Tag: peacekeeping

Peacekeeping’s Perverse Effects: Bolsonaro and Brazil’s Remilitarized Politics

In under two weeks, Brazil will have the second round of its presidential election. Former military officer and fan of fascists Jair Bolsonaro looks set after a strong first-round showing to defeat Workers’ Party (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad. If he wins, Bolsonaro will have strong party backing in Congress, though he does not care much for the legislature—in 1999, Bolsonaro said Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship “should have killed 30,000 people more, starting with Congress and [then-President] Fernando Henrique Cardoso.” Bolsonaro’s running mate is retired General Hamilton Mourão, his planning adviser and likely Minister of Transport is General Oswaldo Ferreira, an anti-environmentalist who looks for inspiration to infrastructure projects enacted by Brazil’s military government, and Bolsonaro has promised to stack his cabinet with generals. Current and retired military officers have been prominent backers of Bolsonaro, and Bolsonaro announced that he would not accept any result other than victory, menacingly saying “I cannot speak for military” but that there “could be a reaction by the Armed Forces” if he lost and deemed it due to PT fraud (never mind that the PT is not currently in power).

As Michael Albertus highlighted, the military is returning to Brazilian politics in a big way. While the military in Argentina was punished for its dictatorial Dirty War, elites with ties to dictatorship never faced sanctions or fully left the political scene in countries like Brazil and Chile. In Brazil, civilian leaders managed to weaken the military during the transition to democracy, but it retained a broad scope of activities, including internal security and development, especially in combating the drug trade, a mission with which current President Michel Temer tasked the military earlier this year in Rio de Janeiro. Bolsonaro spent his time as a representative in Congress “interested in helping the military above all else,” and his message that he will restore law and order both resonates with a Brazilian public fed up with high rates of violent crime and with a military keen to reassert itself. Continue reading


A solid investment if you know what you’re getting: Why continued support for UN peacekeeping is good policy for the US

The following is a guest post by Jay Benson and Eric Keels.  Jay Benson is a Researcher at One Earth Future (OEF), with research focusing on issues of peacekeeping, civilian protection and intrastate conflict.  Eric Keels is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Global Security at the Howard H. Baker Center and a Contractor with the OEF Research. His research focuses on international conflict management and democracy in post-war countries. 

During the first year of the Trump administration, the United States government has initiated numerous changes to the United States’ foreign policy. Since his first year in office, this new administration has signaled a 2020 withdrawal from Paris Climate Accords, backtracked on international efforts to sustain democracy, antagonized traditional US allies, and proposed a 23 percent cut in funding for the State Department. In addition to these radical shifts, the new administration has also been highly critical of international peacekeeping. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has consistently questioned the efficacy of international peacebuilding efforts in fragile countries such as Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The U.S. is not alone in this criticism, as new allegations of peacekeeper misconduct has drawn criticism of the management of UN peacekeeping operations. Given these critiques of international peacekeeping and peacebuilding, it is important to understand what benefits, if any, are provided by sponsoring these missions.

Given the current political climate’s increasing hostility to peacekeeping, what do we know about its efficacy in containing conflicts and protecting civilians? Continue reading


Instead of Heading to the Mall Today, What Say We Nudge the EU to Protect Congolese Civilians?

If you’re like me (or Dan) and you live in the U.S., you spent much of yesterday’s holiday feeling lucky to be living in America and not in Goma (or Mumbai. Or Darfur.) Well, in the spirit of Dan’s suggestion in his last post, note this appeal from Avaaz.org.

The brutal war in Congo is escalating, as a terrified Congolese people plead for Europe to send peacekeepers to protect them. European leaders are wavering as their council meeting approaches – we have just one week to persuade them to act.

We know how to do it — last week, Avaaz ran a hard-hitting advertisement in The Times of London, pressing UK leaders to support a European force or risk responsibility for genocide — their Africa minister called us immediately, and their position has shifted — the UK has moved toward supporting a European force!

The Congo has languished for too long, with unspeakable suffering. It now has a brief window of the world’s attention – let’s seize that window to bring peacekeepers who can help achieve lasting peace.

Instead of either shopping today or “buying nothing,” I think you should join me in buying a shot at action on this one (just click here!) The ads will make a difference in agenda-setting, if not in immediate policy, and even if it’s a long shot it’s the right thing to want to do.

Besides, If EU troops can do some good anywhere right now, the DRC is probably as good a place as any. The escalating situation in DRC’s North Kivu province is being compared to Srebrenica 1995 and Rwanda 1994. MONUC, the existing UN operation in DRC, is vastly outmatched and lacks the capacity or rules of engagement to implement its mandate to protect civilians; though the Security Council just authorized 3,000 more troops, it could take months before they materialize. If the EU has the capacity, its members should pony up, and people around the world should take the trouble to encourage them to do so.

But I also think that organizations like Avaaz should stop referring to such an interim force as “peacekeepers.” There’s currently no peace to keep in DRC, and what is needed is soldiers willing and logistically able to prevent atrocities. Let’s be very clear about that, and ask the EU to do the same.


Russian “Peacekeepers”?

As with the USG’s interpolation of the term “torture,” I am worried about the use of the term “peacekeeper” at foot in the war of words between Georgia and Russia, a misleading use with which the media should try not to be complicit.

A United Nations peacekeeping mission, UNOMIG, has been in place in Georgia since 1993, but as of this year it included only 149 total uniformed personnel, including 134 military observers and 15 police, these hailing from 31 countries besides Russia. (The UN Secretariat’s decision to allow Russia, a country with an arguable stake in the conflict, to contribute troops to what should have been perceived as a “neutral” mission, should be critically evaluated in light of recent events.) The UNOMIG mission mandate is here.

Since the conflict re-ignited this week, the Russian “peacekeepers” in S. Ossetia have been continually evoked by diplomats and the media, but are they actually members of UNOMIG at all? Russia’s involvement in the region also includes a different, much larger force, not exactly following standard UN rules of engagement for peace missions. Vladimir Socor of Eurasia Daily Monitor has been following developments in the region, where Georgia has long scoffed at Russia’s claims to be “peacekeeping”: he characterized the international presence in Georgia this way in May:

“UNOMIG with its 133 unarmed military observers is in no sense a peacekeeping operation. Rather, it is a passive bystander to Russia’s now 3,000-strong, heavily armed “peacekeeping” contingent.

Socor has got it backwards, though: UNOMIG is the definition of a peacekeeping mission – lightly armed observers whose job is to monitor a ceasefire, remain neutral, fire only in self-defense. If he’s correct about the nature of the so-called Russian “peacekeepers” in Georgia prior to August 8th, it’s disingenuous to refer to these as peacekeepers at all. Even moreso is Russia’s latest assertion that troops entering Georgia, which is now in a formal state of war with Russia, are also “peacekeepers.” In fact, there is no state of peace between the two countries now; these are military personnel engaging in armed combat, which is the very opposite of the concept of a peacekeeper.

All of this is not just academic: it has an important legal bearing on the nature of the armed conflict and the responsibilities of the parties. From Human Rights Watch:

“Peacekeepers, who are partaking in a peacekeeping mission in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, are not parties to the conflict and for the purposes of international humanitarian law are treated as civilians and are protected from being objects of attacks… However, peacekeepers are required to maintain neutrality and not become a party to the conflict… If Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia act in a manner that is not neutral and become a party to the conflict by taking a direct or active part in hostilities, they lose the protection afforded them as civilians… Peacekeepers who use their protected status to carry out attacks are acting perfidiously, which is a serious violation of international humanitarian law.”

In other words, if Georgia purposely targets peacekeepers associated with UNOMIG, it is considered a violation of the laws of war. Russian troops separate from UNOMIG and operating offensively, however, can be considered legitimate targets. And if Russia attempts to use peacekeeper status as a conceptual or tactical shield from behind which to launch attacks, it’s considered perfidy under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, to which both Russia and Georgia are signatories.

So far the shield, of course, is more rhetorical than tactical, for Georgia isn’t fooled. Neither should commentators be. In particular, the global media should avoid using the term “peacekeeper” to refer to Russian armed forces that have been deployed within Georgia since August 8th; and it should actively seek to clarify the distinction between neutral UN missions and military incursions by contiguous states in seccessionst conflicts. Conceptual confusion is the enemy of genuine peacekeeping forces everywhere.


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