There are debilitating limits to the current system of peacekeeping as defined by Chapter VII of the United Nations (UN) Charter. Chapter VII allows the UN to identify threats to international peace, and to take action (both forceful and non-forceful) to alleviate those threats. However, it approaches threats to international peace and security as short-term, discrete issues. It seeks to immediately remedy the security problems in a member state with little intrusion on its government. This method of peacekeeping is outdated and unsustainable — it does not take into account the nuances of governance in the 21st century. The problems with this old approach are twofold: threats to international peace and security are chronic, not discrete; and true peacekeeping solutions hinge on member-state cooperation. Currently, the only time when the UN can ignore national sovereignty is when it invokes the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine and takes immediate action to prevent severe loss of life.
Innovation to meet new challenges is not commonly associated with the UN system. After completing its mandate to oversee decolonization in the League of Nations's old Mandate States after World War II, the Trusteeship Council was left without a mission. Although there are many failing states around the world, there is currently no institution within the UN system to address this challenge. R2P has taken a brave step by temporarily suspending state sovereignty in cases of the endangerment of life. By repurposing the Trusteeship Council, the UN would be taking another huge step forward in adapting itself to a new international order.
The success of peacekeeping is dependent on member-states' donation of resources as well as cooperation by host-states where conflict is taking place. Consider the UN mission in Sudan (UNAMID), which was plagued by both issues of cooperation and resources. By January 1, 2009, only 9000 of the 26,000 expected troops were deployed. This is only 35 percent of the expected peacekeeping troop presence nearly two years after the mission's establishment in July 2007. In this case, the success of UNAMID was compromised due to lack of physical support by member-states. Additionally, UNAMID's attempt at appeasing the Sudanese government to gain cooperation hindered its success from its inception. By accepting trust states once again, the Trusteeship Council would take a more active role in the governance of the territory. Through trusteeship, the UN forces would have greater ability to follow through with their missions. To ensure that the new Trusteeship mandate remains unbiased, the rotating members of the Security Council should also be asked to join the Trusteeship Council in addition to the Permanent Five.
The UN General Assembly should initiate the process of trusteeship by referring nations with long-term stability issues to the Trusteeship Council for supervision. In order for nations referred to the Trusteeship Council to receive UN aid or Chapter VII Peacekeeping Operations, they must agree to become a trust state. States not referred by the General Assembly but eligible for Chapter VII Peacekeeping Operations will see no change in their humanitarian intervention. From here, the Trusteeship Council will do the following:
- Aggregate information regarding the conflict known to the other UN bodies and councils
- Assist the Department of Peacekeeping Operations with any current peacekeeping missions in the trust state
- Develop an action plan that seeks to stabilize political, economic, and social tensions in the state
One of the biggest concerns with trusteeship is its temporary revocation of sovereignty. To combat the concern that the UN will take advantage of trust states, the General Assembly should be used to directly check the Trusteeship Council's power and ensure that states' interests are represented appropriately during the trusteeship process. Having a diverse international body recommend states for trusteeship additionally ensures that the Trusteeship Council will not overstep its boundaries and attempt to take on cases that do not require its attention. Adding a new autonomous body to the UN would require the amendment of the UN Charter, which member-states are unlikely to approve of. Repurposing an existing entity is the swiftest way to create an international institution to deal with failing states. Regional organizations could begin to solve this dilemma, but they lack the wide and largely untapped resources of the UN. As the predominant international actor in peacekeeping operations already, adding the trusteeship system is a natural extension of the UN's current duties.
Ashley Herzovi is a student at Michigan State University. This article was first published by our partner Roosevelt Institute Campus Network in their "10 Ideas for Defense & Diplomacy" publication.