The UN’s New Tool for Resolving Conflicts

Despite attempts to curb conflict since the end of World War II, the world community, and the United Nations in particular, has been unable to eradicate armed conflict globally, particularly in resource-rich areas. The UN has adopted many mechanisms to prevent or contain conflict, and to stop crimes against humanity, which affect people as individuals, and genocide, which affects people as members of a specific group. A new mechanism has just been created that changes how the UN deals with conflict.


The UN’s tools have historically included preventative diplomacy, the inviting of conflicting parties to solve disagreements without the use of violence. In a few specific cases, this has been successful. If a dispute escalates and the states involved are considering the use of violence to solve their disputes, peacemaking can be used to de-escalate tensions. If military force is used, the conflict zone can be managed by the UN through Security Council resolutions, and most notably by peacekeeping, the use of military personnel as a buffer between warring parties.


UN peacekeeping forces have had limited mandates and scope in an effort to not complicate matters between warring nations. Many outside observers have argued that this is ineffective. Others believe it is the only option, because if UN forces had offensive capabilities, they would be a global military force sanctioned by a world government, and as such either could redefine and rival the concept of state sovereignty or redefine the relationship of state sovereignty to the United Nations.


Resolution 2098, which created an “intervention brigade,” made history March 28, 2013. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) “authorized the deployment of an intervention force” in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) “to address imminent threats to peace and security” in the resource-rich eastern North Kivu province. For the first time, UN forces will be authorized to support government efforts “to protect civilians, neutralize armed groups, and implement key reforms to consolidate peace in the country.” The reforms, like establishing a strong judiciary and general nation-building, will now fall primarily under the control of military personnel, who will “support the political objectives” of peace and security.


The DRC does not have an effective political process or full sovereignty within its legal borders. It is sovereign enough to establish international agreements with corporations and bankers, but not sovereign enough to be a functional government. Resolution 2098 is meant to change that.


UNSC Resolution 2053, agreed on in 2012, emphasized “the linkage between the illicit exploitation and trade of natural resources” and the proliferation of the conflict by “international actors.” These actors include neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, and most notably multinational corporations (MNCs) that profit from the resource exploitation in both rebel-controlled areas and government-controlled areas, where civilians are abused and basic human services are neglected. Furthermore, mutinies like the one led by Bosco Ntaganda show the powerful influence of actors within the DRC’s army. Unfortunately, while Resolution 2053 emphasized the need for the DRC to have “accountable and sustainable security forces” and “cohesion within the national Army,” the UN did not give the monetary support to pay these forces.


The UN has also failed to take into account historical and cultural understanding of this challenge, or the role MNCs and foreign governments have played in preventing such DRC Army cohesion and stable political processes and services. Resolution 2098 does not help fund sovereign government forces, nor help international debt forgiveness, or address MNC exploitation of minerals and bribing of government officials. The Resolution makes the DRC depend on global military forces to define its national sovereignty and security, without addressing the underlying corruption.


Even if the DRC “intervention brigade” is successful, how do we gauge this success if there is little to no political leadership, political process, and civilian participation in this process?  How many other nations will need UN intervention brigades to meet minimal sovereign standards without their civilians involved?  One thing is sure: it is a brave new world for global governance.


Submitted by Yiannis Konstandinos Floropoulos


The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not represent the opinions of Rutgers University or the Division of Global Affairs.

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