Updated: 31-Oct-2000 Ministerial Communiqus

Seminar on
and its
to Crisis

Chairman's Summary


  1. On 5th-7th October 1994 at NATO Headquarters in Brussels the Seminar on "Peacekeeping and its Relationship to Crisis Management" was held, based on the concept agreed by the Political-Military Steering Committee/Ad Hoc Group on Cooperation in Peacekeeping (NACC-AHG- N(94)9 (2nd revise)). About 150 participants took part in the Seminar, representing 38 countries and various international organisations, including humanitarian relief organisations.

  2. The programme included keynote speeches by representatives of the UN, the CSCE and NATO. Thirteen Delegations - Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom - presented national contributions. Other presentations were given by representatives of the European Union, the WEU, the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs, UNHCR and the Multinational Force and Observers. General Briquemont, in his capacity as former UNPROFOR Commander in Bosnia- Herzegovina, and Ambassador Eide of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia, made contributions based on their personal experiences.

  3. This paper provides a descriptive report of the Seminar.

Conceptual issues

  1. The first day of the Seminar was devoted to a discussion of the recent evolution of the concept of peacekeeping, such as the development of the role of peacekeeping and its relationship to crisis management and a reassessment of new tasks, including the growing importance of the civil- military interface in peacekeeping operations.

  2. It was stressed that the evolution of peacekeeping concepts has been driven by practical experience and was, some would say, 'forced change'. There has not only been an increase in the number of peacekeeping operations, but also a rapid growth of variety in functions and tasks. The UN Representative pointed out that the rapid evolution of peacekeeping functions and practice has preceded its conceptualisation; accordingly, no new UN peacekeeping doctrine underpins UN actions in this field. Although there are still so-called 'traditional' peacekeeping operations involving lightly-armed forces operating with the consent of parties to the conflict, an increasing number of operations can be labelled multi-functional or multi-dimensional. Such operations, which still involve military tasks, encompass a variety of functions, e.g. preventive deployment, disarmament and demobilisation of forces, protection and delivery of humanitarian aid, restoration of public order and many other civilian tasks such as humanitarian rights monitoring and facilitating the return of refugees. A distinction could be made between multi-functional operations, based on an agreed settlement (e.g. Cambodia, Namibia), with limited duration and a great chance of success, and multi-functional operations where such an agreement is lacking (Somalia, former Yugoslavia), with undetermined duration, greater need to use force and less chance of early success. A particularly difficult scenario involves questions in the so-called "failed states" where one of the objectives of the peacekeeping mission can be the restoration of the state authority. Such questions have unique features and require handling on an ad hoc basis.

  3. The growing "grey area" of more complex multi-functional peacekeeping operations referred to in a number of presentations sets a requirement for clear and timely decision-making. Early involvement in a crisis is of utmost importance to prevent waste of time and resources. Early coordination between international organisations involved in a peacekeeping operation and nations taking part in it is essential to avoid duplications and to ensure cost-effectiveness. Participants underscored that the UN tends to call more on regional organisations for carrying out UN mandated peacekeeping operations. This requires further coordination and rationalisation of their activities as well as their modus operandi. In this context the important role of the CSCE in early-warning and conflict prevention was highlighted. Attention was drawn to the CSCE's status as a UN Charter-Chapter VIII organization, which under the terms of the Helsinki Final Document 1992 may mandate peacekeeping operations. Although this has not taken place so far, there is a growing chance that the CSCE might take such a decision in the near future, e.g. regarding a multi-national peacekeeping operation in Nagorno-Karabakh.

  4. The multi-dimensional aspect of new peacekeeping operations also requires a significant increase and diversification in both military and civilian tasks, with consequent implications for training. The military-civilian interface becomes more important, in particular as the number of humanitarian organisations involved in peacekeeping expands. For the more complex multi-functional peacekeeping operations it becomes all the more important to have staff procedures and organisation that can be easily understood by personnel from all participating nations and organisations.

  5. Many speakers noted that more assertive or robust use of force is increasingly needed in peacekeeping operations, both under Chapter VI and Chapter VII of the UN Charter. In particular, according to some delegations, the concept of anticipatory self-defense involving greater use of force could find application at the operational level to justify offensive action, that would be covered by Article 40 of the Charter (Chapter VII). The UN Representative also referred to "second generation" peacekeeping questions, where a more robust use of force does not, however, result in crossing the threshold between Chapter VI and Chapter VII. Against this background a discussion took place on principles and criteria set out in the Athens Report. With regard to the concept of impartiality, various participants stressed that it was not synonymous to neutrality. Impartiality at the strategic/political level remains key, but application of the principle of impartiality at a tactical level should not justify inaction by the peacekeeping force in case a party is acting in a way contrary to the mandate and objectives of an operation. On the other hand, such action by the peacekeeping force might be interpreted by the party concerned as partiality. Therefore, in practice strict application of impartiality might prove to be difficult. Similar considerations apply to the principle of consent which should obviously exist for mounting the operation, but should not be necessarily sought for every single initiative on the ground, since this might result in the impossibility for the peacekeeping force to operate effectively in carrying out its mandate.

  6. Although the peacekeeping concept has developed significantly since June 1993, it was felt that the definitions of the Athens Report were still generally valid. However, there might be a need to elaborate them further to reflect the newly emerging aspects of current peacekeeping. Several nations presented their national peacekeeping doctrines; as a result, the need was felt to address this matter in further detail and to try to develop a common ground. It was also stressed that there is a need for developing a separate concept, principles and conditions/criteria for peace enforcement operations as distinct from peacekeeping.

Experience Gathered So Far

  1. The second major theme of the Seminar was the experience gained so far by organisations or institutions in carrying out multilateral crisis management and peacekeeping activities, and the need for further harmonisation of activities in this area. Much of the discussion on this topic on the second and third days of the Seminar naturally focused on the experiences gained in the former Yugoslavia, the working relationships developed as a result of that experience, and areas where there was need for further work.

  2. A view expressed by a number of Seminar participants was that the approach of European institutions to peacekeeping was evolving, with the CSCE, EU and WEU all examining new ways to deal with situations requiring peacekeeping. Relationships between the various regional and international organizations involved in peacekeeping were also changing as the UN and its agencies began to work more closely with other regional and non- governmental organisations on peacekeeping. In the past, crisis management structures had been established to deal primarily with aggression in the context of collective defense, as was the case with NATO. The events in former Yugoslavia caught virtually all European institutions unprepared and, as a result, these institutions are now working towards new approaches and principles that would permit them to respond quickly and effectively to future crises. Crises, seminar participants noted, are more frequently political in nature, and now require increased use of diplomatic and political means, as well as military ones, to contain and manage.

  3. Another topic frequently raised in connection with appropriate responses to crises such as that in Yugoslavia related to the mandate given to peacekeepers. Participants agreed that only the UN or the CSCE could provide mandates for peacekeeping operations. There was general agreement that, ideally, mandates should reflect a clear political goal and strategic vision, and be well-informed by reporting from the field. In practice, however, this had proven hard to achieve, and in fact the process of creating a mandate could become an iterative one growing out of dozens of Security Council resolutions, as it has been the case with the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. A broad and flexible mandate, while useful from an operational point of view, could work against the objective of a clear goal.

  4. Related to the issue of a clear mandate was the issue of unity of command. A number of speakers said that peacekeeping operations should have one commander -- in charge of all military, humanitarian, and other components of the operation -- reporting directly to the political authorities of the mandating organization. This unity of command would permit close coordination and avoid duplication of effort or, worse, effort at cross-purposes. Contributing nations need to send well- trained and well-equipped troops with some familiarity with local culture, and not second-guess the decisions of the commander on the ground. One presentation noted that, in practice, the success of Operation Deny Flight seemed to suggest that unity of effort could be to a certain extent a substitute (although not an ideal one) for unity of command.

  5. A common theme that emerged from presentations was the need for close coordination and cooperation between all elements of a peacekeeping operation. Good communications among all parties is crucial, and can be facilitated by regular meetings and staff exchanges and through the use of liaison officers. Training of military and civilian personnel to understand each other's perspectives and methods of operation is useful in this regard, although during periods of crisis there are practical difficulties in arranging training for staff who are often urgently needed elsewhere.

  6. Another important lesson learned was the need for an effective information strategy. The objectives of such a strategy would include: informing and gaining support and consent of the local population, maintaining public support in troop contributing nations, and the establishment of good relations with the media in the theatre.

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