Press Releases

UNIS/INF/178
28 November 2006

"International Crisis Management Needs a Critical Review,"
Say Experts at UNIS Vienna Book Launch on Peacekeeping, Peacebuilding and International Security

VIENNA, 28 November (UN Information Service) -- Peacekeeping, Peacebuilding and International Security was the focus of a book launch today by the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna, in cooperation with the Austrian Blue Helmets Association, in Vienna, Austria.

"UN peacekeeping operations have become an indispensable weapon in the arsenal of the international community.  They provide a legitimate and impartial response to conflict; an opportunity for burden-sharing; an effective means to take tangible action; a bridge to stability and long-term peace and development.  But, peacekeeping will never be the right tool for every situation.  It must accompany a peace process; it cannot substitute for one.  And for fragile peace to take root, comprehensive measures are needed to address security sector reform, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration," said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently in his message on the 50th anniversary of the creation of the first United Nations peacekeeping operation.

Nasra Hassan, Director, UNIS Vienna, moderated the briefing, at which tribute was paid to Kofi Annan, as UN Secretary-General and the UN's 'main peacekeeper'. Ms. Hassan introduced the book The International Struggle Over Iraq: Politics in the UN Security Council, 1980-2005, by David M. Malone, High Commissioner for Canada to India, former Ambassador to the United Nations and former President of the International Peace Academy; she referred to Ambassador Malone as the best type of UN supporter: a critical friend.

In his keynote address, Lieutenant General Guenter Hoefler, Commander of the Austrian Armed Forces, introduced the term international crisis management, as the security paradigm of the 21st century, encompassing conflict prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping, peace enforcement, post-conflict peacebuilding and humanitarian operations. "International crisis management needs a critical review," argued Lt. General Hoefler. In many cases, the international community expected too much to be solved too easily and within too little time. Important prerequisites for success were clear goals, clear and robust mandates and the necessary military and civilian assets.  In the framework of peacekeeping, state building had to be conducted, a comprehensive challenge which took time and required the involvement of the conflict parties, taking responsibility and local ownership. Traditional local elements had to be combined flexibly with modern state thinking. Within this context, Lt. General Hoefler emphasized the importance of civil military cooperation, with military forces aiming to provide a safe and secure environment, whilst civilian institutions, including international organizations, non-governmental organizations, local authorities, and economic actors, mainly contributed to state building.

Austria had participated in peace support and humanitarian operations with almost 70,000 soldiers since 1960, with nearly 1,300 soldiers currently deployed in 14 different missions worldwide. Due to the changed security policy environment and threat scenario, the Austrian Armed Forces too were in a transformation phase. Austria was well  on the way to improve and enlarge its national capabilities for the participation in international crisis management. The United Nations, in particular Security Council resolutions, were the legal basis for peace support operations, in particular to achieve a broad public acceptance.

"The record of the United Nations shows a surprising capacity for institutional innovation, conceptual advances, policy adaptation and organizational learning," said Ramesh Thakur, Senior Vice Rector, United Nations University, Assistant Secretary-General United Nations and former Commissioner of the Responsibility to Protect Commission, presenting his book: The United Nations, Peace and Security: From Collective Security to the Responsibility to Protect. The basis of world order had come under increasing strain in recent years due to several factors: the gap between expectations by the international community of the United Nations and the modest resources provided to the Organization, the fact that threats to security and development lay increasingly within, rather than between states, policy authority and resources being vested in states, while problems were increasingly global, the greater recognition of individuals as both subjects and objects of international relations, the growing gravity of threats rooted in non-state actors, the growing salience of weapons of mass destruction, and the strategic disconnect between military, political and economic power in the 'real world' and the decision-making authority in the artificial' world of inter-governmental organizations. In response to these challenges, Mr. Thakur's book focused on several strands of analysis: procedural and substantive norms on the use of force, the distinction between legality and legitimacy, the relationship between the United Nations and the United States, the divide between developed and developing countries and the importance of the rule of law. Mr. Thakur underlined that the world was a better and safer place for all because the UN existed, because of its work, and because of what it symbolized - the ideal of an international security rooted in human solidarity, based on law and the rule of reason.

Introducing Multilateral Cooperation in Peace Support Operations: Challenges and Limitations, Gen. retd. Günther Greindl, President of the Austrian Blue Helmets Association, spoke about peacekeeping as an "evolving art" which needed the input of practitioners. The book he presented was an outcome of the Blue Helmets Forum, a place where practitioners discussed their experiences, views and ideas related to peacekeeping. Legitimacy and effectiveness were two key aspects of peacekeeping, said General Greindl. The UN had a strong claim to legitimacy but sometimes its resolve was not so strong; other organizations might have stronger resolve but were not as legitimate.  The ideal was for all organizations to work together.

"Neither military nor civilian agencies can act alone in managing modern conflicts," said James V. Arbuckle, peacekeeping expert and former Canadian peacekeeper, introducing his book: Military Forces in 21st Century Peace Operations -- No Job for a Soldier? However, cooperation between civilian and military actors, as well as between different international agencies, had become worse as they had become more important, argued Mr. Arbuckle. His book focused on the roots of divisive issues between different actors in peacekeeping, which were neither simply structural nor organizational but predominantly cultural, and how these divisions could be addressed.

The Blackbook on Oil, by Thomas Seifert / Klaus Werner, analyzes wars and conflicts fought over oil, and also deals, among other issues, with the question of private military companies (PMCs). Presenting his book, Thomas Seifert, author and editor at the Austrian newspaper Die Presse, emphasized that he saw the use of private military companies essentially as privatization of the military, and a dangerous development. The companies not only were taking over the jobs of the military, he said, but they also sought to expand their role into humanitarian affairs and peacekeeping This was a challenge that would affect the United Nations and national armies in the future. UNIS Vienna Director Nasra Hassan added that jihadist groups operating internationally could also be seen as dangerous PMCs.

Senior diplomats, members of the Austrian Armed Forces, civil society representatives, media, government officials and staff of the Vienna-based international organizations, many of whom had served as peacekeepers, engaged in a lively discussion with the speakers and authors.

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For further information, contact:

Sonja Wintersberger
Associate Information Officer
UNIS Vienna
Tel : +43-1-26060-3430 or
E-mail: sonja.wintersberger@unvienna.org