New Working Paper Examines the Role of Peacekeeping Operations in Ensuring Respect for IHL

5 October 2021

From Mali to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kosovo or Cyprus, the United Nations (UN) is currently leading 12 peacekeeping operations across the globe.

Our new Working Paper The UN Security Council and Common Article 1: Understanding the Role of Peacekeeping Operations in Ensuring Respect for IHL examines the applicability of article 1 common to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 – on the obligation to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law (IHL) – to the UN, with a specific focus on peacekeeping operations.

Written by our former Researcher Emilie Max, it examines how modern peacekeeping operations with multidimensional mandates engage in activities aimed at – or amounting to – promoting compliance with IHL, including in relation to the thematic agenda items of the UN Security Council (UNSC) – namely Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict; Women, Peace and Security; and Children in Armed Conflict.

The First Study of this Kind

Although not mentioned in the UN Charter, peacekeeping has become one of the most essential tools at the UN’s disposal for fulfilling its mandate to maintain international peace and security. Such a tool gradually evolved from straightforward military operations to multidimensional mandates with an ever-increasing number of activities aimed at protecting civilians from the violence of armed conflict.

If the contribution of peacekeeping operations to the preservation of human dignity has often been examined through the lens of the protection and promotion of human rights, the same does not necessarily hold true with regard to IHL.

‘This Working Paper precisely aims at filling this gap by assessing whether – and, if so, how –peacekeeping operations contribute to ensuring respect for IHL in the sense of common article 1’ explains Emilie Max.

Recommendations for UN Security Council Members

The author concludes her paper with a series of recommendations for prospective or current UNSC members that contemplate using peacekeeping for promoting respect for IHL.

‘For instance, if the mandates of peacekeeping operations include the prevention and suppression of IHL violations, states should ensure that peacekeepers can implement these tasks. This implies that the UN Secretariat provides appropriate strategic guidance, that sufficient human and financial resources are allocated to missions, and that there is commensurate political will emanating from the UNSC’ underlines Emilie Max.

‘Similarly, certain activities included in peacekeeping operations’ mandates in order to protect civilians from the violence of armed conflict – like training on IHL – should consistently be implemented in close cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross, other humanitarian organizations and relevant UN agencies’ she adds.

Joint Patrol UNPOL, FARDC, and PNC - 20 May 2020 Goma, DRC

Part of our Research Project on the UNSC and IHL

This Working Paper is part of our larger research project led by Emilie Max that aims at critically assessing how the UNSC has recently dealt with IHL.

It follows another publication Room for Manoeuvre? Promoting International Humanitarian Law and Accountability While at the United Nations Security Council: A Reflection on the Role of Elected Members that assessed the UNSC’s recent engagement with IHL and accountability.

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