Moral Obligation: UN Missions Should Not Abandon Vulnerable Civilians in Critical Times

Author
Kofi Nsia- Pepra
Content Type
Working Paper
Institution
Global Peace Operations Review
Abstract
United Nations (UN) missions’ inaction in response to civilian killings by government troops in Darfur, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has precipitated international outcry and raised concerns on viability of UN missions in fulfilling their civilian protection mandates. In all these cases, peacekeepers are trapped in quagmires where violence is endemic and operations are flawed. The tragedy is that the principle of peacekeeping that requires host country consent has left the UN entangled in relationships with obstructionist governments guilty of civilian killings. Without the governments’ cooperation, peacekeepers have been reduced to bystanders and struggled to fulfill their protection mandates while civilians are killed. The UN has a dilemma when its peace operations are not working. Some suggest it should “walk away” from such failed missions, but the system is haunted by its failures to protect civilians in Rwanda and Srebrenica. The UN should think twice about withdrawing. Member states have a commitment to the “responsibility to protect” and “saving the next generation from the scourge of war”. Abandoning vulnerable civilians would be a moral failure, embolden spoilers, perpetuate the cycle of impunity, and implicitly condone conscience-shocking atrocities that undermine the organization’s credibility and legitimacy. A better way forward is to deepen the analysis of operational deficiencies that undermine the robustness of UN missions and strengthen their ability to protect civilians.
Topic
United Nations, Humanitarian Intervention, Peace, Civilians, Morality
Political Geography
Africa, Darfur, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo