Resurgence of UN Peacekeeping in the New Millennium

UN Peacekeeping

Resurgence of UN Peacekeeping in the New Millennium: After the let-downs in Rwanda and Yugoslavia during the 1990s, there was a major downscaling of the UN peacekeeping.  The size of the blue helmets volunteers in the field was condensed from the earlier 70,000 to 14,000. In 1999 there was a rapid swell in demand for the UN peacekeeping force, and a readiness to increase the force, by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to meet the need saw more members in the UN peacekeeping force in the beginning of the new millennium. The Secretary-General expanded the UN peacekeeping strength which was a reversal of the preceding trend of trimming the team. In the final few years of the 20th century, the demand for traditional and post-conflict peacekeeping demands in place of trouble like Kosovo, Democratic republic of Congo, Eritrea and Ethiopia, Southern Lebanon, Palestine and East Timor increased. In Palestine the Palestinians even requested the UN to send an international observer force into the occupied regions, but in vain.

Formation of UNIKOM

Subsequent to the intermediation of NATO in Kosovo, the Security Council approved Resolution 1244 which officially legalised the formation of UNIKOM (the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo). UN, with the support of the NATO forces, stepped in to control the province as a kind of international territory and to organize it for “substantial autonomy”. NATO allegedly interfered in Kosovo in 1999 to involve in a benevolent mission intended to liberate the Albanian minority that was being exposed to horrendous ethnic cleansing by Serbian forces. When the struggle started it was exaggeratedly estimated that 100,000 Albanians were killed but a realistic figure showed the death toll somewhere between 5000 and 10,000.

Queries Raised by Kosovo

Kosovo raised a query of, when a humanitarian mediation should take preference over the traditional idea of sovereignty, and can a regional military grouping like NATO have a responsibility to act when the Security Council could not get a full mandate.  UNIKOM was asked to reconstruct the civil society and was also asked to oversee the return of refugees and were given the task of disarming the Albanian National Liberation Army and include them into the civilian police force. The idea was to make them supervise the elections alongside with the OSCE (the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and EU (European Union) supported by the KFOR forces under NATO.  Four years later, the peace-building efforts in Kosovo by UNIKOM, supported by the International Civilian Police force, was unsuccessful. This was mainly because Albanians did not believe in this and they had their own version of cleansing the Serbs and the radical Albanians were using Kosovo as their base of operations to attack the neighbouring government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In 2003, a European Union Force was sent to Macedonia to help preserve the Ohrid peace87 agreement which brought the battle to an end.

Sierra Leone

The other major setback suffered by the UN was in the operation in Sierra Leone where different chieftains disputed with one another for control.  Sierra Leone is a West African country which had been involved in a disturbing war since 1992. To implement the peace agreement (the Lome Accord), UNAMSIL (United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone) was formed in 1999 under chapter 7 of the UN chapter. UNAMSIL was also supposed to take over from the sub-regional administration (the Economic Community of West African states) and its military wing called the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group. Also a small group of UN observers who were sent to Sierra Leone before was taken over by UNASMIL.


UN never learned from the failures suffered previously and the biggest example was the positioning of UNAMSIL. This was a model which was the wrong thing to do and five hundred odd UNASMIL ill-equipped peacekeepers were caught unaware and were taken as prisoners in May 1999 by the rebel group Revolutionary United Front or the RUF. This was yet another embarrassing setback for the UN peacekeeping force.   To add to this UNASMIL was unable to oversee the return of the refugees to Sierra Leone and also stopping the conflict that spread to the neighbouring state of Guinea. It was essential for the British forces to interfere in Sierra Leone in order to avert the fall of the government. By the year 2001, the expanded UNASMIL and the government forces could make stabilize the situation and they were also able to disarm the rebel RUF forces. The government slowly took control of the important diamond mining area. By 2003 there were plans to downscale UNASMIL, and they could even offer troops for a peacekeeping operation in the neighbourhood country, Liberia.

Challenges in the New Millennium

The new challenges that happened towards the end of the millennium resulted in some changes. Humanitarian intervention was needed and at the same time there was an expansion and deployment of peacekeeping forces. Peace-enforcement forces with a traditional nature were deployed too.  This intervention was based on the Annan doctrine of the “two sovereignties,” in which the UN Secretary-General contended that the sovereignty of the individual should take priority over the sovereignty of the state.  This principle was based on the need for the international community to mediate within a state to defend the human rights of minorities from uncultured and enormous destructions committed against them by their own government.


Apart from the more intricate and multi-layered humanitarian mediation, the UN was also found tangled in more traditional peacekeeping processes.  The UN was called to put in force about 4000 observers to supervise a ceasefire and preserve temporary security zone established between Ethiopia and Eritrea with the hope that this would help to bring a close to the battle that had been intensely fought  in this area since 1998. The Secretary-General had to increase UNIFIL (United Nation Force in Lebanon) in 2000. UNIFIL is a force that has been positioned in Southern Lebanon since 1978 and this was needed because the impulsive Israel had withdrawn from area in 2000.This brought in a power vacuum in the area. It was also important because the area was at the Israeli-Lebanese demarcation line, the Blue Line, which is populated by Islamic fundamentalist groups like Hezbollah and this elevated the danger of augmented clashes with Israeli forces, however. In 2003, the size of UNIFIL was also brought down.