Peace and Security
The United Nations was established in 1945 "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" and one of its main purposes is to maintain international peace and security.
In fulfilling this responsibility, the Security Council may adopt a range of measures, including the establishment of United Nations peacekeeping operations, whenever there is a threat to the peace in a region.
The different instruments of the UN's peace efforts come into play at different stages of conflict. The boundaries however between conflict prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and peace enforcement have become increasingly blurred. Peace operations are rarely limited to one type of activity.
Conflict Prevention and Peacemaking
The United Nations uses the political tools of diplomacy and mediation to help nations prevent and resolve conflicts peacefully. United Nations envoys are dispatched to areas of tension around the world to assist in defusing crises and brokering negotiated settlements to conflicts.
The UN Secretary-General may exercise his or her "good offices" to facilitate the resolution of the conflict -- steps taken publicly and in private, drawing upon his independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.
Civilian-led political missions are deployed to the field with mandates to encourage dialogue and cooperation within and between nations, or to promote reconciliation and democratic governance in societies rebuilding after civil wars.
The work of the United Nations to foster credible elections around the world also contributes directly to its efforts to promote peace and prevent conflict.
Underpinning the activities is the conviction that political issues lie at the root of many conflicts, and thus political solutions are required to resolve them.
UN peacekeeping operations used to be deployed to support the implementation of inter-state ceasefires or peace agreements, such as the first peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), set up in 1945 to monitor an Armistice Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbours, or the UN mission on the Golan Heights UNDOF). Today, they are often also required to play an active role in intra-state peacemaking efforts and get involved in peacebuilding activities (complex multidimensional peacekeeping including military, police and civilian components, e.g. the UN mission in South Sudan UNMISS). These changes in the role of UN peacekeeping have been reflected in the policy reform documents of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations ( Brahimi Report, Capstone Doctrine, New Horizons)
Today's multidimensional peacekeeping operations facilitate the political process, protect civilians, assist in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants; support the organization of elections, protect and promote human rights and assist in restoring the rule of law.
UN Peacekeeping is guided by three basic principles:
- Consent of the parties;
- Non-use of force except in self-defence and defence of the mandate.
UN peacekeeping operations may use force to defend themselves, their mandate, and civilians, particularly in situations where the state is unable to provide security and maintain public order.
The experience of the past has also led the United Nations to focus as never before on peacebuilding - efforts to reduce a country's risk of lapsing or relapsing into conflict by strengthening national capacities for conflict management, and to lay the foundations for sustainable peace and development.
Building lasting peace in war-torn societies is among the most daunting of challenges for global peace and security. The United Nations established the Peacebuilding Commission in 2005 to better anticipate and respond to the challenges of peacebuilding.
In 2010, world military expenditures exceeded some 1.5 trillion US dollars. The need for a culture of peace and for significant arms reduction worldwide has never been greater. This applies to all classes of weapons from nuclear weapons to conventional firearms and landmines.
Since the birth of the United Nations, the goals of multilateral disarmament and arms limitation have been deemed central to the maintenance of international peace and security. These goals range from reducing and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons, destroying chemical weapons and strengthening the prohibition against biological weapons, to halting the proliferation of landmines, small arms and light weapons.
These efforts are supported by a number of key UN instruments. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the most universal of all multilateral disarmament treaties, came into force in 1970. The Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force in 1997, the Biological Weapons Convention in 1975. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was adopted in 1996, however it has not yet entered into force. The 1997 Mine-Ban Convention came into force in 1999.
Women, peace and security
While women remain a minority of combatants and perpetrators of war, they increasingly suffer the greatest harm. The UN Security Council recognized that including women and gender perspectives in decision-making can strengthen prospects for sustainable peace with the unanimous adoption of resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. The landmark resolution specifically addresses the situation of women in armed conflict and calls for their participation at all levels of decision-making on conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
Countering the scourge of terrorism is in the interest of all nations and the issue has been on the agenda of the United Nations for decades. Almost no week goes by without an act of terrorism taking place somewhere in the world, indiscriminately affecting innocent people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Eighteen universal instruments (fourteen instruments and four amendments) against international terrorism have been elaborated within the framework of the United Nations system relating to specific terrorist activities.
A global strategy to counter terrorism was agreed in September 2006 which marks the first time that all Member States of the United Nations have agreed to a common strategic and operational framework to fight terrorism. The Strategy forms a basis for a concrete plan of action: to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism; to prevent and combat terrorism; to take measures to build state capacity to fight terrorism; to strengthen the role of the United Nations in combating terrorism; and to ensure the respect of human rights while countering terrorism.
Transnational organized crime takes many forms from trafficking in drugs, firearms and even people to money laundering and corruption. Today organized crime has diversified, gone global and reached macro-economic proportions, so that it constitutes a threat to peace and security.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is the guardian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Organized Crime Convention) and the three supplementary Protocols -on Trafficking in Persons, Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking of Firearms.