UNTIL THE LATE 1980s, international relations theory had a rather crude attitude towards normative research in general. Although, after decades of neglect, norms had finally found their way into mainstream international relations through the study of institutions in the early 1980s, the realist and liberal ‘paradigms’ of international relations, and for that matter, their ‘neo’ variants, pursued their rival research programmes on strikingly similar premises. They shared the same assumptions as they engaged in empirical research, and, as a by-product, either continuously re-created the same ‘reality’ in their findings1 or were entrapped by shared dilemmas.2 They proceeded, as Keohane aptly puts it, on a number of key ‘rationalistic’ assumptions, including rationality on the part of actors (mainly states), scarcity of and competition over resources, exchange theory, and transaction-cost arguments.3 These epistemological, and ultimately ontological, premises have been increasingly challenged by what Keohane loosely calls ‘reflective’ approaches, the shared characteristic of which can be said to include their rejection of fixed identities and preferences.4
In a highly original study of the UN’s evolution, Knight draws on Keohane’s rationalistic-reflective distinction (reworded slightly as ‘rationalist’ and ‘reflectivist’), and utilises a particular analytical approach which he implicitly associates with the reflectivist camp, namely Cox’s ‘historical structural’ approach.5 While he sets out to ‘understand and explain multilateral evolution and the related question global governance’ through the method of historical structures,6 his study has also an explicit prescriptive quality. It places the UN as an organisation in the broader context of the evolution of multilateralism (understood as a deep organising principle which may have several concrete manifestations – institutions), pays particular attention to the social processes that constitute and tend to transform world orders, examines the UN’s responses to exogenous and endogenous pressures, and concludes that the UN is capable of changing.7 Viewed from the historical structural perspective, ‘the UN system can be conceived as evolving and changing, not in any predetermined direction but according to the demands and challenges of international society at any given time’.8
Knight’s research is noteworthy in that it seeks to apply a highly sophisticated body of theoretical literature to the study of multilateral institutions through an examination of the UN. Especially important for us is his application of historical structural ‘insights’ to the study of institutional evolution, with a constant focus on social forces and pressures that impact on the UN’s organisational change.9 The notion of ‘historical structures’, as we shall demonstrate below, provides a particularly promising avenue to investigate the normative connection between the UN and intra-state conflicts. While this notion is utilised by Knight to explore possibilities, potentials and prospects in the evolution of multilateralism, it is not adequately applied to the analysis of past change. Rather it is heavily complemented, indeed occasionally substituted, by a semi-constructivist ‘learning’ approach, revolving around the UN’s ‘reflexive (non-purposive) adaptation’ and ‘planned (purposive) change’ in response to pressures.10 In other words, the nature of power configurations and of change is not adequately emphasised. The structural element as a constraint and facilitator is certainly taken into account. However, since the main preoccupation is to develop a reform agenda for the UN, voluntarist arguments are given more prominence. That is to say, the emphasis is put on the availability of the best possible options given the limitations. Equally importantly, change in actors’ ideas, values, preferences vis-à-vis the UN – that is, the focal point of our study – is only tangential to Knight’s purposes. While mindful of Knight’s work, therefore, we propose to bring more of Cox’s analytical model to the fore. This does not mean, however, that this study exemplifies a direct adoption and application of the historical structural method. Rather, it means that our approach to the meaning and implications of normative change draws on historical structural insights.
In contrast to several other structuralist approaches, Cox conceives of structures as ‘limited totalities’ which do not incorporate everything, but rather represent a particular sphere of human activity in its historically located totality. A ‘historical structure’ (borrowed from Braudel) is merely a ‘framework for action’11 – though a considerably influential one – which consists of a particular configuration between material forces, ideas and institutions at a given moment in time. Such a triangular configuration, according to Cox, ‘does not determine actions in any direct mechanical way but imposes pressures and constraints. Individuals and groups may move with the pressures or resist and oppose them, but they cannot ignore them.’12 The relationship between the agency and structure, therefore, can be seen as ‘open-ended’ within limits. The relationship between the three corners of the triangle, that is, material capabilities, ideas and institutions is also open-ended in that the direction and extent of influence between these factors depend on the historical context within which the structure takes shape.
‘Material capabilities’, the first corner of the triangular structure, include dynamic productive capabilities (such as technology) as well as accumulated resources. They at least implicitly refer to ‘interests’ in the realist sense of the word. ‘Ideas’, the second corner, comprise not only intersubjective meanings and interpretations of the world, which can be seen as bonding individuals and groups, but also rival collective images of social order based on such separating characteristics as ethnicity and religion. Cox is less nuanced on the meaning of ‘institutions’,13 but seems to refer to both types of institutions suggested by Keohane: general patterns of activity and specific exemplars of patterns of activity (including international organisations).14
Historical structure is an illuminating concept for our study in a number of respects. First, it is well suited to examine the relationship between norms, interests, and the UN, which arguably correspond or, at least, directly relate to the three corners of historical structure. This point will be further clarified during our discussion of the UN Charter below. Secondly, the idea that there are multiple historical structures15 which succeed each other by a process of structural transformation provides useful insight for the comparison envisaged between the early 1960s and the early 1990s. Thirdly, the notion that cohesion and contradiction are both inherent in historical structures sheds light on the countervailing tendencies that emerge and grow in the context of historically situated power configurations, yet manage to bring about the end of those structures in favour of new ones. Finally, the notions of hegemonic versus counterhegemonic tendencies and hegemonic versus non-hegemonic structures illuminate changes in actors’ thought patterns, including their general value preferences and their specific normative responses to institutions.
Cox’s notion of hegemony (borrowed from Gramsci) is more sophisticated than the state-driven hegemony as can be found, for instance, in hegemonic stability theory. Hegemony, as used by Cox, refers to:
a coherent conjunction or fit between a configuration of material power, the prevalent collective image of world order (including certain norms) and a set of institutions which administer the order with a certain semblance of universality (that is, not just as the overt instruments of a particular state’s dominance) … The notion of hegemony as a fit between power, ideas, and institutions makes it possible to deal with some of the problems in the theory of state dominance as the necessary condition for a stable international order; it allows for lags and leads in hegemony. For example, so appealing was the nostalgia for the nineteenth century hegemony that the ideological dimension of the pax britannica flourished long after the power configuration that supported it had vanished.16
In other words, although power configurations may well be at the root of hegemony, their influence is exercised by the particular historical structure to which they are incorporated. By implication, then, the direct impact of a state or group of states on the rest of the world ceases to be a requirement for hegemony to last. What is more, any one of the three corners of a given historical structure may be more enduring than the other two: this suggests itself as a particularly interesting analytical tool in understanding potential discrepancies (lags and leads) between interests, norms and institutional practices. A given institution, to give an example, may persist over time and find its way into the next historical structure, even if the interests and norms to which it was originally tied have disappeared.
Our analysis will benefit from the historical structural approach, but it should be re-emphasised that our normative enquiry is by no means intended as a study of international relations theory. Reference to theory is being made here primarily in three ways, to further three specific purposes. In the first place, it is used to explore the nature of the postulated normative change and grasp its wider meaning. Secondly, theory is used to complement and illuminate the empirical aspects of our study. Our overviews and detailed case studies will gain explanatory utility to the extent that they interact with theoretical insights. Thirdly, we will use theory to reflect conceptually on the trends that emerge from our study. In other words, theory will help us to situate the wider implications of our findings. With our theoretical premises clarified, we shall now introduce the main concepts that inform this study.
‘Norms’, as applied in this study, refer to ‘collective expectations about proper behaviour for a given identity’.17 But exactly whose expectations of whom do we have in mind? Normative international relations theory has generally put the emphasis on collective expectations that states have of each other. It is central to our argument that, conceptually, certain norms may pertain to a single, unique actor, for it is perfectly possible that a ‘given identity’ may belong to no one but a unique player.18 In its various capacities as forum, instrument and actor in its own right, the UN is a unique entity mirroring (but also influencing) the political and normative processes in the entire international community. This study focuses on the expectations which relevant actors have of the UN in relation to intra-state conflicts as can be discerned by examining peacekeeping environments.19
The ‘UN’ is used in this study to refer to any actor who has the capacity, stemming from the Charter or from a peacekeeping mandate, to take decisions and actions (at the political, strategic, operational or tactical level, as appropriate)20 on behalf of the United Nations. The UN as defined encompasses a great many actors including the Security Council and the General Assembly at the top of the hierarchy, through to the Secretary-General and his Special Representatives, all the way down to a peacekeeper or a field officer. Depending on the case, the UN may also include representatives of the subsidiary bodies and the wider UN system (e.g. the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) or the World Health Organization (WHO)), provided that they are relevant to the mission mandated by the deliberative bodies.
Thus far we have referred more than once to the normative expectations by ‘relevant actors’ of the UN. What makes an actor ‘relevant’? Simply put, any attribute of an actor (e.g. aims, interests, power, history, geography) which is likely to make it influential, directly or indirectly, in shaping the UN’s involvement in a given intra-state conflict. Particularly ‘relevant’ from this perspective are three principal constituents of the UN itself: the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Secretariat. While each of these constituents is important in its collective capacity, the Permanent Five in the Security Council, influential permanent or ad hoc coalitions in the General Assembly, and the Secretary-General clearly stand out as deserving of closer scrutiny. These actors have obvious and substantial bearing on the UN’s objectives, functions and authority vis-à-vis intra-state conflicts. This study will therefore systematically focus on all these actors, though, depending on the case, one may deserve more attention than another.
It is nevertheless possible to identify other actors who may be said to exercise lesser but none the less significant influence. The following actors will be taken into account to the extent that they prove influential in shaping the UN’s response to a given intra-state conflict: first, states as represented by their governments; secondly, inter-governmental organisations (IGOs) with global or regional focus and membership; thirdly, the members of the wider ‘UN system’, which are frequently active in peacekeeping environments; fourthly, a variety of transnational actors, including several non-governmental organisations (NGOs)21 and media organisations; finally, internal parties to violent conflicts.
Over and above the Permanent Five, there may be reason to examine the role of a number of other states. Those states which are most directly affected by a given intra-state conflict would be particularly relevant, for they would be likely to press for a specific course of UN action. Those which supply personnel for a given UN peacekeeping operation would also require attention, since they could exert influence both in the peacekeeping theatre and on the floor of the General Assembly. Regional IGOs almost always express opinions as to how intra-state conflicts in their respective regions should be handled and what role the UN should play. In addition, such inter-/trans-national players as the UNHCR,22 the WHO23 and CARE International24 frequently become involved in environments of intra-state conflict, express normative preferences and embody expectations of the UN. The media may deserve particular attention. The ‘CNN factor’ has now become part of the commonplace explanation of the US involvement in Somalia.25 As for the internal parties to a conflict, their views as to the UN’s role prove crucial in shaping or changing international prescriptions in certain peacekeeping environments. The study will, therefore, attempt to take into account the role of a wide array of actors to the extent that they exercise discernible influence in the conflicts under consideration.
Normativity centred around the UN Charter
In this study, we are particularly interested in how potentially incompatible Charter principles are resolved by relevant actors, and how this resolution reflects on their prescriptions for the UN. Whether this resolution undergoes periodic change – presumably in response to changing circumstances – is another crucial matter deserving of attention. In other words, the ‘normative’, for our purposes, refers primarily to the express purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter and interpreted by relevant actors. To make the scope of this study clearer, it is worth re-emphasising that the domain of the ‘normative’ neither begins nor ends with the Charter. Even within the relatively limited terrain of international politics, norms are not confined to those enunciated in the Charter. Such aims as the ‘preservation of the society of states’ or the ‘maintenance of balance of power’, for instance, have also been proposed as international norms.26 To the extent that international actors consider the achievement of such aims as contributing to the international common good, those principles may indeed be regarded as constituting part of the normative domain of international politics. The approach we adopt here is deliberately confined to the principles explicitly pertaining to the functioning of the UN system, not least because they provide a common discourse within which international actors express and even negotiate their value preferences.27
The Charter has hardly changed since the inception of the UN.28 As the ‘constitutional’ foundation of the UN system, it enshrines several general prescriptive guidelines which each member of the organisation – by virtue of signing and ratifying the Charter – has accepted to follow. While the Charter entails certain expectations by member states of each other, it also provides the prescriptive basis for actions by each principal organ, subsidiary body or affiliated agency within the UN system. Hence, it lays out the general standards for judging the acts and actions attributable to the UN as an actor. The Charter, then, can be considered as the overall prescriptive framework which a significant number of key actors have explicitly embraced.29
One particularly important feature of the Charter is that it can be considered as the meeting point of ‘ideas’ and ‘institution’ – that is, two of the three corners in a historical structure. The Charter reflects a set of ideas, values and preferences that prevailed in the international community at a particular moment in time. To be more precise, the ideas that are introduced into the Charter (that are constitutive of the Charter) necessarily derived from those which were in circulation at the time of the UN’s creation. The Charter itself, however, is the embodiment or, to be more precise, the institutionalisation, of those ideas. The UN, by virtue of its Charter, is an institution, in that it ‘involves persistent and connected sets of rules that prescribe behaviour, roles, constrain activity, and shape expectations’.30 The UN, furthermore, is the/an institution of a particular historical structure. The ideas/values and the power configuration in the international community at a particular historical juncture found their expression in a corresponding institution, that is, the Charter (which also gives life to the UN as an organisation and actor). It is with this notion in mind that we problematise the principles enshrined in the Charter.
The problematique of this study can be expressed in reference to a simplified model of historical structure. The institution (for our purposes: the Charter) has not changed over time. Yet, the interpretations of the Charter may well have changed. Put differently, a structural change may have taken place, with the institution lagging behind the material capabilities and ideas. The ideas, values and preferences of international actors (i.e. the ‘ideational’ corner of the triangle) may now be different from what they were in earlier periods. The international community may be relating to the Charter in a radically different way than before. Put still differently, actors’ normative preferences may not correspond to the Charter the way they did in earlier periods, yet they would still need to be in close interaction with both the Charter and the new or evolving power configuration, since all of these would be part and parcel of a new strong, change-resistant, constraining factor: another historical structure.
The Charter reflects several international values, the most important of which is ‘peace and security’. Our research is based on the premise that this principle is the least contested within the scope of the Charter. Not only does it figure prominently in the first two paragraphs of the Charter’s first article,31 but it is the overriding international value in the sense that virtually no actor then or since has questioned its desirability or even primacy. Whatever the UN does, it does it, at least in part, in order to protect and promote peace and security. But it would be interesting to know how relevant players problematise this overriding and uncontested value, especially in relation to other important principles in the Charter.
On close inspection it becomes evident that most principles scattered through the Charter cluster around three other basic values and are closely associated with them:32 state sovereignty, human rights and socio-economic development. State sovereignty and human rights seem to be especially relevant to the formulation of the UN’s response to intra-state conflicts. As such these two values deserve our systematic attention, though socio-economic development also needs to be taken into account to the extent that it is integrated into normative prescriptions for UN peacekeeping. How do international players resolve potential inconsistencies between these broadly conceived principles as they manifest themselves in intra-state conflicts? Which of these Charter values inform UN peacekeeping in intra-state conflicts, and to what extent? What are the collective expectations of and prescriptions for the UN that emerge in the process? These questions go right to the heart of the normative framework on which is based the definition or interpretation of the UN’s role in intra-state conflicts.
Peacekeeping is only one of the possible modes of UN involvement in intrastate conflicts, but it has become the most visible and topical one. First we shall briefly introduce UN peacekeeping and problematise its application to intra-state conflicts, bearing in mind that our focus is not on peacekeeping per se but on peacekeeping environments in which actors’ normative views are expressed.
The exact meaning of peacekeeping is open to debate. This is largely a definitional problem, as different notions of peacekeeping have gained currency at different times and places.33 Different scholars and practitioners refer to different phenomena as peacekeeping.34 The International Peace Academy defines peacekeeping as ‘the prevention, containment, moderation and termination of hostilities between or within states through the medium of third-party intervention, organised and directed internationally, using multinational military, police, and civilian personnel to restore and maintain peace’.35 This broad definition is useful at least in that it encompasses practically all of the activities which have been referred to as peacekeeping in various contexts.36
For our purposes it is unnecessary to elaborate on peacekeeping per se. We concentrate instead on a particular subset of peacekeeping, which occupies the central place among all peacekeeping activities: UN peacekeeping. Although the origins of peacekeeping can be found in the League of Nations experience, the term itself came properly into use only with the creation of a UN-authorised mission in 1956,37 and was formalised when the UN General Assembly established the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations38 in February 1965 to deal with peacekeeping matters.39
UN peacekeeping: an ambiguous enterprise
The UN’s peacekeeping doctrine, although relatively more developed, suffers nevertheless from the same definitional problems. To begin with, we find no mention of peacekeeping in the Charter.40 One study maintains that the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) had a peacekeeping component in addition to the other two components (i.e. civilian police and voter identification).41 That study clearly reserves the term peacekeeping for deployment of military personnel in a given conflict. Today, however, UN operations consisting solely of unarmed civilian police forces are also considered peacekeeping: the UN Civilian Police Support Group (UNPSG) in Croatia’s Prevlaka Peninsula is a good example. What is more, the Mission of the Representative of the Secretary-General in the Dominican Republic (DOMREP) back in the 1960s has long taken its place in the UN’s semi-official list of peacekeeping operations, although it consisted of nothing more than a few observers.42 So who are UN peacekeepers, and what kinds of tasks constitute peacekeeping in the context of the UN? It is partly this ambiguity which makes UN peacekeeping an especially relevant focal point for our research. The different – at times vastly different – notions of UN peacekeeping entertained by different actors make it possible to explore the complex normative framework within which their prescriptions for the UN take shape. The objectives, functions and authority assigned to the UN through peacekeeping are necessarily closely connected with actors’ normative views.
UN peacekeeping was developed essentially as an ad hoc mechanism43 to deal with threats to peace and security in the Cold War environment where the Charter’s vision of collective security seemed unattainable. It resulted from the pragmatic approach by the UN’s international civil servants who, despite the unfavourable political environment, wished the organisation to perform its basic function: maintenance of peace and security. It is against this background that the founding fathers of UN peacekeeping, Dag Hammarskjöld and his team, tried to develop guidelines within which this mechanism could safely operate, presumably in full accordance with Charter principles.
The most commonly suggested understanding of UN peacekeeping seems to have been derived from the Hammarskjöld–Pearson recipe44 for UN peacekeeping in the 1950s.45 This understanding of UN peacekeeping is premised upon five basic principles,46 the exact meaning and implications of which have been continuously debated ever since they were first proposed. First, UN peacekeepers cannot be deployed without the consent of the parties to the conflict (principle of consent). Secondly, UN peacekeepers should not themselves become a party to the conflict and not favour one party to another (principle of neutrality/impartiality).47 Thirdly, UN peacekeepers are not allowed to use force except in self-defence (principle of non-use of force). Fourthly, UN peacekeepers should be made up of voluntary contributions of contingents from small, neutral countries. And finally, day-to-day control of the UN operation should belong to the UN Secretary-General. The first three of these peacekeeping norms are especially important for they provide behavioural guidelines for an ‘ideal’ UN peacekeeping operation. Consent, neutrality/impartiality and non-use of force may even be treated as ‘constitutive norms’48 of peacekeeping, given the belief that operations lacking any of these three principles cannot be called peacekeeping.49
The original doctrine notwithstanding, there is no agreement in the peacekeeping literature as to which missions constitute ‘peacekeeping’. Although many studies, typologies and classifications of UN peacekeeping seem to share a substantial subset of individual instances, their discrepancies are significant enough to thwart any straightforward conceptualisation.50 UN peacekeeping, when used in a broad sense, seems to include three more or less distinct types of mission.
First are the relatively small-scale UN fact-finding and/or peace observation missions. One UN publication clearly distinguishes between two categories of UN peacekeeping operations: ‘observer missions’ and ‘peacekeeping forces’.51 Yet, not all UN-initiated small-scale observer missions are universally thought to belong to the domain of UN peacekeeping. The UN Special Committee on the Balkans (UNSCOB, 1947–54), for example, is cited by some sources as the first UN peacekeeping mission.52 Others disagree, arguing that UNSCOB members were not operating under the Secretary-General’s authority.53
The second category consists of those UN operations which are also often labelled ‘UN peace enforcement’. UN missions authorised – whether in part or at a certain stage – to take enforcement measures in certain conflicts have been frequently included in the realm of UN peacekeeping.54 It is this category of UN operations which gave rise to the conception of ‘wider peacekeeping’.55 This category also includes those non-enforcement operations which have nevertheless been actively supplemented by auxiliary UN-authorised enforcement operations.56 These operations also contributed to the extensive and still continuing debate on ‘humanitarian intervention’.57
A brief review of the literature suggests that UN peace enforcement as such is usually conceived of in two different ways: either with reference to the actual coercive nature of the operation in the field, or with reference to the constitutional basis of any mission. The second approach puts the emphasis on whether or not a given mission has been mandated under Chapter VII.58 There are clear-cut cases where a mission, at least in part or at a certain stage, was explicitly mandated under this chapter (e.g. Somalia). For the proponents of the second approach, however, there are also a number of unclear cases, where the mandate requires special interpretation. Whether or not a given mandate emanated from Chapter VII was not always explicitly stated by the authorising organ of the UN.59
The third category, which may be said to constitute UN peacekeeping in the narrower sense, has its own conceptual difficulties. It is now commonplace to refer to two UN peacekeeping operations as instances of ‘classical’ UN peacekeeping: the United Nations Emergency Forces in Sinai (UNEF I and II: 1956 and 1973 respectively).60 Having been deployed between the armed forces of the belligerent states, their main, and perhaps sole, function was to supervise an agreed-upon cease-fire and deter any possible breaches of it.61 The great majority of UN peacekeeping operations, especially in (but not limited to) the post-Cold War period, on the other hand, had more ambitious mandates. Moreover, these operations did not deal with purely inter-state conflicts – a fact which has long challenged earlier interpretations of the Charter, where the emphasis was on the meaning and implications of ‘international’ peace and security.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of UN peacekeeping in the narrow sense is its ambiguous constitutional basis. Hammarskjöld’s well-known description of UN peacekeeping as ‘Chapter VI and 1/2’ operations is informative in two respects. On the one hand, UN peacekeeping operations are distinguishable from relatively small-scale observer/fact-finding missions insofar as the latter cannot operate outside the framework of Chapter VI. As far as their operational objectives and their personnel strengths are concerned, it is neither possible nor necessary for observer/fact-finding missions to pass the Chapter VII threshold.62 On the other hand, it may not be appropriate to refer to missions which have been authorised (explicitly or by implication) under Chapter VII as peacekeeping.63 According to the original doctrine, UN peacekeeping forces are not supposed to ‘impose’ peace on the combatants, though they do contain a clear element of deterrence. After all, UN peacekeeping generally makes use of military personnel. None the less, UN peacekeepers, although they may on occasion have the capacity, opportunity, or need to pass the Chapter VII threshold, would normally be expected to operate in the absence of a Chapter VII authorisation.64
Defining UN peacekeeping in intra-state conflicts
The nature and characteristics of UN peacekeeping, then, cannot be taken as a given. In the post-Cold War period we have seen clear-cut Chapter VII operations, which were in practice neither authorised nor designed to carry out enforcement (for instance, the UN Transitional Administration (UNTAES) in Croatia). Some commentators have actually argued that with this last category of operations we have seen the birth of Chapter VII peacekeeping as opposed to Chapter VII peace enforcement.65 By the same token, it has been observed that the Hammarskjöldian ‘norms of peacekeeping’ have sometimes been abandoned in this period.66 Peacekeeping, therefore, is a rather ambiguous category. Its ambiguity arises in part from the absence of any explicit reference to it in the Charter. More important perhaps is the lack of clarity as to the criteria by which this generic activity is to be distinguished from associated notions (especially peace enforcement), or broken down into specific types. Take the examples of ‘wider’,67 ‘expanded’,68 ‘multi-dimensional’69 and ‘second generation’70 peacekeeping.71 There are considerable conceptual overlaps between these and similar categories. Not infrequently they are used synonymously, especially in policy circles.
For our purposes it is particularly useful to recall and underline a long detected fact: each UN response is in fact a unique mission combining different types of operational tasks, personnel, methods and instruments.72 In this study UN peacekeeping is understood in the broader sense of the term, and encompasses therefore quite diverse types of operation. The term is employed in its popular sense – as a catch-all phrase. A distinction between peacekeeping and peace enforcement (or, for that matter, between different ‘types’ of peacekeeping) is neither relevant nor helpful to our analytical purpose. The potential drawback of any rigid distinction between the two notions for our particular research plan becomes abundantly clear in such cases as Somalia or Bosnia. If we examined the two UN Operations in Somalia (UNOSOM I and UNOSOM II) and the Unified Task Force (UNITAF) in isolation from each other, for example, it would become extremely difficult to form any judgement about the normative implications of the UN’s response to the Somalia conflict. Was there a collective normative expectation in the international community that the UN should use force against one or more of the intra-state parties, or, for that matter, against disorganised groups of intra-state ‘bandits’ in Somalia to achieve a certain objective? If one looks purely at the ‘peacekeeping’ component of the mission (in the narrow sense), one might be too quick to answer ‘no’. But that might not be an entirely fair judgement in the presence of the evolving mandate and associated actions taken by combat forces with the UN’s blessing. Since this study sets out to explore international players’ normative views on the UN’s role, it is more fruitful to ascertain what exactly they expect of ‘UN peacekeeping’ in its wider sense, and of the UN in general, vis-à-vis intra-state conflicts.
UN peacekeeping is defined here in terms of UN-authorised deployment of multinational personnel in situations of potential or actual violent conflict73 with the express purpose of addressing such violence.74 In order to qualify as UN peacekeeping such deployment must not only be welcomed, supported or tolerated by the UN, but officially authorised by the UN’s competent organs, which in practical terms means either the Security Council or the General Assembly.75 UN peacekeeping missions must involve deployment of personnel, but not necessarily military personnel. They may involve, or consist exclusively of, civilian, police, or para-military personnel. But it would be a safe assumption – in the light of past UN experience – that the express purpose of addressing a conflict by way of a field presence would usually require the fulfilment of some military tasks. As a consequence, the use of military personnel would normally be part of UN peacekeeping, although the size and operational capabilities of the deployed units would vary considerably from one operation to the next, and at different times in the course of the same operation.
UN peacekeeping as we define it addresses violent conflicts, but these need not be exclusively or primarily inter-state in character. Indeed, this study concentrates on those peacekeeping environments where the UN addresses intra-state conflicts. For analytical convenience we regard any violent conflict that is not unambiguously/predominantly inter-state in nature as coming under the ‘intra-state’ category. Our notion of intra-state conflicts corresponds roughly to what international lawyers prefer to designate as ‘non-international conflicts’.76 This term refers to conflicts which are primarily internal to a state, without, however, labelling them as such.77 On the other hand, the term leaves open the option that a violent conflict may have intra-state, inter-state and trans-state dimensions.
Two other terms have been suggested to designate what we call ‘intrastate’ conflicts: ‘intermestic conflicts’ and ‘international social conflicts’. Pugh observes that distinctions between inter- and intra-state conflicts are exaggerated, and maintains that the majority of contemporary conflicts fall between the two.78 He cites the examples of Bosnia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where ‘interests of states and rebels intermingle freely across borders’. Hence the term ‘inter(national)-(do)mestic’. Woodhouse and Ramsbotham, whose concept of ‘international social conflict’ is also referred to by Pugh, are in agreement.79 Their emphasis, however, is on the humanitarian implications of such conflicts, hence the reference to international ‘social’ conflicts. We do prefer the designation ‘intra-state’ over ‘non-international’, ‘intermestic’ and ‘international social’ conflict, because it serves as a constant reminder of the main problem at hand, namely the UN’s active efforts within states’ boundaries. Our emphasis in this study is clearly on the UN’s response to the intra-state dimensions of conflicts.80
Peacekeeping is an activity where the UN becomes clearly ‘visible’ in its capacity as an actor.81 This observation, coupled with the uncertain nature of the very practice of peacekeeping, whether in inter-state or in intra-state conflicts, leads to several questions. What exactly are the objectives of UN peacekeeping missions? What is the scope of the UN’s authority during its ‘intervention’? What are the functions which are thought to serve its pursuit of objectives and its exercise of authority? And how do crucial Charter principles relate to the objectives, functions and authority prescribed for the UN in its capacity as peacekeeper?
The interpretation of the Charter in the context of peacekeeping becomes particularly instructive in those conflicts which are commonly believed to be intra-state in nature.82 The fact that peacekeeping activities are conducted within the ‘sovereign’ domain of member-states poses prima facie a major problem for the UN so far as its Charter is concerned. On the one hand, the UN has to reconcile its involvement in internal conflicts with the related principles of sovereignty, non-intervention, territorial integrity, and political independence. On the other hand, it has to give effect to equally valid principles implicit in notions of human rights and humanitarianism – and perhaps socio-economic development – particularly when such principles are fundamental to those internal conflicts and their resolution. What is at stake here is not merely the presence of disparate sets of principles, but the potential tension, indeed irreconcilability, between them. What appears as an interesting question, then, is whether such a normative tension is handled uniformly over time.
The questions we have thus far elaborated cannot be adequately dealt with if one overestimates the importance of the fine and contested dividing line between different types of UN activity, such as peacekeeping, peacemaking, peacebuilding and peace enforcement.83 The reason is the complex interconnectedness between various types of simultaneous and overlapping activity on the one hand,84 and the dynamism of field operations (i.e. the change in the nature of a mission in the course of time) on the other.
To illustrate, the dividing line between peacekeeping and peacemaking is not as clear-cut as might be assumed. There are several peacekeeping operations where the chief of mission has been the primary peacemaker.85 The two roles have not been mechanically separable. In any case, negotiation and mediation, that is the main operational methods of peacemaking, have long been placed within the job description of peacekeepers.86 The criticisms levelled against Boutros-Ghali for placing peace enforcement within the notion of peacemaking are perhaps a little misplaced,87 given that the two have often gone hand in hand. Similarly, when the military contingents in Bosnia were building or restoring roads, schools and hospitals, it is a moot point whether they were acting as peacekeepers or as peacebuilders. How useful would it be to classify the 1960s UN mission to the Congo (ONUC) as peacekeeping or peace enforcement, when the UN-authorised actions on the ground undeniably constituted what is nowadays generally referred to as a ‘grey area’?88
Especially important in this regard is whether any connection is created by the UN between several distinct operations and instruments addressing the same intra-state conflict. Since the UN’s response to intra-state conflicts involves the use of a great many methods and instruments, actors’ collective expectations of the UN may not be discernible simply by examining only one of the UN’s activities, even if that activity (in this case peacekeeping) proves to be the centerpiece of the UN’s response to that conflict. For this reason this study prefers to concentrate on peacekeeping ‘environments’, which necessarily comprise, but are not limited to, theatre peacekeeping operations. ‘Peacekeeping environment’ encompasses not only the geographical or territorial space in which UN peacekeeping takes place alongside other UN and non-UN operations, but also, and perhaps more importantly, the political space within which normative views are expressed in relation to the conflict in question.
If a conceptual and/or legal ‘connection’ is established by a UN resolution between a predominantly military operation and a simultaneous humanitarian or developmental operation, our focus on the peacekeeping environment would help to detect the wider normative implications of such extensive engagement. A particularly important connection in this context is that between the relatively peaceful UN military presence in the field and accompanying coercive measures, ranging from limited sanctions to massive military strikes.
There is, of course, more to the dynamism of UN operations than the simultaneity of diverse operations or the role of coercion. How can we capture the UN’s evolving response to the Haiti crisis, if we insist on focusing on the four successive UN operations as separate entities with quite separate rationales? The same question may be asked in the context of several other missions. How can we make sense of the successive operations in Croatia without taking into account the evolving response of the United Nations to it? Our decision to focus on the environment rather than the operations per se, therefore, reflects our theoretical concern that we should not miss the forest by concentrating on a single tree as is sometimes done in the peacekeeping literature.
Objectives, functions, and authority as detected in peacekeeping environments
Our concentration on peacekeeping environments is intended to uncover any changes to the normative connection between the UN and intra-state conflicts. In this context we have already made reference to the ‘normative basis’ of UN peacekeeping, alluding to its connection with three crucial concepts that we use in this study, namely, objectives, functions and authority. At this stage, we will clarify our conceptualisation of these three terms.
The objectives of the UN, as understood here, do not refer to the political or psycho-social motivations of member states, which inform their support for UN action or non-action. Rather, they pertain to the normative, that is value-based, standard-setting and expectation-creating, rationale underlying the UN’s active involvement in intra-state conflicts and authorisation of peacekeeping missions. What are the ends which should be achieved? In other words, what are desirable outcomes of action?
Given the uncontested value of ‘peace and security’, the first reasonable question would revolve around the way this value manifests itself in the objectives of intra-state peacekeeping. Is the UN supposed to intervene in intra-state conflicts in the first place? Hypothetically, at least, it could be argued that the UN is mandated to address only the international dimensions of intra-state conflicts. In other words, the UN may well be expected to conduct ‘inter-state’ peacekeeping even when deployed in an ‘intra-state’ conflict. For instance, it may be called upon simply to monitor any possible cross-border infiltrations and nothing else. More importantly, regardless of what exactly peacekeepers are required to do on the ground, the international community may be concerned solely with the maintenance of international peace and security. UN deployment may be predominantly an expression – in rhetoric as well as in practice – of an almost exclusive preoccupation with ‘international’ peace and security, which, at least from a state-centric perspective, would be relatively less problematic.
The other three crucial principles in the Charter are equally relevant to the question of objectives. State sovereignty, human rights and socioeconomic development may all influence collective expectations of the UN in intra-state conflict environments. Admittedly, the specified norms are not easily comparable. In a sense, they may be seen as apples and pears. Nevertheless, given the obvious importance assigned to these principles in the Charter, and their prima facie relevance to intra-state peacekeeping, it is possible to discern what kinds of normative ‘objectives’ may be inherent in these three values. To put it simply, protection and/or promotion of state sovereignty, protection and/or promotion of human rights, and promotion of socio-economic development readily suggest themselves as potential Charter-based objectives of UN peacekeeping in intra-state conflicts.
Not only are state sovereignty, human rights and socio-economic development not easily comparable, but they are not even easily definable, and we will not attempt to ‘define’ them in any formal sense. After all, our study necessarily involves, at least indirectly, an enquiry into ‘notions’ of state sovereignty, human rights and socio-economic development as they were understood at different moments in the international realm and as they manifested themselves in peacekeeping environments. On the other hand, given that our description, interpretation and evaluation of international normative preferences will take place within the confines of our own framework, we propose to make clear, without elaboration, which ‘standard characterisations’ of these three principles inform our analysis.
In this study, actors’ normative expectations of the UN vis-à-vis state sovereignty will be discussed in reference to the ‘external’ and ‘internal’ aspects of sovereignty.89 Understood as a principle of exclusion, state sovereignty may be taken to imply, at one level, independence from any authority outside of the state, with obvious implications for the principle of non-intervention (external sovereignty). At another level, it may be said to connote supremacy within the state, indicating that there cannot be two or more authorities vying for sovereignty at the same time and in the same space (internal sovereignty).90 As for human rights and socio-economic development, both principles will be used here in an inclusive sense. To illustrate, human rights, whether in peacekeeping or other contexts, may be invoked with respect to ‘individual’ or ‘collective’ rights, to ‘first’, ‘second’ or ‘third’ generation rights, to ‘civil and political’ rights or ‘social, economic and cultural’ rights. Similarly, development may be considered in relation to the wide spectrum of functions in the ‘economic’ or ‘social’ fields, including income, employment, production, trade, health and education.
Functions, as applied in this study, pertain primarily to the operational tasks the UN is entrusted with in a peacekeeping environment, and can be conveniently visualised with the benefit of what Ratner calls the breadth and depth of responsibility.91 The breadth of responsibility relates to the range of policy areas which the UN addresses in a peacekeeping theatre. According to Ratner, the major functions of UN peacekeeping involve military matters, elections, human rights, national reconciliation, law and order, refugees, humanitarian relief, governmental administration, economic reconstruction and relationships with outside actors. He also details each of these functions in terms of their major components. For instance, military functions encompass more specific tasks related to cease-fires, withdrawal of foreign forces, termination of foreign military assistance, cantonment of forces, disarmament of forces, demobilisation of forces, custody of weapons, transition to civilian jobs and creation of armed forces. While we are aware that the potential problem of ‘apples and pears’ is equally visible here,92 this listing of operational tasks is perfectly adequate for our purposes in that it helps us to clarify and visualise what we mean by ‘functions’.
The depth of responsibility, on the other hand, concerns the intensity of the UN’s involvement in a policy area. ‘Monitoring’ and ‘education’ indicate the least depth. The former refers to investigation, observation and verification without a mandate to influence directly the actors involved, while the latter involves technical assistance and public information.93 ‘Supervision’, on the other hand, implies oversight over situations with a mandate to request changes in the behaviour of actors, but not to order those actors directly to correct their behaviour. ‘Control’ signifies a deeper level of involvement, and implies competence to take certain binding decisions. Finally, ‘conduct’ means ability to perform certain tasks directly, with or without the assistance of local authorities and notwithstanding their views on those matters.
Although ‘functions’ is a key analytical concept used in this study, we propose to focus on prescribed functions precisely because – and to the extent that – they relate to the more significant questions of ‘objectives’ and ‘authority’, both of which are more abstract and less easily manageable concepts, yet critical to the task of illuminating actors’ normative attitudes. Objectives are translated into action by way of prescribed functions. Different operational tasks may serve different objectives. Methodologically, ‘hidden’ objectives are sometimes most easily discernible by examining the prescribed functions. For instance, a key actor’s reluctant support for the incorporation of a human rights component into a peacekeeping mission would have implications for the objectives it assigns to the UN. In relation to authority, too, prescribed functions are of significance, since they may be legitimately considered as constituting one crucial aspect of the authority envisaged for the UN. At this stage, it is appropriate to turn to our concept of authority.
Authority is an especially difficult category to grapple with. It is nevertheless a particularly useful concept for an enquiry that sets out to explore the role of the UN as envisaged by international actors. For our purposes, authority can be operationalised in a four-dimensional way. First, authority involves functions. In other words, ‘who performs which function with what degree of involvement’ is inevitably a question of authority. After all, one aspect of ‘governmental’ authority relates to the functions that are attributed to a government, both in terms of breadth and depth. Secondly, authority concerns the issue of consent. Whether the UN is expected to act with or without the consent of the parties to a conflict is highly relevant to the exercise of its authority. Thirdly, authority involves the issue of judgement or ‘verdict’ along the good/bad–right/wrong spectra. Whether or not the UN is expected and encouraged to render judgements on a given issue is a sign of the authority assigned to it. Finally, authority manifests itself in the implementation of judgements. The critical question here is whether, and to what degree, the UN is expected to enforce its ‘verdicts’. As the last three dimensions make clear, the question of authority is inextricably linked to the notions of consent, neutrality/impartiality and non-use of force, that is, to the classical UN peacekeeping doctrine. It has, equally visibly, overarching implications for several state-centric Charter principles, especially non-intervention.
A closer analysis of objectives, functions and authority – as they emerge in peacekeeping environments – should prove highly revealing of the normative basis of UN peacekeeping missions and any changes it may have undergone over time. While all three concepts are crucial for this study, ‘functions’, rather than be discussed separately in the ensuing chapters, will, for reasons already mentioned, be incorporated into our examination of ‘objectives’ and ‘authority’.
Specifying peacekeeping environments: rationale of time periods and cases
While we concentrate on two periods in this study, the early 1960s (1960–65) and the early 1990s (1990–95), it goes without saying that there can be no strict cut-off date for an analysis of the kind we envisage here, and we will not hesitate to draw from time to time on the events which took place in the one or two years that immediately follow or precede these periods and which warrant mention. Our choice of these periods is not a random one. It is based on two main considerations. Firstly, both periods witnessed ambitious UN peacekeeping. What is even more distinctive about them is that both emerged in quite a ‘revolutionary’ way, in the sense that UN peacekeeping was not as visible and topical in the years that immediately preceded these periods. As such, an examination of these periods, with plenty of views expressed about UN peacekeeping, promises a rich contribution to our understanding of its normative basis.
Moreover, it would be a relatively safe assumption that the relevant actors were spontaneous in reacting to the fast-changing peacekeeping environments, given that events in peacekeeping theatres unfolded quite rapidly in both periods. The actors in question were in a sense caught by a number of ‘surprises’ in the course of peacekeeping processes, especially during and after deployment. Their normative preferences in relation to UN peacekeeping were probably not as carefully and deliberately thought through as would be the case post facto. This would enable us, in all probability, to discern relevant actors’ normative preferences and accompanying interests that were already solidly in place when entering each period. It would make it possible to detect the norms that were more deeply embedded in actors’ value systems. In other words, the likelihood of discerning actors’ interests and normative attitudes increases by concentrating on the peacekeeping environments of the specified two periods. Even mere ‘justifications’ used by the actors in these two periods are likely to illuminate the underlying normative positions.
Our detailed case studies are chosen from among that cluster of intra-state conflicts where the UN’s response included authorisation of multifunctional and large-scale UN peacekeeping operations.94 This enables us to compare and contrast various normative views, the resolution of which gave rise to ambitious UN peacekeeping operations in both periods. Particularly important in this respect is the relevance of such missions to the issue of governance, especially as it impinges on the principles of sovereignty, human rights and socio-economic development. For the early 1960s the two selected cases involve the two most ambitious operations at the time: the Congo and Cyprus. These two operations are the two important exceptions in the Cold War period, when UN peacekeeping was generally characterised by military tasks, with the role of civilians often limited to administration.95 Similarly, for the 1990s the two case studies involve UN operations of considerable scale and complexity: Angola and Cambodia.
A particular subcategory of missions, that is, the so-called ‘humanitarian interventions’, though taken into account in our overview (see Chapter 4), have been deliberately excluded from our case studies.96 The rationale behind the UN’s intervention in those cases revolved around a substantial concern about gross human suffering. Even if humanitarianism were just a pretext for intervention, this rhetoric in itself nevertheless alludes to significant change so far as the UN’s objectives are concerned. Furthermore, the means and modus operandi of humanitarian interventions involved active use of physical force under UN authorisation, which points to greater UN authority vis-à-vis intra-state conflicts. On both counts, therefore, choosing cases from this subcategory would diminish the explanatory utility of our study.
Normative ‘difference’ and ‘change’: what do peacekeeping environments tell us?
Changes in the normative basis of intra-state peacekeeping may have been explicit (as demonstrated in relevant actors’ public statements) or implicit (as demonstrated in their actions), both of which are interesting from our perspective. The primary method used here is to compare the normative discourses of relevant actors. We concentrate on actors’ rhetoric and, to a lesser extent, on their practice. As far as the former is concerned, we observe and critically evaluate actors’ normative statements before, during and after key decisions that connect the UN to the specified intra-state conflicts. Our methodology rests on a qualitative rather than quantitative evaluation of texts. As for the latter, our focus is on actors’ implementation and institutional ‘body language’.
Our enquiry into normative attitudes, especially in case studies, proceeds in two mental steps which may not always be easily separable. As a first step we attempt to establish whether questions pertaining to objectives, functions and authority are addressed by the relevant actors in any direct or obvious sense. In other words, have actors tackled these questions in the first place; and are their answers clearly discernible?97 If explicit answers are not offered, can we identify the ‘implied’ answers by way of interpretation, that is, by examining the actor’s overall statements and behaviour? The aim here is to identify the normative positions that seem to have particularly influenced the UN’s course of action. To give a hypothetical example, if a Third World member of the Security Council expresses and advocates a view as to what should be the UN’s objectives in an intra-state conflict, and if that view should then find its way to the operationalisation of a peacekeeping mandate, it would certainly be useful to identify and characterise that view. Similarly, should an NGO’s view on, say, what the UN’s authority should be in a given conflict was able to initiate intense discussions at the General Assembly, that view would need to be identified.
As a second step, we try to juxtapose significant clusters of normative views in relation to peacekeeping environments. Of particular interest is the extent to which ‘differences’ of opinion and perception between crucial actors have a bearing on the UN’s response to intra-state conflicts in the different periods. Whether clearly expressed or merely implied, are the answers consensual; or are different answers offered by different actors? Might these answers stand in opposition to each other? Can one detect patterns of agreement and disagreement? If so, can certain answers be considered dominant (which further raises the question: What is the basis of their dominance, or for that matter, of their legitimacy)? The answers to these questions should shed useful light on how possible normative tensions are resolved by international actors in different periods.
Identification of differences is only a first move towards exploring ‘change’ in the normative basis of UN involvement in intra-state conflicts. Change is necessarily a function of time. It alludes to observed differences in a specified attribute over a specified timespan. The postulated change has two dimensions. In the first place, we set out to discern any possible change in the influence exerted by this or that Charter principle on the UN’s response to intra-state conflicts. To illustrate, if actors’ concern over state sovereignty had a greater impact on the UN’s active involvement in intra-state conflicts in the 1960s than human rights, and the situation was reversed in the 1990s, this would certainly qualify as significant change in the normative basis of intra-state peacekeeping. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we are interested to establish whether the interaction between the specified Charter values – i.e. the relationship that the international community establishes between them in peacekeeping environments – has changed. Is there, for instance, a ‘permanent’ duality between state sovereignty and human rights? Have peace and security always related to sovereignty, human rights and socio-economic development the same way?
Discerning changes in the influence of the specified principles and in their content or interpretation requires comparisons between significant normative views across time. Those normative views which were most widely held in the 1960s, as articulated and advocated by certain crucial actors, may have diminished in influence or altogether disappeared in the 1990s and been replaced, or at least complemented, by alternative views as expressed by other relevant actors. What is more, the normative gap, that is, the divergence between the views of different actors, may have disappeared, narrowed or widened over time. Careful qualitative comparison and juxtaposition of normative trends as they manifested themselves in the early 1960s and 1990s will be a useful tool in our analysis of normative change in relation to the UN’s intra-state peacekeeping.
We have already suggested that historical structural insights are helpful in situating and exploring the interest-norm complexes that may have influenced the evolution of the UN’s role. For an interpretation of the significance of the early 1960s and 1990s from this perspective, we now turn to a brief historical sketch of the post-World War II history. Our aim is to introduce the ‘historical structural’ element more firmly into our normative enquiry. Once we do that, we will proceed to a more focused discussion of the UN’s intra-state peacekeeping and will address more closely the evolving normative connection between the UN and intra-state conflicts in the specified period.