Building on the Past: Future Directions for Peacekeeping

Published: Summer 1991    |    By: Jane Boulden    |    Volume 48, No. 4


The war in the Persian Gulf, and United Nations actions in response to it, has engendered considerable discussion about the re-appearance of enforcement as a United Nations function. Chapter v it of the Charter gives the Security Council the right to use military action to enforce decisions relating to international peace and security. The use of military force in the Gulf under the auspices, although not the flag, of the United Nations has brought to the forefront the enforcement provisions of the Charter. It had been forty years since the United Nations last undertook an enforcement action – in Korea in 1950. In the meantime, it has become commonplace to think of the United Nations as using military might only in the peacekeeping sense, as a way of ending or resolving a conflict rather than participating in it.

The use of force is a dramatic symbol of the shifts in the attitudes of major powers towards conflict resolution and the role of the United Nations in the international arena. One of the most important factors in this shift has been the new working relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union and a new interest in both countries in using the United Nations process. The willingness of the five permanent members of the Security Council to consider working together marks a turning point for the United Nations. However, the turning point is marked as much by uncertainty as by potential.

About the Author

Jane Boulden is a freelance researcher and writer based in Kingston, Ontario. At present she is a researcher on the peacekeeping project, funded by the Ford Foundation, of the Canadian Centre for Arms Control and Disarmament in Ottawa. She is also a co-editor and writer for the 1991 edition of The Guide to Canadian Policy on Arms Control, Disarmament, Defence and Conflict Resolution. She received a LL.M. from the Faculty of Law, Queen’s University, in April 1990