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Peacekeeping refers to activities that tend to create conditions that favor lasting peace.
Within the United Nations group of nation-state governments and organizations, there is a general understanding that at the international level, peacekeepers monitor and observe peace processes in post-conflict areas, and may assist ex-combatants in implementing peace agreement commitments that they have undertaken. Such assistance may come in many forms, including confidence-building measures, power-sharing arrangements, electoral support, strengthening the rule of law, and economic and social development. Accordingly, UN peacekeepers (often referred to as Blue Berets or Blue Helmets because of their light blue berets or helmets) can include soldiers, police officers, and civilian personnel.
The United Nations is not the only organization to implement peacekeeping missions. Non-UN peacekeeping forces include the NATO mission in Kosovo (with United Nations authorization) and the Multinational Force and Observers on the Sinai Peninsula or the ones organized by the EU like EUFOR RCA (with UN authorization). The Nonviolent Peaceforce is one NGO widely considered to have expertise in general peacemaking by non-governmental volunteers or activists.
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"He told me the UN was a 'pull' system, not a 'push' system like I had been used to with NATO, because the UN had absolutely no pool of resources to draw on. You had to make a request for everything you needed, and then you had to wait while that request was analyzed...For instance, soldiers everywhere have to eat and drink. In a push system, food and water for the number of soldiers deployed is automatically supplied. In a pull system, you have to ask for those rations, and no common sense seems to ever apply." (Shake Hands With the Devil, Dallaire, pp. 99-100)
After Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, Britain, France and Israel attempted to intervene without success. This lead to the 1956 Suez Crisis. Both sides wanted to cease hostilities, but a consensus did not take place. During a UN meeting on November 4, 1956, Lester Pearson, a Canadian diplomat, proposed the idea of a peacekeeping force wearing blue helmets for identification. Their goal was to ensure peace in a conflict and monitor the events. Pearson came up with the idea that each country would assign soldiers to the UN peacekeeping force. This was the first UN peacekeeping mission and the concept of peacekeeping was born.
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In 1988 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the United Nations peacekeeping forces. The press release stated that the forces "represent the manifest will of the community of nations" and have "made a decisive contribution" to the resolution of conflict around the world.
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That period led, in part, to the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, which works to implement stable peace through some of the same civic functions that peacekeepers also work on, such as elections. The Commission currently works with six countries, all in Africa. In 2013 the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2122, which among other things calls for stronger measures regarding women’s participation in conflict and post-conflict processes such as peace talks, gender expertise in peacekeeping missions, improved information about the impact of armed conflict on women, and more direct briefing to the Council on progress in these areas. Also in 2013, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), a UN women’s rights committee, said in a general recommendation that states that have ratified the UN Women’s Rights Convention are obliged to uphold women’s rights before, during, and after conflict when they are directly involved in fighting, and/or are providing peacekeeping troops or donor assistance for conflict prevention, humanitarian aid or post-conflict reconstruction. The Committee also stated that ratifying states should exercise due diligence in ensuring that non-state actors, such as armed groups and private security contractors, be held accountable for crimes against women.
In November 1961 the UN Security Council moved to prevent hostilities by Katangese troops in Congo. This caused Moise Tshombe, the Katanga secessionist leader to step up attacks on UN troops. On December 5, 1961, an Indian UN company supported by 3-inch (76 mm) mortar attacked a Katangese roadblock between the Katangese headquarters and the Elisabethville airfield. A Gurkha platoon attempted to link up with the company and reinforce the roadblock, but ran into opposition near the old airfield. The platoon attack on the rebel position, manned by about 90 Katangese troops, was led by Indian Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria. Despite having only 16 soldiers and being outgunned, Captain Salaria and his Gurkha soldiers' ferocity overwhelmed the enemy, who fled. In this engagement, Captain Salaria was shot in his neck, but continued to fight till he succumbed to his injuries. Due to his selfless act of courage, the UN Headquarters in Elisabethville was saved from encirclement and Captain Salaria was awarded India's highest military award, the Param Vir Chakra.
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Not all international peacekeeping forces have been directly controlled by the United Nations. In 1981, an agreement between Israel and Egypt formed the Multinational Force and Observers which continues to monitor the Sinai Peninsula.
The African Union (AU) is working on building an African Peace and Security Architecture that fulfills the mandate to enforce peace and security on the continent. In cases of genocide or other serious human-rights violations, an AU-mission could be launched even against the wishes of the government of the country concerned, as long as it is approved by the AU General Assembly. The establishment of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) which includes the African Standby Force (ASF) is planned earliest for 2015.
The United Nations Charter stipulates that to assist in maintaining peace and security around the world, all member states of the UN should make available to the Security Council necessary armed forces and facilities. Since 1948, about 130 nations have contributed military and civilian police personnel to peace operations. While detailed records of all personnel who have served in peacekeeping missions since 1948 are not available, it is estimated that up to one million soldiers, police officers and civilians have served under the UN flag in the last 56 years. As of March 2008, 113 countries were contributing a total 88,862 military observers, police, and troops.
Despite the large number of contributors, the greatest burden continues to be borne by a core group of developing countries, who often profit financially from their participation in such missions. The ten largest troop-contributing countries to UN peacekeeping operations as of December 2013 were Pakistan (8266), Bangladesh (7918), India (7849), Nigeria (4836), Nepal (4580), Jordan (3254), Ghana (3005), Rwanda (4751), Senegal (2998), and Egypt (2742).
As of March 2008, in addition to military and police personnel, 5,187 international civilian personnel, 2,031 UN Volunteers, and 12,036 local civilian personnel worked in UN peacekeeping missions.
As of 30 June 2014, 3,243 people from over 100 countries have been killed while serving on peacekeeping missions. Many of those came from India (157), Nigeria (142), Pakistan (136), Ghana (132), Canada (121), France (110) and the United Kingdom (103). Thirty percent of the fatalities in the first 55 years of UN peacekeeping occurred between 1993 and 1995.
Developing nations tend to participate in peacekeeping more than developed countries. This may be due in part because forces from smaller countries avoid evoking thoughts of imperialism. For example, in December 2005, Eritrea expelled all American, Russian, European, and Canadian personnel from the peacekeeping mission on their border with Ethiopia. Additionally, an economic motive appeals to the developing countries. The rate of reimbursement by the UN for troop contributing countries per peacekeeper per month include: $1,028 for pay and allowances; $303 supplementary pay for specialists; $68 for personal clothing, gear and equipment; and $5 for personal weaponry. This can be a significant source of revenue for a developing country. By providing important training and equipment for the soldiers as well as salaries, UN peacekeeping missions allow them to maintain larger armies than they otherwise could. About 4.5% of the troops and civilian police deployed in UN peacekeeping missions come from the European Union and less than one percent from the United States.
Security Council Resolution 1325 was the first major step taken by the UN to include women as active and equal actors in “the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security”. A critique of this resolution is that UNSCR 1325 proposes the implementing gender mainstreaming, however the progress that has been accomplished in this area has focused on women, rather than on assessing the impacts of planned action on both men and women. In 2010, a comprehensive 10-year impact study was conducted to assess the success of this resolution and found that the there was limited success with the implementation, particularly in the increasing women’s participation in peace negotiations and peace agreements, and sexual and gender-based violence has continued to be prevalent, despite efforts to reduce it.
In 2013 the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2122, which among other things calls for stronger measures regarding women’s participation in conflict and post-conflict processes such as peace talks, gender expertise in peacekeeping missions, improved information about the impact of armed conflict on women, and more direct briefing to the Council on progress in these areas. Also in 2013, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), a UN women’s rights committee, said in a general recommendation that states that have ratified the UN Women’s Rights Convention are obliged to uphold women’s rights before, during, and after conflict when they are directly involved in fighting, and/or are providing peacekeeping troops or donor assistance for conflict prevention, humanitarian aid or post-conflict reconstruction  The Committee also stated that ratifying states should exercise due diligence in ensuring that non-state actors, such as armed groups and private security contractors, be held accountable for crimes against women.
Some commentators have highlighted the potential to leverage peacekeeping operations as a mechanism for advancing military normalization. Michael Edward Walsh and Jeremy Taylor have argued that Japan's peacekeeping operations in South Sudan provide those promoting Japan's military normalization with "a unique opportunity to further erode the country’s pacifist constitution." "(U)nable to accept the full weight of modern peacekeeping operations without fundamental political, legal, and social changes," they conclude that "Japan’s peacekeepers remain ill prepared to tackle many serious contingencies requiring use of deadly force." For this reason, they suggest that Japan's continued participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations might force policy changes that ultimately push the country toward "a tipping point from which the normalization of Japan’s military (will be) the only outcome."
Diana Muir Appelbaum, has expressed concern that the creation of a military in Fiji for the purpose of serving in international peacekeeping missions, has produced a military powerful enough to stage 4 coups d’état (1987, 1999–2000, 2006, and 2009) and to rule Fiji as a military dictatorship for over two decades.
Studies of peacekeeping soldiers show both positive and negative effects. A study of 951 US Army soldiers assigned to Bosnia revealed that 77% reported some positive consequences, 63% reported a negative consequence, and 47% reported both. The peacekeepers are exposed to danger caused by the warring parties and often in an unfamiliar climate. This gives rise to different mental health problems, suicide, and substance abuse as shown by the percentage of former peacekeepers with those problems. Having a parent in a mission abroad for an extended period is also stressful to the peacekeepers' families.
Another viewpoint raises the problem that the peacekeeping may soften the troops and erode their combat ability, as the mission profile of a peacekeeping contingent is totally different from the profile of a unit fighting an all-out war.
Reporters witnessed a rapid increase in prostitution in Cambodia, Mozambique, Bosnia, and Kosovo after UN and, in the case of the latter two, NATO peacekeeping forces moved in. In the 1996 UN study called "The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children", former first lady of Mozambique Graça Machel documented: "In 6 out of 12 country studies on sexual exploitation of children in situations of armed conflict prepared for the present report, the arrival of peacekeeping troops has been associated with a rapid rise in child prostitution".
Gita Sahgal spoke out in 2004 with regard to the fact that prostitution and sex abuse crops up wherever humanitarian intervention efforts are set up. She observed that the "issue with the UN is that peacekeeping operations unfortunately seem to be doing the same thing that other militaries do. Even the guardians have to be guarded".
Uruguayan President Jose Mujica apologized to Haitian President Michel Martelly over the alleged rape of an 18-year-old Haitian man by Uruguayan UN peacekeeping troops. Martelly said "a collective rape carried out against a young Haitian" would not go unpunished. Four soldiers suspected of being involved in the rape have been detained.
Significant scientific evidence, first reported by the Associated Press, and later the New York Times, Al Jazeera, and ABC News has shown that Nepalese Peacekeeping troops stationed at a remote base in Mirebalais, Haiti, triggered a deadly cholera epidemic that has ravaged the country since October 2010. Cholera is a waterborne disease that causes diarrhea and vomiting, and it can kill in a matter of hours if patients do not receive rehydration intervention. As of July 2012, Haiti's cholera epidemic was the worst in the world: about 7,500 had died and about 585,000 Haitians (about 1 in every 20 Haitians) had become ill with the disease.
According to the UN-appointed Independent Panel of Experts on the Cholera Outbreak in Haiti, the conditions at the Peacekeeping base were unsafe, and allowed contamination of Haiti's river systems in at least two ways: "The construction of the water pipes in the main toilet/showering area [was] haphazard, with significant potential for cross-contamination...especially from pipes that run over an open drainage ditch that runs throughout the camp and flows directly into the Meye Tributary System". Additionally, the Independent Panel reported that on a regular basis black water waste from the Mirebalais base and two other bases was deposited in an open, unfenced septic pit that was susceptible to flooding and would overflow into the Meye Tributary during rainfall.
In November 2011, over 5,000 victims of the cholera epidemic filed a claim with the UN's internal claims mechanism seeking redress in the form of clean water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to control the epidemic, compensation for individual losses, and an apology. In July 2012, 104 Members of the United States Congress signed a letter affirming that the "actions of the UN" had brought cholera to Haiti and that the UN should "confront and ultimately eliminate cholera". In 2013 the UN rejected the claim and the victims' lawyers have pledged to sue the UN in court.
In response to criticism, particularly of the cases of sexual abuse by peacekeepers, the UN has taken steps toward reforming its operations. The Brahimi Report was the first of many steps to recap former peacekeeping missions, isolate flaws, and take steps to patch these mistakes to ensure the efficiency of future peacekeeping missions. The UN has vowed to continue to put these practices into effect when performing peacekeeping operations in the future. The technocratic aspects of the reform process have been continued and revitalised by the DPKO in its "Peace Operations 2010" reform agenda. This included an increase in personnel, the harmonization of the conditions of service of field and headquarters staff, the development of guidelines and standard operating procedures, and improving the partnership arrangement between the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), African Union, and European Union. A 2008 capstone doctrine entitled "United Nations Peacekeeping Operations: Principles and Guidelines" incorporates and builds on the Brahimi analysis.
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