A renowned political scientist spoke about “The U.N.’s Role in War and Peace” Thursday in the Elliott School of International Affairs commons.
Michael W. Doyle, a professor at Princeton University and director of the Center of International Studies, is the Elliott School’s newest visiting Welling Professor. Doyle presented observations from his extensive field research in countries with U.N. peacekeeping forces in a speech to about 30 students.
A member of the External Research Advisory Committee of the U.N. High Commission on Refugees, Doyle served as a U.N. observer for several peacekeeping operations, working to ensure compliance to the terms of peace agreements such as cease-fires and free elections.
Doyle said the United Nations can be extremely successful at maintaining peace on the ground after a treaty is agreed upon by warring factions. But he said the organization has proven relatively inept at peace enforcement before an accord has been reached.
“In some cases, the escalation of violence is actually made worse by the U.N. troops on the ground,” he said.
Doyle pointed to the failures of U.N. peacekeeping activity in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda as evidence of this trend.
He attributed the ineffectiveness of U.N. troops in these countries to a lack of coordination and communication, stemming from the highest levels of the organization.
“The U.N. Security Council was not designed to command these types of operations,” he said. “There is a fundamental problem with a multilateral institution trying to institute a coherent strategic policy.”
The problem is the inability of member nations of the Security Council to agree on the best way to win a war, including deciding which side, if any, they will choose to support.
Doyle suggested a partnership between international institutions, such as NATO and the United Nations, ultimately would be the best strategy for achieving peace in a war-ravaged region.
The United Nations should continue to focus on its major strengths in peacemaking, Doyle said.
“After peace is agreed upon, there needs to be a U.N.-led revolution in the country toward peace,” he said. “Many people in these countries need to learn to understand concepts like freedom and fairness, and the U.N. must help them.”
Recent innovations in mediation and creative management of peacekeeping forces should continue to lessen the challenge of enforcing peace, he said. But Doyle emphasized that the United Nations cannot work alone – it needs the support and cooperation of the entire international community to effect lasting change and foster peace.