Eighteen months into their two-year term on the Security Council, Australia’s diplomats at the UN have become masters of crisis management. For more than a year they have played a major role in talks on humanitarian aid to Syria, forging a fragile consensus with Russia and China on the need to assist the suffering.
Over the past six months, United Nations peacekeeping has come closer to catastrophe than at any time since the Rwandan genocide and Srebrenica massacre. The UN mission in South Sudan was caught off-guard when the country imploded last December. The crisis has claimed at least 10,000 lives. More then a million civilians have fled their homes, with 80,000 sheltering in UN compounds
The Russian Federation truly is the successor state of the Soviet Union when it comes to working the levers of the United Nations to its benefit. From its position as a permanent member of the Security Council, it gains both the prestige that comes with such a lofty place in the international system and a platform to tweak the great powers of the world whenever it wants.
At the end of March, with the crisis spreading from Crimea to eastern Ukraine, Kerry instinctively reached out to Lavrov anew. The pair held four hours of inconclusive talks in Paris. Then it was back to Geneva in mid-April for quadrilateral discussions with the European Union and the Ukrainians: Seven hours of negotiating delivered a new set of “Geneva Accords” outlining plans for the pro-Russian separatists occupying government buildings in the east of the country to disarm.
It was no surprise when pro-Russian forces seized eight European military monitors in eastern Ukraine last week. A growing number of international observers have deployed to Ukraine over the past two months, and it was only a matter of time before some were snatched. A United Nations envoy, Robert Serry, had to make a quick exit from Crimea in early March after an encounter with a posse of armed men.
The paper Fueling a New Order? The New Geopolitical and Security Consequences of Energy examines impacts of the major transformation in international energy markets that has begun. The United States is poised to overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest oil producer and, combined with new developments in natural gas, is on track to become the dominant player in global energy markets. Meanwhile, China is in place to surpass the United States in its scale of oil imports, and has already edged out the U.S. in carbon emissions.
In the last decade, there have been two trends in mission mandates. The first and most obvious is the United Nations Security Council authorization of peacekeeping missions with significant military components and complex, multidimensional mandates. Yet, due to global strains on personnel, equipment, financial resources, and to competing international priorities, these missions – typically in the most challenging environments – have suffered from under-deployment and insufficient political attention.
United Nations (UN) peace operations face an extended and dangerous period of strategic uncertainty. Since the end of the Cold War, global peacekeeping has undergone cycles of expansion and contraction. After a round of boom and bust in the 1990s, UN operations expanded through the last decade, as did those of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and other organizations. But a series of set-backs have coincided with military overstretch and the financial crisis, raising the risk that UN peacekeeping may contract once more.