China & UN Peacekeeping

April 17, 2009

The International Crisis Group just published this report on China’s expanding role in UN peacekeeping operations.

Demand for blue helmets far outpaces supply, and shows no sign of abating. Concurrent to the sharp increase in peacekeeping missions since the end of the Cold War, Western countries have been withdrawing or reducing their commitments. While continuing to provide robust financial support to UN peacekeeping, they send far fewer personnel. Although China’s financial support for peacekeeping remains modest, it is now the second largest provider of peacekeepers among the five permanent members of the UNSC. While it does not currently provide combat troops, its provision of civilian police, military observers, engineering battalions and medical units fills a key gap and is important to the viability and success of UN peacekeeping operations.

China’s growing peacekeeping role is not really news, but the ICG has provided balanced coverage of this role with this report.  Worth the read.



The failure to elicit an effective humanitarian response to the Darfur Crisis from the UN Security Council demonstrates a fatal loophole in the mechanism of putting the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) into practice.  The world promised “never again” after the Rwandan genocide, yet R2P’s over-reliance on the UN Security Council means the promise will likely remain empty for Darfur.

In the case of Darfur, it is no longer necessary to dispute whether the incidents are eligible to be termed as genocide or crime against humanity. A state’s claim to sovereignty must build upon its ability to protect its own civilians and uphold a minimal level of human rights. When a state fails to protect its people from massive loss of life and mass starvation, when there are credible claims that hundreds and thousands of helpless women are being raped by armed forces, when foreign and domestic humanitarian aid workers are not entitled to safe passage, these circumstances legitimize humanitarian intervention and the deployment of peacekeeping forces.

When claims of “violation of sovereignty” are being used as a reason not to intervene during such a humanitarian crisis, it is merely an excuse exposing a lack of willingness to act.  Do UN security council members possess the political will to act?  When the conflicts in Sudan offer no strategic importance to the US, why bother? That’s why until now no government has stood out to advocate humanitarian intervention in Darfur.  Not the US, as they are engaging in two wars of terror. Not China, a nation depending partly on access to Sudan’s resources.

Despite the fact that the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine was adopted in the UN General Assembly, if the major players of the Security Council lack the willingness to support humanitarian intervention, especially when their economic or political interests are threatened, the doctrine would just become paperwork to be quoted by others.  Are the permanent members in the Security Council given too much discretion over controlling when humanitarian forces intervene?  Could this problem be solved if the Secretary General was given more authority to approve humanitarian interventions?

By Miu and Joe

Sources: MacFarlane, N.S., Thielking, C.J., Weiss, T.G. (2004). “The Responsibility to Protect: Is Anyone Interested in Humanitarian Intervention?”  Third World Quarterly, 25 (5), pp. 977-992

Peacekeeping: does it work?

December 10, 2008


Human security students will already be familiar with The Human Security Report’s arguments illustrating the positive impact of UN peacekeeping interventions.  The debate continues in the “development” blogosphere with some interesting further discussions about the efficacy of peacekeeping interventions, largely in response to Paul Collier’s Book, The Bottom Billion.  Some of the links to understanding this discussion are below:

  • Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It (OUP, 2007)
  • Michael Clemen’s review of  Paul Collier’s The Bottom Billion book (Foreign Affairs, Sept/Oct 2007) can be found here.
  • William Easterly’s “Foreign Aid Goes Military!” review of Collier’s book (New York Review of Books, Dec.2008) can be found here.
  • Chris Blattman’s defense of peacekeeping interventions (borrowing from Page Fortna and Andrew Gelman’s analysis ) can be found here.

Page Fortna and Lise Morjé Howard’s “Pitfalls and Prospects in the Peacekeeping Literature” (Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 11, June 2008) provides a further helpful list of research questions (and a review of existing literature on peacekeeping) for those interested in exploring the topic further.  Their proposed questions in need of further research are as follows:

  1. Who should keep peace? Who keeps peace most effectively, the UN, regional organizations, or state-led coalitions? Are different tasks (peacekeeping, peace enforcement, peacebuilding, transitional administration) better performed by different international actors?
  2. The use of force. Is force required to protect vulnerable populations? Empirically, are missions with more robust mandates more effective?
  3. Transitional administration. Can the international community foster sovereignty and democracy by violating sovereignty and democracy? What are the long-term effects of administration by the international community?
  4. Peacekeeping and democratization. Does peacekeeping foster the growth of democracy, inhibit it, or both? What are the long-term effects of peacekeeping on democratization?
  5. Perspectives of the peacekept. How is peacekeeping viewed by decision makers and populations within the countries to which peacekeepers deploy? What are the effects of peacekeeping at the micro level? Can regional variations within countries, or among individuals in war-torn states, be explained by exposure to and interaction with peacekeepers?

Ah, the plethora of  glorious research opportuntities…