Peacekeeping, Conflict Prevention, Combating Terrorism


Excerpt From: Rischard, Jean-Francois.

“High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years To Solve Them.” iBooks.


“Wars between states have given way almost entirely to intrastate wars and armed conflicts. In 1999–2000 there were no fewer than fifty such wars, and they had killed 7 million civilians since their inception. More than 90 percent of them since 1945 have taken place in developing countries. These conflicts increasingly draw surrounding countries into the violence: the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo spurred a regional war involving seven other countries, and the conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea-Bissau have also become intertwined.

The cost is staggering. The Congo regional war, the deadliest since World War II, is estimated to have killed 2 million or more. Africa has so many wars that one person in five is affected by them. In some places, children have a 75 percent chance of dying before they are two years of age. Years of development are being reversed, and roaming armies are spreading AIDS. But Africa isn’t alone: there have been almost as many conflicts in Asia, and quite a few in other regions, including the former Yugoslavia zone.

Terrorism, long a part of internal conflicts, in the 1970s became a wider phenomenon that spread by imitation, even outside intrastate wars. National counterterrorist measures were promptly taken to eliminate such groups as the Baader- Meinhoff gang in Germany, the Red Brigades in Italy, and Action Directe in France. Similar efforts are being directed at the Basque separatists’ ETA movement and at the IRA.

But over the last decade terrorism has gone global, largely circumventing national controls, in two ways. First, it has, as exemplified by the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, created exactly the sort of flat, networked, worldwide organization that is such a hallmark of the age to come, in effect trumping more traditional, hierarchical national antiterrorist organizations. Second, it has sought refuge in failed states, like Afghanistan, Somalia, and other territories outside the control of any recognized government.


The reach and destructiveness of global terrorism became clear on September 11, 2001. Thousands of people from eighty nations died in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, altering for decades the world’s image of itself—and of its future. Beyond the toll in life and property in the United States, the ensuing worldwide reduction in growth, commodity prices, tourism receipts, and financing possibilities has probably caused 10 million people in the developing world to slip under the line of extreme poverty (half of them in Africa) and has led to the death of 20,000 to 40,000 more children under five years of age, as a result of a setback in the fight against malnutrition and diseases. Clearly, global terrorism has joined intrastate wars and armed conflicts on the list of destructive disruptions of peace whose solution requires a global commitment.

There have been three kinds of responses to these various types of disruptions:

United Nations peacekeeping efforts in 2000 involved some 40,000 soldiers, observers, and police, twice as many as in 1999. They come from ninety countries and involve a great number of nations: only 10 percent of the personnel deployed are from the five permanent UN Security Council members—the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, and Russia.

Wars of intervention, as they have come to be called, include the messy, costly but eventually successful Kosovo intervention, the quick episode in East Timor, and a not-so-successful intervention in Sierra Leone.

The beginnings of global efforts against global terrorism include a dozen UN conventions (even though as of September 2001, few countries were party to them), and some new measures.

Here again, we have another global issue that’s only partially solved—from three standpoints.
First, the peacekeeping and intervention setup is actually quite fragile and needs several improvements that require global thinking:

Means. Unpaid peacekeeping dues, $2 billion or so in mid–2001, keep the UN teetering close to bankruptcy. Late in 2000, the UN had enough cash to keep peacekeeping going for only three months. It also badly needs more staff, equipment, and information-gathering capabilities.

Quicker responses. Conflicts are more easily controlled if peacekeeping kicks in early. To field missions faster, the UN’s standby system needs bolstering by “on-call” lists of military officers, civilian police, judicial experts, even human rights experts. Among other things, it has been suggested that small teams of seasoned military officers from various nations be stationed at UN headquarters, ready to hit the ground running in case the Security Council approves a mission.12 And the links with more action-ready organizations such as NATO, which increasingly plays a peacekeeping role, need to be thought through.

Technology. In the United States, proponents of rethinking the military structure have a vision of smaller, more mobile units operating with more strategic attacks on vital systems, along with a flatter command structure. Such an option is especially relevant to global peacekeeping because it could enhance the effectiveness of intervention. It could also solve the intervening countries’ dilemma: their need to intervene with increasingly capable opponents versus their aversion to casualties and large outlays.

Principles. Unlike peacekeeping, wars of intervention lack a simple, straightforward, and widely accepted set of rules. If they are to be a serious part of tomorrow’s global agenda, they’ll need this sooner rather than later. Otherwise chaos could well set in.


Second, the best method is conflict prevention in the first place—something the world hasn’t been good at. Prevention is thus another area requiring serious global thinking and action. A World Bank analysis of some eighty intrastate conflicts shows that they predominantly occur where rebel organizations are financially viable. Liberation movements based on genuine grievance exist, but most only use that cover to get their hands on some valuable resource—it’s more a story of greed than grievance.14 In fact, the research shows that internal conflicts are very likely in countries:

where incomes are very low, and where the level of education is low, too—again, poverty connects to just about everything;

where an exportable resource can be captured and easily cashed in (petroleum, diamonds, drugs);

where one large ethnic group dominates smaller ones (when there are many small groups, the risk goes down); and

where there are large diasporas abroad—wealthier expatriate nationals are often responsible for refueling a civil war after it has been stopped.

By focusing directly on these factors, we can tilt global action towards preventing conflicts rather than mostly waiting to intervene once they have started. There are several ways to do this:

Through international tracking of the looted resource—such as “conflict diamonds”—to make it harder to sell.

Through intensifying the fight against money laundering, with direct and early seizures of assets belonging to leaders of predator movements (just as governments have started to do for terrorist networks).

Through special global efforts to control the small-arms trade in countries with a high likelihood for conflict based on the above factors.

Through special conflict-prevention efforts and human rights watching briefs over countries where one large group dominates another—including pushing to entrench the rights of minorities in the constitution.

Third, the fight against global terrorism, now clearly a major new agenda item for the world, has only begun and will take many years. How global an issue this has become can be seen from the extraordinarily large number of nations (more than fifty) in which a group like the Al-Qaeda network operates; from its ability to bury loosely connected sleeper cells deep into societies; and from the large range of countries (some two dozen) in which it has tried to start destabilizing operations—from the United States to Jordan to Ecuador and even Singapore. Combating such networks will require an unprecedented step-up in the global sharing of intelligence, in the global conduct of prosecutorial work, and in formulating shared operational definitions and criteria. As was mentioned above, one of the things to do is to step up the fight against money laundering and against other uses of financial channels to support terrorism—an issue taken up in the next chapter. Another proposal is a possible “refoundation” of NATO, perhaps including Russia and China, around the related tasks of countering terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Like other global issues, addressing the threesome of peacekeeping, conflict prevention, and fighting global terrorism comes only at a modest cost. Peacekeeping efforts by the UN have cost only $30 billion since such operations began in 1948. Global efforts aimed at conflict prevention would cost even less—and would avoid massive human distress and societal disruption. And combating global terrorism, while it will carry a higher price tag than anyone would have guessed before September 11, 2001, has more to do with global organization than huge expenditures. For example, tracking down terrorism finance involves doing more of what we should have been doing all along to combat financial abuse and money laundering (see Chapter 14).

And it has to do with changing two mindsets. First, changing the mindset that led the world to lower its guard after the fall of the Berlin Wall, leaving the global community, as someone said, “without adult supervision” in an age where technology permits small terrorist networks, warlords, and rebel groups to have the impact once available only to large national armies. Second, changing the mindset that has allowed excessively compartmentalized subcultures of specialists to sprout around issues like terrorism, peacekeeping, conflict prevention, nuclear nonproliferation, and so on, when what’s needed is a more unified approach to global security that better integrates these subissues and subcultures.”


Excerpt From: Rischard, Jean-Francois.

“High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years To Solve Them.” iBooks.