In UN peacekeeping, put emphasis on peace

Boston Globe - February 7, 2013
Lou Pingeot

I was dismayed to see unarmed peacekeepers, such as Nonviolent Peaceforce, and private security contractors discussed as two options to outsource UN peacekeeping (“Outsourcing peace,” Jan. 22). The assertion that “1,500 men could get control of Rwanda within two weeks” and similar statements from the private security industry suggest that peacekeeping can be boiled down to military might. Peacekeeping is not about defeating so-called enemies but rather about defusing conflicts and protecting civilians.

Private security firms’ claims that they can be deployed more quickly than traditional peacekeepers should also be taken with skepticism. For example, consider the recent fiasco of the G4S contract for the London Olympics.

And while it is fair to point to peacekeepers’ less-than-stellar record, it also bears mentioning that these companies have been involved in abuses ranging from torture and murder to fraud and tax evasion.

Nonviolent Peaceforce’s unarmed civilians rightly point out that there are many situations in which the use of force may not be necessary, and may in fact be counterproductive. This is an important stance at a time when the UN peacekeeping missions become more militarized and more aggressive.