Working relations between the United Nations and the Alliance were limited during the Cold War. This changed in 1992, against the background of growing conflict in the Western Balkans, where their respective roles in crisis management led to an intensification of practical cooperation in the field.
Bringing peace to the former Yugoslavia
In July 1992, NATO ships belonging to the Alliance's Standing Naval Force Mediterranean, assisted by NATO Maritime Patrol Aircraft, began monitoring operations in the Adriatic in support of a UN arms embargo against all republics of the former Yugoslavia. A few months later, in November 1992, NATO and the Western European Union (WEU) began enforcement operations in support of UN Security Council Resolutions aimed at preventing the escalation of the conflict.
The readiness of the Alliance to support peacekeeping operations under the authority of the UN Security Council was formally stated by NATO Foreign Ministers in December 1992. A number of measures were subsequently taken, including joint maritime operations under the authority of the NATO and WEU Councils: NATO air operations; close air support for the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR); air strikes to protect UN "Safe Areas"; and contingency planning for other options which the United Nations might take.
Following the signature of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Dayton Agreement) on 14 December 1995, NATO was given a mandate by the United Nations, on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 1031, to implement the military aspects of the peace agreement. NATO’s first peacekeeping operation, the Implementation Force (IFOR), began operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina to fulfill this mandate in December 1995. One year later, it was replaced by a NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR). Throughout their mandates both multinational forces worked closely with other international organisations and humanitarian agencies on the ground, including UN agencies such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN International Police Task Force (IPTF).
From the onset of the conflict in Kosovo in 1998 and throughout the crisis, close contacts were maintained between the UN Secretary-General and NATO’s Secretary General. Actions were taken by the Alliance in support of UN Security Council Resolutions both during and after the conflict. The Kosovo Force (KFOR) was deployed on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 of 12 June 1999 to provide an international security presence as the prerequisite for peace and reconstruction of Kosovo. Throughout its deployment, KFOR has worked closely with the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) as well as with other international and local stakeholders.
In 2000 and 2001, NATO and the United Nations also cooperated successfully in containing major ethnic discord in southern Serbia and preventing a full-blown civil war in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹.
Cooperation between NATO and the UN is playing a key role in Afghanistan. The Alliance formally took over the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a UN-mandated force, in August 2003. Originally tasked with helping to provide security in and around Kabul, ISAF was subsequently authorised by a series of UN Security Council Resolutions to expand its presence into other regions of the country to extend the authority of the central government and to facilitate development and reconstruction.
NATO and ISAF work closely with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and other international actors that are supporting governance, reconstruction and development. The close cooperation takes place in various settings, in Afghanistan as well as in UN and NATO capitals. It includes co-membership of the Joint Co-ordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) overseeing the implementation of the internationally endorsed Afghanistan Compact, co-chairmanship together with the Afghan Government of the Executive Steering Committee for Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and other joint Afghan-international community bodies.
NATO and the UN are also consulting closely on their respective postures in Afghanistan. NATO is keeping the UN well informed of the planning for the NATO-led train, advise, and assist mission that is set to begin in January 2015.
Under the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1546 and at the request of the Iraqi Interim Government, NATO provided assistance in training and equipping Iraqi security forces through the NATO Training Mission-Iraq (NTM-I) from 2004 to end 2011.
Supporting African Union missions
In June 2005, following a request from the African Union (AU) and in close coordination with the United Nations and the European Union, NATO agreed to support the African Union’s Mission in Sudan (AMIS), which is trying to end the continuing violence in the Darfur region. NATO assisted by airlifting peacekeepers from African troop-contributing countries to the region and also helped train AU troops in how to run a multinational military headquarters and how to manage intelligence.
Following a request from the African Union in 2007, NATO accepted to assist the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) by providing airlift support to AU member states willing to deploy on this mission. NATO is also providing capacity-building assistance for the African Union via a Senior Military Liaison Office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Alliance also protects UN shipping in support of AMISOM.
In October 2008, NATO agreed to a request from the UN Secretary-General to deploy ships off the coast of Somalia to deter piracy and escort merchant ships carrying World Food Programme cargo.
On 27 March, NATO Allies decided to take on the whole military operation in Libya under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. The purpose of Operation Unified Protector was to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack. NATO implemented all military aspects of the UN Resolution. Allies moved swiftly and decisively to enforce the arms embargo and no-fly zone called for in the resolution, and to take further measures to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas from attack. Operation Unified Protector was concluded on 31 October 2011.