January 2015: UN peacekeeping

Resolved: United Nations peacekeepers should have the power to engage in offensive operations.

While this topic is example dependent, it is also a philosophical question – “should” makes this debate, at the end of the day about UN peacekeeping overall, not in any one instance. To argue at the “should” level, debaters must engage with the philosophy of the UN and the philosophy of having an impartial peacekeeping force as a player in global conflicts. The best cases on both sides, therefore, will be able to argue why offensive operation do or do not fit into the UN’s current framework for peacekeeping.

Three basic principles define UN peacekeeping operations as non-offensive operations.

Consent of the parties


Non-use of force except in self-defence and defence of the mandate

However, each mission is given its own mandate, meaning that the UN Security Council will use various doctrines and assign a variety of tasks depending on the mission.

Often, the mission mandate includes:

  • Deploy to prevent the outbreak of conflict or the spill-over of conflict across borders;
  • Stabilize conflict situations after a ceasefire, to create an environment for the parties to reach a lasting peace agreement;
  • Assist in implementing comprehensive peace agreements;
  • Lead states or territories through a transition to stable government, based on democratic principles, good governance and economic development.

Other peacebuilding activities may include:

  • Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants;
  • Mine action;
  • Security sector reform and other rule of law-related activities;
  • Protection and promotion of human rights;
  • Electoral assistance;
  • Support for the restoration and extension of State authority;
  • Promotion of social and economic recovery and development.

While there is a normative framework for UN peacekeeping missions, it is not concisely stated in the UN charter or elsewhere. The Capstone Doctrine is a good place to begin understanding how a peacekeeping operation is legally founded, created, and implemented.

Know the ins and outs of the “why” behind UN peacekeeping as it currently functions to win the “should” debate, and not just the example debates.


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