A couple of weeks ago we watched the National Film Board of Canada documentary film, The Peacekeepers, in introduction to IR. It was a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the enterprise of UN peacekeeping operations, demonstrating the successes and failures of the UN in attempting to create and keep the pace amongst Congo’s warring factions. We saw the clash between realist views of international sovereignty, security, and power and the liberal ideal of multinational cooperation. The New York Times reports today on the potential failure of a relatively new UN peacekeeping operation before it has even started. Those who have been following the atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan know that it has taken four years to get a UN peacekeeping force on the ground. It may already be doomed to failure. It is uncanny how much of this report sounds like it was taken directly from the documentary about Sudan.
ABU SUROUJ, Sudan — As Darfur smolders in the aftermath of a new government offensive, a long-sought peacekeeping force, expected to be the world’s largest, is in danger of failing even as it begins its mission because of bureaucratic delays, stonewalling by Sudan’s government and reluctance from troop-contributing countries to send peacekeeping forces into an active conflict.
The force, a joint mission of the African Union and the United Nations, officially took over from an overstretched and exhausted African Union force in Darfur on Jan. 1. It now has just over 9,000 of an expected 26,000 soldiers and police officers and will not fully deploy until the end of the year, United Nations officials said.
Even the troops that are in place, the old African Union force and two new battalions, lack essential equipment, like sufficient armored personnel carriers and helicopters, to carry out even the most rudimentary of peacekeeping tasks. Some even had to buy their own paint to turn their green helmets United Nations blue, peacekeepers here said.
The peacekeepers’ work is more essential than ever. At least 30,000 people were displaced last month as the government and its allied militias fought to retake territory held by rebel groups fighting in the region, according to United Nations human rights officials.