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UN Take-overs: Do they help or hurt?

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UN Take-overs: Do they help or hurt?

Posted by Julia Keyser on December 31, 2008

The recent pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia have piqued international interest in the state of anarchy in Somalia. The African Union has requested that the UN take over the African Union Mission in Somalia, and while this option has been shelved for the moment, it is worth examining lessons learned from other UN take-overs of regional missions. The UN has on several occasions taken over regional missions, with Liberia and Darfur are prime examples. However, while some may think substituting a UN peacekeeping mission in replacement of under-staffed and under-funded regional missions will dramatically improve the situation, this is rarely the case. 

The UN’s Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL), initially numbering 400 troops in 1993, did not successfully quell violence in Liberia, and was in fact reduced to 90 troops when the country became extremely violent and reached the point of near total anarchy in 1996.

UNAMID, which expanded AMIS in late 2007, failed to address the root causes of the conflict in its new mandate, and made the same crucial mistake as AMIS, namely relying on Khartoum to make a ‘good faith’ effort to end conflict. (See this Enough strategy paper for more on the obstacles UNAMID has faced in its efforts to protect civilians).
There is ample evidence that UN missions may actually prolong a conflictif there is no peace to keep. With Somalia once again facing serious violence and humanitarian crisis, the members of the UN Security Council must remember that UN missions are not a substitute for genuine political will, effective diplomacy and a practical plan to end a conflict.  Check out Yale University Political Science and Economics professor Chris Blattman’s excellent blog for more resources and analysis on peacekeeping missions.