IHL and multinational forces part I: the changing face of peacekeeping

Today, we're kicking off the final part of our "IHL and Contemporary Challenges" series by examining how the law of armed conflict relates to multinational forces.

Over the years, the responsibilities and tasks assigned to multinational forces have transcended the traditional monitoring of ceasefires and the observation of fragile peace settlements. The spectrum of operations involving multinational forces (or peace operations), whether conducted under UN auspices or under UN command and control, has grown increasingly broad and has come to include dimensions such as conflict prevention, peace-keeping, peace-making, peace-enforcement, and peace-building. The role of multinational forces has changed, in particular, since the conflict in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The missions of multinational forces in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, or Libya are not limited to ensuring cease-fires or monitoring buffer zones but are characterized by their participation in hostilities.

Today, the multifaceted nature of these operations and the increasingly difficult and violent environments in which their personnel operate – sometimes requiring them to fight on the side of one party to a conflict against another – highlight how important it is for the international community to develop a coherent legal framework that embraces the complexity of peace operations. Insofar as the new features of such operations render it more likely that multinational forces will become involved in the use of force, the question of when and how IHL will apply to their actions becomes all the more relevant. If, at first sight, one may think that everything on this issue has been said, there are actually a number of legal questions relating to peace operations that remain unsettled and, in light of their importance and consequences, deserve to be closely examined, according to the ICRC's chief legal advisor on the subject, Tristan Ferraro.

(Please note that you may need to adjust the volume at the start of the interview after the short musical jingle.)

Other suggested reading and listening:

Introduction to the series by Knut Doermann, Head of the ICRC Legal Division.

International Law And The Challenges Of Contemporary Armed Conflicts, an ICRC Report presented at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross And Red Crescent, Geneva, 2011.

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