Beyond Government Accountability: a challenging look at Peacekeepers

imageMy article in Serviam, the magazine dedicated to "Stability Solutions in a Dangerous World," is out.  I mentioned it before, but now you can read the whole thing. 

It's intended to be thought provoking, which it is.  By the way, it was vetted and approved by an international lawyer and a consultant to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.  There will be more on the subject of the lack of accountability of peacekeepers by others.  In the immediate future, it sounds like you can catch more in the upcoming HBO movie The Greatest Silence (and/or listen to this NPR interview with the filmmaker). 

From Beyond Government Accountability:

...If holding nonstate soldiers accountable is really an issue for many critics, then the admitted lack of accountability of and jurisdiction over contracted nations contributing to U.N. PKOs should be a prime concern. The gap between perceived accountability and real accountability has a broader and deeper impact on the societies in which they operate.

The relationship between peacekeeping forces (PKFs) and the U.N. Security Council mimics the relationship between a private military or security company and the country in question. The Security Council negotiates with U.N. members to contribute to PKOs, most often in the stead of the five permanent Security Council members who actually make the decision to deploy military observers, police, and troops. The General Assembly does not authorize or oversee PKFs, but it is tasked to operate on the behalf of the Security Council.

Forgotten is Article 43 of the U.N. Charter, which calls for maintaining a standing rapid reaction military force to be available to the Security Council. Instead, the U.N. relies on ad hoc partnerships and "conditional commitments" through the U.N. Stand-By Arrangements System. This system falls well short of what was envisioned when it was established six decades ago at the dawn of the Cold War.

Governments providing the peacekeepers hand over accountability to the United Nations, and those that finance the operations have little to no say in how the forces will actually operate. With no standing commitment by member states, each operation requires individual negotiations across the spectrum--from questions regarding chain of command and responsibilities to rules of engagement and the rules on the use of force.

In the post-Cold War environment, downsized Western militaries are less able to participate in PKOs owing to capacity limits as well as domestic politics. To fill the gap, the Security Council increasingly turns to developing nations (formerly known as "Third World") countries to deploy to regions that have little direct significance to the contributing country. ...

Read the whole thing in the March-April 2008 issue of Serviam or download a PDF of the article here (144kb PDF).