The first time I heard the German word “zwangsoptimist” was in a meeting to discuss ways to improve how the international system functions. Meaning “someone who feels compelled to be an optimist,” the word not only succinctly sums up my work for and alongside the U.N. over the past 27 years, but could also be a one-word job description for the organization’s next secretary-general.
International conflict management is not necessarily a rewarding occupation for people who have neat and orderly minds. Well-made plans tend to fall apart in fast-moving crises. As I noted in a chapter in a book on the Security Council published earlier this year, the recent history of United Nations peace operations is basically a story of “one damn thing after another.” U.N.
The violence perpetrated by the Basque separatist organization Euskadi ta Askatasuna (Basque Homeland and Freedom, ETA) was for many years an anomalous feature of Spain’s transition to democracy. ETA claimed some 840 lives over fifty years. It was reviled as a terrorist criminal band inside Spain and listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States The Basque Conflict and ETA The Difficulties of an Ending 2 USIP.ORG • SPECIAL REPORT 384 and the European Union.
The recent series of dastardly and heinous attacks in places as dispersed as Baghdad, Beirut, Bamako, Kabul and Paris by myriad terrorist outfits ranging from the Taliban to Islamic State and al-Qaeda hold several important lessons for international efforts to counter terrorism.
Construction of walls between Ukraine and occupied territories will further divide people.
A number of years ago you'd embarked on a number of travellings around the world to see a series of walls. These were not just the usual walls, but the walls dividing society and people. Can you tell us why did you embark on these journeys?
Last week had no shortage of shocking images to illustrate our collective paralysis in the face of the Mediterranean refugee crisis. A three year old boy dead on a beach, waves lapping around his shoes. Thousands of forcibly displaced people marching through the heart of Europe watched by silent onlookers. Borders going back up in Schengen under the guise of traffic control and migrant searches.
In an organisation as durable and complex as the United Nations, opportunities for reform do not come along very often. It is also singularly rare for Ireland to have a debate about its defence commitments. So 2015, the year when the UN conducts a review of peacekeeping operations and the Government prepares a White Paper on defence, must not go to waste.
A number of European countries are considering playing a greater military role in UN peacekeeping. However, they have many concerns about the UN's systems for managing missions, which differ markedly from NATO and EU standards. In this paper, based on in-depth interviews with Irish officers and policy-makers and UN officials, Edward Burke and Jonathan Marley give detailed insights into their experiences and lessons.
Japan, European countries, and the United States have a common interest in boosting United Nations peace operations. Japan has been a prominent supporter of a U.S. initiative to encourage participation in peacekeeping operations, but to date, Tokyo’s follow-up has been constructive but limited. For Tokyo and its allies, ensuring that the UN can handle today’s ugly crises is an unavoidable task.
Europe should expect ever-increasing pressure from refugees on its southern borders unless it is prepared to bear the cost and risk of military operations to control conflict in Europe’s southern neighbourhood, according to this policy paper. It says while the growing refugee problem generated by conflicts in the Middle East and Africa calls for a more interventionist response from the EU, Europeans have preferred to leave the job to others, notably the UN.