Bishnu Pathak, PhD

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

“We, the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal right of men and women and of nations large and small…. And for these ends to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors…have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.”
-Preamble, Charter of the United Nations

“A focus on peaceful cultures may bring in the human rights traditions, and the focus on peace structures call upon democratic tradition. Both are useful examples of broader approaches for peace.”  
-Johan Galtung

Understanding Peace

UN declares the intent to save successive generations from the torment of war, to maintain international peace, to take action against aggression, and to develop friendly relations among nations. It aims at solving the international problems of economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian character in addition to promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms .

The UN Human Security Report 2005 states that the number of wars, genocides and human rights violations/abuses has dramatically declined. Have the nations and peoples of the world attained stronger rights to life, liberty, security and social justice due to the higher prevalence of peace in post-cold war era? The report says there as been:

A 40% drop in violent conflict (early 1990s)

An 80% drop in the most deadly conflicts (1998 – 2001)

A 70% drop in international crises (1981 – 2001)

A 98% drop the extra-judicial killings (38,000 people were killed in 1950s, but the figure is at 600 in 2002)

A net decrease in core human rights abuses (1994 – 2003).

Peace and conflict are two sides of the same coin. In the post-World War II era, conflicts spread intensively, although the type and mode of conflict varied between nations due to ideology (capitalist vs. communist) following the differences of needs, values, interests and rights. Conflict between nations or neighbors occurs owing to differences of identity or culture, language, religion, region and behavior; unequal distribution of resources and opportunities; belligerent attitudes; and politico-ideology in respective order. However, the former politico-ideological differences existing before 1990, have been transformed into capitalism vs. identity and resources in the present day world. Nepal, along with a few other countries, is an exception in this regard.

Generally, peace tends to be both the negative and positive. Negative peace is a set of social structures which provide security and protection from acts of direct physical violence  by individuals, groups or nations. Johan Galtung states that this controls direct violence with a strategy of dissociation of conflicting parties by pressure or by military action; by policies and programs for the short term that are insufficient to address lasting peace .  

Moreover, it leaves further room for violence of a greater magnitude in the future. For example, ethnic hostilities in former Yugoslavia boiled over after coercive pressure from dictatorship was removed. Yet, it is still pursued vociferously. Favoring even negative peace, Cicero once said, “I prefer the most unfair peace to the most righteous war.”  In contrast, positive peace is a pattern of harmony, cooperation, integration, social justice through socio-cultural inclusion, political participation, judicial distribution of resources and equal access to opportunity and protection under the law.  Positive peace is created by resolving the underlying structural causes of conflict. Rather than being a value judgment, “positive” or “negative” reflects whether there is a presence or absence of certain conditions.  Nepal has followed both paths, where the UN is primarily responsible.

The concept of peace in the UN has been established through the respect of the beliefs of people in all religions.

Buddhism: World peace is accomplished if we first establish peace within our minds. This means abandoning the anger from our minds, loving one another and practicing altruism. Gautam Buddha says, “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

Hinduism: Basundaeva kutumbakam (The world is one family). The more we look for wisdom, the more we become happy and free our inner spirit from worldly Maya (illusions). S. Radhakrishnan says, “Hinduism is not just a faith. It is the union of reason and intuition that can not be defined but is only to be experienced. Evil and error are not ultimate. There is no Hell, for that means there is a place where God is not, and there are sins which exceed his love.”

Christianity: Christianity promotes peace through benevolence, by sharing the faith with others in addition to pardoning those who break the peace. J. C Ryle says, “A true Christian is one who has not only peace of conscience, but war within.”

Islam: Entire humanity is recognized as one family. Islam’s faith in one God and having the common parents, Adam and Eve, is a great motive for all to live mutually with peace and brotherhood. Abdul Ghaffar Khan says, “The Holy Prophet Mohammed came into this world and taught us: ‘That man is a Muslim who never hurts anyone by word or deed, but who works for the benefit and happiness of God’s creatures. Belief in God is to love one’s fellow men.”

Judaism: When the messiah comes, all nations shall be cohesive in peace.

Baha I Faith: The world must embrace collective security for the establishment of a permanent peace.  

I agree with Professor Johan Galtung what he states, “Every religion contains, in varying degrees, elements of the soft and the hard. For the sake of world peace, dialogue within religions and among them must strengthen the softer aspects.”

The principal objective of the UN mission leads to peacemaking, peacebuilding and peacekeeping. Peacemaking is a settlement of violent conflict through ceasefire, understanding, agreement, and peace accord between the conflicting parties using politico-diplomacy. Such negotiations and contracts curtail violence to transform the conflict into more constructive relations between states, individuals and groups . Peacebuilding focuses on tackling: structural (root) causes of conflict and grievances in the past; managing conflict in constructive and non-violent ways; establishing participatory and responsible forms of government; improving confidence between political opponents; developing public (shared) norms and values. Twelve (12) political and peacebuilding missions (half in Asia and half in Africa)  have been ongoing since the beginning of millennium. UN electoral assistance is presently deployed in Afghanistan, Burundi, Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Congo and Timor-Leste .  Peacekeeping (troops, military observers and police) refers to an international armed group used to monitor and enforce an agreement or positive peace pact, mobilizing necessary force to bring stability to a particular region/country. It also involves civil tasks – policing, monitoring, and supportive humanitarian intervention.

Peacekeepers have a specific set of mandated tasks that aim to alleviate human suffering and to create better conditions while building institutions for self-sustaining peace. The presence of a peacekeeping mission introduces the UN as a third party that will have a direct impact on the political process. Each peacekeeping operation consists of several components divided into: military, which may or may not be armed, and civilian, encompassing a broad range of disciplines. Peacekeeping aims to prevent the outbreak of conflict or the spill-over of conflict across borders; to stabilize conflict situations after a ceasefire, to create an environment for the parties to reach a lasting peace agreement; to assist in implementing comprehensive peace agreements and to lead states’ territories through a transition to stable government based on democratic principles, good governance, and economic development. Kofi Annan says, “The first UN peacekeeping operation was an attempt to confront and defeat the worst in man with the best in man; to counter violence with tolerance, might with moderation, and war with peace.…. Ever since then, day after day, year after year, UN peacekeepers have been meeting the threat and reality of conflict, without losing faith, without giving in, without giving up.”

In simulations, the principal objectives of the UN peacekeepers (blue force) are to locate and eliminate the revolutionary/insurgent (red force) threats and minimize blue force casualties in order to protect civilians (white forces). In opposition, the red forces seek to avoid detection and annihilate UN peacekeepers for as long as possible. White forces assist the UN peacekeepers by reporting identified insurgent threats but do not keenly look for insurgents.

There are 63 peacekeeping operations  after the establishment of the UN, of which two-thirds (66.67%)  have been mobilized in the post-cold war alone, but 25% (16 operations)  have been working continuously as of August 31, 2008. Out of 63 operations, 40% are mobilized in Africa alone  particularly in Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Sierra Leon, Somalia and Uganda where 7 operations still continue .  Similarly, there were some 88,230 (75,295 troops, 11,503 police and 2,432 military observers) uniformed personnel and 19,646 civilians participating in these operations , although only 50% uniformed personnel were participating after October 1, 2002.    The longest, the Arab-Israeli  mission, has been working since 1948 (60 years). While during the Cold War, there were only three missions in Africa, recently there have been 22.

The UN does not have its own military force.  It depends on contribution of its member states. 119 countries have already contributed military and police personnel. Nepal, which ranks 6th in total numbers of peacekeepers mobilized has had a 50 year history of actively participating in 16 peacekeeping operations in the total number of 60,000 troops. So far 60 Nepali peacekeepers were killed  out of total 2,518 fatalities  as of the end of August 2008. This has earned Nepal both name and fame. However the image is tarnished in two ways: First, the deployments were developed as a part of the former king’s own wing. Second, the authoritarian regime’s high-ranking officials including ex-kings mis-utilized the Army’s Welfare Fund by skimming from the earnings of UN peacekeepers.

It is estimated that US $ 54 billion  has already been mobilized as the operations cost in six decade from 1948 to June 2008 and the approved budget for the period from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009 is US $ 7.1 billion. Along with the trend of rising conflict in the world, the numbers of UN peacekeepers have also been increased, which is raising the cost each year in turn. 30% of the total cost is utilized for humanitarian crises against the 70% peacekeeping operations cost. Thus, the UN, itself, diminishes humanitarian values. However, the total UN peacekeeping operations cost represents 0.5% of global military spending estimated at US $ 1,232 billion in 2006 . That notwithstanding, the UN peacekeeping is eight-times cheaper than funding the US force.

Results of Conflict

The conflicts in Uganda, Angola, Namibia, Sudan, Congo, etc. have been the bloodiest in post-World War II history. Upwards of 5 million people have died as a result of about 1,000 earlier deaths due to the consequences of conflict forming a “breaking point” for continuing humanitarian crisis .

The cold-war’s violent conflicts waged between states have now become internal conflicts. The frequency and intensity of the volatile internal conflicts is significantly increasing around the world . Between 1989 and 1996, 95 of the 101-armed conflicts identified around the world were internal confrontations . Bishnu Raj Upreti writes: “In 1999 there were 40 armed conflicts being fought within the territories of 36 countries, up from 36 armed conflicts in 31 countries in 1998” . Professor Peter Wallensteen of the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University stated that in 2004, there were 30 active armed conflicts, up by one from 2003. While seven of the conflicts from 2003 are no longer active, seven conflicts have broken out – three with action taken by new rebel groups and four by earlier recorded actors. In 21st century conflict, both government and armed groups often receive support from neighboring states.             

Armed conflicts have displaced millions. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are people who are forced to flee their homes and, unlike refugees, remain within their country. At the end of 2006, the world IDP population estimate is 24.5 million in some 52 countries, where Africa has the largest population – almost half (48 %) in 21 countries .  According to the Internally Displaced People Report 2006, the significant IDP populations are :

·    Afghanistan: 132,000 IDPs in the course of War on Terror against al-Qaeda.

·    Azerbaijan:  579,000-687,000 IDPs due to the intervention of US forces.

·    Burma (Myanmar): 500,000 IDPs due to decade’s long war between state and ethnic groups.

·    Burundi: 100,000 IDPs due to fighting between Tutsi minority and Hutu majority groups.

·    Colombia: 1,800,000 – 3,800,000 IDPs due to war amongst the state, FARC, AUC and others.

·    Congo: 1,100,000 IDPs due to the armed conflict between government and the Mai-Mai militia.

·    Cyprus: 210,000 IDPs due to the inter-communal and Turkish invasion of 1974.

·    Ethiopia:  100,000 – 280,000 IDPs due to the Somali Civil War.

·    Georgia: 222,000 – 241,000 IDPs due to the ethnic civil war in 1991-93.

·    India: 600,000 IDPS due to anti-Hindu and anti-India insurgency.

·    Iraq: 1,700,000 IDPs due to Saddam Hussein’s rule and US intervention.

·    Lebanon: 216,000 – 800,000 IDPs due to more than half-century long armed conflict.

·    Liberia: 850,000 IDPs due to the state and the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).

·    Nepal: 200,000 – 500,000 IDPs due to People’s War and Madhesi movements .

·    Rwanda: Undetermined IDPs while Hutu president, Rwanda and Hutu president, Burundi was killed .

·    Somalia: 400,000 – 1,500,000 IDPs including staying in refugees in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Yemen.  

·    Sudan: 5,300,000 IDPs due to civil/ethnic war in Darfur/Chad .

·    Sri Lanka: 500,000 IDPs due to Sinhalese-led government and separatist Tamil conflict.

·    Uganda: 1,200,000 – 1,700,000 IDPs due to Lord’s Army and Hutu vs. Tutsi.

·    West Bank and Gaza: 200,000 – 500,000 IDPs.  

UN Mobilizations

How well does a close examination of the UN peacekeeping and political missions and the analysis mentioned in the Human Security Report 2005 above compare with reality? The following results of UN operations should help to understand.

Africa: To prevent foreign troop’s intervention and preserve the Congo’s territory, the UN Operation in the Congo (UNOC)  was mobilized from 1960-1964. Similarly, Truce UNAVEM I (Angola Verification Mission I)  operated between 1989-1991. To support the Namibian War of Independence, UN Transition Assistance Group (UNTAC)  was mobilized to supervise elections for independence during 1989-90.  

Americas: For rival government in the Dominican Republic, UN Mission was mobilized from 1965-66 . To monitor the truce in Nicaragua, UN Observer Group in Central America (ONUCA) was mobilized from 1989–92 .

Asia: UN Security Force (UNSF) was mobilized to monitor truce of West from Dutch rule to Indonesian takeover in West New Guinea  from 1962-63. Similarly, the UNGOMAP operated to enforce Afghanistan-Pakistan mutual non-interference during 1988-90 .

Middle East: To supervise the withdrawal of troops in the six-day war (Suez Crisis) between Egypt and Israel, UNEF-1 (UN Emergency Force I)  was deployed during 1956-67. UNOGIL (Observation Group in Lebanon)  was mobilized to prevent entry of troops and weapons in Lebanon during Lebanon Crisis in 1958. UNEF II was instilled to supervise the withdrawal of troops from Sinai after armed conflict (1973-79) between Egypt, Syria and Israel. UNIIMOG (Iran-Iraq Military Observation Group)  was mobilized to supervise the Truce after the war (1989-91) between Iran and Iraq. UNYOM (Yemen Observation Mission)  was rallied to disengage Saudi Arabia and Egypt in the Yemen Civil War (1962-64).

In the post-cold war era, the following points to the increasing trend of UN involvement in the violence, deadly armed conflict, and genocide throughout the globe:

Africa: UNAVEM II  was mobilized during 1991-95 to enforce/monitor Truce during Angolan Civil War. UNAVEM III operated 1995-97 to disarm the rebel forces and monitor Truce. During Mozambican Civil War in 1992-94, ONUMOZ (Operation in Mozambique)  operated to monitor Truce. In 1992-93 UN Operation in Somalia I (UNOSOM I)  was initiated to enforce Truce as a UNITAF (Unified Task Force), which was replaced by UNOSOM II  in 1993 March till the end of 1995 during Civil War II with the purpose to establish peace and humanitarian aid. UNOMIL (Observer Mission in Liberia)  was instilled during Liberian Civil War I in 1993-97 to monitor Truce and election. Since 2003, UNMIL (Mission in Liberia) sent a force consisting of 3,000 civil, military and police to oversee and maintain Truce, train the security force and repatriate 850 thousand refugees.

UNOMUR (Observation Mission Uganda-Rwanda)   operated during Rwanda-Uganda genocide between 1993-94, to enforce and monitor Truce in Rwanda and rebel groups in Uganda. UNAMIR (Assistance Mission for Rwanda)  was deployed during Rwanda genocide between 1993-96 to monitor Truce and promote relief efforts. UNOMSIL (Observation Mission in Sierra Leone)  was mobilized during 1998-99 to monitor Disarmament, Demobilization and Rehabilitation (DDR), which was extended until 2005 to disarm and stabilize peace. In Burundi, Hutu extremists conducted ethnic cleansing of Tutsi during 1972, 1988 and 1993. Tutsi officials murdered the first elected Hutu PM, intensifying the conflict until 1996. In the Burundian Civil War, genocidal incidences had long continued for which UNOB (Operation in Burundi)   was mobilized only during 2004–06.

Americas: ONUSAL (Observer Mission in El Salvador)  was mobilized during 1991–95 in the Civil War to enforce and monitor Truce. UNSMIH (Support Mission in Haiti)  operated to overturn the coup and stabilize peace after the military coup in Haiti during 1993-1996. Again, UNSMIH was mobilized to modernize security forces in the new democracy during 1996–97 and from 1997-2000, UN Civilian Police Mission also operated in Haiti to modernize the police. UN Transition Mission in Haiti (UNTMIH) was deployed in 1997 to stabilize peace. Similarly, UN Verification Mission (MINUGUA)  was deployed in Guatemala during the Civil War in 1997 to monitor Truce.

Asia: UNAMIC (Advance Mission in Cambodia)  operated during Vietnamese invasion and occupation of Cambodia (1991-1992) as a gateway for UNTAC Transitional Authority in Cambodia.  UNTAC was deployed in 1992–93 to assist monitoring Truce and Constituent Assembly (CA) Election. UN Observer Mission in Tajikistan  was instilled to monitor Truce from 1994-2002 during Civil War. After Indonesian invasion and occupation, UNAMET (Mission in East Timor)  was deployed to oversee referendum on political relation to Indonesia in 1999. For independence, UN Transitional Administration in East Timor was operated from 1999-2002. Similarly, UNMISET (Mission of Support in East Timor) was deployed to ensure security from 2002-05.

Middle East: UNIKOM (Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission) was deployed in the Gulf War  to enforce and monitor the Iraq Kuwait border during 1991-2003.

Europe: UNPROFOR (Protection Force) was operationalized during Yugoslav Wars (1992-95) to protect Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Macedonia. Similarly, UNCRO (Confidence Operation Mission) was deployed to monitor Truce during Croatian War  from 1994-96. During 1995-96 UNTAES (Transitional Authority in Eastern Slovenia, Baranja and Western Sirmium) in the Croatian was instilled to supervise integration of regions into Croatia. In 1998, UNPSG (Civilian Police Support Group) was deployed to monitor and train Croatian police. Further from 1995-99, UN Preventive Deployment Force was mobilized to monitor  border between Albania and Macedonia. UNMIBH (Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina)  was deployed to monitor human rights and supply humanitarian aids during Bosnian War (1995-2002).

Ongoing UN Operations

1948: The first UN Peacekeeping Mission, UNTSO (Truce Supervision Organization)  was founded to monitor various Truces in Arab-Israeli wars.

1949: UNMOGIP (Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan)  during Indo-Pakistan War to monitor Truce in Kashmir.

1964: UNFICYP (Peacekeeping Mission in Cyprus) on Cyprus dispute to prevent conflict between Greek, Turkish and Cypriots.  

1974:  UNDOF (Disengagement Observer Force) to maintain Truce between Syria and Israel at Golan Heights  and agreed withdrawal of troops following the Yom  Kippur War.

1978: UNIFIL (Interim Force in Lebanon)  to supervise Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and help Lebanon government to maintain peace and security.

1991: MINURSO (Mission for Referendum in Western Sahara) during Moroccan occupation in Western Sahara to implement Truce and promote referendum.

1993: UNOMIG (Observer Mission in Georgia)  during Abkhazian war to enforce Truce between Georgia and Abkhaz separatists.

1999: UNMIK (Interim Administrative Mission in Kosovo)  to exercise administrative and judicial justice in Kosovo.

1999: MONUC (Organization Mission in Congo) to monitor Truce during Congo War II.

2000: UNME (Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea)  to enforce and monitor Truce in Ethiopian/Eritrean War.

2003: UNMIL (Mission in Liberia) in Liberian Civil War II to oversee Cease Fire.

2004: UN Mission to monitor Truce in Civil War in Cote d’ Ivory.

2004: UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti to monitor rebellion.

2005: UNMIS (Mission in Sudan)  to implement/monitor Comprehensive Peace Agreement, assist humanitarian aid and protect and promote human rights during (North/South) Civil War II.

2006: UNMIT (Mission in Timor Lest) during East Timor Crisis to support government initiation of peace and stability, facilitate political dialogue, enhance culture of democratic governance and foster social cohesion.

2007: UNAMID (African Union Mission in Darfur) during Darfur conflict to monitor Arms Trade and to maintain Truce.

Nepal and the UN’s political mission

As the UN Security Council became ineffective in managing genocide/socio-cultural conflicts, the UN has initiated the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) in conflict-prone areas since 2004. Similarly, the UN has established the Peace Building Commission in 2005 and Human Rights Council in 2006. However, then UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, also received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for work toward a better organized and more peaceful world. The UN Peacekeeping Force (blue helmets) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988. What is the truth? It is clear that the trend of violence, armed/deadly conflicts and genocide throughout the globe was the highest in this post-cold war period. What was behind the curtain when Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, when even large numbers of Americans themselves could not accept the legitimacy of the decision? The choice of Martti Ahtisaari, ex-president of Finland, for Noble Peace Award 2008 has again surprised world’s people. Western power elites term him a peace fixer of former Yugoslavia. However, Jan Oberg of TFF of Norway says,  “Ahtisaari is a man who by his ‘mediations’ fully endorses the ‘peace’ brought about by militarist means and international law violations – rather than following the UN norm of ‘peace by peaceful means’."

The UN Political Mission was deployed in Nepal with the strength of 200 international civilians, 337 local civilians, 72 military observers, and 61 UN volunteers following Security Council Resolution 1740 adopted in 2007 after the Agreement of Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies (AMMAA) signed between the Government and the Maoists on December 8, 2006. The AMMAA was signed following the Comprehensive Peace Accord of November 21, 2006. The preamble consists of four provisions: (i) to guarantee the fundamental rights of the Nepali people to take part in constituent assembly elections in a free and fair environment without fear: (ii) to declare the beginning of a new chapter of peaceful democratic governance, ending the 11-year long armed conflict, to accomplish, through the constituent assembly, sovereignty for the Nepali people in the form of a progressive political outlet, a democratically  restructured  state, and social-economic-cultural transformation; and (iii) to fully observe the terms of the bilateral agreement witnessed by the United Nations; and (iv) to seek UN assistance in monitoring the management of the arms and armies on both sides by UN civilian personnel by confining the Maoist Army (MA) combatants and their weapons within designated cantonments and monitoring the Nepal Army (NA) to ensure that it remains in its barracks and its weapons are not used. Finally, the UN established its office for the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) on January 23, 2006.

Initially, the Maoists had proposed the UN mission’s term only for the period of six months, whereas the government proposed it be for a year. Extension of role and term of UNMIN has become talk of the town, as the mandate had not been accomplished in one-and-half years of its establishment. The Government has not accomplished an action plan for democratization of the Nepal Army and professionalizing of the Maoist army. Yet, UNMIN has completed its task of storing the weapons in secure containers, confining the ex-combatants in cantonments and conducting the second round verification of the ex-combatants as well as providing technical support to the Election Commission for the CA election.

The conclusion of UNMIN duties and responsibilities was delayed due to postponement of the CA of mid-June 2007 to the end of June and then again on November 22, 2007 to April 10, 2008. But the tenure of UNMIN was extended twice, up to January 22, 2009, due to its work such as monitoring the peace process. Owing to high profile work and completion of CA, UNMIN has now been downsized by almost 80% after July 2008. Former UN envoy and Professor, Jay Raj Acharya, stated that all the resources of the UN are mobilized to write smooth reports rather than do work. They could cover the distance from the Earth to the Moon if the documents were stacked . UNMIN tenure may have been extended further simply to frustrate Indian desire for a greater role in Nepal’s arms and army management. Though UNMIN had been looking for greater roles in Nepal, UNMIN has been facing obstacles/difficulties or receiving criticism from all corners. A few notable examples of UNMIN’s loosing trust and confidence from both the public and political parties are as follows:    

Government concern: The outgoing PM Girija Pd. Koirala was not satisfied with the UN as it had conducting activities aimed at empowering Madhesi and other ethnic communities, crossing its mandates. On some occasions, he scolded UNMIN as they had hesitated to put pressure on the ex-combatants when they came out of the cantonments. On October 13, 2008, Sushil Koirala, acting president of the Nepali Congress, publicly posed the question: if UNMIN can speak about the rights of the Maoists combatants, why does it remain silent concerning the difficulty of Maoist victims? He further said, “We wanted UNMIN to come to Nepal even when all and various [groups] were opposed to it. However, it has confirmed to be a devoted supporter of the Maoists. It is immoral. The opposition also needs to be listened.” In response to the NC, on October 16, 2008, Chief of UNMIN, Ian Martin, said, “I have always stressed to redress the problem of conflict victims, but it is government’s responsibility, not UNMIN’s.”  

Power equation: The giant neighbors of Nepal, India and China, have not been supportive in the establishment of UNMIN in part due to the USA’s stake. The USA is always behind the scene pulling strings not to let deals come together between these two. Nepal is located in the best strategic point for the USA to play its power and political games with both of them. As the US has a very strong influence in the UN, one could speculate that the USA may have filtered its spies into UNMIN similar to it’s infiltration of weapons inspection between the two Iraq wars. Before attack on Iraq by US, the former UN weapons inspector in Iraq Scott Ridder stated that biological agent shall be neutralized within three years of manufacture. Effective monitoring inspections were conducted from 1994-1998 without any obstruction from Iraq and never once detected any evidence of retained proscribed activity. He said, “In direct contrast to these findings, the Bush administration provides only speculation, failing to detail any factually based information to bolster its claims concerning Iraq’s continued possession of or ongoing efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. To date no one has held the Bush administration accountable for its unwillingness – or inability – to provide such evidence” . As long as political chaos exits in Nepal, the country will remain a playground for hegemonic US interests. The UN tends to resolve conflict in the countries where US has a stake.

Peace Professor Johan Galtung in his forthcoming book observed that the US has already conducted 67 political interventions including 25 cases of bombings in 60 countries (in over 31 percent of the UN member states since 1945 to date), viz. Afghanistan 79-92, Albania 49-53 & 91-92, Angola 75-80s, Australia 72-75, Bolivia 64-75, Brazil 61-63, British Guiana 53-64, Bulgaria 90-91, Cambodia 55-73, Chad 81-82, Chile 64-73, China 45-51, Colombia 90s, Congo-Zaire 77-78, Costa Rica 50s, 70-71, Cuba 59-, Dominican Republic 63-65, East Timor 75-99, Eastern Europe 48-56, Ecuador 60-63, El Salvador 80-92, Fiji 87, France 47, France-Algeria 60s, Germany 50s, Ghana 66, Greece 47-49 & 67-74, Grenada 79-83, Guatemala 53-90s, Haiti 59, 87-94, Honduras 80s, Indonesia 57-58, Indonesia 65, Iran 53, Iraq 58-63, 72-75 & 90s-, Italy 47-70s, Jamaica 76, Korea 45-53, Laos 57-73, Libya 81-89, Marshall Islands 46-58, Mexico 90s, Middle East 56-58, Nicaragua 78-90s, Panama 89, Peru 65, 90s, Philippines 45-53 & 70s, Portugal 74-76, Seychelles 79-81, Somalia 93, South Africa 60s-80s, South Korea 80, South Yemen 79-84, Soviet Union 40s-60s, Suriname 82-84, Thailand 65-73, Uruguay 69-72, Vietnam 45-73, Western Europe 50s-60s, and Yugoslavia 95-99 . The question that draws the attention: Is not there any possibility of its intervention in trans-Himalayan operations? This curiosity is supported by the US initiative to accommodate Lhotshampa (Bhutanese Refugees of Nepalese origin residing in Nepal) in US instead of facilitating  return to their own homeland.

Foreign land: India is not happy because of the UN’s clandestine meeting with Madhesi rebels in her land . As UNMIN is acting as a catalyst for traditionally marginalized groups, India has fear about whether such sensitivity shall spread on her land too.

Road Map: UNMIN has not been able to develop its road map of policies and programs despite huge human capital and financial resources.

Recruitment: ‘Ghar kasari banaune bhanne kura dakshya karmi le matra bhanna sakchha’ (Skilled individual is pertinent to build a perfect house). Some international staff of UNMIN had never heard much of Nepal before deployment, nor had ample knowledge and skills required for the job. Similarly, some of the national or local staff that have been hired from other UN agencies lack academic degrees, skills and knowledge. Even at the local level, UNMIN has selected “yes man/woman” rather than competent people.

Civil Society Organizations/Individuals: Many of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) that considered themselves stalwarts of the public and filled the headlines have subsequently lost status after the entry of UNMIN. A very few CSOs have been lucky to be a partner with UNMIN or have their near and dear ones recruited. As huge sums of possible grants to CSOs have now turned to UNMIN, the benefit losers of the CSOs often criticize the UNMIN rather than on the basis of concrete facts.  

Protocol Mapping: UNMIN’s strategy failure is that it has engaged in pleasing the topmost leadership only. The news of the UNMIN chief meeting with the PM and/or the Party top brass comes almost every day, but it is rare to hear of a meeting with other portfolio holders along the chain of command, i.e., the foreign minister. Therefore, Ministers and other leaders of political parties are not inclined to be happy with UNMIN. People are realizing that UNMIN’s role, that is supposed to be impartial, is becoming far from it. Revealing it’s inexperience, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal instructed all foreign agencies to maintain chain of command recently.

Regional perspective: Even Ban Ki-moon from South Korea, succeeded in becoming the UN Secretary General due to the vested political interest of the US government, against a strong candidate from India. In the face of global anti-Iraq invasion sentiments, Kofi Annan tried to stop US from attacking Iraq, and was threatened with impeachment by the US government. Similar to the outgoing Kofi Annan, Ban will never go against the desire of US policy.  If the chief of the UN affiliates himself with US power and politics, how can Nepali people expect its employees to be impartial? Indeed, the UK, Korea, Italy and Japan can be thought of as the 4-pillars of US–government.

Political process: Unlike many post-conflict countries where the peace process is or was being conducted with both top-down and bottom-up approaches, Nepal is receiving a rare top-down approach to all people (class, caste/ethnicity, regional, socio-cultural groups) including ex-combatants and the Young Communist League (YCL). Neither has Nepal started a bottom-up approach even after two years of peace process, nor have there been any politico-economic policies toward ex-combatants. An estimated one-third are residing outside cantonments where they are leading the YCL. In many instances, it has been observed that YCL members are becoming engaged in extortion for their own livelihood, which in turn discourages the status quo forces from transforming the conflict into peace. Why does UNMIN/UN not fulfill its mandate to train/empower such forces in the political process?   

Maoist’s perspective: Due to heated discussions on verification of ex-combatants between the Maoists and UNMIN, senior Maoist leader Dr. Baburam Bhattarai once said that UNMIN should go back the following day, if they formally opposed Maoist work. Another Maoist negotiator, Dev Gurung, commented to UNMIN that its performance is similar to NGO work. The Maoists are sharply critical of NGOs, believing them anti-Maoist foreign agents or imperialists. Gurung comments, “No matter how these NGOs are constituted, they are working here for the benefit of donor communities…. Corruption will come under control only when the state is formed with people’s participation and when totalitarian regime is eradicated.”  

Security dimension: Socio-cultural violence had erupted in the Tarai (southern plains or Madhes) after UNMIN almost finished confining the Maoists arms and armies. The State is almost absent in more than one-third of the Tarai areas due to atrocities and brutalities of the more than two-dozen secessionists or One Madhes One Pradesh (violent, non-violent and criminal) groups. Last year’s UNMIN report submitted to the Security Council exaggerated that 70% of Madhes areas have no public officials. It was not true. Pointing the situation havoc, UNMIN wants to get sympathy particularly from the Security Council and other UN member states that finally help to prolong its office in Nepal not for only sustainable peace but for their jobs. Many fear that contras or ‘counter-revolutionaries’ such as those in Nicaragua will appear in Nepal due to high prevalence of foreigners in various positions. People are living with insecurity, injustice and undignified situations and restrictions. At least two people are extrajudicially killed each day in the central and western Tarai regions. Particularly hill and mountain-originated peoples (Pahade), civil servants and citizens have been victimized in Madhes. Such groups’ demand for UN mediation in dialog, while UN personnel met some of the insurgents in India, defying stated objectives and mandates. If a person wants peace, he/she should work for justice and security.


The highest number of UN peacekeeping operations are in former Yugoslavia  (8 missions completed, one ongoing in Kosovo) with the aim to resolve the Yugoslavian conflict. Other key countries with UN peacekeeping operations include: Haiti (4 missions completed, 1 ongoing); Angola (4 completed); East Timor (3 completed, 1 ongoing); Sudan including Darfur (2 completed, 1 ongoing); Congo (2 completed, 1 ongoing); Somalia (2 completed); Rwanda (2 completed); Sierra Leone (2 completed); and Cambodia (2 completed); Chad (1 completed, 1 ongoing); Liberia (1 completed, 1 ongoing).  

The former Yugoslavia is the only country where a UN mission has been deployed in Europe. The most war-affected continent is Africa with 40% of the armed conflict in the world. In most of the developed countries, the mind (knowledge, information and skill) is prioritized, whereas money, muscle and mafia control the resources and policies in developing countries, contributing to conflicts. Most of the conflicts during the cold war period were contributed to by political/ideological aspects, while those in the post-cold war period largely involved economic, socio-cultural, language, regional and caste/ethnic issues. According to Prof. Wallensteen, “Less overt support, involving, for example, financial and logistic assistance, is found much more frequently. This type of support was present in nearly three-quarters of the armed conflicts after the end of the Cold War.”

This analysis of Human Development Report 2005 that states there is a decreasing trend of violence, armed/deadly conflicts, wars and genocide/politicide throughout the globe in the post-cold war, does not comply with the information collected and analyzed.  Wallensteen stated that a total of 228 armed conflicts have been recorded after World War II, of which 52% (118 conflicts) were post-Cold War. The online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, states that some critics have questioned the relevance of this data noting that conflict and violence are still significant obstacles for human development, worldwide security and sustainable peace. Even UN Report 2005 agrees that the violent conflicts/wars in the past 15 years have annihilated a larger number of human lives. As the report particularly focuses on battle-related direct deaths, it disregards the consequences to human security of war-driven malnutrition, disease, famine and hunger. War/conflict induced malnutrition, disease, displacement, famine and hunger is a far greater terror to human security compared to bombs and bullets. Ever-increasing deployment of UN operations is itself evidence that the eruption of violent conflicts/wars has not decreased, but turned toward more identity and resource based socio-cultural, religious and regional violence in the post-cold war. Therefore, there are doubts over the credibility and honesty of the Human Security Report 2005; is it not meant to encourage sustaining unipolar power indefinitely? The unipolarity of global politics, power and property is a major factor contributing to more violence, armed/deadly conflicts and genocide/politicide, and humiliating others.

In the 21st century, there has been a debate on the success and failure of UN missions including UNMIN in Nepal. There are widespread questions about whether UNMIN will be able to reap success. Will UNMIN be guiding the fate of the country toward peace, security and development? What is the history of UN Missions? For whom has the UN been working for? What are their successes or failures up to this point? Is the UN, with 193 member countries, a common platform for all? If yes or no, why? UNMIN is nearer to failure due to high profile public activities, yet it has no power granted to it by the Nepal Government and is often criticized by the opposition political parties, particularly the Nepali Congress. Similarly, one-quarter of the missions have fully/partly succeeded, while some notable failures are:

In 1994, the Security Council refused to approve military action in Rwanda genocide, which resulted in 800,000 people extrajudicially killed while Hutu presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were killed in plane crash by Tutsi in April 6, 1994.  

The MONUC partially succeeded to intervene in Congo War II, disarmed ex-combatants and carried out distribution of humanitarian aid, yet that conflict still claimed the lives of 3.8 millions people during 1998-2002. The Mai-Mai militia which was formed by civil defense against external invaders, i.e., Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia received arms and ammunition by US, Russia and China. They fought against the government similar to Bin Laden.

While UN peacekeeping troops failed to hold elections in Burundi, the African Union (AU) succeeded in maintaining peace there. Even in Eritrean-Ethiopian War, the AU succeeded in restoring peace, driving out UN peacekeeping force.

The UN peacekeeping troops succeeded neither to hold presidential elections on time nor disarm the combatants in Cote d’ Ivoire.
The UN political Mission failed to stop US troops from entering into Somalia, but compelled them to return in 1995 without success. The UN also failed to deliver humanitarian aid to impoverished Somalis or protect them from local warlords.

Despite Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1701, UN peacekeeping missions failed to disarm the paramilitary groups – Fatah and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Israel delayed implementing Security Council resolutions dismantling Jewish communities in the occupied territories.

Iraq broke several Security Council resolutions and tried to ignore the UN economic sanctions before June 28, 1991. The mission, food for oil, in Iraq created public debate about corruption done by the son of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The UN could not control its peacekeeping missions in Congo, Haiti, Liberia, Sudan, etc. to combat the cycle of sexual abuse successfully.
People across the world have accused the UN of inaction on the Sudanese government in Darfur, ethnic cleansing in Tibet and Israel-Palestine socio-cultural/religious violence.

The UN failed to stop the US, UK and a few European nations from intervening in Iraq. More surprising was that they mobilized their forces without permission of UN Security Council. After they occupied and destroyed Iraqi infrastructure and proclaimed success in the war, the UN Security Council was pressured to mobilize a peacekeeping force. That issue is still unresolved.

Despite the mobilization of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and International Security Forces, the peacekeeping troops were unable to disarm ex-combatants except some thousand child-soldiers.

As the UN peacekeeping force failed to comply with peace agreements, British troops along with huge numbers of Gurkha (Nepalis recruited into the British Army) intervened in Sierra Leon and partially succeeded.

UN does not to free the Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, due to clandestine support to the military government by a few powerful elites and so-called democrats.    

Except a few full and partial successes in Cambodia, East Timor, Mozambique, Liberia, Macedonia, etc., 75 % of UN missions have failed to manage the conflict or restore peace, security and development. Why does the UN fail to manage/resolve conflicts around the world? Some of the principal reasons are:

Political institutions: The principal aim of the UN is to prevent war, to safeguard human rights, to provide international humanitarian law, to promote social and economic progress, to improve living standards, to strengthen better environment, and fight against diseases.  The UN is for humanity but it has less interest in economic, social and cultural progresses of developing (needy) countries in comparison to the political aims of powerful nations, particularly the US. Martin Luther King Junior once stated that if humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought, and acted, inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony.

Prejudiced institutions: The past has demonstrated that the UN works at the whim of the US Government rather than  freely, fairly and independently.  To the extent that it does not, it is ignored and dismissed as a useless institution by the US (that provides 22% of the total funding).   

Delayed deployment: UN peacekeeping and/or political missions are mobilized only when the situation becomes terrible or out of control. For example, there was no interest in the Turkish-Kurdish and Georgia-Ossetia conflicts in the recent past. The UN only intervenes after extensive media coverage and a huge destruction of lives, infrastructure and resources.

Low-tone earshot: Conflict often occurs in less developed or developing countries, but UN officials are from developed countries. The US and Europeans are the one who control the entire machinery of the UN, turning a deaf ear to poor people’s (mostly in developing countries) voices, grievances and suffering.

Visible action: The UN focuses on visible action in public such as peacekeeping operations rather than human rights causes, humanitarian relief, diplomatic relations and so forth.

Empirical model: In the event of civil war and genocide in African countries, the AU is more successful than the UN peacekeeping missions are. The UN officials often hesitate to mobilize local and cheaper human capital available and physical resources and amenities, but instead follow an expensive imperial model based on purchasing foreign resources.  

Identity crisis: In this century, armed conflict leads to focus on classes, castes/ethnicities, languages, religions and regions, but the UN policy-makers, planners, strategists and peacemakers/builders are from western (developed) countries. They sometimes appear to have either less, or in many cases it seems, no respect of socio-cultural differences, economic diversities, structural causes of occurring conflicts, etc. In many cases, this intensifies crises.
Protracted bureaucracy: The UN Security Council secretariat has complex and lengthy administrative procedures/systems that often cause extensive delay towards any direct action in serious human suffering.

Lack of resources: Due to the UN’s intergovernmental structure of member states and 15-member Security Council, the secretariat often lacks required resources to fully implement its mandates.

UN on target:  There is a widespread belief that the UN is no less than half a part of US-government. Due to its affiliation, the UN has been a regular target of attack, sometimes institutionally and sometimes individually, by anti-US forces (often called terrorists); particularly by socio-cultural and religious fronts or fundamentalists. On December 11, 2007, two car bombs loaded with 1600 kg of explosives  exploded 10 minutes apart at the Constitutional Council and UN Building in the Algerian capital, Algiers  where 31 people including 17 UN workers were killed (mostly Algerians and three foreigners)  leaving 177 injured. Al-Qaeda’s North African branch claimed responsibility for the attacks. When a truck bomb blew up outside the UN building headquarters (Canon Hotel had been used by the UN since 1991), 22 people were killed including UN top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello at Bagdad on August 19, 2003 at 4.45 PM (local time) . It was a retaliation against the UN as it could not prevent US invasion (March 21 to May 1, 2003) by 100,000 troops in Iraq backed by Britain, Australia, Poland and Denmark . Before the attack, 63% of US people preferred President Bush find a diplomatic solution rather than War. In one survey, 62% people gave the opinion that terrorism would intensify in the event of war . The Iraq invasion was strongly opposed by some traditional allies of the US, such as France, Germany, Italy, etc. On February 15, 2003, a month before the invasion, there were worldwide protests against the Iraq War, including a rally of 3 million people (setting a Guinness world record) in Rome alone. About 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the Iraq war . In PBS Frontline on Insurgency, Zarqawi said, “We destroyed the UN building, the protectors of Jews, the friends of the oppressors and aggressors. The UN has recognized the Americans as the masters of Iraq. Before that, they gave Palestine as a gift to the Jews so they can rape the land and humiliate our people… .” On March 29, 2003, a rocket struck the headquarters compound of UN peacekeepers in Kabul , but there were no casualties . On June 2, 2008, a car blast nearby the UN building and Danish Embassy in Islamabad killed many people and damaged the wall . These are only a few examples.

A peaceful world with full security is a daydream as long as (i) competition on manufacturing, trading, trafficking, and smuggling of arms/ammunition flourishes around the globe; (ii) 5-permanent members are continuously applying  authoritarian veto power in the UN Security Council; and (iii) UN acts as a branch of the US government. If these three conditions cannot be stopped, the UN shall continue to fail as it has lost the trust of commoners of developing countries. The UN will continue to work for the purposes of elite/developed countries; not for small and developing country like Nepal.

UN peacekeeping is to be ways for benevolence and love rather than job-orientation, as love conquers evil, falsehood and hate. Love is the supreme power for humanity because the power of love defeats love of power. Love brings peace that makes true friends, which is not a doctrine, but a process. Abraham Lincoln says, “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”

An oft-quoted child once wrote, “Violence is always bad for human beings, animals, and nature too.” The cost of war is in lives, and cannot be repaid, especially with more lives. Peace is not brought by fasting or praying, but though dialog, compromise, justice, and determination. Non-violence/peace begins when the hungry are fed, unemployed are employed, vulnerable are protected and marginalized included. Nonviolence does not change the heart of the oppressor; it first realizes by heart, commits by soul, generates new self-respect, stirs conscience and moves him/her to reconcile with reality. The developing countries need the UN to eradicate poverty. Particularly, South Asia needs it to remember that poverty prevails in places outside of Africa.

History of war is expensive. Peace is priceless. The effort of peace is a cumulative effect, which speaks the truth, not merely with reason, but also by the heart. There is no means to peace, but peace is itself the means.  Peace is not merely absence of civil disorder, but judicial freedom and equality, fraternity, security, and development that is a collective rather than individual practice. Peace means resolution of global, regional, and local conflict by non-violent means. Peace is not easy to attain. As George Bernard Shaw said, “Peace is not only better than war, but infinitely more arduous.”

(*It is my privilege to pay special thanks to Mr. Neil Horning who has contributed to editing this research article. I also express sincere thanks to Mr. Surendra Uprety (PhD student), Ms. Rushma Shakya, Ms. Rita Chaudhary, Mr. Ganga Puri and Ms. Meena Siwakoti who assisted in this exercise).


      Galtung, Johan. 2000. Conflict Transformation by Peaceful Means. UN
     Pathak, Bishnu. 2006. Politics of People’s War and Human Rights in Nepal. Kathmandu: Bimipa Publication
     Woolman, D.C. 1985. Education and Peace in the Thought of Johan Galtung. In Education and Human Development Education and Peace. Vol. 3, No. 2.
        In Bhagawat Gita.
      Wallensteen, Peter. 2007. Understanding Conflict Resolution. London: Sage Publications
      Shortly after the war, the residents of East Jerusalem started to use as permanent residents of Israel. The majority of the Egyptians rejected Israeli citizenship, and most of them keep close ties with the West Bank, even though they were allowed to vote for municipal services. Similarly, the mostly Druze inhabitants of the Golan Heights were believed permanent residents under the Golan Heights Law of 1981. Even in Golan Heights, only few of them had accepted full Israeli citizenship considering themselves to be citizens of Syria (
      Pathak, Bishnu: Ibid
      Harris, Peter and Reilly Ben. 1998. Democracy and Deep-Rooted Conflict: Options for Negotiators. Stockholm: IDEA, page 1.
      Upreti, Bishnu Raj. 2002. Management of Social and Resource Conflict in Nepal: Realities and Alternatives. Delhi: Adroit Publishers, page ix.
      Situation Update No. 57. December 17, 2007. Kathmandu: Conflict Study Center (Cs Center)
      This no. has not been included in the IDPs report as the researchers have less interest on Nepal.
      both assassinated when their jet was shot down by missiles from the Ugandan army. undof.htm
      Kantipur. October 25, 2008. Kathmandu: Kantipur Publication
      Galtung, Johan. 2009. The Fall of the US Empire – And Then What? Vienna: TRANSCEND University Press.
      Times of India of November 9, 207.
      Himalayan Times of November 23, 2007


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 1 Nov 2008.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: THE UNITED NATIONS: CHALLENGES FOR PEACE, is included. Thank you.

If you enjoyed this article, please donate to TMS to join the growing list of TMS Supporters.

Share this article:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.

Comments are closed.