Social and Economic Impact of UN Peacekeeping Missions on Africa

free essayThe UN peacekeeping missions have referred to for decades to resolve armed conflicts in Africa and other countries. Although initially devised to referee in interstate conflicts, these missions in Africa have continuously been used to stabilize nations that are dealing with intra state conflicts. This is mainly because African countries usually have problems within their state borders, and not necessarily with their neighbors. Previously, peacekeeping troops were only deployed until peace agreements were signed. There was no progress monitoring measures to keep the peace. It resulted in war recurrences and prompted a change in the strategy of peacekeeping missions. Thus, currently, these missions are not only intended to stabilize warring entities within a nation, but also to foster economic and political stabilization. They no longer focus on monitoring ceasefires, but also facilitate dialogue and reconciliation among conflicting factions, protect civilians from any possible armed attacks, facilitate and support in disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration processes for the reformed combatants. UN missions also provide support in the conduction of peaceful elections, promote and protect civilians against human rights violations, provide other basic services like medical aid and infrastructure development, restore the rule of law in the country and support economic restoration as well.

Peace Keeping Missions in Africa

Most of these expectations are beyond the mandate of these peacekeeping missions. They however, result in troops staying on for longer periods of time than originally planned. History shows that sustainable peace is realized in the presence of the peacekeeping troops. When they stay on after the war to supervise post-war interactions and facilitate the state’s recovery process, the chances of reoccurrence of the conflict are greatly reduced. The troops are, thus, vital in overseeing the implementation of the usually complex peace deals as well as facilitating the restructuring of political authority in the post-war state. Given that a peacekeeping mission, especially in Africa, focuses on providing humanitarian assistance, it is expected for it to have both social and economical effects on the local populations (Boutros-Ghali, 1995).

Africa has been a destination for peacekeeping troops for a rather long time. The major reason for deployment has always been a failed democracy. Nations in the continent have continued facing internal conflicts that usually necessitate the use of international peacekeeping troops. Thus, the intention for peacekeeping missions in Africa is mainly to restore the rule of law and relevance of the state authority. On the African continent, peacekeeping troops are deployed with the aim of restoring hope for the masses in despair. When they arrive, they are met with expectations of peace, social and economic development, protection of human rights, as well as political sanity in the respective state (Abaagye & Alhaji, 2005).

Effects

While the intentions and expectations of peacekeeping missions are basically noble, the effects are balanced out. There are both positives and negatives implications, thus, it is no wonder that some African countries are against the presence of peacekeeping missions in their jurisdictions. Peacekeeping missions in Africa have both social and economic effects, and these can be negative or positive as discussed in subsequent paragraphs below.

Social Effects

Deploying peacekeeping troops is similar to introducing a new population into the nation. These troops adhere to the major agenda of keeping peace, and as long as they follow the purpose of their deployment, the local population is safe. Unfortunately, it is not always the case. Thus, they leave both positive and negative social impacts on the local communities. By giving credit where it is due, we first explore the positive social impacts of the peacekeeping missions on Africa.

By refereeing in interstate conflicts with an aim of restoring peace and the rule of law in the state, these peacekeeping missions help stabilize the government of the day. By providing the necessary back-up for the local law enforcement authorities and giving advice as deemed necessary by the state authorities, these missions provide and strengthen sustainable stability for the state’s citizens in terms of leadership. Thus, as a result of the peacekeeping mission, people who previously lacked stability in their government enjoy this privilege.

A basic pillar of peacekeeping missions in Africa is human rights protection. These interstate conflicts were drawn to the attention of the international community as they were a threat to the universal protection of human rights. Thus, a major task for any peacekeeping mission is to protect the people against violations of their rights. It includes provision of food, shelter, security, education, medical care among other basic human needs. By providing all these for the local communities, the troops ensure a significantly reduced number of cases of human rights violations.

Peacekeeping missions are humanitarian missions by virtue of their motivation. They are intended to protect those in need. In the post-war period, most civilians enjoy the prevailing peace, thus, need no more protection from these troops. The ex-combatants, however, are still treated as enemies of the people, thus, they require to be rehabilitated and reintegrated back into the communities with the help of these trained and respected peacekeepers. For this to be effected in a sustainable way, the ex-combatants have to be taken through psychological counseling sessions to help them deal with the memories of their harsh past experiences. The communities also have to be sensitized in order to dispel the stigmatization of these ex-combatants. Additionally, they have to be economically empowered so that they can cater for themselves and their families without having to resort to hostilities and crime for survival. All these responsibilities are often undertaken by peace-keeping missions in conjunction with other humanitarian organizations for the benefit of ex-combatants and local communities, thus, fostering forgiveness and reconciliation in the society. It is an important way of ensuring sustainable peace.

In times of war, and even soon after the war peacekeeping missions provide medical aid to the local communities as they wait for the government to stabilize and avail these facilities to the population. It implies that peacekeeping missions ensure that the masses are catered for in terms of medical care, which results in fewer deaths from curable diseases and conditions. Providing medical attention is a part of the humanitarian function of the peace-keeping missions.

Part of the mandate of peacekeeping missions is to provide access to education. The troops are charged with the responsibility to protect schoolchildren and their teachers so that learning can continue without fear of armed attacks. It promotes sustainable social development and gives the opportunities that avail themselves in the presence of education.

Most UN peacekeeping missions in Africa record a success in achieving peace and security in the state. It implies that the most common social impact of peacekeeping missions is prevailing peace. Though, at times, it may not be sustainable, peacekeeping missions are known for fostering peace through peace agreements or forceful means. They are result-oriented campaigns that almost always end in their favor given their muscle and level of expertise. Thus, peace is a major positive social impact of the peacekeeping missions on Africa.

Negative Effects

New populations bring new lifestyles, new social practices and vices as well. Peacekeeping troops always present a new population introduced into the local communities. Thus, while applauding and accepting their positive impacts we have to acknowledge that they have negative effects as well.

It is a common occurrence at the times of armed conflicts. In most African countries, increased number of cases of rape is reported during and after periods of armed conflicts. For some reasons, soldiers are always responsible sex crimes at times of war. Peacekeeping troops have also not been entirely innocent. There have been numerous reports from human rights watchdogs on rape cases when the reported perpetrators were peacekeeping troops.

Rape brings a lot of consequences for the victim and the community. First of all, there is a possibility of contracting STIs including HIV/AIDS. Pregnancy out of wedlock is also possible, which is a serious problem for the African women. Trauma and post-traumatic stress syndrome of the victims may result in permanent damages like low self esteem and inability to create and sustain intimate relationships, especially with members of the opposite sex. Besides, there is stigmatization as a result of the contracted STI or unplanned pregnancy. Finally, some of these local communities would assume that the rape victim deserved it for being liberal with the soldiers, resulting in stigmatization on the basis of immorality.

All these have numerous social implications. Pregnancies will result in population growth. Therefore, mothers may be forced into prostitution and young children into theft in order to survive. Apart from that, post-traumatic stress may eventually lead to high suicide rates among the victims. Generally, rape cases during and after periods of conflict only serve to further stagnate an already stagnant society in terms of social development. With high mortality and crime rates, the development of that particular state is highly unlikely.

It is one of the major reasons which make African countries that are grappling internal conflicts to turn away from international aid. These troops end up violating the very human rights that they had been sent to protect, hence hindering social development when their mandate requires them to facilitate it. In line with other armies throughout history, prostitution follows the peacekeepers wherever they go. Their presence results in a high number of commercial sex workers, implying moral decadence and societal depreciation. In a post-war economy where most of the population is grappling with acute poverty, prostitution holds the appeal of easy and instant economic return. It is, therefore, not surprising that young women and even men will opt for this as a way of supporting themselves and their families (Gockerham, 1995).

Negative impacts of unfolding of peacemaking troops are not restricted to the abovementioned factors. Some people are even forced into prostitution against their will given the demand of the business, obviously generating profit from the peacekeepers. Young children end up being lured into the trade in order to support their siblings, most of them having been orphaned by the wars and others for lack of better opportunities.

Supposedly reformed ex-combatants, having become used to a hostile way of survival, sometimes start up brothels in the name of business for lack of better options or simply out of convenience. They force the young orphaned boys and girls into prostitution in exchange for protection. Others even retain their former child slaves and soldiers and use them to earn a living through terrorizing them into submission or taking advantage of their loyalty training from the war period.

All these are manifestations of the presence of the peacekeeping troops. They may not run the trade directly, but they provide a booming market with their demand. Thus, they drive the business. One can say that prostitution exists even without the peacekeeping troops, but the latter escalate it and even make it a social norm given that most of the locals are desperate for economic empowerment in the post war period (Pupavac, 1998).

Most peacekeeping missions are merged with humanitarian efforts. They do not only keep the peace but also provide food and medical care to the local communities. It may sometime necessitate corruption given the high demand and usually low supply of the relief services. Most peacekeeping missions are known to fail because of funding limitations. The initiatives start with good intentions but often end prematurely due to lack of the necessary effects. Sometimes we find the peacekeeping missions lacking medical facilities like drugs and equipment, or that the relief food has been exhausted before the local communities become stable enough to sustain themselves. In such instances, a few rich people or those who had favors to give the peacekeepers ended up benefiting from the scarce resources, leaving those with nothing to offer to suffer from hunger and starvation. A good example of this is the Oil for Food program which was reportedly marred with extreme corruption and, thus, did not in any way benefit the local communities as intended.

Another form of corruption may be reported when previous warlords engage the peacekeepers to offer them protection while they run illicit dealings in the communities in order to gain wealth for themselves. It really happens, and the peacekeepers mostly agree in order to maintain the status quo and prevent the reformed ex-combatants from breaching the peace agreements. This, however, often results in more human rights violations and high crime rates perpetrated by the ex-combatants in the full knowledge and under protection of the peacekeeping troops (Ogaba, 1998).

Propagating corruption in a society, and especially one that is still dealing with post war anxieties, is a sure way of derailing healing and reconciliation amongst the population. It creates even more hostilities given that there is no equality or fairness in distribution of resources. Given that promotion of equality and fairness in distribution of resources is one of the objectives of the peacekeeping missions, those that indulge in corruption almost always end up failing and creating more damage than relief.

Economic Effects

The economic effects of these peacekeeping missions are tightly connected with the social effects. Positive social effects are most likely to culminate in positive economic impacts just as the negatives social effects will imply a detrimental effect on the local economy. When the peacekeeping mission succeeds in its objective of attaining sustainable peace, the resulting stability affects the economy positively. There develops an environment that is favorable for the growth and development of businesses and other opportunities like accessible education and health care. Apart from that, the recovering government and private sector create a lot of opportunities for the employment and economic empowerment of the local populations. In addition, while creating sustainable peace the peacekeeping troops serve as a local market for the businesses in the community, thus, directly leading to economic growth and development (Ismail & Alao, 2007).

Impacts of the Negative Social Effects on the Local Economies

The negative social effects discussed above include rape, prostitution and corruption. The first two results in social stigma, trauma, post-traumatic stress syndrome, STIs, unwanted pregnancies and eventual death from suicide or disease (International Committee of the Red Cross, 1999). All these affect the economy negatively and the communities are left to grapple in poverty and premature death as a result of diseases and stress. Having many sick people and orphans does not in any way favor the communities, especially since they are still dealing with post-war anxieties. Thus, the peacekeeping missions end up doing more harm than good. Corruption also serves to further divide a community that should be working towards healing and reconciliation (Deihl, 1994). The inequality in distribution of relief food and other basic needs may easily lead the state back to armed conflicts undermining the efforts of the peacekeeping missions. Thus, corruption undermines the sustainability of the achieved peace and stability by creating avenues for new conflicts to brew.

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Peacekeeping missions have been extensively used to keep or even enforce peace where necessary. Despite the fact they were formed to mitigate interstate conflicts, African countries have had very few incidences of such with their neighbors. The major antagonism occurs within state borders and the state authorities either lack the military muscle or political will to counter these internal conflicts. Thus, we can appreciate the importance of these peacekeeping missions in the African region. The negative effects of these missions will also have to be considered in order for the UN to come up with ways of mitigating the damages. Appreciating the good work does not stipulate ignoring the destructiveness of these missions, therefore, they will need to stop immoral and illegal practices and live by their orders if they are to be accepted and allowed to continue working. At the same time, the positive impact generated by United Nations peace missions must not be understated. Peacekeepers have achieved massive gains in conflict zones through provision of basic needs to affected people.