Yesterday, the Security Council asked the Secretary General to start contingency planning for a possible peacekeeping force in Somalia. Britain’s UN ambassador Emyr-Jones Parry explains:

“Let’s be clear, the Security Council report sets out the conditionality for deploying a force … and there (first) should be sufficient peace to keep. At the moment, those conditions are not met.”

“Our hope is that the situation in Mogadishu is stabilizing and the violence there will come to an end, and that you can provide within the next months a degree of stability and political outreach in the country. If the situation continues to improve sufficiently, the U.N. would then be prepared to consider whether or not it should deploy.”

There some frequent misconceptions about peacekeeping, one being that blue helmets can be deployed to stop a war in progress. The United Nations tried this in the 1990s in places like Bosnia, but found that it does not work. Rather, for a peacekeeping mission to be successful, warring parties must be amenable to peacekeepers’ deployment. Peacekeepers are deployed to keep the peace, not impose one.

In Somalia, peacekeepers cannot fight their way into Mogadishu. Rather, there must first be agreement by the belligerents to cease hostilities. Only then can peacekeepers provide the necessary security to oversee the country’s political and physical rehabilitation.