We propose a new approach to international peacekeeping and protection by the UN that could provide urgent assistance in a timely manner to minimise future deaths and destruction in the sovereign state of Ukraine. Given the prolonged and multiple efforts in the past to modify, without success, the UN Security Council's approach to peacekeeping our suggestions continue to focus on the Uniting for Peace Resolution undertaken by the UN General Assembly as having the best hope of providing effective protection. If such a Resolution gained support from a substantial proportion of the 193 member states within the UN General Assembly, international UN troops on the ground and an effective no fly zone should be possible within the near future. The document below shows the potential resources available in terms of both finance and personnel for the creation of an urgent and effective UN General Assembly based protection system in Ukraine.
Issues related to our approach are highlighted in brown.
There are currently (April 2022) 12 UN peacekeeping operations around the world, saving lives and protecting vulnerable populations from murder, sexual violence, torture, loss of home and shelter, and malnutrition.
Over many years, there have been highly relevant criticisms of the structure of the UN Security Council and its inability to control the power of the original 5 nations, which comprise its permanent membership. The full veto, as well as the failure to give “Yes” votes to carefully constructed and appropriate resolutions, have seriously inhibited its effectiveness with tragic consequences; such as those now seen in Ukraine.
The Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative, launched in 2018 by Secretary-General António Guterres, is focusing on strengthening peacekeeping operations. The Secretariat is currently developing its priorities for a next phase of A4P implementation but it will not complete its mission in time to save Ukraine.
Multidimensional and multidisciplinary peace operations of the UN are potentially able to fulfil a range of tasks, including the protection of civilians, the maintenance of human rights, the disarming and de-mobilising of combatants, and the restoration of the rule of law.
In 1945, the UN Charter established 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council, which includes the most powerful countries in the world but also involves those manufacturing and selling the most weapons. This situation is out of touch with the fact that low and lower-middle income countries contribute the most troops to UN peacekeeping. in 2015, for example, the proportion of peacekeepers from low or lower-middle income countries had reached 80 per cent.
Peacekeeping is no longer only a post-conflict activity as it was in 1945. In 2015, just over half of the 100,000 active peacekeepers have been deployed in countries with an active armed conflict, such as Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Political solutions to armed conflict are critical to peacekeeping, but peacekeepers are increasingly being deployed to places where armed conflict is active and peace difficult to achieve.
Non-violence is appropriately at the core of the UN Peacekeeping’s mission. One of the three main principles of UN Peacekeeping missions is the non-use of force except in self-defence and defence of the mission’s mandate. Since 1948, 3,844 deaths of UN Peacekeepers have been recorded and the prevention of their deaths is of major concern.
Regionally, since the early 1990s, the majority of UN peacekeepers have been deployed to sub-Saharan Africa, to the Middle East ,and to North Africa. In 2016, the UN deployed 94% of peacekeeping personnel to these regions.
In 2019, the top ten financial contributions to peacekeeping, as distinct from the contribution of troops to UN peacekeeping, were as follows:
United States (27.89%)
United Kingdom (5.79%)
Russian Federation (3.04%)
Republic of Korea (2.26%)
So, who provides the peacekeeping troops?
Peacekeeping soldiers are paid for by their own Governments according to their own national rank and salary scales. Countries volunteering uniformed personnel to peacekeeping operations are reimbursed by the UN at a standard rate, approved by the UN General Assembly, of US$1,428 per soldier per month as of 1 July 2019.
Which countries provide the largest number of troops for UN peacekeeping missions?
In an analysis in 30 June 2019, there were 100,411 people serving in UN peacekeeping operations (86,145 uniformed, 12,932 civilian, and 1,334 volunteers). European nations contributed only a total of 6,000 units to this total. Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh were among the largest individual contributors with around 8,000 units each.
As of 31 August 2020, 120 countries were contributing a total of 81,820 personnel in Peacekeeping Operations, with Bangladesh leading (6,731), followed by Ethiopia (6,662) and Rwanda (6,322).
This is a list of countries by total number of peacekeeping troops contributed to UN operations based on UN reporting as of 30th September 2021.
What constitutes the membership of a UN peacekeeping/protection force?
UN peacekeeping brings together the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Secretariat, troop and police contributors and the host governments in a combined effort to maintain international peace and security. [Our suggestion is that the UN General Assembly must lead and that the Security Council must only advise and be unable to veto resolutions put forward by the UNGA to protect those affected by armed conflict].
How are UN peacekeepers currently deployed?
UN peacekeeping operations are deployed with the consent of the main parties to the conflict. [This may not be appropriate in some conflict situations; including that in Ukraine where a P5 member invaded a neighbouring state]. This approach requires a commitment by the parties to a political process. Their acceptance of a peacekeeping operation provides the UN with the necessary freedom of action, both political and physical, to carry out its mandated tasks. [ Ideally this should be the case but sometimes will not be present at the time of implementation of the protection/peacekeeping force. It should be constantly sought after].
How do peacekeeping operations work?
UN Peacekeepers provide security and the political and peace-building support to help countries make the difficult, early transition from conflict to peace. UN Peacekeeping is guided by three basic principles: consent of the parties; impartiality; non-use of force except in self-defence and defence of the mandate. [ These principles are ideal but sometimes will not be immediately attainable].
Peacekeepers protect civilians, actively prevent conflict, reduce violence, strengthen security and empower national authorities to assume these responsibilities. These activities require a coherent security and peace-building strategy that supports the political strategy.
Overseeing UN peacekeeping
As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) and the largest funder of the Department of Peace Operations (DPO)—which oversees UN peacekeeping—the United States plays an important leadership role in authorizing and shaping UN missions.18 Feb 2021 [ Because of their involvement in NATO this may not now be appropriate in some settings, including the situation now in Ukraine.]
Does the UN provide peacekeepers with arms?
The UN has no existing army or police force on its own. Military and police personnel, from UN Member States, working as peacekeepers in peacekeeping missions around the world are members of their own national service first and are seconded to work with the UN. [They can and usually have to be armed by their own countries].
Are UN peacekeepers allowed to fire weapons?
Under international law, peacekeepers are non-combatants due to their neutral stance in the conflict between two or more belligerent parties (to the same extent as neutral personnel and properties outside of peacekeeping duties) and must be protected [or be able to protect themselves] from attacks at all times. [However, UN peacekeepers/protection forces may have to defend civilians and civilian structures including hospitals and schools, from attack by the armed forces of one of the protagonists in the conflict. They may also have to use arms to protect humanitarian corridors and the delivery of humanitarian and medical aid to all parties in the conflict. This situation is especially the needed in Ukraine].
Do peacekeepers wear Blue Helmets?
Troops from different countries wear their national uniforms together with added distinctive UN arm bands and shoulder patches to identify them as UN peacekeepers. "The blue beret and helmet were created by Secretary-General Hammarskjöld during the formative days of UNEF 1 peacekeeping as part of the Unified for peace in 1950".
Can the UN take over a country?
The UN cannot invade a country. The UN does not have a standing army of its own and does not have the power to order the invasion of a sovereign state. The UN can approve the use of military force by member states, but it only does this in cases of self-defence or as humanitarian interventions.[ The invasion of Ukraine by Russia’ a P5 permanent member of the UNSC, indicates why reform of the UNSC is urgently needed].
Has the UN ever stopped a war?
Since 1948, the UN has helped end conflicts and foster reconciliation by conducting successful peacekeeping operations in dozens of countries, including Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mozambique, Namibia and Tajikistan.
Why has the UN been considered so ineffective in certain conflicts?
The UN has been long criticised for its lack of involvement in major conflicts and disputes. One reason why the UN lacks involvement is because of the unwillingness of some its most powerful and permanent members such as the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, and China to support its peacekeeping activities and instead some (US, UK, France) establishing military alliances such as NATO.
The Top 10 Most Powerful Countries in the World (2021 Best Countries report):
According to the 2020 survey the United States is the world’s most powerful country. It has the world’s largest economy, with a GDP of $20.93 trillion in 2020 and the most massive military budget of $778 billion in 2020. The U.S. defence spending is higher than the next ten largest defence spenders (China, India, Russia, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan, South Korea, and Italy) combined.
China and Russia are the second and third most powerful countries, known for their military spending and vast physical size. China also has a large economy with a GDP of $14.3 trillion.
Next on the list are Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, and France, all of which have large economies and distribute high amounts of international aid.
The Security Council determines the deployment of every new UN Peacekeeping operation [ This situation is the reason why the UN has not yet been able to protect civilians in Ukraine from the massive number and character of the war crimes committed by the invading country (Russia)]
A number of consultations to determine the best response by the international community are undertaken
All relevant United Nations actors
The potential host government and the parties on the ground
Member States, including States that might contribute troops and police to a peacekeeping operation
Regional and other intergovernmental organizations
Other relevant key external partners
During this initial phase the UN Secretary-General may request a strategic assessment to identify all possible options for UN engagement. [If there is time to do so which could have been undertaken in the case of Ukraine when Russia was assembling massive numbers of troops on its border with Ukraine]
Security Council resolutions
If the Security Council determines that deploying a UN Peacekeeping operation is the most appropriate step to take, it will formally authorize this by adopting a resolution. The resolution sets out the operation’s mandate and size and details the tasks it will be responsible for performing. [This is the problem because the UNSC through veto and absence of YES votes, decided not to support peacekeeping and protection for Ukraine. The UNSC now needs to be side-stepped and the UNGA take over as part of the “Uniting for Peace resolution 377(V)]. The budget and resources are then subject to UN General Assembly approval. So implementing the UNGA as the lead organisation for peacekeeping in Ukraine should be relatively straightforward as they would otherwise have to undertake most of the work anyway].
Appointment of senior officials
The Secretary-General normally appoints a Head of Mission (who is usually also called the Special Representative) to direct the peacekeeping operation. The Head of Mission reports to the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations at the UN Headquarters.
The Secretary-General also appoints a peacekeeping operation’s Force Commander and Police Commissioner, and senior civilian staff. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Department of Field Support (DFS) are then responsible for staffing the civilian components of a peacekeeping operation. [ Suggest that the process be termed a peacekeeping and protection operation].
Planning and deployment
In the meantime, the Head of Mission and DPKO-DFS lead the planning for the political, military, operational and support (i.e., logistics and administration) aspects of the peacekeeping operation. The planning phase usually involves the establishment of a Headquarters-based joint working group or integrated mission task force, with participation of all relevant UN departments, funds and programmes. [These could include agencies such as WHO. UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP, UNHCR and WFP. They should also welcome in non-governmental organisations which are used to working in maternal, neonatal and child healthcare in low resource or armed conflict settings; for example MSF and MCAI]
Deployment of an operation proceeds then as quickly as possible, taking into account the security and political conditions on the ground [ Tragically many thousands have died since the onset of this invasion and there is a critically urgent need to assemble a UN protection force inside Ukraine as soon as possible.]
This process often starts with an advance team to establish mission headquarters and leads to a gradual build-up to encompass all components and regions, as required by the mandate.
Civilian staff of peacekeeping operations are international civil servants, recruited and deployed by the UN Secretariat.
Reporting to the Security Council
The Secretary-General may be required to provide regular reports to the Security Council on the implementation of the mission mandate, as mandated. [ During and in parallel with this new peacekeeping/ protection operation the future role of the UNSC needs to be established.]
The Security Council [Now suggested to be the UN General Assembly] reviews these reports and briefings, and renews and adjusts the mission mandate, as required, until the missions is completed or closed.
Mandates and the legal basis for peacekeeping.
The UN Charter currently gives the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. In fulfilling this responsibility, the Council can establish a UN peace operation.[ Now is the time, in our opinion, for the UN General Assembly to take over responsibility for implementing the UN Charter].
The UN Charter
The Charter of the United Nations is the foundation document for all the UN work. The UN was established to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and one of its main purposes is to maintain international peace and security.
Peacekeeping, although not explicitly provided for in the Charter, has evolved into one of the main tools used by the United Nations to achieve this purpose.
The Charter gives the UN Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. In fulfilling this responsibility, the Council may adopt a range of measures, including the establishment of a UN peace operation. [Now perhaps the UN General Assembly should take over and implement the UN Charter].
Depending on their mandate, peace operations may be required to:
[Deploy to help stop the conflict and protect lives]
Deploy to prevent the outbreak of conflict [ too late here for Ukraine] or the spill-over of conflict across borders;
Stabilize conflict situations after a ceasefire, to create an environment for the parties to reach a lasting peace agreement;
Assist in implementing comprehensive peace agreements;
Lead states or territories through a transition to stable government, based on democratic principles, good governance and economic development.
Depending on the specific set of challenges, UN peacekeepers are often mandated to play a catalytic role in the following essentially peace-building activities:
Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants;
Security sector reform and other rule of law-related activities;
Protection and promotion of human rights;
Support for the restoration and extension of State authority;
Promotion of social and economic recovery and development.
Security Council mandates also reflect a number of extremely important cross-cutting, thematic tasks that are regularly assigned to UN peace operations on the basis of the following landmark Security Council resolutions:
Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security;
Security Council resolution 1612 (2005) on children and armed conflict;
Security Council resolution 1674 (2006) on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
[ These three above resolutions are critical to a peacekeeping plan for Ukraine]
Role of the UN General Assembly (UNGA)
The General Assembly plays a key role in the financing of peace operations.
The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. Comprising all 193 Member States of the UN, it provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of international issues including peace and security. [in our opinion the UNGA should take over the role of the UNSC until and if ever the UNSC can overcome its problems]
While not normally directly involved in political decisions on establishing or terminating UN peace operations, the General Assembly does play a key role in peace operation financing.[ In our opinion, the UNGA should play a role in political decisions on establishing or terminating UN peace operations].
As all UN Member States share the costs of peacekeeping, the Assembly apportions these expenses based on a special scale of assessments, taking into account the relative economic wealth of Member States.
The General Assembly, through its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) approves and oversees the peacekeeping budget. This includes how specific field operations are funded and equipped, based on detailed submissions provided to it by the UN Secretary-General.
Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations.
The General Assembly monitors the performance of UN Peacekeeping through its Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations. It was established in 1965 to conduct a comprehensive review of all issues relating to peacekeeping. The Committee reports on its work to the General Assembly through its Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization).
The "Uniting for Peace" resolution [ In our opinion this is urgently needed as a way of providing peacekeeping and protection now in Ukraine]
Under the UN Charter, however, the General Assembly cannot discuss and make recommendations on peace and security matters which are at that time being addressed by the Security Council.[This must change]
Despite the UN Charter's provision limiting the General Assembly's powers with regard to peace and security matters, there may be cases when the Assembly can take action.
In accordance with the General Assembly's "Uniting for Peace" resolution of November 1950 [resolution 377 (V)], if the Security Council fails to act, owing to the negative vote of a permanent member, then the General Assembly may act. This would happen in the case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression. The General Assembly can consider the matter with a view to making recommendations to Members for collective measures to maintain or restore international peace and security.[ So this is what is needed now and urgently]
This resolution was invoked only once in UN peacekeeping history, when in 1956 the General Assembly established the First UN Emergency Force (UNEF I) in the Middle East.
On 29 October 1956, Israeli forces launched an attack on Egypt and occupied Sinai and the Gaza Strip. A few days later British and French troops landed in the Suez Canal Zone. [The Security Council discussed the matter on 31 October, but no decision could be adopted, owing to the vetoes of France and the United Kingdom. Under the "Uniting for Peace" resolution, the matter was then referred to the General Assembly, which met in emergency special session from 1 to 10 November. The Assembly called for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of all foreign forces from occupied territories. It also established the first United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities. Following the dispatch of the Emergency Force to the area, the French and British forces left the Suez Canal Zone by 22 December 1956]. The withdrawal of the Israeli forces was completed by 8 March 1957.
The creation of UNEF, the first United Nations peacekeeping force, represented a significant innovation within the United Nations. It was not a peace-enforcement operation, as envisaged in Article 42 of the United Nations Charter, but a peacekeeping operation to be carried out with the consent and the cooperation of the parties to the conflict. It was armed, but the units were to use their weapons only in self-defence and even then with utmost restraint. Its main functions were to supervise the withdrawal of the three occupying forces and, after the withdrawal was completed, to act as a buffer between the Egyptian and Israeli forces and to provide impartial supervision of the ceasefire. In the event, UNEF, stationed entirely on Egyptian territory with the consent of the Government, patrolled the Egypt-Israel armistice demarcation line and the international frontier to the south of the Gaza Strip and brought relative quiet to a long-troubled area. The Canal, blocked as a result of the conflict, was cleared by the United Nations. UNEF I was withdrawn in May-June 1967 at the request of the Egyptian Government.