The United Nations (UN) was established in 1945 with the express mission being the maintenance of international peace and security. They do this by working to prevent conflict whilst creating conditions that allow peace to be maintained and for regions to flourish. The mere nature of the mission the UN has set itself, leads to the assumption that in order to achieve success, the commitment and actions of peacekeeping forces needs to be determined by having accurate, honest and relevant intelligence. Intelligence has existed for thousands of years, the means and ways of intelligence analysis and distribution have definitely evolved, but the tool that is designed to guide decision making has proved time and again just how valuable it is. Intelligence has been a controversial topic within the UN from inception in 1945, due mainly to the fact intelligence is entwined in the state, the military and the protection of national interests.
Why the UN needs to continue to conduct successful peacekeeping operations and how best to support that.
A History of UN Peacekeeping Intelligence
Just as the nature of UN peacekeeping missions has changed over time, so has the UN’s view of intelligence. Historically, peacekeeping forces were not regularly involved in enforcement or intervention actions. During the Cold War, most peacekeeping operations were mandated with monitoring cease-fires or arrangements agreed to by sovereign states. The perceived requirement for peacekeeping intelligence was not a focus for peacekeepers nor their higher headquarters during these times. Post-Cold War, and over more recent times, complex and hostile environments have become the locations of a new generation of peacekeeping operations. This has caused the UN to focus on the need to utilise the intelligence process as a key tool to decision making, the results are fraught with limitations, compromise and power struggles.
In 1993 a strategic level unit, the Situation Centre, was created within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). The purpose of the centre was to support decision-making processes, and to connect civilian, military and police information sharing. A function of the Situation Centre was also to produce assessments of political, military and security trends that had possible effects on ongoing and pending peacekeeping missions. The reliance on information from field collection did not satisfy the requirements of the DPKO and it was necessary to draw from other information networks, namely member states embassies and intelligence agencies.
Later in 1993 the Information and Research Unit (I;R Unit) was created within the Situation Centre. This unit was made up from intelligence officers seconded from four of the five permanent members of the Security Council. China was unwilling to share information, which was a prerequisite for membership. The officers supplied the UN with feeds from their national intelligence services. This unit marked a shift in the history of UN intelligence due to it being the first dedicated strategic level intelligence capability. The I;R unit was marred with controversy and subsequently was closed down in 1999 when members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) pushed through a General Assembly resolution prohibiting the work of gratis personnel.
The Problems with the UN Situational Awareness from Field to Headquarters
A lack of timely intelligence has been blamed throughout UN history for oversights of and an absence of appropriate action in a number of situations. UN representatives have failed to warn member states of impending new or escalating conflicts even though peacekeeping missions were operating in or nearby to these areas. Examples of these conflicts include the invasion of South Korea in 1950, the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and the ethnic cleansing in Srebrenica, Bosnia in 1995 (Dorn, 2010).
These areas were in lands where the rules based system was under significant pressure, the authority of sitting governments was limited, and law and order had either broken down or was verging on collapse. The use of force against UN peacekeepers a likely reality (Smith, 1994, pp. 174-75).
In early 2000, the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, convened a high level panel and tasked it with conducting a thorough review of the UN peace and security undertakings and presenting clear recommendations for improvements in the future conduct of activities. The report, commonly referred to as the Brahimi Report, was published in August 2000. This report noted that in order for UN peacekeeping forces to operate as prescribed in their mandate, and were able to mount an effective defence against violent challengers, field ‘intelligence’ was essential. The report gave clear direction that UN peacekeeping forces must be “capable of defending themselves, other mission components and the mission’s mandate.” (Brahimi, 21 August 2000, p. 9). This was an acknowledgement that past efforts and priority for intelligence was lacking within peacekeeping missions.
The Intelligence Dilemma
In more recent times, several non-state and non-military actors are engaged in intelligence activities, for instance, private security companies, terrorist organisations and commercial enterprises. Military or tactical level intelligence continues to hold relevance and utility, but alone it does not provide enough to ensure accurate decisions in multinational and international peace operations.
Article: Towards Intelligence
The need for intelligence support in UN peace operations follows a trend towards wider and more robust mission mandates. However, the controversy associated with UN intelligence is, first and foremost, a consequence of its multilateral and transparent nature. This ‘intelligence dilemma’ was identified in the 1960s during the first UN operation to the Congo (ONUC), then the largest, most complex and multifaceted operation the UN had ever launched. At the time, the Special Representative to the Secretary-General in Congo, Conor Cruise O’Brien, described the situation as follows:
Individual powers supporting the UN operation ONUC did maintain intelligence networks, but the UN itself did not. Hammarskjöld then Secretary-General had referred to this once at a meeting of the Congo Advisory Committee, had admitted that it was a serious handicap, and had justified the lack on the grounds that the UN ‘must have clean hands,’ and therefore could not do the sort of thing that intelligence services habitually do – lying, bribery, blackmail, theft and so on. More pragmatically, an international organization, drawing its agents from many countries, with many points of view, could not ensure anything like the degree of security needed in serious intelligence work, and would be peculiarly liable to infiltration by agents of national services.9?
Conor Cruise O’Brien, To Katanga and Back: A UN Case History, London: Hutchinson, 1962, pp.75–6.
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Yet as violence and insecurity increased, the corresponding intelligence requirements finally trumped civilian unease about developing an intelligence unit to support the operation. A Military Information Branch (MIB) was established to collect, analyse and disseminate intelligence to ensure the security of UN personnel and support operational decision-making. Eventually, the MIB developed into one of the most comprehensive intelligence support structures in any UN peace operation. At its peak, the MIB was conducting wireless message interpretation, aerial intelligence and human intelligence involving interrogations of civilians and use of informants.10?
For a detailed account of the MIB, see Walter A. Dorn and David J.H. Bell, ‘Intelligence and Peacekeeping: The UN Operation in the Congo, 1960–64’, International Peacekeeping, Vol.2, No.1, 1995, pp.15–16.
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Build on Success
The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (NIMUSTAH) 2006-07.
“The UN employed well-planned and well-executed intelligence-led operations from December 2006 to March 2007, achieving the desired effects, despite initial setbacks.” (Dorn, 2009)
“Intelligence-Sharing with Nations
MINUSTAH officials regularly engaged in informal information exchanges with embassy staffs, including those associated with national intelligence services. Though formal arrangements or commitments were lacking, some of the larger, more involved nations in Haiti often provided intelligence to the mission on a need-to-know basis. Especially when there were threats to nationals of that country in the mission, the United Nations was deemed to have a significant need to know. Mostly it was the better-informed countries, especially Brazil, Canada, France and the United States, that provided useful information. Because the United States had a great interest in stopping the flow of drugs through Haiti, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a component of the US Department of Justice, provided MINUSTAH with information on possible drug-carrying planes landing in Haiti. This information was often gained from aerial tracking radars based in Miami. But the warning rarely came early enough to allow the United Nations to reach the unofficial landing points (of which there are many) to carry out an interception.”
Support Justification For and Use of Force
Improve International UN Peacekeeping
1. Develop Intelligence Framework along with each mission Mandate
2. Utilise United States of America Intelligence Agency to support UN peacekeeping missions
3. Situational Awareness Strategy –
Stronger civil – military link to solve current crises across the full spectrum of operations
A. Walter Dorn (1999) The Cloak and the Blue Beret: Limitations on
Intelligence in UN Peacekeeping, International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence,
12:4, 414-447, DOI: 10.1080/088506099304981
Per Martin Norheim-Martinsen ; Jacob Aasland Ravndal (2011) Towards
Intelligence-Driven Peace Operations? The Evolution of UN and EU Intelligence Structures,
International Peacekeeping, 18:4, 454-467, DOI: 10.1080/13533312.2011.588391
-In the UN case, however, conflicting national interests among a large and heterogeneous group of states, and an unwieldy bureaucracy, constrained the development of strategic intelligence capabilities. However, the UN’s increasingly complex and robust mission mandates have forced it to develop intelligence capabilities at the operational level.
-In modern times, intelligence has been associated with the state, the military and the protection of national security.
-However,there are now several non-state and non-military actors engaged in intelligence activities, such as private security companies, terrorist organizations and commercial enterprises. This is not to say that traditional military intelligence is no longer relevant, but rather that alone it does not ensure effective decisions in multinational and international peace operations. The intelligence requirements of so-called ‘new wars’ are no less pressing than before, but it is necessary to disentangle intelligence from its strict connotations of the state and the military.