This article has been written by Akriti Sinha.

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.​​


Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.

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-Martin Luther King Jr.

Chapter VII of the UN Charter deals with the philosophy of peacemaking operations. This chapter states that international conflicts should be dealt through collective security measures. Over last four decades it has been seen that international relations has shifted from peacemaking to peacekeeping operations.

What is the concept of peacekeeping

Peacekeeping operations are mainly the operations that involve military, paramilitary or non-military character. These are conducted by the UN in order to maintain international peace and security with the exception under Chapter VII. The canopy of “peacekeeping operations” generally include instances where measures are taken for pacific settlement or pacific adjustment of dispute jeopardize the friendly relation of nation states. Action relating to threat to peace, breach of peace and aggression falls within the ambit of peacekeeping measures. 

The role of peacekeeping forces is to maintain suspension of fights between the warring countries. The peacekeeping forces include armies of different countries which have taken neutral measures in solving the dispute. These forces are military forces but do not have military functions. It generally comes at war place to maintain international peace and security in friendly manner. These forces generally use minimum forces in extreme situation for safety and security. 

One of the most important features of peacekeeping forces is that they organize their operations with the consent of the parties at crisis. Over decades it has been seen that continuing consent for peacekeeping forces has been in controversy. The developing countries and socialist blocks support consent as an essential element for peacekeeping operations but Western States have their reservation in this regard.

Principles of the UN Peacekeeping Operations

  • Consent of the Parties- the peacekeeping operations require the consent of the parties involved in the conflict as without consent there may be the chances of further conflict and also the deployed forces may deviate from their role.
  • Impartiality- the deployed forces should maintain impartiality in their dealings and they should remain unbiased to the parties in conflict but impartial does not means being neutral. The peacekeeping forces must execute their mandates and maintain the international norms.
  • Use of forces in self- defence and defence of the mandates- the peacekeeping operation must avoid unnecessary deployment of forces. They must only be deployed to bring the parties to the conflict at rescue

Structure, Finance and Formation of the UN Peacekeeping

The peacekeeping forces of UN is generally supplemented by the forces and personnel sent by the member nations. To form the structure of UN they are added to the forces on volunteer basis. Till date approximately 100,000 personnel serve as peacekeeping forces in the UN. Amongst the individual contributors, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan top the list.

When the parties to the conflict are unable to negotiate by themselves they may at their consent ask for the deployment of forces or else when it seems that the situation is worsened then the UN peacekeeping forces with the advice of its organs take actions to maintain peace. Or, when parties to the conflict have signed or negotiated any treaty might request for the deployment of UN peacekeeping forces to maintain peace and order. They are also deployed to ensure the execution of elements agreed upon the peace treaty. When the UNSC approves the mission, the department of peacekeeping operation makes necessary arrangements. At the very instance leadership is formed and then the department asks UN peacekeeping to deploy forces. The peacekeeping forces also work behind the curtain to take diplomatic actions. The size and strength is not fixed rather it varies. It is generally based on the territorial extent of the countries at conflict. After the final deployment of peacekeeping forces, the United Nations Special Committee for Peacekeeping Operations looks after the general conduct and day to day operations.

Any peacekeeping operation is funded collectively by the member stated of United Nations. The establishment and maintenance of its operation is decided by the United Nation Security Council. The member states are legally bound to pay their share for the peacekeeping as per the UN charter. The United Nations General Assembly divides the expenses for peacekeeping operation based on the economic condition of the member state.   

Legality of Peacekeeping Operations

The legality of peacekeeping operations has been often in dispute by the Soviet Union. The Union argue that the Charter do not provide for such operations.  Further, the critics also argued  that the executive power of armed forces is with the Security Council. Article 39 of the Charter empowers the Council to determine the existence of threat to peace, breach of peace or act of aggression. Once satisfied with the existence of conflict, the Security Council may use economic or other non-military sanctions under Article 41. While Article 42, empowers the Security Council to use armed forces in extreme cases. The critics further pointed that Article 11, para. 2 of Charter require the General Assembly to refer Security Council on necessary questions. Hence, peacekeeping operations are criticized on the ground that General Assembly lack enforcement authority.

However, the US and the UK held the opposite viewpoint. They justified peacekeeping operations on the basis of Article 10, 11 and 14 of the UN Charter read with United Peace Resolution. The General Assembly as per Article 10 is authorized to discuss and make recommendations within the scope of Charter. Under Article 11, the General Assembly can discuss and make recommendations for International peace and security. The word “action” in Article 11, para. 2 deal with enforcement action and exclude the reference of such action to the Security Council. Under Article 14, the General Assembly can recommend measures for maintenance of international peace and security. Article 24 of the Charter confers responsibility upon the Security Council to maintain peace and security. Thus, a collective reading of Articles 10, 11, 14 and 24 coupled with Uniting for Peace Resolution upheld the legality of peacekeeping operations.

The Indian Representative in the Fourth meeting of the Special Committee on peacekeeping operations stated that the duties and responsibilities of Security Council and General Assembly are complementary. Later this approach was held to be confusing as it was not based on legal and logical considerations. 

Further, many critics argued that peacekeeping operations cannot be only justified on the ground of Article 10,11,14 and 24 read with Uniting for Peace Resolution. The operations lend its legality even from the Preamble and purpose of UN. The Preamble clearly aims to maintain international peace and security. Under Article 1 of the Charter, the purpose of UN is to take collective measures for the prevention of threat to peace, breach of peace, act of aggression or such other actions. 

The International Court of Justice also upheld the legality of peacekeeping operations. According to ICJ, Security Council has sole authority to make decisions but it does not mean that General Assembly cannot make recommendations. 

Hence, the legality of peacekeeping operations is established beyond the fact that UN Charter does not expressly provide for such operations.

Instances of Peacekeeping Operations

The peacekeeping forces have been deployed since the birth of UN from time to time. The forces worked in Middle East under the name of United Nations Truce Supervision Organization UNTSO twice in 1948 and 1967-73. In the year 1948 forces were deployed for India and Pakistan in the name of United Nations Military Observer Group (UNMOGIP). Again in 1956-67 the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF-1) was formed. In 1964 the forces worked as United Nations Force in Cyprus. 

One of the historic events for peacekeeping force was the agreement signed between India and Sri Lanka. The agreement provided to end the existing hostilities between Tamil Militants and Sri Lankan forces within 48 hours. Under this agreement the Sri Lankan securities were confined to barracks and Tamil Militants had to surrender their arms to authorities. This constitutes one of the most significant instances outside the framework of UN.

The most recent instance of peacekeeping forces could be seen in Central African Republic in 2014. This peacekeeping operation was in response to conflict between the rebels and the state. The forces were deployed in the name of MINUSCA.

Role of the UN Secretary General 

The Secretary General plays vital role in the peacekeeping operations. Being a Chief Executive Officer of the UN, he executes the policy decision of the Security Council and/or the General Assembly. When the situation demands instant decision, the Secretary General himself takes the policy decision and advices the Secretary General and/or the General Assembly.

There is no doubt regarding the fact that the Secretary General cannot alone carry forward the peacekeeping operations without making any reference to the Security Council or in case of the failure to the General Assembly. In case of the failure of the Peacekeeping Operation, it must be sanctioned by both the Security Council and the General Assembly. However, when it comes to the advice of the Secretary General it plays vital role in the decision making process of the Security Council and the General Assembly.

As soon as the decision for the deployment of the peacekeeping force is made, the matters relating to the composition of UN force, its commander and the proper functioning the peacekeeping operations is decided by the Secretary General. For the matters relating to the deployment of the forces, the Secretary General consults the host State and the Countries which supply forces. Hence, the Secretary General can be said to be the overall incharge of the Peacekeeping Operations. The Commander of the forces is basically the representative of forces in the area. While performing the functions, the Secretary General may consult the sanctioning organ of the Security Council, the General Assembly, the sanctioning organ of UN or as the case may be.

There is no doubt in the fact that the Secretary General has wide range of powers to decide the modalities of the peacekeeping operations. The history shows that the Secretary General has witnessed criticism of the action taken for the Peacekeeping Operation. In the year 1967, the Secretary General, U. Thant ordered for the withdrawal of UNEF-1 from Egypt on request of the host State Egypt and in this process the Secretary General did not seek the advice of the sanctioning organ. This action was criticized by some countries.      

What are  India’s contribution in UN peacekeeping

Troop Contribution- India is one of the largest troop contributing countries to peacekeeping forces of UN. It has deployed soldiers, medical personnel and engineers to various mission worldwide. India has contributed approximately more than 2,75,000 troops to the peacekeeping missions so far.

Casualties- Indian soldiers have made significant sacrifices while serving the line of duty with more than hundreds of soldiers losing their lives. 

Training and infrastructure- The Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping (CUNPK) has been established by Indian Army in New Delhi to provide special training to the troops. The Centre provides training to more than 12,000 troops every year in peacekeeping operations

Women in peacekeeping- India has taken steps to deploy Female Engagement Teams in peacekeeping forces and is second largest women contingent after Liberia. India has also deployed Women Military Police and Women Staff officers and military observers in various missions.

Future prospects

The report of success and failures shows that there is more success than failure of UN peacekeeping operations. Though it is also true that Israeli forces brushed aside the UN peacekeeping forces but there are other instances where the situation has been cooled off to negotiate. 

In order to control the fatalities during peacekeeping operation the geographical equilibrium and evenness must be maintained. To achieve the goals of peacekeeping operation the forces must build leadership and ensure enough cooperation with the host state. Also, peacekeeping forces must be deployed sensibly and not on the basis of power and strength of a sovereign state. The peacekeeping operations must have clear defined objectives which is essential for ending violent global conflict. 

The peacekeeping operations proved itself to more popular in resolution of the International Conflict as compared to the enforcement under action under Chapter VII of the Charter. Though the existence of peacekeeping forces is based on consent of the parties, it play vital role in maintaining international peace and security. For success, peacekeeping game must be played on both the military and political front.



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