Research Handbook on International Conflict and Security Law

Research Handbook on International Conflict and Security Law

Jus ad Bellum, Jus in Bello and Jus post Bellum

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Nigel White and Christian Henderson

This innovative Research Handbook brings together leading international law scholars from around the world to discuss and highlight the contemporary debate regarding issues of conflict prevention and the legality of resorting to the use of armed force through to those arising during an armed conflict and in the phase between conflict and peace.

Chapter 17: Peacekeeping or war-fighting?

Nigel D. White

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, public international law, terrorism and security law, politics and public policy, human rights, international politics, terrorism and security


The prevailing view in the negotiations that led to the UN Charter was that the UN needed a war-fighting capacity, so that aggression could be met, and peace maintained and restored, through collective counter-force.1 The reality of the Cold War was that classic inter-state wars were less prevalent than internal, internationalised, increasingly asymmetrical wars, requiring the development of a range of military responses. The restrictions of the Cold War that in effect prevented the realisation of some form of UN army led to the development of peacekeeping which, though valuable, was rather limited, presenting a military image of the UN, but without real war-fighting competence or capability. There were exceptions in the form of a Coalition that fought under the UN flag in Korea in 1950–1953, and a belligerent version of the blue helmets that fought under UN command in the Congo (hereinafter ‘ONUC’) a decade later. The end of the Cold War saw an expansion in the range of responses by the UN and competent regional organisations from traditional peacekeeping through to war- fighting, but all relying on the contributions of member states. Although other organisations such as the African Union (hereinafter ‘AU’) and the Economic Com- munity of West African States have undertaken peacekeeping tasks, the UN dominates practice in this area and UN peacekeeping doctrine and principles have contributed greatly to the development of peacekeeping law. That being said, the UN and competent regional organisations remain almost entirely dependent upon member states to deploy military forces.

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