Collective security organizations with vast resources and power face numerous challenges while trying to promote peace and security among its members. With 193 members, the United Nations (UN) takes actions on a number of issues from climate change and food production to terrorism and humanitarian issues. The United Nations is an incredibly complex and efficient institution but every institution has its limits. The UN encounters many issues in its mission to promote basic human rights and fight for humanity that become entangled with political and military power and/or asset struggles. Sometimes the UN’s actions are questioned and scholars struggle to try and determine where the UN should draw the line in regards to whether or not to take part in resolving some conflicts.
Using military force to make and/or enforce peace among warring parties that have not agreed to cease fighting poses various obstacles. The idea of a peace enforcement operation may look good in theory but using military force against military forces can sometimes be seen as adding fuel to an already substantial flame. With neutrality playing a key role in the UN’s decision making process, using force may look to bystanders as if the UN has chosen a side. Regardless of the case, a government or other militant groups non selectively killing innocent civilians, the idea of having an intervention on the basis of humanity may come with more problems than ideal solutions. Promoting international peace and humanitarian assistance is a key principle the UN tries to uphold. In the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), UN intervention may be biggest factor in settling disputes and restoring a war torn nation.
Take the state of Minnesota, now take away all the people. This is an incredibly close representation of just how many people have died in one stretch (1998-2006) of the Democratic experience in dealing with violent conflicts. Looking at the UN’s mission toward peace and security, human rights, governance and humanitarian and health emergencies and then looking at the situation in the DRC, one can only imagine the complexities and challenges of the situation. Yet, from a humanitarian perspective the largest fact raises its head: people are dying. Innocent people are being killed because they are caught in the conflict. A conflict pitting neighboring governments and dozens of warlords against each other over profitable gains.
Noting specifically in the case the parties involved: neighboring governments and dozens of warlords, shows that while it may have started as a civil war, it now has multiple actors within and outside the state. Some may argue that it is not the UN’s job to swoop in and fix every conflict in the world. Yet, in this case, where 5.4 million people have already died, the UN is perhaps the only institution with the capabilities and resolve to help. Obviously, the DRC government is failing its citizens and the number of deaths clearly shows its inability to protect and holdfast the security of its people. Some may argue, since there is no peace to keep, there is no point in wasting the time, money and resources to try. Yet the UN has the time and resources from an abundant number of countries, while there may be no peace to keep, there may be peace to gain. It is not in the UN’s mission to associate money with human life, nor is it their mission to sit on the sidelines and watch until a certain number of deaths have occurred from a conflict before they decide to intervene. (While a certain number of deaths may play a factor, they would have been analyzing the situation carefully and perhaps be working with the government in the background to attempt to come to a solution before intervention was deemed necessary.) The case in the DRC is different than say, 30,000 people died in a civil war that took place from 2008-2012 where the government worked tirelessly to end the conflict and violence and restore peace and security. Leaving a conflict go could potentially raise the threat of international peace and security being lost, especially when foreign governments are involved and aiding the conflict.
While the UN has had successfully defeated the largest antigovernment militia, perhaps instead of tackling the remaining ones head on, they can focus more of their attention on the foreign backers of the remaining groups. With the offending action of those foreign states being threatening international peace and security by supporting the militias, members can be called on to act against the offending states. The states may not be attacking or threatening to attack directly, but the facts are known they are providing the tools and assistance necessary exacerbating the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Enacting strict economic sanctions while simultaneously threatening military intervention may be enough to intimidate foreign backers of these militias to think about the new costs that are going to come from this conflict. It could potentially reduce the bargaining range and resolve of outside forces in their mission toward profits found in the DRC. Whether or not this was tried before the UN sided with the current government in the DRC does not matter, as it can still be applied concurrently.
The UN’s use of its shield of neutrality when intervening in conflicts is strong and in many cases extremely helpful. However, a shield only works when its being applied. Looking at each conflict from a neutral perspective as well as intervening when necessary on the same grounds can help prevent discrepancies like in the DRC conflict. Each situation is going to pose different levels of difficulty. Standing by and watching conflict excel and run its course as has happened in the past is easy. Eventually, the conflicts will hopefully come to an end or at least a stalemate relieving the innocent from the unnecessary suffering caused by the disputes. However, this could take an unknown amount of time. Depending on the situation and how many actors are involved, it could be five years or it could be 100 years. Having a neutral party intervene when necessary could reduce these numbers drastically, depending on the organizations amount of persistence and resolve.
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