BACKGROUNDERS

This page provides some background information on the UN peacekeeping missions that participated in the question and answer sessions with students.

For a full report on each of the missions, please visit the UN peacekeeping site.

 

UNITED NATIONS TRUCE SUPERVISION ORGANIZATION (UNTSO)

HEADQUARTERS: Government House, Jerusalem
DURATION: June 1948 to present
STRENGTH: 163 military observers, supported by international and local civilian staff

BACKGROUND:
In November 1947, the General Assembly endorsed a plan for the partition of Palestine, providing for the creation of an Arab State and a Jewish State, with Jerusalem to be placed under international status. The plan was not accepted by the Palestinian Arabs and Arab States. On 14 May 1948, the United Kingdom relinquished its mandate over Palestine and the State of Israel was proclaimed. On the following day, the Palestinian Arabs, assisted by Arab States, opened hostilities against Israel. On 29 May 1948, the Security Council, in resolution 50 (1948), called for a cessation of hostilities in Palestine and decided that the truce should be supervised by the UN mediator, with the assistance of a group of military observers. The first group of military observers arrived in the region on June 1948. Since then, UNTSO has performed various tasks, including the supervision of the General Armistice Agreements of 1949 and the monitoring of the cease-fire in the Suez Canal area and the Golan Heights following the Arab-Israel war of June 1967. At present, UNTSO assists and cooperates with other missions on the Golan Heights in the Israel-Syria sector and in the Israel-Lebanon sector.

 

UNITED NATIONS MISSION FOR THE REFERENDUM IN WESTERN SAHARA (MINURSO)

HEADQUARTERS: Laayoune
DURATION: April 1991 to present
STRENGTH: 203 military observers, 123 troops and 78 civilian police, supported by a number of international and local civilian staff

BACKGROUND:
Established in accordance with "the settlement proposals", as accepted on 30 August 1988 by Morocco and the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y de Río de Oro (Frente POLISARIO). Once the cease-fire between the parties came into effect in 1991, MINURSO became operational. Since that time, the cease-fire in the Western Sahara has generally held.

The ultimate aim is to organize and ensure a free and fair referendum in which the people of Western Sahara would choose between independence and integration with Morocco. However, given the two parties' divergent views on some key elements, in particular with regard to the criteria for eligibility to vote, it has not been possible to complete this process. Nevertheless, MINURSO has continued the process of identifying potential voters in the referendum which, given the setbacks, can be considered a major MINURSO achievement.

MINURSO's other responsibilities have been to monitor a cease-fire, verify the reduction of Moroccan troops in Western Sahara, monitor the confinement of Moroccan and Frente POLISARIO troops to designated locations, ensure the release of all Western Saharan political prisoners or detainees, oversee the exchange of prisoners of war and implement the repatriation programme.

 

UNITED NATIONS INTERIM FORCE IN LEBANON (UNIFIL)

HEADQUARTERS: Naqoura
DURATION: March 1978 to present
STRENGTH: 4,520 troops assisted by approximately 60 military observers of UNTSO's Observer Group Lebanon, supported by international and local civilian staff

BACKGROUND
In the early 1970s, tension along the Israel-Lebanon border increased, especially after the relocation of Palestinian armed elements from Jordan to Lebanon. Palestinian commando operations against Israel and Israeli reprisals against Palestinian bases in Lebanon intensified. On 11 March 1978, a commando attack in Israel resulted in many dead and wounded among the Israeli population; the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) claimed responsibility for that raid. In response, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon on the night of 14/15 March, and in a few days occupied the entire southern part of the country except for the city of Tyre and its surrounding area.

On 15 March 1978, the Lebanese Government submitted a strong protest to the Security Council against the Israeli invasion, stating that it had no connection with the Palestinian commando operation. On 19 March, the Security Council adopted resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978), in which it called upon Israel immediately to cease its military action and withdraw its forces from all Lebanese territory. It also decided on the immediate establishment of UNIFIL. The first UNIFIL troops arrived in the area on 23 March 1978. The mission was established to confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon, to restore international peace and security and to assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area.

In June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon again. For three years, UNIFIL remained behind the Israeli lines, with its role limited to providing protection and humanitarian assistance to the local population to the extent possible. In 1985, Israel carried out a partial withdrawal, but it retained control of an area in southern Lebanon manned by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and by Lebanese de facto forces (DFF), the so-called "South Lebanon Army".

Although UNIFIL has been prevented from fulfilling its mandate, its contribution to stability in the region and the protection it is able to provide to the local population remain important. The force has recently been streamlined in order to achieve savings without affecting its operational effectiveness.

 

UNITED NATIONS MISSION IN THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (MINURCA)

HEADQUARTERS: Bangui
DURATION: From 15 April 1998
AUTHORIZED STRENGTH: Up to 1,350 military personnel

BACKGROUND
In 1996, the Central African Republic was shaken by a politico-military crisis, punctuated by three successive mutinies of elements of the Armed Forces. The crisis stemmed to a large extent from widespread public discontent over social and economic problems. After intensive negotiations, the Presidents of four African countries, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali, mediated a truce between the forces loyal to President Ange-Félix Patassé, and the rebels.

On 25 January 1997, the parties signed the Bangui Agreements. Initially, an inter-African force (not a UN peacekeeping force) in the Central African Republic was established to monitor the implementation of the Bangui Agreements and disarm the former rebels, the militia and all other unlawfully armed individuals.

But in 1998, the Secretary-General of the United Nations noted that Member States participating in the inter-African force would not have the capacity to continue alone, especially as France was preparing to withdraw all its troops, and consequently its logistical support. The continuation of active international assistance to the Central African Republic would therefore be vital. The Security Council decided to establish the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) with effect from 15 April 1998.

The mission's aims are to maintain security and stability, including freedom of movement, in Bangui and the immediate vicinity of the city; assisting the national security forces in maintaining law and order and in protecting key installations in Bangui; and providing advice and technical support to the national electoral bodies regarding the electoral code and plans for the conduct of legislative elections.