According to Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations, the purpose of the organisation is “to maintain international peace and security”. Given the many crises and conflicts around the world, as well as the new risks and threats to international security, including those posed by non-state actors, the need for such efforts is no less pressing today than in the past.
Organs and instruments
The maintenance or restoration of peace is the paramount task of the United Nations Security Council. It takes appropriate measures and can, for example, issue mandates for peace missions. It can also mandate regional organisations (such as NATO, the EU, the OSCE or the African Union) or coalitions of the willing led either by an individual country or by an international organisation to settle conflicts. Since its foundation, the UN has itself conducted over 70 peace missions and mandated many others through the Security Council (such as NATO’S KFOR military mission in Kosovo).
Today’s UN peace missions increasingly focus on national conflicts and usually take the form of multidimensional operations. Alongside purely military peacekeeping tasks, such as border security or observation and the protection of civilians, these operations therefore also assume a wide range of civilian duties. Depending on their mandate, the peace missions support political processes within the context of stabilisation measures, e.g. by promoting mediation efforts between conflict parties, for example in Darfur and Mali, help reform the security sector, destroy small arms and light weapons, monitor elections and democratic processes, establish rule-of-law institutions and monitor the human rights situation.
In addition to contributing personnel to peace missions, Germany supports this comprehensive commitment of the UN in many regions with accompanying stabilisation measures and seeks to assist peacekeeping efforts with training measures such as the deployment of mobile training teams.
Around 110,000 people (soldiers, police officers and other civilian personnel) are currently involved in such UN peacekeeping missions around the world. The bulk of UN peacekeepers is deployed in Africa, and this will presumably continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. The broad spectrum of tasks undertaken by UN-led missions and the increase in their size and scope as a result of the complexity of the crises in the world demonstrate the importance of these missions. At the same time, they present the UN system with significant challenges in terms of planning, implementing and concluding missions. Comprehensive reforms of UN peacekeeping have therefore been initiated at international level and are being pursued with great energy under the leadership of UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
Peacekeeping must be distinguished from what are known as special political missions of the UN, which can also be deployed by the UN Security Council, such as in Somalia (UNSOM) and Colombia (UNVMC). Unlike peace missions, these are led by the Department of Political Affairs and consist exclusively of civilian forces.
German personnel in UN peace missions
Germany’s involvement in UN peace missions and in efforts to strengthen peacekeeping is an integral part of German foreign and peace policy.
Germany is contributing civilian personnel, police officers and soldiers to UN peace missions. It is currently (as of March 2019) involved in nine UN missions with soldiers or police officers. Germany’s commitment is focused on the UN peace mission in Mali (MINUSMA), which seeks to support the peace and reconciliation process within the country and stabilise the region beyond Mali itself. Germany’s engagement in these UN missions is therefore part of a coordinated peacekeeping approach. Germany is also involved in missions mandated by the UN, as well as in NATO, EU and OSCE missions.
Members of German security forces are currently participating in the following UN peace missions:
- UNIFIL (Lebanon)
- MINURSO (Western Sahara)
- MINUSMA (Mali)
- UNMISS (South Sudan)
- UNAMID (Sudan)
- UNMIK (Kosovo)
- UNMIL (Liberia)
- UNSOM (Somalia)
- MINUJUSHT (Haiti)
As the fourth-largest contributor to the relevant UN budget after the US, China and Japan, Germany is also a crucial source of funding for peacekeeping missions and is currently contributing 6.389 percent of the budget.