The United Nations and its Conflict Resolution Role
Southeast Asian Conflict Areas And the United Nations’ InvolvementYasmin Sattar
Third parties within conflict areas may have different positions, roles, and interests. They may have a role which involves more than just helping the conflicting parties to achieve a solution through negotiation. Apart from involvement in the mediation process, a third party can play a significant role in creating an environment that supports peaceful negotiation, i.e. institution building or capacity building programs. Some argue that the third-party role should include activities such as communication and relationship building, which aim to change the perceptions and attitudes of conflicting parties.1 In this regard, the third party may be influential in the framework of conflict resolution, conflict management or even peacebuilding. The United Nations’ (UN) involvement in conflict areas is precisely as one of the key actors to play the third-party roles.
One of the UN’s explicit duties in the process of conflict settlement and conflict management in conflict zones has been managing a peacekeeping force, especially during and after the Cold War. Over the last several decades, however, the forms of conflict have changed. Nowadays, conflicts between or among states are generally seen less compared to conflicts within states. Most conflicts have transformed into intra-state conflicts.2 Based on this change, the United Nations, as a function at the international level, is likely to underline its roles in peacebuilding rather than to use force to stop the conflicts which appear to be taking place mostly in domestic situations. In order to follow the basic principles of the UN in terms of ‘non-intervention’ in domestic affairs, the UN may have a limited role in its ability to settle conflicts in certain areas. The report on the Prevention of Armed Conflict to the General Assembly mentioned, in a statement by Kofi Annan that, if the government refuses to ask for or accept an offer of assistance in preventing and settling the conflict, a third party such as the UN may have very little opportunity to help.3 Furthermore, the UN’s tasks on peacekeeping missions have changed in the last few decades. It remains apparent that some peacekeeping missions aim to prevent future conflict while at the same time rebuilding society.4 Since the Cold War, peacekeeping missions have included peace-building missions as a sub-function and have not only focused on using peacekeeping forces to prevent and end conflicts between sovereign states.5 In 2018, peacekeeping operations remained ongoing in 15 separate global regions, which is a relatively new situation compared to during the Cold War.6 Additionally, the UN has taken part in the negotiation process as a mediator in some cases. The Secretary General’s Special Representative (SRSG) has been responsible for mediating and using shuttle diplomacy to settle particular conflicts.