A Responsible Way to Plan a Peacekeeping Force

Critics of UN peacekeeping often charge that the Security Council is wont to authorize missions before it can be assured that Member States will pony up the requisite troops and equipment. By and large, this is an unfounded accusation, as the Secretary-General’s recent recommendation [pdf] for the UN mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (MINURCAT) makes clear:

In order to achieve the required effect, the force should be led by high-quality
commanders and provided the necessary capabilities, selected by the United
Nations. In this regard, and in accordance with the Brahimi report (S/2000/809), it
would be recommended that the Security Council consider leaving in draft form the
resolution authorizing the deployment of the force until such time as the Secretariat
has firm commitments of troops and other critical mission support elements from
Member States.

The 2000 “Brahimi report” that the S-G cites was a major doctrinal moment in UN peacekeeping, as it stipulated that missions should only be undertaken where there is a peace to keep and when they will be provided with the necessary component parts. Crafted in response to the rapid (over)expansion of UN peacekeeping in the mid-90’s, the Brahimi report is now facing another significant test, as UN peacekeeping is being looked to in complex conflict zones like Ethiopia/Eritrea, Somalia, and Darfur.MINURCAT, though, could potentially provide a much-needed boost to effective peacekeeping planning. The expiration of its mandate — which was renewed on Wednesday for a provisional six months — presented a critical fork in the road for this small (724 person) mission of police and unarmed military observers. Because the EU force that has been providing protection for MINURCAT — as well as displaced civilians on the Sudanese border — is set to close down in March 2009, the UN needs to make provisions for its security. So the S-G made specific recommendations suggesting a “re-hatting” of the EU troops, many of whose governments (Sweden, Ireland, and probably France) have indicated that they would be amenable to contributing their personnel to the new, beefed-up UN mission.

Transitioning MINURCAT will not be easy, of course, and it is not sufficient in and of itself, but it is at least reassuring to see that the Security Council is taking steps in advance for what could become an even more dangerous vacuum.