Protecting the Global Civilian from Violence: UN discourses and practices in fragile countries

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The focus of the book is on successes and failures of the UN peacekeeping in the post-Cold War era. The book studies 32 UN peacekeeping operations by comparing them with unilateral operations by great powers (US, UK, France and Russia, 15 operations). The criterion of success in the book is based on effects on state fragility and conflict fatalities during and after operations compared to the situation before the operation. The reasons for success and failure are studied by using computer-assisted textual analysis and qualitative discourse analysis and by comparing discursive approaches to fragility and fatality statistics in time and between operations.
The book concludes that UN peacekeeping operations have been better than unilateral protective operations in the promotion of state stability and the reduction of conflict fatalities, despite the fact that, in general, the cases that the UN has accepted to work on are often more challenging than the cases that unilateral interventions have intervened in.
UN discourse defines host states as primary agents of protection, whereas unilateral interventions are often based on the interpretation of host states as the main threat to human security. UN approach of considering host states as allies is associated with success in terms of reduction of fatalities and state fragility, while the unilateral approach has associated with failure to save lives.
UN discourse strand on protection is much less power-oriented than unilateral discourses: protection does not mean deterrence, persuasion or destruction of a rogue threatening agent, but rather measures to help protectors of civilians. This approach is also clearly statistically very significantly associated with UN success in the protection of civilians.
UN failures are related to the lack of resources or the blending of UN and non-UN and unilateral operations in the same host country. Arguments against UN operations often refer to the UN failures in Rwanda and Bosnia. In these operations the lack of capacity to mobilise resources has been the crucial reason for failure. Yet the situation with regards to the mobilisation of resources has changed with the UN General Assembly resolutions 55/235 and 55/236 (2001). Thus, references to Bosnia and Rwanda are no longer completely relevant when assessing the current capacity of the UN to react to mass atrocities.
The power of the five permanent members of the UNSC to block UN action by using veto powers as an obstacle to protection has been overestimated. Great powers rarely (UK and France never) use their veto powers in a way that limit the use of force for the purpose of protection: After Cold War US has done that once (ending of the Bosnia operation), Russia once (related to the mechanism of funding of the operation in Cyprus) and China twice. Veto powers have been used mostly on questions related to Israel (US: 16 times) and Syria (Russia:14 times). In both countries the use of veto powers has blocked paths to sanctions against the two regimes, but in both countries the UN has been allowed to establish peacekeeping activities. Aggressive, partisan use of force would not be likely to save lives in either of these countries (the problem with such use of force is defined in section 1b above).
Strong great power influence on UN operations has bent UN impartiality principle. This has had a statistically significant association with reduced UN efficiency in saving lives.
Original languageEnglish
ISBN (Electronic)9780429285639
ISBN (Print)9781000387131
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2021


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