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The Cycle of Ineffective Crisis Management

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The Cycle of Ineffective Crisis Management

Posted by David Sullivan on January 6, 2009

John Boonstra responds to our own Julia Keyser’s analysis of the “re-hatting” of peacekeeping missions by the United Nations, noting the “predictable double-dip of disappointment” that occurs when regional forces and then UN blue helmets successively fail to keep non-existent peace in Sudan or Somalia.

So if we know that under-equipped regional missions can’t get the job done, and that UN missions that lack the requisite political leadership will just kick the can down the road while doing little to protect civilians under-fire (as in Congo), why does history keep repeating itself? 

Those of us who work on resolving conflict need to spend a lot more time thinking about how to redress these sorts of skewed incentives and structural stumbling blocks. We know that the international community, at the UN Security Council or elsewhere, tends to prioritize rhetorical resolutions over the political capital required for peacemaking. We also know that peacekeeping missions and humanitarian aid can slow the rate of death in a place like Darfur, but that they also conveniently substitute for a viable political strategy on the part of those states with the means, but without the will, to change the calculations of the guys with guns on the ground.

How to break this cycle of ineffectiveness? For starters, we need to relentlessly focus on the real actions that governments can take to resolve human rights crises, and keep exposing the half measures and demonstrably failed strategies that will inevitably resurface the next time that crimes against humanity hit the front pages.