4. All states shall develop a UN Emergency Peace Service to protect civilians and respond to crises

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Rapporteur: Dr. H. Peter Langille (hpl@globalcommonsecurity.org )

The objective of the proposed United Nations Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS) is to develop a standing UN capacity that can respond rapidly and reliably to address four of the UN’s long-standing challenges. A UNEPS is designed to help prevent armed conflict and genocide/atrocity crimes; to protect civilians at risk; to ensure prompt start-up of demanding peace operations; and to address human needs in areas where others either cannot or will not.

In addition to the four primary roles identified, a UNEPS has emancipatory potential to help in the following areas: facilitating disarmament; freeing up enormous resources wasted on war; saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war; and as a step toward a more legitimate, effective, universal peace system.

A key lesson of previous experience is that favorable conditions for such a development tend to arise in the aftermath of tragic wars and genocides. Then, when the urgent need was evident, the prior preparation of a viable plan and a core constituency of support was not. This effort endeavors to ensure both are ready and sufficiently compelling to encourage development of a UNEPS before emergencies overwhelm.

A UNEPS will be a new UN formation. Thus, the UNEPS initiative is both a proposal and an advocacy campaign, coupled to an ongoing research project. Each aspect is a work in progress. To succeed, each aspect needs wider support.

Ten Core Principles of the proposed UNEPS:

  1. a permanent standing, integrated UN formation;
  2. highly trained and well-equipped;
  3. ready for immediate deployment upon authorization of the UN Security Council;
  4. multidimensional (civilians, police and military);
  5. multifunctional (capable of diverse assignments with specialized skills for security, humanitarian, health and environmental crises);
  6. composed of 13,500 dedicated personnel (recruited professionals who volunteer for service and are then screened, selected, trained and employed by the UN);
  7. developed to ensure regional and gender equitable representation;
  8. co-located at a designated UN base under an operational headquarters and two mobile mission headquarters;
  9. at sufficient strength to operate in high-threat environments; and,
  10. a service to complement existing UN and regional arrangements, with a first responder to cover the initial six months until Member States can deploy.(1)
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If we had an emergency peace service, what would be the procedure for sending them into action? The ICJ just ruled that Myanmar had done wrong by the Rohingya, but that was three years ago. Would UNEPS be sent to intervene immediately, not delaying justice three years?

As heartening as it is to read of, for example, communing large multi-racial and -religious groups of people humanely allied against the common enemy of blind hatred, I nonetheless dread that it will sadly resettle to normal everyday life—and politics.

What humankind may need to suffer in order to survive the long term—indeed, from ourselves!—is an even greater nemesis than our own politics of difference, against which we could all unite, attack and defeat; perhaps the multi-tentacled alien invaders offered up by a number of sci-fi movies.

(Albeit, one or more human parties might attempt to forge an allegiance with the genocidal ETs, thus indicating that the human condition may require even more improvement.)

There are no greater differences amongst us humans than race and religion—remove that and left are less obvious differences over which to clash, such as sub-racial identity (i.e. ethnicity), nationality, and so forth down that scale we tumble.
Yet, maybe some five decades later, when all traces of the nightmarish ET invasion are gone, we’d inevitably revert to the same typical politics of scale to which we humans seem so collectively hopelessly prone; from the intercontinental, international, national, provincial or state, regional and municipal. Hypothetically, reduce our species to just a few city blocks of residents who are similar in every way and eventually there may still be some sort of bitter inter-neighbourhood fighting.

The idea of creating a League of Nations had been on the agenda at Versailles from its start in January 1919. President Woodrow Wilson was its chief champion. Then on 28 April, there was a unanimous decision to create it, with Geneva as its headquarters.

Some of the League’s later failings were visible from the start. Defeated Germany and revolutionary USSR were not invited to join, and the US Senate turned down the invitation. Nevertheless, the first decade of the League’s life saw a good deal of international cooperation, including the settlement of a number of conflicts that could have led to war. There was a feeling that a new era in international relations had been born. However, the 1930s began with the conflicts that would finally end the League.

On 18 September 1931 Japan accused China of blowing up a Man­churian railway line over which Japan had treaty rights. This was followed by the Japanese seizure of the city of Mukden, the invasion of Manchuria, military occupation of the region, and Japan’s establishment the puppet state of Manchukuo.

Further hostilities between Japan and China were a real possibility. The League tried to mediate the conflict under the leadership of Salvador De Madariaga, the Ambassador of Rep­ublican Spain to the League. But no Western governments wanted to get involved in Asian conflicts, especially during an economic depression.

Non-governmental organization cooperation with the League of Nations was not as structured as it would be by the U.N. Charter. A few peace groups in Geneva did interact informally with the League delegations—the Women’s International League for Peace and Fredom, the International Peace Bureau, and the British Quakers —but they could not speak in League meetings. They could only send written appeals to the League secretariat and contact certain delegations informally.

In reaction to the Japan-China tensions, Maude Royden (see photo), a former suffragist, proposed “shock troops of peace” who would volunteer to place themselves between the Japanese and Chinese combatants. Dr. Royden, one of the UK’s first women pastors, was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, whom she had visited in India. Her suggestion for the interposition of an unarmed body of civilians of both sexes between the opposing armies was proposed to the Secretary Gen­eral of the League of Nations, Sir Eric Drum­mond. He replied that it was not in his constitutional power to bring the proposal before the League’s Assembly. Only a government could do so. Still, he released the letter to journalists then in Geneva, and the letter was widely reported.
An unarmed shock troop of the League never developed, and China and much of Asia became the scene of a Japanese-led war.

The idea Reappears

The idea of an unarmed interposition force was presented once again, this time to the United Nations by world citizens shortly after the U.N.’s birth during the 1947-48 creation of the State of Israel and the resulting armed conflict. The proposal was presented by Henry Usborn, a British MP active in the World Federalist and World Citizen movements. Usborn was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of satyagraha (soul force) and proposed that a volunteer corps of some 10,000 unarmed people hold a two km-wide demilitarized zone between Israel and its Arab neighbors.  

Salvador De Madariaga, who had ceased being the Spanish Ambassador to the League when General Franco came to power, created in 1938 the World Citizens Association from his exile in England. He developed a proposal with the Gandhian Indian Socialist Party leader Jayapeakash Narayan for a U.N. Peace Guards, an unarmed international peace force that would be an alternative to the armed U.N. forces. De Maderiaga and Narayan held that a body of regular Peace Guards intervening, with no weapons whatever, between two forces in combat or about to fight might have considerable effect. The Peace Guards would be authorized by the U.N. Member States to intervene in any conflict when asked by one of the parties or by the Secretary General.

Dag Hammarskjold who was having problems with armed U.N. troops in the former Belgium Congo, did not act on the proposal. Thus, there now are only armed U.N. troops drawn from national armies and able to act only on a resolution of the Security Council.

However, various versions of the idea are still discussed. For example, the July 2019 issue of Peace Magazine, refers to our endorsed list of policy suggestions, the Platform for Sur­vival, which includes a proposal for a peacekeeping organization that it calls the “U.N. Emergency Peace Service” — UNEPS. While planning it, let’s discuss the possibility of its including a unit of unarmed peacekeepers like the one proposed so long ago.

René Wadlow is President, Association of World Citizens

This plank calls for a UN Emergency Peace Service, but it does not say whether any (or all) of it would be unarmed. Would the people behind this say what they have in mind? Some of us have endorsed it without being clear about how much it will resemble a regular army.

Ruth, your question is valid but maybe should be put in reverse order. Maybe the better question is, how much weaponry will any UNEPS peacekeepers be allowed to carry and use? This proposal could be applied as an expansion of war-fighting units or the emphasis could be on foreseeing conflicts “upstream” before they become serious and sending in mediators and lawyers to solve the problems before they become real.

A U.N. Emergency Peace Service would probably include armed peacekeepers for the worst situations, as well as maybe “white helmet” peacekeepers (who are almost unarmed) and humanitarian workers, conflict resolution experts, and socio-legal experts.