United Nations Peace Operations: Year in Review 2004

VI. Challenges in peacekeeping

Building peace through elections support

UN electoral assistance has become a regular and increasingly important feature in UN peace operations. In 2004, UN peace missions provided assistance in the organization of presidential elections in Afghanistan, local government elections in Sierra Leone and provisional assembly elections in Kosovo. In 2005, UN peace missions are expected to assist in national elections in Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo,Haiti and Liberia, as well as polling for the national assembly of Afghanistan. The UN has been playing a leading role in assisting the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq in organizing the national elections scheduled for 2005.

The Electoral Assistance Division (EAD) of the UN Department of Political Affairs coordinates and oversees UN electoral activities in the field. In 2004, the UN system was providing electoral assistance to 63 countries, and EAD received 21 new requests from Member States.

Voter registration forms are unloaded in Ngozi for the launch of the electoral campaign
Voter registration forms are unloaded in Ngozi for the launch of the electoral campaign, Bujumbura, Burundi, 18 November 2004, ONUB Photo by Martine Perret

Elections overseen or supported by the UN in post-conflict situations are often the first democratic polling to have taken place in years, decades or even in the country’s history. UN elections experts provide advice on organizing democratic elections that will guide countries for future polling. Usually, UN assistance includes a capacity-building function, designed to ensure that there is less need to rely on international assistance for future elections. Democracy is extended as a result of UN involvement in such elections. For example, women are serving in significant numbers in elected bodies in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Timor-Leste, thanks to UN support.

There are various types of electoral technical assistance that UN missions have offered, in addition to ensuring the security of voters, election monitors and ballot boxes. They include advice on electoral laws, regulations and procedures and methods of voter registration and training.UN missions also provide significant logistical support to the electoral authorities.

Assistance with local government elections in May was one of the last major tasks for the UN peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) as it faced a significant drawdown in its civilian and military personnel in late 2004. The Mission provided logistical support for the elections, which included land and air transport to most chiefdoms, communications support, assistance to the country’s National Electoral Commission in establishing its main operations centre, and technical advice at the national and district levels.

UNAMSIL civilian police organized specific election-related training to the Sierra Leone police. The Mission’s public information unit significantly broadened the Commission’s outreach with election-related programming on Radio UNAMSIL, which also recruited and trained 20 local journalists to cover the elections.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) played a significant role in making sure that the 2004 landmark elections were peaceful and credible, notwithstanding the di fficult conditions in the country. UNAMA’s electoral team supported the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) as it carried out an extensive voter registration exercise in which more than 10 million voters were registered. The JEMB, with support from UN election experts, then conducted a successful presidential election in October 2004.

The Mission also played a central role in resolving complaints raised by opposition candidates, some of whom had questioned the legitimacy of the election results. The United Nations Development Programme, as part of its mandate, also played an important complementary role in providing technical electoral assistance.

The UN’s advisory role in the preparations for the election planned for January 2005 in Iraq was one of the top priorities for the organization in 2004. As mandated in UN Security Council Resolution 1546, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) was engaged in a wide range of work to provide the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) with the expertise, skills and manpower necessary to conduct a successful national election. Unlike its role in Afghanistan, the UN was to have no responsibility for supervising, monitoring, or making key decisions in the Iraq elections.

In the course of 2004, the UN helped Iraqis establish the Commission, draft the legislative framework for elections, create voter lists, conduct voter education campaigns, train some 6,000 temporary electoral workers, open more than 450 registration centres, and begin training up to 130,000 poll workers. The diverse candidate rolls, were a result of the proportional representation system recommended by the United Nations.

While they do not mark the end of a peace process, free, fair and transparent elections are key to determining democratic governance. The UN’s track record in electoral assistance has been remarkable, as evidenced by the growing number of requests from its Member States.


Disarmament and demobilization in Liberia

Disarming and demobilizing thousands of former combatants was one of the major tasks the Security Council gave to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). Some three months after the mission was officially established on 1 October 2003, the disarmament and demobilization exercise commenced, but immediately ran into difficulties when a massive turnout of combatants overwhelmed the Mission's capacity to process them.This was further exacerbated by miscommunication from former combatant leaders regarding benefits that the ex-fighters would receive.

The exercise was suspended until certain conditions could be met, including the deployment of sufficient numbers of UNMIL troops throughout the country to provide adequate security; an extensive public information campaign to educate the combatants on what the programme entailed; demobilization centres ready to process combatants; and the submission by the three armed factions of lists of their fighters, locations and weapons.

UN troops disarming in Gbarnga, Liberia
UN troops disarming in Gbarnga, Liberia, 21 April 2004, UNMIL Photo by: Eric Kanalstein

The UNMIL public information sensitization campaign involved commanders from the three armed factions and representatives from the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Rehabilitation (DDRR), together with UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations. Teams visited areas across the country where combatants were concentrated in order to enforce the message, while Radio UNMIL continuously aired details of the process.

The sensitization campaign helped to build public understanding of the role of the entire United Nations system in Liberia in support of DDRR. It also encouraged families and communities that would receive demobilized ex-combatants to focus on reconciliation and forgiveness.

The disarmament exercise resumed in April 2004, with the Mission declaring in December that more than 100,000 combatants had been disarmed. The results included a significant contribution to relative peace throughout Liberia, the resumption of economic activities and progress in the restoration of State authority in the country, including the outlying regions. Importantly, the period of calm helped to stimulate a new level of dialogue, and many more Liberians became engaged in determining the future of their country as they prepare for national elections to be held by October 2005.

UNMIL undertook intensive sensitization on disarmament, including by radio, TV, print and, as here, through open-air rallies, Zwedru, Liberia, June 2004. UNMIL Photo by: Eric Kanalstein

Having completed the disarmament and demobilization phase, the international community faces in 2005 the enormous challenge of reintegration and rehabilitation of these ex-combatants. Many ex-fighters expected to be enrolled into formal education or skills training centres immediately after demobilization. However, unlike the DD program, which was funded from UNMIL's regular budget, rehabilitation and reintegration activities rely entirely on voluntary contributions. Despite several appeals made to donors, funding has been slow in coming.

The DDRR exercise in Liberia showed again that for it to be effective, adequate resources must be provided to former fighters for developing marketable skills. In the course of 2004, only a fraction of the demobilized ex-combatants were enrolled in vocational institutions. Consequently, there was increasing restiveness among the ex-fighters which at times degenerated into sporadic riots. Despite these problems, however, the rehabilitation programme was proceeding, albeit slowly.

In addition to DDRR, UNMIL also made progress in restructuring the Liberian police force; supporting the restoration of State authority and revival of government institutions; facilitating the return of refugees and displaced persons; preparing for the 2005 elections and helping State authorities put down civil unrest in the capital, Monrovia, in October.The Mission also helped the UN Country Team provide food assistance to more than 600,000 people on a daily basis, and immunize more than 800,000 children against fatal diseases.


Restoring the rule of law for peace and security

Well-functioning law enforcement bodies, conflict resolution mechanisms and prison systems are often essential ingredients of a stable society. Hence strengthening the rule of law in post-conflict countries is key to sustainable peace and security.The United Nations has started to develop new tools to strengthen its support for the rule of law and transitional justice in States that are either still facing or just emerging from conflict.

Civilian police training in Liberia
Civilian police training in Liberia, 12 July 2004, UNMIL Photo by Eric Kanalstein

Such tools include support for national justice systems by UN peacekeeping and peace-building missions; the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the ad hoc international criminal tribunals (for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda), and hybrid tribunals (such as the Special Court of Sierra Leone); the establishment of nationally-led truth commissions; and the consideration of reparations among the victims of human rights violations. Peace and stability can only prevail if the causes of conflict, such as ethnic discrimination, gross income inequalities, abuse of power, and the denial of the right to property or citizenship, are addressed in a legitimate and fair manner.

In 2004, the rule of law featured prominently in the peacekeeping mandates for Haiti, Côte d'Ivoire and Burundi. The Security Council approved the deployment of hundreds of experienced international civilian police officers and specialized judicial and corrections personnel to support rule of law activities in these new missions.

In Haiti, the UN mission (MINUSTAH) has been helping the Transitional Government to take measures aimed at ending impunity. The Mission is to assist the Government in establishing the rule of law and an independent judiciary. More than 1,600 MINUSTAH civilian police officers have been helping to restructure the Haitian National Police. They vet and certify the local police personnel and advise on its reorganization and training.

In addition to training and monitoring the local police, the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB) has been assisting reforms of the judiciary and correction system as stipulated under the Arusha Agreement of August 2000. In Côte d'Ivoire, the peacekeeping mission, UNOCI, in cooperation with the Economic Commission for West African States (ECOWAS), is to help the Government reestablish the authority of the judiciary and the rule of law throughout the country.

The UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) continued to retain ultimate responsibility for law and order during its fifth year in Kosovo. However, the process of handing over tasks to Kosovo control was under way. Many of the municipal police stations are now run by the 6,000- strong Kosovo Police Service, although some 3,600 UN police remain to support them. International judges and prosecutors continued to adjudicate certain sensitive inter-ethnic and organized crime cases for the Kosovar judiciary, and in December, UNMIK appointed a new special prosecutor for financial crimes. His task, however, is not only to try such cases but also to develop investigative and prosecutorial capacity in Kosovo. In a further devolution of UNMIK's executive role administering the justice and corrections system, municipalities across Kosovo set up their own Local Crime Prevention Councils in September and October.

The UN mission in Timor-Leste also continued to give direct support to the Special Serious Crimes process, with international prosecutors, judges and investigators.

In Liberia, the UN peacekeeping force UNMIL has been assisting the transitional government in monitoring, restructuring and training the police force to ensure that it meets democratic norms. In this regard, the Mission has supervised the training of 1,000 cadets at the National Police Academy. UNMIL continued to work with the Ministry of Justice to develop proposals for the revision, harmonization and codification of laws and also to improve the State's correctional system.

Instilling a culture of the rule of law in a post-conflict country takes time and requires patience. Experience has shown that hard-won agreements on human rights and the reform of justice are often eroded once domestic and international attention diminishes. It is therefore necessary that everyone stays engaged if gains in establishing justice are to be sustained.


Gender issues getting due attention in peacekeeping

The process of integrating gender issues into all aspects of United Nations peacekeeping operations is picking up momentum, with some notable areas of progress recorded in 2004. The number of gender advisers serving in UN peace missions has doubled, and there is now growing recognition within missions that the political and economic empowerment of women and the protection of their human rights are key to any peace process. The release in October of a resource manual on gender and peacekeeping is expected to advance these efforts.

The UN has established gender units in the majority of its peacekeeping missions. As of the end of 2004, full-time gender advisers have been appointed to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in New York, as well as to 10 field operations.

Gender advisers promote, facilitate and monitor the inclusion of gender perspectives in peacekeeping operations. They provide training in gender awareness to all UN civilian staff as well as military and police personnel as part of the missions' induction course. They collaborate with all mission components to ensure that gender issues and concerns are addressed in the activities of their units.

In Liberia, for example, more than 20,000 women associated with fighting forces were demobilized as a result of gender mainstreaming within the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.

Remarkable success in gender advancement was made in Afghanistan over the year, despite social and cultural norms that continue to limit women's public role.The Afghan constitution, adopted in January 2004, states that men and women have equal rights. In the October elections, 41 per cent of the 10.5 million Afghans who registered to vote were women. By the end of the year, one in every five permanent government employees was a woman.

A South African Navy officer on patrol for surveillance and interdiction patrolling on Lake Tanganyika
A South African Navy officer on patrol for surveillance and interdiction patrolling on Lake Tanganyika, Bujumbura, Burundi, 13 July 2004, UN Photo by Eskinder Debebe

There have been some setbacks too. Despite the existence of the UN's strict code of conduct, numerous accusations of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers against local populations, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were reported. The UN launched investigations and in recognition of the magnitude of the problem, has been re-examining its current mechanisms for preventing, identifying and responding effectively to sexual exploitation and abuse. The UN also stepped up training of its civilian staff and uniformed personnel on UN standards of conduct, and has appointed focal points in all peacekeeping missions to help local populations to file complaints of abuse. Since the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse relate to both civilians and uniformed personnel, discussions are ongoing with troop- and police-contributing countries to find solutions to this problem.

Members of the  Chinese Formed Police Unit  arrive in Port Au Prince, Haiti
Members of the Chinese Formed Police Unit arrive in Port Au Prince, Haiti, 17 October 2004, MINUSTAH Photo by Sophia Paris

The allegations surfacing in 2004 motivated UN Headquarters to insist its peace operations make greater attempts to enforce a policy of zero tolerance for sexual abuse, and to make sure that all allegations of sexual abuse or exploitation are pursued and all those responsible for misconduct and crimes are punished. The new UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB), for example, set up a special code of conduct unit, the first such office in any UN peacekeeping operation, to prevent cases of sexual misconduct by UN staff and troops against the host population.

The effectiveness of peacekeeping operations depends on the quality of the services that a mission provides, as well as on the ability of its staff to uphold the highest standards of conduct. Investments in the design and implementation of tools that promote gender equality support both these objectives.


HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness integrated in peacekeeping

In 2004, the Security Council resolutions establishing the new missions in Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire and Haiti made specific reference to the importance of sensitizing peacekeepers about HIV/AIDS. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) have been collaborating closely to build comprehensive mission programmes to reduce the risk of peacekeepers either contracting or spreading HIV.

As of 2004, nine peacekeeping missions have HIV/AIDS advisers, supported by UN Volunteers and national professionals (in Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Liberia, Haiti, Kosovo, Timor Leste, Sierra Leone and Sudan, with Burundi's under recruitment). Smaller missions have HIV/AIDS focal points, thereby creating a dynamic network across all peacekeeping operations. In March, HIV/AIDS advisers and focal points held their first workshop to discuss HIV issues and share experiences in dealing with mission specific challenges and more general cultural, political and behavioral sensitivities. In June, a joint UNAIDS-DPKO team traveled to Haiti to set up the mission programme and design and build momentum for initiatives with the Haitian National Police. It was the first time that an HIV/AIDS adviser was deployed in advance of major UN troop deployment, setting a precedent that was repeated in Sudan in anticipation of a peacekeeping operation there.

Voluntary counseling and testing is a vital element in HIV/AIDS prevention and support, and there are ongoing efforts to establish such capabilities in peacekeeping missions. The training of counselors includes local participants in order to build national expertise. For example, the training in Kosovo included representatives from the Kosovo Police Service and the Institute of Public Health.

HIV/AIDS training workshop
HIV/AIDS training workshop, Timor-Leste, November 2004, UNMISET Photo

HIV/AIDS advisers have also been developing outreach projects to local communities. In Liberia, the Mission held a training programme for religious leaders to encourage them to use their sermons to raise awareness. In addition, peacekeeping missions use their own radio broadcasts to disseminate information on HIV prevention and to try to reduce stigma and denial. To maximize the effectiveness of their efforts, the HIV/AIDS advisers collaborate closely with UN Country Teams and national AIDS programmes.

The United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) contributed $300,000 to the HIV/AIDS Trust Fund for peacekeeping. The funds will be used to set up video teleconference facilities, support outreach projects involving peacekeepers and local groups, to carry out mission assessments and to provide technical assistance to the African Union's HIV/AIDS activities in regional peace support operations. DFID will also help finance the implementation of a knowledge, attitude and practice survey that has been developed in collaboration with the United States Centers for Disease Control, in order to assess the impact of pre-deployment and in-mission HIV/AIDS initiatives.


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