Cultural Issues in Contemporary Peacekeeping

  • Citation: Tamara Duffey (2000) Cultural issues in contemporary peacekeeping, International Peacekeeping, 7:1, 142-168
    • Topics:
    • Human Rights
    • Keywords:
    • international conflict
    • cultural norms
    • UN peacekeeping

Following the end of the Cold War, the nature of international conflict shifted from interstate conflicts (handled by traditional methods of coercive diplomacy and crisis management through the superpower rivalry) to predominantly intrastate conflicts that require different responses by the international community. In terms of peacekeeping, this demanded a more committed performance beyond that of unsubstantial conflict containment. ‘Traditional’ operations – involving the deployment of a small, unarmed or lightly armed military force to monitor a ceasefire agreement between two parties while a political solution to the conflict was sought – were exchanged for an increasing number of highly elaborate, multilateral and multifunctional operations. At this tum, peacekeeping – by a United Nations force or a coalition of forces – became the most widely employed means of managing violent conflict and contributing towards its ultimate resolution. (By the end of 1998, 35 UN operations had been established – compared with 13 during the period 1948-78 and none in the decade that followed, 1988-98 – with many deployed in regions previously off-limits to outside intervention). This dramatic expansion in number was further accompanied by a broadening of tasks and actors. The single function associated with traditional operations evolved into a multiplicity of tasks, including humanitarian assistance, electoral monitoring, human rights observation, peacemaking and peacebuilding. Such activities have involved a coordinated effort by a multicultural composition of military and civilian personnel who are nevertheless required to possess a diverse repertoire of skills. Subsequently, post-Cold War peacekeeping has been convincingly identified as a valuable agency of third party intervention and conflict resolution, not merely a token military presence in a fractured zone of the world.

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