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Collective Security after 20 Years of Multidimensional Peacekeeping: The Legitimacy of UN Peacebuilding
Unformatted Document Text:  About a decade after the tragic and devastating experiences of the international community in Rwanda and in Bosnia-Herzegovina, UN peacekeeping is breaking records in terms of operations and missions deployed, and in staff employed. Every year since the Millennium Summit, the UN Secretary-General (UNSG) has in his annual Report of the Work of the Organisation, noted new highs in the numbers and width of UN peacemaking activities. Prominent international scholars at the crossroads of academia and policy continuously note that despite some tragic experiences, “we shouldn’t get excessively discouraged about the strength of our own ideas” –that is, of the peaceful future of a world of liberal democratic states. 1 And in the peacekeeping literature, a new optimistic wave has been identified in connection with an emerging consensus that peacekeeping does indeed help keep peace. 2 This suggests that the general scepticism that developed towards wider and deeper peacekeeping operations addressing civil violence and war in the aftermath of Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina, has been reversed. I ask, how is this so? Following the end of the Cold War, an ambitious and encompassing practice of multidimensional peacekeeping took shape. However, the practice had unexpected consequences that were both tragic and costly. The UN proved both unable to prevent civil violence from re-erupting and to generate as well as implement viable exit- strategies. 3 At the same time international scholars and policy-makers alike increasingly underlined the fact that not only are intra-state wars and civil violence increasing, but they are also very likely to recur within less than five years of a cease- fire. Together the evaluations of peacekeeping and assessments of collective security, left the international community with understandings and perceptions of a reality in which not only were threats increasing, they were also becoming more difficult to reverse and the UN’s attempts to do so were proving to have costly consequences. 1 Francis Fukuyama, ‘They Can Only Go So Far’, The Washington Post, 24 August 2008, B01. 2 Virginia Page Fortna and Lise Morjé Howard, ‘Pitfalls and Prospects in the Peacekeeping Literature’, Annual Review of Political Science, Volume 11, 2008, pp. 283-301. 3 The High-Level-Panel-Report on Threats, Challenges and Change brought out the high risk of civil war recurrence as one of the main reasons for why the UN needs to be reformed. A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, High-Level-Panel Report on Threats, Challenges and Changes (New York, United Nations, 2005), p. 70. A year later, the Secretary-General restated the reasoning with specification as a justification for why he recommended the UN member-states to establish a Peacebuilding Commission. See In Larger Freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all, Report of the Secretary-General, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 21 March 2005 (A/59/2005), paragraph 114. See also Håvard Hegre, ‘The Duration and Termination of Civil War’, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Volume 46, Number 1, February 2002, pp. 243-252; Mary Kaldor, New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1999); and Mary Kaldor, Human Security (Cambridge, Polity Press, 2007), pp. 16-72. 2

Authors: Joensson, Jibecke.
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About   a   decade   after   the   tragic   and   devastating   experiences   of   the   international 
community  in  Rwanda  and  in Bosnia-Herzegovina,  UN  peacekeeping  is   breaking 
records in terms of operations and missions deployed, and in staff employed. Every 
year since the Millennium Summit, the UN Secretary-General (UNSG) has in his 
annual Report of the Work of the Organisation, noted new highs in the numbers and 
width   of   UN   peacemaking   activities.   Prominent   international   scholars   at   the 
crossroads   of   academia   and   policy   continuously   note   that   despite   some   tragic 
experiences, “we shouldn’t get excessively discouraged about the strength of our own 
ideas” –that is, of the peaceful future of a world of liberal democratic states.
 And in 
the peacekeeping literature, a new optimistic wave has been identified in connection 
with an emerging consensus that peacekeeping does indeed help keep peace.
  This 
suggests   that   the   general   scepticism   that   developed   towards   wider   and   deeper 
peacekeeping   operations   addressing   civil   violence   and   war   in   the   aftermath   of 
Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina, has been reversed. I ask, how is this so?
Following the end of the Cold War, an ambitious and encompassing practice 
of multidimensional peacekeeping took shape. However, the practice had unexpected 
consequences that were both tragic and costly. The UN proved both unable to prevent 
civil  violence from re-erupting and to generate  as  well as implement  viable  exit-
strategies.
  3
  At   the   same   time   international   scholars   and   policy-makers   alike 
increasingly underlined the fact that not only are intra-state wars and civil violence 
increasing, but they are also very likely to recur within less than five years of a cease-
fire. Together the evaluations of peacekeeping and assessments of collective security, 
left the international community with understandings and perceptions of a reality in 
which not only were threats increasing, they were also becoming more difficult to 
reverse and the UN’s attempts to do so were proving to have costly consequences. 
1
 Francis Fukuyama, ‘They Can Only Go So Far’, The Washington Post, 24 August 2008, B01.
2
 Virginia Page Fortna and Lise Morjé Howard, ‘Pitfalls and Prospects in the Peacekeeping Literature’, 
Annual Review of Political Science, Volume 11, 2008, pp. 283-301.
3
 The High-Level-Panel-Report on Threats, Challenges and Change brought out the high risk of civil 
war recurrence as one of the main reasons for why the UN needs to be reformed.  A More Secure 
World:   Our   Shared   Responsibility
,   High-Level-Panel   Report   on   Threats,   Challenges   and   Changes 
(New York, United Nations, 2005), p. 70. A year later, the Secretary-General restated the reasoning 
with specification as a justification for why he recommended the UN member-states to establish a 
Peacebuilding Commission. See In Larger Freedom: towards development, security and human rights  
for all
, Report of the Secretary-General, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 21 March 2005 
(A/59/2005),  paragraph 114. See also Håvard Hegre, ‘The Duration and Termination of Civil War’, 
The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Volume 46, Number 1, February 2002, pp. 243-252; Mary Kaldor, 
New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1999); and Mary 
Kaldor, Human Security (Cambridge, Polity Press, 2007), pp. 16-72.
2


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