Peacekeeping missies

The United Nations Interim Force In LebanonThe United Nations, as an whole, has always maintained that the prevention and resolution of conflict in volatile situations is one of its main considerations.  The introduction of both observer and peacekeeping missions has allowed the UN to play a role in ensuring the preservation of human life and the dissipation of dispute.

An example of a UN peacekeeping operation is the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL).  This operation began as a result of a volatile situation along the Lebanon - Israeli border. Throughout the 1970s, Israeli troops and Palestinian commando forces were at odds with one another. When the Palestinian forces were relocated from Jordan to Lebanon, tensions along the border increased until, on 11 March 1978, a commando attack over the Israeli border resulted in the death and wounding of many of the Israeli population. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) claimed responsibility for the raid, and within days of the announcement, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon and occupied the entire southern section of the country apart from the city of Tyre and its surrounding area.

This invasion into Lebanon resulted in the submission of a protest by the Lebanese government to the UN Security Council.  The protest claimed that the Lebanese government had no adherence with the PLO's raid.  Thus, on 19 March 1978, four days after the initial raid, the Security Council adopted resolutions 425 (1978) and 246 (1978), calling upon Israel to cease military action and withdraw all forces from Lebanese territory. In addition to these resolutions, the UN also established a United Nations interim force for southern Lebanon. It was to operate for six months, with a possible extension if required.

UNIFIL defined its aims as to confirm the with drawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon; to restore international peace and security; and to assist the  Lebanese government in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area. UNIFIL's troops were introduced on 23 March 1978.

The introduction of UN troops, however, did not resolve the situation.  While both the Israeli government and the PLO welcomed the prospect of peace, neither party fully accepted all of the implications of the UN resolution. Israel managed to maintain a proportion of military strength in the area and continued its fight against the PLO and its allies, allowing UNIFIL to only partially implement its mandate and resulting in notable casualties.

Once again, in June 1982, and despite UNIFIL's presence, Israel invaded Lebanon.  This action altered UNIFIL's circumstances considerably, as for three years the UN force provided protection and humanitarian assistance to the local population, remaining behind Israeli lines. In 1985, Israel partially withdrew, but maintained authority in an area of southern Lebanon.

The Israeli/Lebanon situation continues to be an unstable one, and UNIFIL has in many cases been prevented from carrying out its original tasks.  However, it attempts to prevent its area of operations from being used for hostile activities and protect the innocent caught in the conflict, in spite of occasionally being a target of violence itself. The cost of the operation amounts to $232.4 million, and despite the economic expense and the apparent limited success of the mission, it was extended to 31 January 1995. Later in the same year, the Secretary General of the UN, Boutros Boutros Ghali, proposed resolution 1006, effectively streamlining UNIFIL's operation, resulting in a 10% reduction of the Force's strength and direct savings of $10 million a year.

A great myriad of countries have contributed to UNIFIL, including troops from Norway, Ireland, Ghana, Fiji, Nepal and Poland, with many others offering humanitarian and medical support. While Australia has not been involved in this particular UN operation, it continues to support the resolution of violence through peacekeeping means.