Diplomacy and security


The chapter explores the relationship between diplomacy and security through three perspectives: the international system level, national approaches and diplomatic aspects of security affecting the individual.

At the international system level, security' can be defined in terms of the level of tension and violence and the corresponding extent to which actor interests can be accommodated through diplomacy based on containing conflicts, contributing to internal stabilisation, reduction of tension and conflict resolution. The international system level looks at the systemic aspects of international security' in two areas: assessing the constraints on collective action, in particular the limitations on UN peacekeeping and related operations, and illustrating the influence of rulemaking relating to security.

The central section of the chapter looks at security from a national perspective discussing different approaches to the issues of security enhancement and redefinition.

In the final part of the chapter the level of analysis is shifted to security issues relating to the individual. Issues looked at are the growing problems of security of diplomatic personnel. Finally, the spread of refugee crises, contested territories and population movement have highlighted issues of humanitarian access for aid convoys; the status of NGOs and international agencies.

UN Security Council: peacekeeping and international stability

The interpretation of the formal power of the UN Security Council has continued to evolve since 1945. Whilst its position as envisaged in article 24' of the UN Charter, through which the members conferred on the Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, has been eroded and challenged, its operations nevertheless remain an important feature of international order. Whilst, in some cases, the UN Security Council has been side-lined (Syria and Yemen conflicts), its overall range of diplomatic initiatives - fact finding; good offices, peacekeeping and role in conflict reduction, act as a brake on conflict and spread of instability. That function of acting as a brake has, since the 1990s, been further challenged by the changing nature of international conflicts.

The operating environment of the Security Council has become much more complex. The changes in the operational environment have included the growth of multidimensional internal conflicts and the transnational spread of ISIS affiliated terrorism. What would have been traditional civil wars now contain multiple additional elements such as transnational economic crime, e.g. illegal logging, trans-border mineral mining transfers and arms transfers linked to an opaque range of external powers. Other transnational external crime involves abduction and human trafficking as sources of instability. The internal dimensions of conflicts have also been tremendously affected by large-scale refugee and population migration from Middle East and African conflict zones to Europe and other temporary holding areas. Transnational terrorism is exacerbated by transnational migration.2

Contemporary conflicts have become extremely fluid in terms of the ‘mix’ of components; stability is difficult to maintain, and short phases of relative quiet can be easily reversed, making stabilisation very difficult. Efforts to create post-conflict democratic structures and elections add, in some, though not all, instances additional layers of tension and instability.

In the period after 2000, the UN has been involved apart from the long-standing post-1945 presence/observer missions (India-Pakistan frontier, Lebanon) in three types of operations: stabilisation; interim security and peace accord/civilian protection.3 The forces vary in size, unit type and nationality composition, including large so-called stabilisation forces such as in the Congo DRC through to the single nationality force in Abyei.4 The development of a range of UN Peace Keeping Missions has not been accompanied by extensive development of diplomatic-military doctrine to cover the range and sometimes rapidly changing requirements.

In the Cold War period, the dominant doctrine developed by UN Secretary Dag Hammarskjöld (Preventive Diplomacy) formed the basis for much of the underlying diplomatic-military rationale of this period.5 The essential tenets of that doctrine envisaged the Security Council establishing peacekeeping forces, largely comprised unit contributions from non-members of the Security Council, limitations on use of force in the rules of engagement (Defensive) and maintenance of neutrality in conflicts. The aims of diplomacy were to isolate or inhibit great power intervention, and, correspondingly, freeze situations by presence so that they did not deteriorate to such an extent as to lead to external power intervention. The methods involved the creation and adjustment of UN force mandates, good offices missions to trouble-shoot internal and bilateral issues, and periodic diplomatic conferences, such as over Cyprus, were called to seek long-term solutions.

Since 2000 no strategic or tactical doctrine has been developed to underpin the diplomatic and military elements featuring in contemporary conflicts in which UN forces are operating. Central to the issue of peacekeeping force doctrine is the failure to establish a permanent UN military staff committee.8 In addition, UN secretaries-general have devoted different degrees of attention to peacekeeping. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, for example, focused on reinterpreting preventive diplomacy doctrine, altering it to conflict prevention though mediation and dialogue. In 2012 he established the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia,7 although no comparable doctrine for UN peacekeeping forces was concurrently developed. The need for reform of UN peacekeeping has received increasing attention in reports such as those of General dos Santos Cruz (Brazil), the former force commander of MINUSCO, which have underlined the need for flexibility in mandates and more robust and innovative strategies.8


The mandates underpinning UN operations in the maintenance of international peace and security are central to the evolving role and effectiveness of the Security Council. The UN Charter sets out the formal mandate procedures on matters of substance establishing the authority of the Security Council in Article 27(1), acting on behalf of the members (Article 24( 1 ) ). In Article 25, members agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the Charter.

Since 2000 several issues have arisen in respect to the mandates contained in various UNSC resolutions. The first concerns whether the authority underlying a mandate in terms of the form and scope of approval has been weakened through abstention and in drafting its provisions.

The issue of abstention in Security Council voting has been a longstanding issue since the 1950s. The practice has continued since 2000 with abstentions (China, Russian Federation) used over Security Council resolutions in second-tier conflicts, including South Sudan; and Somalia-Eritrea sanctions.9 In the case of the termination of the Liberia peacekeeping force,10 abstentions used by Russian Federation, France and United Kingdom over the mandate, were based on technical concerns over the adequacy of the procedures for ending a UN operation (UNMIL). In the other instances - South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, were ongoing operations, which although not technically opposed were in effect not supported. Lack of support by two of the primary' powers (Russian Federation and China) reflects intermittent politicisation of peacekeeping and other UN operations. The arguments against the operations relied on the view that the proposals were threats to sovereignty and territorial unity and the monitoring of aid distribution should be through the UN Coun-cil and state machinery rather than NGOs. Abstention is now framed in elegant diplomatic language which, in a defensive-offensive strategy, disguises opposition and highlights the importance of principles and efforts to improve a draft resolution in a very short time frame.11 Lack of support impacts on the scope of mandates and, critically, affects the overall capability of the UN to function, leading to immobilism in diplomatic initiative

A second, related, set of concerns are directed to the suitability or limited nature of UNSC resolutions for evolving violent conflicts. These include the adequacy of mandate provisions on the use of force in volatile internal civil conflicts and responses to external threats, necessary to protect civilians and prevent cross-border military attacks (e.g. Congo DRC).12 Other problem areas concern securing and improving access for Monitoring Groups (South Sudan and Eritrea),13 and closing commercial gaps in UN sanctions (Eritrea, Somalia, North Korea and Libya).14 Further issues have also arisen in terms of NGOs in civil conflicts; over their authority to transfer and convoy aid across borders or to besieged areas in those conflicts.

A common limitation of sanctions resolutions is that sanctions do not always apply to arms imports intended for the receiving states’ armed forces or other armed agencies (e.g. Somali; Ethiopia) in civil conflicts. Closing commercial gaps is a further important area to address economic activity which may be used directly or indirectly to support terrorist activities (e.g. chemical imports), which might be used as oxidisers for improvised explosive devices; diversion of revenues from the charcoal and mining sector of the Somali or Eritrean economies.

UNSC mandates have traditionally been subject to ‘pulling and hauling over’ their terms by permanent members and others on the Security Council. Nevertheless, modernisation of UNSC principles and mandates in terms of flexibility, scope and provisions for finance is a major longterm requirement. As well as this there is a constant need to integrate UN operations into wider diplomatic planning, review and initiatives in order to extend and strengthen the contribution to international stability.


UN peacekeeping and other forces, in most cases, have traditionally operated on principles of impartiality; lightly armed and with defensive rules of engagement; and with the consent of the host state. The concept of host state consent is a central idea in peacekeeping in that the UN force mandate is implemented with the agreement of the host state. Status of force agreements cover such issues troop composition, areas of deployment, equipment support, confirmation of mission aims, and political and other liaison arrangements. Difficulties over consent occur for example over central government collapse, exiled government armed or political intervention and extended civil war.

In the South Sudan case, extensive host country consent difficulties occurred over the creation of an additional Protection Force to augment the hybrid AU-UN peacekeeping force in South Sudan. Following independence, the South Sudan disintegrated into civil war between rival presidential factions in 2013 and extensive fighting in Juba and other provinces in South Sudan, along with major humanitarian and refugee crises.15 Relations between the newly independent South Sudan and Sudan were complicated by the oil pipeline dispute over transit revenue demanded by Sudan for oil from the southern Upper Nile oilfields, operated by the China National Oil Corporation to Port Sudan.

Consent issues for the Protection Force involved South Sudan’s opposition to the proposed composition of the force drawing on contingents from outside the region (Bangladesh, Nepal), allocation of land for bases, civilian protection areas and visas.16 The additional Protection Force was eventually deployed, to establish additional protection areas, after extensive delays and loss of life in an ongoing civil war.

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