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Blue helmets for world peace

Host of nations have stated that Peacekeeping contributions should be counted as an objective criterion for the UNSC permanent membership. India comes close on the heel in such a scenario, as one of the leading contributors. But there is stiff competition since Pakistan and Bangladesh are the leading donors over and above India.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2003 17:20 IST

In 1988, UN peacekeepers or its famed "blue helmets" won the Nobel Peace Prize. In the multi-polar world today, conflict is localized as much as it has increased.

As opposed to the Cold war years when conflict between the two nations led the entire globe into the nuclear threshold. The worldis now witness to confrontations that are more regional, or ethnic. However, multi-lateral action issought and UN'srole has increased manifold.

Take for instance, UN peacekeepers that have brought peace and democracy to Namibia, Cambodia, El Salvador, Mozambique, and East Timor. Then again, those that have shared the U.S. burden after regime change operations in Haiti and Afghanistan; and successfully kept the peace at Cyprus, Golan Heights and Western Sahara.

UN might be identified with a host of other initiatives, but UN Security Council is most famously recognized through its international peacekeeping efforts.

The peacekeeping missions, that began in the Middle East in 1948 after the Arab-Israel war, have spanned five decades. And even as we read this, peacekeepers would be busy installing peace and resolving conflict mandated by the UN Security Council in troubled conflict zones across the globe.

What is peacekeeping

According to UN's definition, "peacekeeping initially developed as a means of dealing with inter-state conflict and involved the deployment of military personnel from a number of countries, under UN command, to help control and resolve armed conflict". Today, peacekeeping is increasingly applied to intra-state conflicts and civil wars.

UN might be identified with a host of initiatives, but UNSC is most famously recognized for its international peacekeeping efforts. The operations that began in the Middle East in 1948 after the Arab-Israel war, have since then spanned five decades.

 Different types of peace

In recent years, peacekeeping tasks have become "more varied and complex and, although military personnel remain the backbone of most peacekeeping operations, proportionately larger numbers of civilians work alongside the military personnel."

Some 91 countries have contributed peacekeeping troops to UN missions. The top five are Pakistan with more than 4000 troops, Nigeria with more than 3000, India and Bangladesh with a little over 2500 and Ghana with more than 2000 troops.

Genesis of Peacekeeping

Though UNSC has been running peacekeeping operations since 1948, the enterprise gathered momentum in the face of ethnic strife in parts of Asia, Africa and Europe as the Cold War neared its end. Some 43 of UNSC's 56 peacekeeping missions have been launched in the last 15 years.

Its best known peacekeeping operations have been in the Balkans (where it has sent some eight different missions over the years), Sierra Leone, East Timor, Congo, Rwanda/Uganda, Somalia and Cambodia.

But in the mid-nineties, political and financial support for these missions started to dry up, especially in the United States. Active troop contributors were also discouraged as casualties rose and the UN fell behind in its payments.

Highest CasualtyMission
UN Mission in Congo-250
UN Interim Force in Lebanon - 246
UN Protection Force (in Former Yugoslavia) - 211

 Global Contributions

As UN peacekeeping declined, the US started to promote its own approach to peacekeeping, especially through NATO. But after the 1999 Kosovo war, opposition to unilateral peacekeeping increased and the UN was forced to re-enter the fray. It has since launched missions in East Timor and parts of Africa.

The UN is currently running 13 peacekeeping missions - 3 in the Middle East, three in Europe, 1 each in India and Pakistan and East Timor, and 5 in Africa.

First Published: Nov 28, 2003 19:52 IST