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UN action for peace

In Africa

UN peace efforts have taken many forms over the years, including the long campaign against apartheid in South Africa, active support for Namibian independence, a number of electoral support missions and 25 peacekeeping operations. The most recent operation was established in South Sudan (2011). Of course, the UN had already been on the ground in Sudan, to address what the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator had called the worst non-natural humanitarian crisis in the world. And in 2005, acting on findings of widespread human rights violations, the Security Council referred the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

The UN has also undertaken wide-ranging diplomatic efforts to restore peace in the Great Lakes region, and it is helping to prepare for a referendum on the future of Western Sahara.  Elsewhere in Africa, UN field missions continue their peace-building activities in several countries.

In Asia and the Pacific

Since 2002, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has worked to promote national reconciliation and to fulfil the tasks entrusted to the United Nations in the 2001 Bonn Agreement — including the areas of human rights, the rule of law and gender — as well as managing all UN humanitarian, relief, recovery and reconstruction activities in Afghanistan, in coordination with the Afghan government.

UNAMA integrates all UN activities in Afghanistan, including those of 20 UN agencies, working together with their Afghan government counterparts and with national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

When a peacekeeping mission in Tajikistan completed its work in 2000, a UN office was opened to provide the political framework and leadership for various peace-building activities. And UN military observers continue to monitor the ceasefire line between India and Pakistan in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

In East Timor, UN-brokered talks between Indonesia and Portugal culminated in a May 1999 agreement which paved the way for a popular consultation on the status of the territory. UN-supervised voter registration led to an August 1999 ballot in which 78 per cent of East Timorese voted for independence — leading to the establishment of the independent state of Timor-Leste in 2002.  A mission remains in the country to assist in consolidating stability, democratic governance and national reconciliation.

In Europe

A United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus continues to supervise the ceasefire lines, maintain the buffer zone and undertake humanitarian activities on that divided island. Its presence provides a conducive environment for the diplomatic efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Adviser, aimed at promoting negotiations and achieving a comprehensive settlement.

The UN worked strenuously towards resolving the conflict in the former Yugoslavia while providing relief assistance to millions of people. From 1992 to 1995, UN peacekeepers helped bring peace and security to Croatia, protect civilians in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and ensure that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was not drawn into the war. Following the 1995 Dayton-Paris peace agreements, four UN missions helped secure the peace.

Today, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) continues to work with the people of Kosovo to create a functioning, democratic society.  Established in 1999 following the end of NATO air bombings and the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces, UNMIK brings together efforts by the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations under the umbrella of the UN.

In the Americas

UN peacemaking and peacekeeping have been instrumental in resolving protracted conflicts in Central America. In 1989, in Nicaragua, the peace effort led to voluntary demobilization of the resistance movement, whose members turned in their weapons to the UN. In 1990, a UN mission observed Nicaragua's elections — the first UN-observed elections in an independent country. In El Salvador, peace talks mediated by the Secretary-General ended 12 years of fighting and a UN peacekeeping mission verified implementation of all agreements. And in Guatemala, UN-assisted negotiations ended a 35-year civil war.

In the Middle East

UN concern over the Arab-Israeli conflict spans nearly six decades and five full-fledged wars. The UN has defined principles for a just and lasting peace, including two benchmark Security Council resolutions — 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) — which remain the basis for an overall settlement.

The UN has supported other initiatives aimed at solving underlying political problems, and has dispatched various peacekeeping operations to the region. The UN's first military observer group was set up in 1948 and maintains its presence in the area to this day. The UN's first peacekeeping force was also set up there, during the Suez crisis of 1956. Two peacekeeping forces are currently in the region. One, established in 1974, maintains an area of separation on the Golan Heights between Israeli and Syrian troops. The other, established in 1978, contributes to stability in southern Lebanon. Following the 2006 crisis, this mission has been monitoring the cessation of hostilities, supported the deployment of the Lebanese armed forces and helped to deliver humanitarian assistance.
On the diplomatic front, the United Nations actively participates in efforts to reach a negotiated solution as a member of the “Quartet” — comprising the UN, the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation. In 2003, a “Road Map” to a permanent two-State solution, presented by the Quartet, was accepted by both parties but has not yet been implemented. Meanwhile, the UN continues, through the actions of the Security Council and other bodies, as well as of the Secretary-General and his Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, to promote a peaceful resolution of the situation.

In Iraq, following the 2003 war, the Security Council established the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).  Its aim is to assist with the political process and coordinate humanitarian assistance.


The end of occupation and the formal restoration of Iraqi sovereignty in 2004 marked a new phase in Iraq’s transitional process, leading to the 2005 elections. With the support of UNAMI, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and the UN Electoral Assistance Division, and despite the constant threat of violence, Iraqis turned out to exercise their political rights, leading to the inauguration of a new Government in 2006.

On 19 August 2003, the UN headquarters in Baghdad was the target of a terrorist attack that resulted in 22 deaths, including the head of mission, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and more than 150 injured.