Nations civilian police, especially in human rights monitoring, has acquired a new importance.

There is emerging consensus within the United Nations and among Member States that the role of the police not only contributes to short-term maintenance of law and order and respect for human rights but also promotes longer term stability by fostering a climate where the influence of the military is diminished and the emergence of a civil leadership is encouraged. This development can reshape the internal dynamics of a post-conflict society in such a way as to significantly strengthen the foundations for lasting peace.

In view of experience and of likely civilian police requirements in future peacekeeping missions, the United Nations is currently considering two broad areas which could benefit from further analysis. The first is how to overcome an acute shortage of police personnel who are trained in accordance with common standards and who are readily available for service with the UN and the second is to gain a greater common understanding on the roles and potential roles of a police presence, both before and after the military component of a peacekeeping operation withdraws.

General observations/recommendations:


1 Goulding, M. (1993) ‘The evolution of UN peacekeeping’, International Affairs 69, 3, p. 464. [...back to main text]

2 Goulding, M. (1993) ‘The evolution of UN peacekeeping’, International Affairs 69, 3, p. 464 [...back to main text]


top of page
Papers Presented (by author):
1. Kate Mackintosh - 2. Nigel S Rodley - 3. Françoise Hampson - 4.Carlo von Flüe - 5. Geoff Gilbert - 6. Nicholas Morris - 7. David Bassiouni - 8. Philip Wilkinson - 9. Emma Shitakha - 10. Ian Martin - 11. Colleen Duggan
Report links: website home page
Table of Contents - Search - Introduction - Recommendations - Opening Address - Papers Presented - Acknowledgements  - Appendices
 copyright information