November 4, 2005

Ndulo Speaks on Role of UN

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Prof. Muna Ndulo, law, presented a speech on the United Nations’ role in international peacekeeping to a packed lecture hall in Caldwell yesterday afternoon.

Ndulo began his speech, entitled “UN Peacekeeping and the Challenges of Reconstruction in Post-Conflict Societies” with a brief introduction to UN peacekeeping. He said that approximately two-thirds of UN peacekeeping missions succeeded; the UN has helped an increasing number of conflicts ending in negotiations. UN peacekeeping makes up about one percent of the world’s military budget, and all 17 peacekeeping missions last year cost less than one month in Iraq costs the United States, according to Ndulo.

Even with the UN’s work, there are about 60 armed conflicts around the world, and, on Sept. 15, the UN met in New York and resolved to strengthen peacekeeping efforts.

“[The UN] needs to continue to work – to make peacekeeping efforts more effective,” Ndulo said. Ndulo feels that “saving succeeding generations from war” is the most important function of the UN, even though there is no specific mention of peacekeeping in the UN charter.

The speech continued with an explanation of peacekeeping methods in the past, present and future. The UN Agenda for Peace, written by Boutros-Boutros Ghali, was the long-term “Bible” for peacekeeping, according to Ndulo, but recent peacekeeping has become complex.

Today there are four main methods used by the UN: preventative diplomacy, peacemaking, peacekeeping and peaceviewing. Preventative diplomacy techniques attempt to remove sources of danger before violence erupts but have not been effective, according to Ndulo, because countries often bring conflicting foreign policies to deliberations. Peacemaking involves halting violence and helping hostile parties find agreement; this process is done by envoys of governments, the UN, non-governmental organizations and, occasionally, special-interest groups such as the Vatican.

Peacekeeping occurs in regions were there has been conflict; the UN attempts to keep stability and ensure security in areas such as Kosovo and Haiti. Peaceviewing is one of the more recent activities of the UN and involves strengthening police, legislation and respect for human rights.

“[This process] reassembles the foundations of peace,” Ndulo said.

According to Ndulo, all four methods are hindered by the UN’s lack of a standing army since it must rely on member countries to provide troops, vehicles, weapons and money. Some countries deploy troops mostly in conflicts near them; the European Union, for example, tends to send more troops to the Balkans than anywhere else. Moreover, for a country to commit troops to a UN mission, they must accept the possibility of casualties.

“[The UN] needs tremendous support from countries to make missions successful,” Ndulo said.

Ndulo also told the audience that there are approximately 25 million displaced persons in the world, twice the number of refugees, who are not protected under international law. The UN has no mandate on displaced persons, and people must thus leave their home country to be included in certain programs for refugees.

The speech concluded with a discussion of post-conflict problems. According to Ndulo, disarmament is one of the smallest parts of the peace process; reintegration of combatants into non-military life is one of the most difficult. Peacekeepers, he said, must break ties between fighters and politicians and ensure that combatants are economically independent to prevent a recurrence of violence, which transpired in Liberia and Haiti.

Elections also tend to be overemphasized, Ndulo said. They are a huge undertaking and must be done properly so that even the losers trust the rules or fighting will resume.

“Elections do not ensure democracy,” Ndulo stressed.

The speech was followed by a short question-and-answer session.

“The UN should be impartial and help all people in conflicts,” Alexander Park grad said while asking Ndulo how the UN could better help countries move from war to lasting peace.

Another audience member felt that the UN may not be as successful as nations acting unilaterally.

“How do we stop the UN from acting as a nanny watching two kids fight?” asked Tom Florino grad.

Ndulo, who is also the director of the Institute for African Development, has served as a consultant to the World Bank, the Economic Commission for Africa, the UN Commission for International Trade Law, the International Labour Organization and as the Public Prosecutor for the Zambian Ministry of Legal Affairs. Ndulo advised the UN Mission in South Africa and continues to advise missions in East Timor and Kosovo.

“[Ndulo] knows from experience what most people only read in books,” said Cornell Institute for Public Affairs Director David Lewis.

The lecture was part of the CIPA 2005-2006 Colloquium Series.

Archived article by Rebecca Shoval
Sun Staff Writer