When considering our committee’s study of UN peacekeeping missions and UN peace support operations, it is important to remember that the UN Charter does not actually mention their existence at all. Rather, they are a combination of 2 different chapters of the UN Charter.

Peacekeeping sometimes get the nickname “Chapter 6.5 missions” since they combine the elements of Chapters 6 and 7 of the UN Charter. Chapter 6 of the UN Charter deals with the peaceful resolution of disputes, requiring countries to seek peace through methods like negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, and judicial settlement before resorting to military force.

On the other hand, Chapter 7 refers to the UN Security Council’s ability to “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression” and to take military and nonmilitary action to “restore international peace and security.”

Peacekeeping as it was known in the cold war falls somewhere between these two mandates of the UN. While peacekeeping in that era certainly involved helping the peaceful resolution of conflict, it also used military force to ensure the implementation of these ceasefires and separate the conflicting parties.

While the first “true” peacekeeping mission took place during the Suez Canal crisis, the roots of peacekeeping had already been set out prior to 1956. For example, UN Security Resolution 50 called upon the UN to provide “military observers” who monitored the implementation of the peace process between Israel and its neighboring countries in 1948.  One year later the UN sent more “military observers” as the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan to monitor the ceasefire agreement there.

While these “military observers” may not have been true peacekeeping missions, as they had tight restrictions on how they could intervene when compared to the following missions, it set out the framework for the missions that came in the following years. 

Between 1956 and 1985, the UN undertook 11 peacekeeping of this first type, most of which would involve active participation from Canada. These first missions usually involved three key elements: consent of the belligerents to a truce, the presence of outside peacekeepers to monitor the truce, and the impartiality of peacekeepers.

Upcoming blogs over the next days will examine some of the first “true” peacekeeping missions that took place in this cold-war era such as the Suez Crisis and the Egypt-Israel Peacekeeping Treaty.

UN Deployment: Prioritizing commitments at home and abroad

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