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UNA Brooklyn's UN Day 2014 Panel on Peacekeeping - Debriefing

The UNA Brooklyn’s UN Day event on October 23, an expert panel on peacekeeping, which focused on post-conflict operations, was a big success! Over 50 people attended, including UNA members, students and professors from schools such as Brooklyn’s Long Island University, Saint Francis College, and Saint Joseph College. A big shout out to Professor Lester Wilson and LIU Graduate UN Studies Club members, who co-sponsored and helped organize the event. Brooklyn was definitely “in the House.”

Panelist and Chapter President UN Day 2014.jpg

I opened the event with a few introductory remarks, acting as chapter cheerleader for the UN and its efforts to make the world a better place. Whether it’s the 100,000+ people deployed in UN peace operations on four continents, or the work of the UN’s many agencies and departments, which protect, feed, vaccinate, provide shelter and improve living standards for a large percentage of the world’s poorest citizens, the UN helps everyday!

To introduce the substantive discussion of peacekeeping, Joseph Stephanides, a senior UN veteran of 28 years, reminded us that, while the UN possesses the authority and legitimacy to deploy military personnel to the world’s most dangerous places, peacekeeping was not a part the UN’s blueprint for creation. There is no “UN peacekeeping section” in the UN Charter. Through political deliberations in the UN and trial and error, new forms of peace operations have evolved since the UN's creation.

Panelists with Sorority Group.jpg

Under widely accepted interpretations, the UN Charter's Chapter 6 allows only those operations where parties to the conflict have given their permission, such as the UN Interim Force in Lebanon. Chapter 7 mandates, in contrast, are geared towards peace enforcement where military personnel are deployed without the permission of the target country. For instance, one recent example of a Chapter 7 action was Security Resolution 1970, which sought to address the violence in Libya in 2011 by authorizing the use of force.

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UN peace operations sometimes fall in between the Chapter 6 and 7 mandates – something that Mr. Stephanides (quoting former UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld) called Chapter 6 and a half. Identifying these mixed operations, Mr. Stephanides wisely transitioned to the presentation by Christopher O’Donnell, a senior program office with the DDR section of the UN Department of Peacekeeping. DDR stands for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. Mr. O’Donnell explained the process through which the UN tries to convince aggrieved militias to lay down their arms (disarm and demobilize) and re-join the community (reintegrate). Mr. O’Donnell displayed pictures of the UN collecting and properly storing guns that were once in the hands of militants; former militants changing military clothes for green Puma track suits; and efforts to help bring people back into the community.

To finish the panel presentation, Professor Mark Unger from Brooklyn College described other post-conflict strategies, known as Security and Judicial Sector Reform, in Latin America. For example, peace agreements in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in the 1990s helped end years of violent conflict, but the civil authorities faced significant obstacles to consolidating peace due to insufficient policing and judicial capabilities. Professor Ungar has advised the UN on implementing creative programs for citizen policing, expanding access by aggrieved parties to the courts, and establishing the legitimacy of law enforcement agencies.

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A stimulating question-and-answer session, and a reception with informal discussion and networking followed. We’re grateful to our distinguished panel, LIU’s graduate UN Studies program, UNA members and other attendees for making the event very educational, motivating and even a little fun!

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