UN Peacekeeping Why not in Syria and Iraq?
"Do you see UN Peacekeeping as a viable option to help solve the humanitarian crises in Syria and Iraq?” I asked Hervé Ladsous, the United Nations Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations. Couldn’t UN Peacekeepers help remedy the enormous humanitarian dilemma that has resulted from these two crises with millions now suffering from a shortage of food and clean water?
“The answer to your question is no,” stated Mr. Ladsous, without even the slightest hesitation. “We wish we could help the people suffering, but the magnitude of the two crises is simply much too large for the UN to handle.” It was at that point I found myself disagreeing with one of the world’s leaders in peacekeeping. For if we wish to help solve two of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history, UN Peacekeepers must be involved.
They must be involved because they are undoubtedly the best and most well-trained peacekeeping group in the entire world. They are experts at delivering supplies to those who need them, and quickly. They are adept at helping to mend differences between ethnic groups, often healing situations that many had previously thought were beyond repair. They remain 100 percent committed to their missions no matter the circumstance--some even paying the ultimate price in a concerted effort to help make the world a better place.
Now, I understand that some of you may be looking at me sideways at this point, and are thinking of the various studies that have recently come out declaring that UN Peacekeeping is only marginally effective, if that. You probably want an answer for some of the UN Peacekeeping’s failures--like the Rwanda catastrophe in 1994 or Kosovo’s bloody civil war in 1999, and you deserve one.
And yet, I insist that UN Peacekeepers must go in to Syria and Iraq. They ought to be deployed to those countries in mass numbers, as soon as humanly possible. This is because although UN Peacekeeping may have made major mistakes in the past, these mistakes actually have little to do with the effectiveness of UN peacekeepers—and much more to do with a severe lack of funding and support.
Take for instance Rwanda. France, the UK, and the US all used their influence to prevent reinforcement peacekeepers from being sent in only a few weeks after the killings had begun. They also refused to label the mass killings occurring as “genocide," thereby ruling out the possibility of any kind of humanitarian military intervention. Additionally, Belgian peacekeepers, which made up a large portion of the UN peacekeepers in Rwanda, were pulled out of the conflict shortly after it had begun. Furthermore, the remaining peacekeepers had been given orders by the UN not to fire unless fired upon--even if a civilian’s life was at risk.
With adequate funding and support, however, the UN has recently enjoyed a number of successful missions in the last decade. A recent UN Peacekeeping mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has helped to reduce the number of internally displaced persons by 77% and has trained over 5,000 Haitian police officers, according to the Better World Campaign. In April, a UN Peacekeeping mission ended in Côte d'Ivoire, which was incredibly successful in helping to resolve the country’s conflicts and build up its infrastructure and government; Côte d'Ivoire’s economy has grown more than 8.5% in the last year and is scheduled to have its first democratic election in years in 2015.
UN Peacekeeping missions, with adequate funding and support, would undoubtedly provide much-needed assistance to the millions of refugees of the crises in Iraq and Syria. They would enable millions of people to get the food, water and resources they would need to survive while their respective countries seek to safely resolve the ongoing conflicts. And, while they might not be able to fully solve two of the most intractable conflicts on earth, they would certainly make an impact.