Peacekeeping in International Law

Nigel D. White

in International Law

ISBN: 9780199796953
Published online March 2012 | | DOI:
Peacekeeping in International Law

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Peacekeeping is a development of the Cold War and a creation largely of the United Nations. The deployment of such forces was not envisaged by the UN Charter of 1945, but peacekeeping has proved vital in securing a minimum level of peace and security in trouble spots around the world. Although new in its day, the “traditional” type of peacekeeping force first deployed in Suez in 1956 reflected traditional, or classical, principles of international law in that it was based on the consent of the host state or states, and even though it appeared to constitute military intervention, its respect for sovereignty was reflected in the neutrality of such forces. The trinity of peacekeeping principles of consent, impartiality, and nonuse of aggressive force very much reflected those fundamental principles of international law—of sovereignty, nonintervention, and nonuse of force found in Article 2 of the UN Charter. However, Article 2 (paragraph 7) and Chapter VII (Article 42) of the UN Charter both recognize that the UN Security Council (UNSC) has exceptional powers to undertake enforcement action, which has led to, on occasions, peacekeeping forces being given more coercive mandates. The dialectic between consensual peacekeeping and its more belligerent variant was established as early as the second full peacekeeping force in the Congo in 1960–1964, and it is currently back on the agenda as the United Nations struggles to implement the “protection of civilians” agenda through coercive mandates given to UN forces. Coercive mandates mean that peacekeepers are increasingly crossing the line to become war fighters, or “combatants” in the language of international humanitarian law, causing confusion as to the legal status of peacekeepers, who are traditionally not seen as legitimate targets; indeed, attacks on them remain prohibited. Even consensual post–Cold War peacekeeping has moved away considerably from the traditional buffer forces of the Cold War, evolving in the early 1990s toward complex civilian-military operations designed to build the peace as well as to keep it, and including within its structure military, police, humanitarian, and other civilian elements. A vast amount of literature exists on peacekeeping, a significant part of which is listed in the Oxford Bibliographies in International Relations article “Peacekeeping” by Erik K. Rundquist. The focus here is on the legal aspects of peacekeeping, and the overlap with the bibliography by Rundquist is kept to a minimum.

Article.  11589 words. 

Subjects: International Law ; International Courts and Tribunals ; Private International Law and Conflict of Laws ; Public International Law

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