Security Council

Assuring security and protection of civilians by intervening and punishing terroristic acts while focussing on the IS and the persecution of Kurds in Iraq.

by Finn Opitz 


Most people think of the IS as a rather recent issue even though the terrorist group was already established by the Jordanian Abu Muzab az-Zarqawi in 2003. He was supposed to have good relations to al-Qaeda during the 90’s although he despised its tactics. In the early time after its foundation the organisation didn’t aim for the so called ‘far enemy’ (the west) but for rallying the Sunnite communities in Iraq around Sunnite jihadi groups, as they are themselves, to face local opponents such as the rulers in the Islamic world.

Under the name “At-Tauhid Wa-I-Jihad” which is similar to “Group for the unity of God and the holy war” Zarqawi’s insurgents gained huge influence on other local militia groups who were fighting against the US intervention in Iraq. Zarqawi devoted his organisation to al-Qaeda in 2004 and was thereby rewarded with the assignment to be an al-Qaeda subsidiary in Iraq. Despite the tactical differences, this merge made a useful alliance of convenience. Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda of Iraq (AQI) grew stronger and gained the recruiting and resourcing benefits of being part of a global and credible jihadi organisation, while the al-Qaeda central gained an affiliate in Iraq, by that time already being the global centre of jihad.

Without the permission of al-Qaeda’s central, AQI merged together with eight other Islamist groups to form the “Islamic State of Iraq” (ISI) in 2006.

But as a result of the “Anbar Awakening” in which Sunnite tribes were fighting against the insurgency, ISI’s support base was diminished. After Zarqawi and successive ISI leaders have been killed, the whole organisation lost much of its former reliability and receded in importance for a long time.

Since 2006 the relationship with al-Qaeda had been ambiguous.

But when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who once was imprisoned in an American internment camp, accessed leadership in 2010, the group seemed to recover from its repercussion. By establishing the group Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) in 2011, Baghdadi created a Syrian subsidiary and by that a strong toehold in the Syrian civil war. This expansion to Syria caused fertile benefits to ISI’s recruitment and moulded the organisation to the military force it has become.

But when JN appeared to show unwelcome signs of independence, Baghdadi ruled the reabsorption into the expanded “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS) in 2013. But JN, by that time already being acknowledged as al-Qaeda in Syria (AQS), rejected this order and appealed to al-Qaeda’s central command, which ruled in its favour, ordering Baghdadi to confine his group to Iraq.

Baghdadis disagreement with al-Qaeda caused the final brake up of the organisations and emphasized the totally unchallenged position of ISIS in Iraq and parts of Syria. By then being opponents, JN and ISIS started fighting each other. As a result of the battles JN wasn’t capable of holding its bases any longer and needed to retreat. ISIS captured the city of Raqqa in the Syrian border region to Iraq from other rebels in early 2014, using it ever since as a base to launch attacks. At that time the Islamist militias were already holding a vast area comparable to the territory of Great Britain.

Moreover the group was focussing on the conquest of the Syrian-Turkish border which they finally succeeded in midyear 2014. As a consequence of the newly acquired key position, which guarantees to maintain the greatest power in the region, Baghdadi proclaimed a caliphate based on the sharia on June 29th.

In September, an international coalition led by the USA began a military campaign against IS in Iraq and Syria, supported by more than a dozen European and Arab states. Extensive airstrikes supported the operations of mainly Kurdish ground forces in making strategic success, when the Iraqi military failed to deter the Islamists from occupying numerous cities and villages. After capturing and plundering former Iraqi military bases, IS is now equipped with the finest technology the American troops had dedicated to Iraqi military.

In November Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who declared himself “Caliph Ibrahim” and “commander of the faithful”, demanded that all Islamist movements around the world shall be absorbed into his Islamic State. Radical terrorist groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria or Ansar Beit al-Maqdis in Egypt took up the call.

But IS distinguishes from other like-minded organisations in regard of the fact that it is able to hold, control and administer a vast territory while others have dire straits to maintain in their position. Within its territory IS is the unchallenged authority and by that in charge of suppressing ethnic and religious minorities such as Christians, Shia Muslims, Yazidis and Kurds. In exchange for ‘protection’ and a second-class citizenship, minorities must pay protection money called ‘taxes’. Those, who are not willing to pay are coerced to leave – or worse.

The Kurds, mainly living in the northern part of Iraq, are probably suffering most from IS’s actions. Since the group has taken the city of Mosul, a very central place in the Kurdish territory, the Islamists conducted a harsh strike towards the Kurds, who have been fighting for their own independent state for a very long time.

Since the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire after World War I and the following creation of modern Syria, Turkey and Iraq the demands for an independent Kurdistan were ignored. Within these states the Kurds were persecuted. For example in Turkey, where the Kurdish population amounts to a quarter, the Kurds have never been allowed to neither maintain their own schools nor to teach their own language until today. They are treated like unwelcome guests, despite their aid during Turkey’s war for independence. Prior this conflict, the Kurds were promised a Turkish-Kurdish federate state in return for their assistance during war. This engagement has never been fulfilled. According to the association Franz-Kurdistan 1.5 million Kurds were deported and massacred between 1925 and 1939. Additionally those areas densely populated by Kurds remained underdeveloped in comparison to other parts of Turkey.

During the first Gulf war in the 1980’s the persecution of Kurds in Iraq has been even more chilling. Assaults conducted with chemical weapons stroke Kurdish settlements at the border between Iraq and Iran. Many were deported into Iraq’s south with tens of thousands tortured and massacred. Although the Iraqi government acknowledged the autonomous region Kurdistan in 2005, the discrimination and oppression haven’t stopped. The former prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Maliki, gave vent to his more sectarian impulses, creating plights towards the Kurds as well as to the Sunnite communities in the northwest of the country.

Due to all these legal disadvantages, al-Maliki fomented the already upcoming troubles within the Iraqi community and by that created a huge breeding ground for IS’s support base. At least among some Sunnite tribes. This finally led to a deep rupture of Iraqi society and split it into three parts. Sunnites in the west and northwest, Shias in the middle and south of Iraq and the Kurds almost unexceptionally living in the north.

This rift of society was exploited by IS for gathering young Sunnite men and supporting the already established military forces by assuring to fight for a just and well managed state. This allegedly reasonable objective made most fighters noting the Kurds, within their “state of the unfaithful” as the major enemy.

But even though the armed Kurdish forces such as the PKK, YPD or the Peschmerga are fighting valiantly, their culture is threatened in a way comparable to almost nothing in the modern history of persecution.

Finding new regulations to set blue-helmet-missions and for the quota of UN-member countries in blue-helmet troops.

by Sophia Brown-Heidenreich  


During the San Francisco Conference of 1945, the members of the UN pledged to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”, to “reaffirm the faith in fundamental human rights”, to “establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained” and to “promote social progress and better the standards of life in larger freedom”. These four lines mark the beginning of the United Nations Charter, and summarize the motivation for the creation of such a global structure, as the UN. Yet ever since the end of Second World War, the international community, so determined to keep the peace, has witnessed horrendous conflicts, genocides and other crimes against humanity. In an effort to prevent future atrocities and handle the current ones, the UN has set up regulations for peacekeeping operations, intent on protecting the lives of civilians in conflict-ridden areas and to do their utmost to create a stable future for affected regions.

Now with more ongoing missions than ever before, the Security Council must rethink the process of peacekeeping. Conflicts have changed from conventional means of fighting to asymmetric warfare, meaning it is often insufficient for the UN to just separate two parties during a ceasefire. Much more needs to be done to reinstate order. Yet to reach a positive outcome, the Security Council must have the resources. These come in the shape of funds, troops, weaponry and more. One of the reasons some previous peacekeeping operations have had little success, was due to the lack of manpower provided by the member states. Therefore the United Nations Security Council must reconsider their mandated peacekeeping operations and decide, how to amend previous strategies on tackling existing and emerging conflicts.

Definition of Key Terms

Peacekeeping Operation

A UN peacekeeping mission runs under the mandate of the Security Council. This means that the SC has authority over and outlines the undertakings and responsibilities of the troops in question. Since the UN as a whole greatly emphasizes civilian safety, operations are usually instated in conflict areas, where the local government does not have the capability to protect non-combatants. The Security Council may order a peacekeeping mission to prevent or contain conflict, stabilize conflict zones during ceasefire periods, provide assistance to create peace agreements and to remain in the area to help establish a stable, democratic government. Specific actions include disarmament and re-integration of former troops into society, securing land through mine action to ensure that no civilians are in danger, protecting the human rights of all, aiding in government reform and facilitating elections.

Blue Helmet Troops

Due to the color of their headgear (helmets or berets), the troops that carry out peace missions have been labeled as blue-helmets. The color was chosen to make the soldiers recognizable to all. As the UN does not own its own servicemen or equipment, they heavily depend on the contribution of its member states. These donate military advisers, police and troops to make up the peacekeeping missions. In total states have provided over 100,000 men and women to secure conflict zones. Additionally almost 20,000 UN volunteers and civilian personnel are employed to help make sustainable peace possible. The blue-helmets may use force in order to protect themselves or mandate they have been ordered to carry out.

UN Charter

When founded after WWII, the United Nations wrote its own constitution, outlining the importance of such an international organization, along with its long-term aims. The Charter consists of the Introductory Note, the Preamble and 19 Chapters, each focusing on a different aspect of the United Nations. Delegates refer to the Charter in resolutions, as it provides the legal basis for all decisions. Chapters VI-VIII specifically deal with peacekeeping missions and establish regulations for what can be done to ensure a favorable outcome, when handling conflict.

General Overview


To examine why changes should be made, a look at past peacekeeping operations becomes a necessity. Only through the successes and failures of completed missions will the SC be able to devise a strategy for those to come.

Initially, peacekeeping operations were introduced as a means for the UN to monitor a situation and gather information during conflict. The first time UN peacekeepers were ever employed was in 1948, after the state of Israel emerged. The operation was called the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), which contracted military observers to supervise the ceasefire and peace agreements between Israel and the surrounding Arab states. To this day, personnel in the area remain at the UN’s disposal, due to the ongoing Palestine conflict and in the event that hostilities reignite.

In the Kashmir region peacekeeping has similarly continued for over since the late 1940s. This exemplifies the complexity of the SC’s decision. While in some cases an area or country can be secured in little over a year, others require a great deal of patience.

The first armed mandated mission was also in the Middle East, in 1956. The First UN Emergency Force (UNEF I) was instated to tackle the Suez Crisis. Four years later, the first extensive operation was carried out in Congo, necessitating about 20,000 soldiers to intervene, in order to help prevent a civil war. This mission was the first to produce a greater number of casualties, 250 people in total, including the Secretary-General of the time. The following assignments in the 1960s and 70s were a series of shorter ones, exempting both Cyprus and Lebanon, both of which have not been discontinued to this day. In 1988 the UN peacekeepers were presented with the Nobel Peace prize for realizing the goals set in the UN Charter. All of the above factored into increasing the global trust in the UN and their methods.

This trust was to be undermined by the events of the 1990s. Conflicts of the world started changing from transnational wars to asymmetric fighting. Suddenly UN troops found themselves trying to retain peace in divided and unsafe places. They were unable to monitor a ceasefire or an armistice, because no parties were willing to engage in talks. Thus the units were not able to carry out the mandate. This combined with the rapid increase in the amount of planned operations led to some of the worst failures in UN history. Genocides in Rwanda and in former Yugoslavia took place, while peacekeepers were stationed in these countries. Criticism of the SC flared, as millions of civilians died in Srebrenica, Rwanda and Somalia.

After the catastrophes in the early 1990s the SC was hesitant to order further missions. For a period of two years the council waited, overseeing only already existing mandates. Then with a rise in civil wars and other conflicts, they were driven to direct six new missions Angola (1994/97-present), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1995-2002), Croatia (1995-96/98), Macedonia (1995-present), Guatemala (1997) and Haiti (1996-2000). The UN was once again able to prove it use in securing global peace. Yet by reflecting upon the earlier half of the decade, it seemed all to clear that changes had to be made. 

Existing Regulations

The legal basis for all operations remains the original UN Charter of 1945. Chapters VI, VII and VIII specifically deal with the role of the Security Council in ensuring global stability and peace. The SC has the option of calling for a peacekeeping operation, among other measures to prevent or terminate war.

Chapter VI, titled the Pacific Settlement of Disputes, reaffirms the goal to resolve issues without resorting to violence. It then continues, stating that conflict may be investigated by the UN and that any nation, even non-Members of the council can ask to have a dispute examined. Article VI furthermore underlines the SC’s power to make parties hold negotiations or recommend a course of action for such negotiations to take place.

The next article is one often referenced in SC resolutions on peacekeeping. It specifically calls for parties to help placate local or international discord and decides that certain measures can be instated to assure the success of a binding SC resolution. These means include the “complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations” with countries that are deliberately noncompliant. Once gotten past the mention of commonly used telegraphs, the strength of the above words becomes apparent. Yet if sanctions prove unsuccessful or have a poor outlook, the SC may decide to put boots on the ground. In the event that the UN has to employ troops, Member States are asked to grant the UN forces, facilities, rights of passage, assistance and troops.

Chapter VIII, Regional Arrangements, discusses the handling of local organizations and their role in peacekeeping. It states, that regional groups may only assist in the peacekeeping process, if approved by the SC and under the condition that the council remains informed of their activities.

Conditions for Operations

Before a mission can be instated, several key actions must take place. As a conflict worsens the Security Council must consult the country where the mission is to take place, UN nations with relations to the area or conflict, contributors of manpower, and others. After this first step, the Secretariat will station a technical assessment mission in the region to, according to the UN, “assess the overall security, political, military, humanitarian and human rights situation on the ground and its implications for a possible operation”. Derived from the findings of the officers, the Secretary-General gives a report to the SC. This evaluation includes suggestions on how the SC is to proceed, when writing the mandate for the new mission. It also includes an initial estimation on the costs of the upcoming operation.

Due to the fact that each situation the SC grapples with is uniquely different, it becomes very difficult to broadly describe what peacekeepers are asked to accomplish. In some cases, but becoming increasingly rare, troops separate enemy forces during a cease-fire and aid them in holding peaceful talks. Now, as civil wars ravage many countries in the post-colonial era, peacekeepers are forced to deal with militias and smaller groups. Many times these factions have no interest in the safety of civilians or the UN’s goals. These situations are especially challenging, because as many point out, there is no peace to keep.       


Due to the comprehensive and prolonged nature of some peacekeeping operations, the UN must particularly consider their individual funding. Under Article 17 of the UN Charter, the SC has the obligation to decide on the exact budget for the tasks of the blue-helmets. The SC determines a budget for the coming 12 months, predicting the total cost for each ongoing mission. This financial plan is examined by the Secretary General, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly (GA), before being endorsed by the entire GA. After the completion of a mission, a report is prepared detailing the exact use of resources.

All member states must make funds available to enable the implementation of peacekeeping operations. The GA has created a formula, which specifies the amount that every country must contribute. The formula examines many facets of a countries wealth. In total the budget for July 2014 until June 2015 is $7.06 billion dollars, less than one percent of total military spending around the world. Payment is obligatory, though according to the UN, as of February, more than $2 billion in debt have amounted from all Member States combined. The United States disburse by far the most money and their payment makes up over 28% of the total budget. Japan, France and Germany place next highest on the list of most monetary aid provided.

Yet not all important resources come in the form of financial donations. Transportation, provisions, extra monetary gifts and personnel must be volunteered by willing states. In the case of soldiers, the UN reimburses countries for the service and arming of their men. While the states decide their peacekeepers salary, the UN offers the giving nation about $1,028 per troop every month. Police and other civilian personnel receive wages from the UN directly.

Criticisms and Shortcomings

The UN has stumbled and fallen more than once when it came to protecting civilians during their planned operations. Sometimes the mandate itself cannot be fulfilled, due to its unrealistic nature in complicated circumstances. Other times the reasons lie deeper in the setup of these missions. Onlookers, and even insiders, on the system, often criticize several key points.

Although the amount of women in peacekeeping has risen from 1% in 1993 to 10% in 2014, their role in peacekeeping is still limited. Especially when viewing high-ranking positions, the inequality becomes visible. The SC has addressed the issue in multiple resolutions on the inclusion of both genders in peacekeeping. Female staff is especially useful, when working with residents of a conflict zone. Their presence can help pacify the conflict, empower local women, provide a sense of security to men and women alike and act as a role model to girls of all ages. Specifically, only female peacekeepers will be able to speak to those, forbidden to talk to men. They can in certain cases better attend to sexual abuse, as a result of the war being dealt with by the mandate. Therefore employing more women in these operations could improve the success rate of coming missions.

Yet one of the largest issues remains the lack of troops, police and military advisors provided to UN nations. Due to the fact that services in form of human forces are not legislated, SC resolutions often call for more troops than Member States dispense.

Furthermore the countries, which offer the most servicemen and women, are often those with a lesser military spending. The US, China, Saudi Arabia and Russia invest quite a bit more into their armed forces than Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Ethiopia and Rwanda. Yet the latter give the UN over 5,000 troops each not counting policemen and military experts. The reasons for this result are mixed. For one, often nations in the vicinity of a conflict have a greater interest in its assuagement. Furthermore the compensation of over $1,000 a month per soldier is especially attractive to nations, with a lower Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and can be used as an extra source of income. Yet the contributions of able and wealthier countries are much needed and could significantly improve the probability of a favorable outcome.

Timeline of Events

June, 1948UN Truce Supervision Organization becomes the first peacekeeping operation authorized by the UNSC
November, 1956UNSC mandates the first armed operation, the First UN Emergency Force (UNEF I)
1988UN peacekeepers are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
April-July, 1994500,000-1,000,000 die in the Rwandan Genocide as the UN withdrew their peacekeepers
July, 1995UN failed to act as 8,000 were killed in the Srebrenica
August 17th, 2000Brahimi Report published, critically reflecting on past operations and advocating for change
October 31st, 2014Ban Ki-moon appointed High-level Independent Panel on UN Peace Operations to after 15 years assess how affective peacekeeping is today

Previous Attempts to Solve the Issue

Due to considerable failures, the UN has made it their obligation to better the process of peacekeeping. In the year 2000, the Secretary General of the time, Kofi Annan, decided to have a group of experts analyze and report to the SC on how missions could be bettered. The document “Report of the Panel on the United Nations Peace Operation“ also known as the Brahimi Report, after the UN Under-Secretary General, examined all facets of peacekeeping, from the creation of the mandate to its execution. One of the suggestions for the SC was to produce concrete achievable mandates. Furthermore, though the UN should never wage war, the Brahimi Report calls for a greater amount of troops to be deployed to areas so the SC’s direction can be accomplished. Issues of advanced equipment were also raised, along with the lack of women in leadership positions.

Now 15 years on, Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has issued a panel to create a second Brahimi Report. The High-level Independent Panel on UN Peace Operations, chaired by Jose Ramos-Horta (Timor-Leste) will present their findings and proposal to the General Assembly on the 28th of September at the 2015 General Debate.      


Now the SC’s time to act has come. In the light of triumph and defeat, the UN has gained substantial experience, when dealing with instability and war. Regrettably, conflicts will continue to yield victims and it is the Security Council’s responsibility to act on their behalf. Yet a country conceals itself behind every seat in this chamber, behind every vote. Many of these countries have the ability to be more proactive, when deciding upon a new mandate. These countries must show their involvement in the keeping of global peace. Now that this world has become more interconnected than ever, nations cannot lie back and wait for another to act. The setting the United Nations provides is ideal, when discussing international collaboration. The members of the SC have to remember the balance between national policy and interest and a righteous, cooperative approach. The UN needs more support from its community, so the SC must choose what measures to take.