Global Policy Forum

Conflict Prevention: Options for Rapid Deployment and UN Standing Forces


By H. Peter Langille, MA, PhD

All members of the United Nations, in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, undertake to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance, and facilities
-- United Nations Charter, Article 43 (1).

The planning of peacekeeping operations is the ultimate challenge because you never know where you have to operate; you never know what they want you to do; you don't have the mandate in advance; you don't have forces; you don't have transport; and you don't have money… We always have to start from zero. Each and every operation that we start, we start with nothing.
-- Major-General Frank van Kappen, Military Advisor to the Secretary-General, March 1997 [2]


Fifty-five years after the United Nations was formed, we continue to explore ways to empower the Organisation. On balance, its record in preventing and resolving violent conflict is characterised by modest progress; not what it could or should be. Recent efforts to enhance a UN rapid deployment capability parallel that assessment. One defining moment and opportunity has already passed in this decade, but in exposing our collective limitations, another arises. Finally, there is agreement that preventive action, through a combination of conflict resolution, diplomacy and even prompt deployments, is far more cost-effective than later, larger efforts. Similarly, many recognise that one essential mechanism for conflict prevention is a reliable and effective UN rapid deployment capability. Whether these will be lessons learned and institutionalised or spurned may depend on the extent to which 'we the people' organise, inform and democratise further efforts. It is time to consider a more inclusive approach; one that draws on new partnerships to encourage the ideas and approaches essential for effective political, military and humanitarian responses to complex emergencies.

The rationale underlying recent initiatives to enhance UN rapid deployment capabilities was very compelling. Frequent delays, vast human suffering and death, diminished credibility, opportunities lost, escalating costs – just some of the tragic consequences of slow and inappropriate responses. Unprecedented demand for prompt UN assistance highlighted the deficiencies of existing arrangements, challenging the Organisation, as well as member states. Most recognise the UN was denied sufficient resources, as well as appropriate mechanisms with which to respond. Fortunately, an array of complementary reforms have combined to expand the options. As expected, there are limitations and competing alternatives, but few easy or immediate remedies.

International efforts in this endeavour focused primarily on improving peacekeeping. The larger process involves measures to organise the contributions of member states, as well as the establishment of basic mechanisms within the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). Several initiatives are quite promising.

Approximately twenty-seven member states, designated "Friends of Rapid Deployment," co-operated with the DPKO to secure support for developing a rapidly deployable mission headquarters (RDMHQ). As well, since 1994 a DPKO team has organised the UN Stand-by Arrangement System (UNSAS) to expand the quality and quantity of resources that member states might provide. To complement this arrangement, the Danish government, in co-operation with thirteen regular troop contributors, has organised a multinational Stand-by High Readiness brigade (SHIRBRIG).

SHIRBRIG is improving the tactical foundation by promoting further co-operation in multilateral planning, establishing training and readiness standards, and furthering the pursuit of inter-operability. By years end, the void at the operational level within the Secretariat may be partially filled by a permanent, albeit skeletal, UN rapid deployment mission headquarters. Once funded and staffed, it will simply enable the prompt co-ordination and control of diverse missions authorised by the Security Council. At the strategic level, the Security Council has agreed to provide further consultation with troop contributors [3].

Thus, as the tactical, operational, and strategic foundation is strengthened, participants look for a corresponding response at the political level. Hopefully, these arrangements will combine to inspire a higher degree of confidence and commitment among member states. In short, these various "building blocks" are gradually forming the institutional foundation for future peacekeeping. Initially, they are likely to circumscribe activity to Chapter VI, albeit, within a flexible interpretation of peace support operations for complex political emergencies [4].

The efforts of the UN Secretariat, the 'Friends' and member states such as Denmark, Canada, and the Netherlands were laudable and deserve support. There remain a number of issues, however, that warrant further effort and scrutiny. This paper explores several initiatives to enhance a UN rapid deployment capability. It provides an overview of recent proposals, considers the progress within DPKO and the related efforts of Friends of Rapid Deployment, and it identifies the potential limitations of the new arrangements. To activate and revitalise support for further measures, it points to the need for a new 'soft power' approach. Finally, a vision-oriented, cumulative development process is proposed as a means to expand on this foundation.

How are we to assess such initiatives? Within the Secretariat, one focus is on reducing response times [5]. Other considerations must address whether these measures, when combined, contribute to:

  • providing a widely-valued service;
  • increasing confidence in the UN's capacity to plan, manage, deploy, and support at short notice;
  • alleviating the primary worries of potential troop contributors and other member states;
  • generating wider political will and adequate financing;
  • encouraging broad participation;
  • ensuring sufficient multidimensional and multifunctional elements for modern conflict prevention and management;
  • enhancing the training, preparation, and overall competence of potential participants; and
  • instilling a unity of purpose and effort among the various participants.[6]

    We must also ask whether the measures under way are sufficient to build an effective and reliable UN capability. Are these initial efforts likely to build a solid foundation with the capacity for modernisation and expansion? Alternatively, is there a risk of being locked into another ad hoc, conditional system requiring last-minute political approval and improvisation prior to each mission? Can we identify national defence reforms that would complement UN rapid deployment and conflict prevention? At the dawn of a new millennium, the question also arises as to what additional measures will be necessary to institutionalise and consolidate a dedicated UN standing capability?


    Since the release in 1992 of former Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali's An Agenda for Peace, there has been a wide-ranging discussion of the UN's options for responding to violent conflict [7]. Among the various catalysts for the debate were the Secretary-General's call for peace enforcement units and Article 43-type arrangements, as well as Sir Brian Urquhart's efforts to revive Trygvie Lie's proposal for a UN Legion [8]. As these ideas began to attract a constituency, they also generated apprehension and a search for less ambitious options in many national capitals.

    Opinion on the subject of any UN capability is always mixed. The debate here tended to follow two perspectives: the "practitioners" who favoured strengthening current arrangements, and the "visionaries" who desired a dedicated UN standing force or standing emergency capability [9]. With notable exceptions, the official preference focused on pragmatic, incremental reform within the structure of the UN Secretariat and available resources [10]. The latter was also assumed to entail fewer risks, fewer obligations and more control.

    In the early years of the decade, there were promising indications of support for some form of UN rapid reaction force [11]. The need for a new instrument was widely recognised in the aftermath of Bosnia, Somalia and the failure to avert the Rwandan genocide. Regrettably, few governments were willing to back their rhetoric with meaningful reform. Prior commitments tended to be followed by carefully nuanced retractions [12]. There were exceptions, notably among middle-power, regular UN troop contributors. Yet, even supportive governments were worried about moving ahead of public opinion, fellow member states, the international defence community and their own capacity to secure more ambitious reforms.

    National Studies

    Prior to the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations, the Netherlands, Canada, and Denmark commenced studies and consultative processes to develop options for a UN rapid reaction capability. These studies were followed by concerted diplomatic efforts to organise a wider coalition of member states and secure the co-operation of the UN Secretariat. These initiatives were instrumental, first, in narrowing the range of short-term options - allaying official fears of a potentially large and expensive supra-national intervention force - and second, in informing others as to how they might best contribute to the process.

    The Netherlands Study

    In 1994, the Netherlands began to explore the possibility of creating a permanent, rapidly deployable brigade at the service of the United Nations Security Council. A team of experts conducted the study, and an international conference was convened to review their initial report. They then released The Netherlands Non-Paper, "A UN Rapid Deployment Brigade: A Preliminary Study," which identified a critical void in the UN peacekeeping system. If a crisis were not to escalate into widespread violence, they argued it could only be met by dedicated units that were instantly deployable: "the sooner an international 'fire brigade' can turn out, the better the chance that the situation can be contained" [13].

    The focus, the Dutch stressed, should not be on the further development of the UN Standby Arrangements System[14] so much as a military force along the lines advocated by Robert Johansen[15] and Brian Urquhart[16] - a permanent, rapidly deployable brigade that would guarantee the immediate availability of troops when they were urgently needed. The brigade would complement existing components in the field of peacekeeping and crisis management. Its chief value would be as a 'stop-gap' measure when a crisis was imminent[17], and its deployments would be of strictly limited duration. The brigade's tasks would include preventive action, peacekeeping during the interval between a Security Council decision and the arrival of an international peacekeeping force, and deployment in emergency humanitarian situations[18]. The annual cost of a 5,000-person brigade was projected at approximately $300 million US, the initial procurement of its equipment at $500-550 million [19]. "Adoption" of the brigade by one or more member states or by an existing organisation such as NATO was recommended as a means of reducing the expenses of basing, transportation, and equipment acquisition.[20]

    The non-paper succeeded in stimulating an international exchange of views. It was clear, however, that only a less binding, less ambitious arrangement would be acceptable, at least for the immediate future. A few member states were supportive of the Dutch initiative, but the majority were opposed to any standing UN force, and even the modest expenditures outlined.

    The Canadian Study

    In September 1995, the Government of Canada presented the UN with a study entitled, Towards a Rapid Reaction Capability for the United Nations[21], with twenty-one recommendations to close the UN's capability gap in the short to mid term [22]. The report also offered five recommendations to stimulate further research and development over the long term.[23]

    After establishing the need for a rapid reaction capability [24], the report examined a number of principles such as reliability, quality, and cost-effectiveness[25] before identifying the primary components of such forces in France, the United States, and NATO [26]. Among the elements deemed necessary were an early warning mechanism, an effective decision-making process, reliable transportation and infrastructure, logistical support, sufficient finances, and well-trained and equipped personnel. The UN system was then evaluated with respect to these requirements.[27]

    A range of problems spanning the political[28], strategic[29], operational, and tactical levels were identified and addressed. The intent was to "create an integrated model for rapid reaction from decision-making at the highest level to the deployment of tactical levels in the field"[30]. The report made a case for building on existing arrangements to improve the broader range of peacekeeping activities.

    At the operational level, however, the UN suffered a dearth of related capabilities. Several new mechanisms were imperative, including a permanent operational-level rapid reaction headquarters.[31] This multinational group of thirty to fifty personnel, augmented in times of crisis, would conduct contingency planning and rapid deployment as authorised by the Security Council. The headquarters would have a civil affairs branch and links to related agencies, non-governmental and regional organisations.[32] Aside from liaison and planning, it was to be tasked to an array of training objectives.

    The vanguard concept was highlighted as "the most crucial innovation in the UN's peace support operations over the next few years."[33] It would "link the operational level headquarters with tactical elements provided by Member States to the Secretary-General through the standby arrangements system."[34] It entailed identifying national 'vanguard component groups' that might be called upon as needed by the operational-level headquarters.[35] These forces would remain in their home countries under the command of national authorities until they were notified by the Secretary-General and authorised to deploy by their own national government.

    The Canadian study reaffirmed "broad support for the general directions of the Secretary-General and the UN Secretariat in building its peace operations capability for the future."[36] Recommendations were refined to appeal to a broad range of supportive member states. This would be an inclusive, co-operative building process with the objective of developing a unity of both purpose and effort. Charter reform would be unnecessary, nor would there be additional expenses for the organisation. In many respects, it was a compelling case for pragmatic, realisable change within the short to medium term. "Clearly, " the report cautioned, "the first step is to implement these ideas before embarking upon more far-reaching schemes which may in the end prove unnecessary."[37]

    The Danish-led Multinational Study

    In January 1995, the Danish government announced that it would be approaching a number of nations for support in establishing a working group to develop a UN Stand-by Forces High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG).[38] Thirteen member states with extensive experience in peacekeeping agreed to explore the option of a rapid deployment force within the framework of the UN's Stand-by Arrangement System.[39]

    The guiding assumption of the study was that a number of countries could, "by forming an affiliation between appropriate contributions to the [UNSAS], make a pre-established, multinational UN Stand-by Forces High Readiness Brigade available to the United Nations, thus providing a rapid deployment capability for deployments of a limited duration."[40] It noted that the brigade should be reserved solely for providing an effective presence at short notice, and solely for peacekeeping operations, including humanitarian tasks.[41] National units would be required on fifteen to thirty days notice and be sustainable for 180 days. Standardised training and operating procedures, familiar equipment, and joint exercises, it was felt, would speed up national decision-making processes in times of crisis, as would the fact that the operating conditions for troop contributors would be understood in advance. Moreover, with an agreed focus on being "first in" and "first out," participants would have some assurance of the limited duration of their deployment.

    Agreement would still be required from individual participating nations. To address the concerns of countries that might have reservations over a particular operation, a relatively broad pool of participants would provide sufficient redundancy among units.[42] States could, therefore, abstain from an operation without jeopardising the brigade's deployment.

    As proposed, SHIRBRIG was to provide the United Nations with immediate access to a versatile force comprising a balance of peacekeeping capabilities, thus overcoming a primary impediment to rapid reaction. The proposal soon attracted a supportive constituency within the UN Secretariat and among regular troop contributors, including Canada and the Netherlands. The Canadian study, similarly, generated considerable enthusiasm among member states.[43] Owing to its comprehensive approach, the UN MILAD, Major-General Frank van Kappen, referred to the Canadian study as the "red wine that linked the other studies together."[44]

    It is noteworthy that these three national studies were not viewed as mutually exclusive but as compatible by their respective Foreign Ministers.[45] In 1995, UN Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Ismail Kittani, categorised them under "(a) what the UN can do now, (b) what member states can do, and (c) what is still in the future."[46]

    Corresponding Developments

    The Friends of Rapid Deployment (FORD)

    On the occasion of the United Nations' fiftieth anniversary, Canadian Foreign Minister, Andre' Ouellet and his counterpart from the Netherlands, Hans Van Mierlo, organised a Ministerial meeting to generate political support for enhancing UN rapid deployment capabilities.[47] To promote the initiative, especially among the major powers, Canada and the Netherlands announced the creation of an informal group called the "Friends of Rapid Reaction", co-chaired by the Canadian and Dutch Permanent representatives in New York. Although they used the Canadian study as a baseline for their discussions, they agreed that this would henceforth be a multinational effort.[48] As a Canadian briefing paper on the status of the initiative acknowledges, "...the recommendations that are being implemented are, therefore, no longer just Canadian, but part of discussions and input from many different nations world-wide."[49] Indeed, by the fall of 1996, the group had expanded to include Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Senegal, South Korea, Sweden, Ukraine, and Zambia. The Friends also succeeded in attracting the co-operation of the UN Secretariat, particularly officials in DPKO.

    Initially, they concentrated on building the base of support for an operational-level headquarters, expanding standby arrangements and explaining the vanguard concept. As it became apparent that the Danish proposal included many of the objectives of the vanguard concept, and the technical details had already been researched and agreed upon through an extensive multinational study, interest in the vanguard concept was superseded by a wider interest in the SHIRBRIG model.[50]

    The Friend's efforts in 1996 continued to focus on improving the Stand-by Arrangements System, but they also began to assist DPKO in implementing the Rapidly Deployable Mission Headquarters. A number of technical working groups were established to refine plans and proposals to improve logistics, administration, financing, sustainability and strategic lift.[51]

    Despite having secured a relatively broad base of international support, it is apparent that the consultative process of the 'Friends' could have been more thorough. Several representatives of the non-aligned movement, including a few of the larger troop-contributing member states, were annoyed at having been excluded. In October 1996, for example, Pakistani ambassador Ahmad Kamal said that he "supported the concept of a rapid deployment headquarters team but was concerned at the action of a self-appointed group of 'Friends of Rapid Reaction' operating without legitimacy, and having half-baked ideas developed without broad consultations with the countries most concerned".[52] In turn, the Friends' agenda would be delayed as some members of the non-aligned movement (NAM) challenged specific arrangements. As the NAM included 132 member states, they had the potential to stem further progress.

    However, efforts to develop a UN rapid deployment capability were not confined solely to the 'Friends'. Britain, France and the United States were working on improving the peacekeeping capabilities of numerous African member states. Italy and Argentina were promoting the creation of a rapid response capability for humanitarian purposes.

    The United Nations Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, otherwise known as the Committee of 34, also continued to meet each spring to consider new requirements and forward related recommendations to the wider membership through the General Assembly. In 1996, the Committee was composed of 36 member states with 57 additional member states attending in observer status. Although the Committee hardly represents a vanguard of new thinking on peacekeeping, it provides an important consultative forum for discussing proposals and generating the base of consensus necessary to implement changes.[53] Rapid deployment featured prominently in their recent reports with strong endorsements of both standby arrangements and the rapid deployment mission headquarters.[54] Concerns would subsequently arise over equitable representation in the RDMHQ and the wider use of gratis personnel within DPKO. Some member states were also initially reluctant to support the SHIRBRIG on the grounds that it appeared to be an exclusive coalition that had no authority to present their arrangement as a 'UN' brigade.[55]

    Senior officials from within the Secretariat participate in the discussions of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping, as well as in the former meetings of the Friends of Rapid Deployment. These were co-operative endeavours. After the first meeting of Foreign Ministers to establish the 'Friends', it was reported that "what was most important to Kofi Annan was an implementation plan, where the proposals of various countries could be structured into achievable pieces and pushed to a useful conclusion."[56] The UN Secretariat, particularly the DPKO, were already committed to the process of implementing related measures and they needed help.

    DPKO and the UN Secretariat

    Despite a persistent shortage of personnel and funds, there have been numerous heartening changes within the UN Secretariat over the past eight years.[57] In 1992, for example, the office responsible for peacekeeping was reorganised as the Department for Peace-keeping Operations (DPKO) in order to improve the capacity to plan, conduct and manage operations. This restructuring served to co-locate, and co-ordinate, within one department, the political, operational, logistics, civil police, de-mining, training, personnel and administrative aspects of peace-keeping operations. A Situation Centre was established within DPKO in May 1993, to maintain round-the-clock communications with the field and provide information necessary to missions and troop contributors. At the same time, a Civilian Police Unit was developed in DPKO's Office of Planning and Support, assuming responsibility for all matters affecting civilian police in peacekeeping operations.

    A Training Unit was established in DPKO in June 1993 to increase the availability of trained military and civilian personnel for timely deployment.[58] In 1994, the DPKO established the Mission Planning Service (MPS) for the detailed planning and co-ordination of complex operations.[59] To enhance analysis, evaluation and institutional memory, the Lessons Learned Unit was instituted in early 1995. To improve logistics, especially in the start-up phase of an operation, the Field Administrative and Logistics Division was incorporated into DPKO. Approval was given to utilise the Logistics Base at Brindisi, Italy as a centre for the management of peacekeeping assets. Aside from maintaining an inventory of UN material, it is to oversee the stockpiling and delivery of supplies and equipment for missions. Mission Start-up Kits will also be assembled at the Logistics Base. Despite limited financial and personnel resources, DPKO achieved a professional level of planning and co-ordination across a challenging spectrum of tasks.

    The development of a rapid deployment mission headquarters and the expansion of the UN Standby Arrangement System are themselves part of a larger process to improve the UN's capacity to promptly manage increasingly complex operations. Rapid reaction was a prominent theme within the former UN Secretary-General's 1995 Supplement to An Agenda for Peace.[60] He cautioned that problems had become steadily more serious with respect to the availability of troops and equipment.[61] Although Boutros-Ghali repeated his support for a UN rapid reaction force, he did not endorse the development of a permanent UN standing force. On several occasions he stipulated that the answer was not to create a UN standing force, which he described as being "impractical and inappropriate."[62] This hesitancy should, however, be understood within the context of his having received little support for his earlier attempt to generate peace enforcement units and even less enthusiasm for negotiating Article 43 type agreements. In response to the 1995 "Supplement", the President of the Security Council indicated that, "all interested Member States were invited by the Council to present further reflections on United Nations peace-keeping operations, and in particular on ways and means to improve the capacity of the United Nations for rapid deployment."[63] The Security Council also narrowed the range of options, expressing its concern that the first priority in improving the capacity for rapid deployment should be the further enhancement of the existing standby arrangements.[64] Nothing was explicitly rejected, but the short-term priority was clearly stand-by rather than a standing force.[65] In December, UN Secretary-General Elect, Kofi Annan, reflected these concerns stating that:

    I don't think we can have a standing United Nations army. The membership is not ready for that. There are financial questions and great legal issues as to which laws would apply and where it would be stationed. But short of having a standing United Nations army, we have taken initiatives that will perhaps help us achieve what we were hoping to get out of a standing army. The real problem has been rapidity of deployment. We are now encouraging governments to set up rapidly deployable brigades and battalions that could be moved into a theater very quickly, should the governments decide to participate in peacekeeping operations.[66]

    In the short term, it appeared the UN Standby Arrangement System was to be the foundation, upon which much of the potential for rapid deployment would depend.

    United Nations Standby Arrangement System (UNSAS)

    In 1993, Boutros-Ghali identified the need for a system of Standby Arrangements to secure the personnel and material resources required for peacekeeping.[67] This system was specifically intended to improve the capability for rapid deployment. The Standby Arrangements system (UNSAS) is based on conditional commitments from Member States of specified resources that could be made available within agreed response times. The resources range from military units, individual civilian, military and police personnel to specialised services, equipment and other capabilities.[68]

    UNSAS serves several objectives. First, it provides the UN with a precise understanding of the forces and other capabilities a member state will have available at an agreed state of readiness. Second, it facilitates planning, training and preparation for both participating Member states and the UN. Third, it provides the UN not only with foreknowledge of a range of national assets, but also a list of potential options if a member or members refrain from participating in an operation. Finally, although the arrangements are only conditional, it is hoped that those members who have confirmed their willingness to provide standby resources will be more forthcoming and committed than might otherwise be the case. In short, UNSAS provides an initial commitment to service, and a better advance understanding of the requirements, but is in no way a binding obligation.

    In 1994, a Standby Arrangements Management Team was established within DPKO to identify the UN requirements in peacekeeping operations, establish readiness standards, negotiate with potential participants, establish a data base of resources, and assist in mission planning. They also reformed procedures for determining re-imbursement of member's contingent-owned equipment. Progress to date is encouraging.

    By September of 1999, eighty-six member states had confirmed their willingness to provide standby resources, representing a total of 147,500 personnel that could, in principle, be called on.[69] The majority of states also provided detailed information on their specific capabilities.[70] Response times were registered according to the declared national capabilities. Resources were divided into four groups on the basis of their potential. Earlier reports suggested the majority (58%) of the overall pool fall into the first two categories of (1) up to 30 days, and (2) between 30 and 60 days.[71] In other words, the UN has a conditional commitment of over 50,000 personnel on standby assumed to be capable of rapid deployment. While UNSAS cannot guarantee reliable response, UN planners now have the option of developing contingency and 'fall-back' strategies when they anticipate delays. Member states are also more familiar with the system and with what they are expected to contribute. This has increased confidence and, as the numbers infer, a willingness to participate. In the words of one senior DPKO official, "this is now the maximum feasible option."

    Some mission success has been partially attributed to UNSAS.[72] The former Secretary-General wisely cautioned, however, that while national readiness is a necessary pre-requisite, it does not in itself, give the UN a capacity for rapid deployment.[73] Several limitations remain. For example, many participants lack a capacity to provide their own support functions. The Organisation is still confronted with shortages in a number of critical areas, including headquarters support, communications, and both sea and air transport.

    United Nations Rapidly Deployable Mission Headquarters (RDMHQ)

    As a complement to the UN Standby Arrangement System, the Secretary-General decided to pursue the Canadian proposal to create a rapidly deployable mission headquarters (RDMHQ).[74] This is a multidimensional core headquarters unit of military and civilian personnel tasked to assist rapid deployment and manage the initial phases of a peacekeeping operation.[75] The RDMHQ is designed as an operational unit with a tactical planning function.[76]

    Owing to budgetary constraints, the RDMHQ is officially described as the 'skeleton' of a mission headquarters. Once financing is approved, eight individuals are to be assigned to the RDMHQ on a full-time basis including its Chief of Staff and specialists in fields such as operations, logistics, engineering and civilian police. They are to be based in New York. The UN has received approval for their deployment into a mission area without further authorisation at the national level.

    Aside from the 8 full-time staff, an additional 24 personnel are to remain earmarked in their home countries until required for training or deployment. Twenty-nine personnel in the Secretariat are also to be double-tasked and assigned to the RDMHQ, but will continue with their regular assignments until needed.[77] This initial team of 61 personnel is to co-ordinate rapid deployment and manage an operational-level headquarters, even in missions with the broadest, multidisciplinary mandates. Once deployed this headquarters is to be in a mission area for three to six months pending the arrival of and transition to a normal headquarters. Major-General Frank Van Kappen, has detailed the five primary tasks of the RDMHQ:

  • translating the concept of operations prepared by the mission planning service into tactical sub-plans;
  • developing and implementing RDMHQ preparedness and training activities; providing advice to the Head of Mission for decision-making and co-ordination purposes;
  • establishing an administrative infrastructure for the mission;
  • providing, during the early stages of the operation, essential liaison with the parties;
  • working with incoming mission headquarters personnel to ensure that, as the operation grows to its full size and complexity, unity of effort to implement the Security Council mandate is maintained.[78]

    The Friends Group has stipulated that the RDMHQ will require the following capabilities:

    a. It must be deployable at very short notice.
    b. It should be able to deploy for up to six months.
    c. It should provide initially the nucleus of a headquarters for a new PKO.
    d. It must be integrated into DPKO as a core function in order to retain its interoperability with the UN headquarters in New York.
    e. It must be capable of undertaking technical reconnaissance missions prior to deployment.
    f. It must have undertaken operational deployment preparations prior to its commitment. This must include such things as the production of Standard Operating Procedures and the completion of pre-deployment training.[79]

    When the RDMHQ was initially proposed, it attracted broad support in the UN Secretariat. In welcoming the proposal, Boutros-Ghali stated that the idea fostered a "culture of prevention" and that, "even if it will not be used it is a kind of dissuasion."[80] However, recruitment and staffing of this headquarters was far more controversial than initially anticipated. Only 2 posts have been established to date.[81] The remaining six positions were approved in the fall of 1999, but without the additional funding required. The RDMHQ is not operational but there are hopes it will be within the year.


    The Danish-led initiative to develop a Multinational United Nations Standby Forces High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG) will complement the UNSAS with a complete, integrated unit that has a projected response time of 15-30 days. As proposed, the SHIRBRIG is to consist of 4,000-5,000 troops, comprising a headquarters unit, infantry battalions, and reconnaissance units, as well as engineering and logistical support. The brigade is to be self-sustaining in deployments of up to six months' duration and capable of self-defence.[82]

    On December 15, 1996, seven countries signed a letter of intent to co-operate in establishing and maintaining this high readiness brigade.[83] This initial group has expanded, as have the number of members providing a commitment to the actual brigade pool.[84] A steering committee and a permanent planning element are in place, as are arrangements for its operational headquarters and logistics. SHIRBRIG has been declared 'available'. The objective, and the basis for co-operation, is to provide the UN with a well-trained, cohesive multinational force to be deployed in Chapter VI operations mandated by the Security Council and with the consent of the parties."[85] Participants would thus have a mutual understanding of their combined capabilities, as well as their specific roles and requirements:

    This would enhance the efficiency of a possible deployment and would enhance the safety of the troops when deployed. Common procedures and interoperability would be developed to allow for better operational planning, to insure common assessment of the operational requirements, optimise movement planning and reduce costs.[86]

    Co-operation is clearly more cost-effective as participants have the option to pursue functional role specialisation in a coherent division of labour and resources. For example, rather than carrying a long independent national logistics train, such a task can be either shared or selected by one participant as their contribution.

    SHIRBRIG also offers a cost-efficient model that is likely to be emulated elsewhere. As Danish officials informed the Friends Group, "the conceptual work done so far on the establishment of a multinational UN [SHIRBRIG] carries a relevance far beyond the group of nations participating in the present project. The concept could inspire other groups of nations to take a similar initiative."

    Current Status: Modest Success In The Short Term

    In five years, efforts to develop a UN rapid deployment capability have initiated changes at the political, strategic, operational and tactical levels. More countries are participating in the UNSAS, a significant proportion at a high level of readiness. The SHIRBRIG attracted additional participants and a sufficient brigade pool. As noted, it is now declared to be available. It has also attracted wider interest and a variation on the model is being considered in several other regions.[87] With relatively modest funding, the UNRDMHQ could provide the nucleus of an operational-level headquarters to assist in the planning and establishment of operations world-wide. Contingency planning is underway. Plans have reflected the need for diverse multidimensional participation in both the headquarters and among field-deployable elements. Training is gradually improving with the support of DPKO and national peacekeeping training centres. Participants have developed a better understanding of the various requirements, and many are increasingly confident of their ability to contribute. Partnership agreements are being encouraged to help ensure wider regional representation and competence. Improving the wider unity of effort and purpose is on the agenda of national civilian and military elements, NGOs, and the UN. Some member states and their defence establishments acknowledge marked progress in DPKO's planning and management of recent operations. This new level of professionalism may gradually inspire wider hopes and confidence.

    In hindsight, one could argue there were good reasons for developing this UN capability in the context of prevailing practices, resources and structures. Considering the impediments of limited political will, insufficient funding, and overworked personnel answerable to 185 bosses with divergent interests, the progress to date should not be under-estimated. Moreover, it was attained in the absence of powerful national champions, and most observers recognise that the larger UN system is not altogether amenable to rapid modernisation. Some officials assume that the task is well underway, with seventy-three per cent of the recommendations either accomplished or in the process of being implemented. As early as 1996 a Canadian briefing paper noted that, "between the Group of Friends and the initiative of the Secretariat, 19 of the 26 recommendations have been acted upon in the past nine months.[88] In the same year, Kofi Annan claimed that the lead-time of the UN's rapid deployment capabilities would be reduced by 50 per cent during the next two years.[89]

    Nevertheless, one might argue that these arrangements reflect the pursuit of agreement only slightly above the level of the lowest common denominator. The context placed a priority on modest short-to-mid term changes that could be promoted among diverse states without major controversy, major funding or major national contributions. Few can be heralded as visionary, courageous gestures that correspond to the wider human and global security challenges of the next millennium. It remains to be seen whether these arrangements will attract a broad constituency of support. Few efforts were made, moreover, to build a coalition among NGOs, related agencies and the interested public, effectively limiting the leverage and political pressure that would be needed to launch further reforms.

    Hans van Merlo, co-chair of the Friends of Rapid Deployment, acknowledged that progress has been modest; "that given the complexities, this is going to be an incremental process, but one where we cannot afford to let up."[90] Regrettably, some initiatives were deliberately stymied. For example, despite the Secretary-General's authorisation to establish the RDMHQ, Pakistan succeeded in mobilising wider resistance to this development.[91] In 1998, Cuba denied approval of the necessary funding for RDMHQ staff in the accounts and budgetary committee (ACABQ). Unfortunately, controversy and political opposition have also diminished the momentum of the 'Friends' and, to a lesser extent, the Secretariat. The 'Friends' have yet to decide whether they will re-convene. They did not meet in 1998 or 1999. There are concerns that ideas emanating from this group will be actively opposed. In response, some diplomats believe that the only remaining option is to leave rapid deployment to the UN Secretariat; that a restructuring from within may gradually occur on the basis of pragmatic evaluations and lessons learned. However, due to budgetary constraints and the elimination of all gratis personnel, DPKO suffered the loss of numerous professionals and numerous key positions.[92] With fewer staff and fewer resources, DPKO claims it has retained a critical mass, but it may now be incapable of managing additional responsibilities. Moreover, given the recent intransigence of the Security Council, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has had insufficient support to encourage the process. Clearly, the wider initiative has reached a political impasse. There is little indication that further initiatives, or even incremental steps, are being actively pursued. Yet the larger task is far from finished.

    Potential Limitations

    If rapid reaction is a demanding concept, it is an even more difficult reality to achieve. The Organisation must be sure of each critical element in the process. Missing components and conditional agreements can only lead to delays. It may be wise, therefore, to temper our expectations by acknowledging some inherent problems.

    Standby arrangements for nationally-based units do not provide an assurance of their immediate availability. As the former Secretary-General acknowledged in 1995, "a considerable effort has been made to expand and refine standby arrangements, but these provide no guarantee that troops will be provided for a specific operation."[93] He noted further that "the value of the arrangement would of course depend on how far the Security Council could be sure that the force would actually be available in an emergency."[94] With respect to UNSAS, there are few, if any, certainties. The promptness with which national contingents are provided will depend on the discretion of participating member states, the risks perceived, and the level of interests at stake.[95]

    Reliability will be a key determinant of rapid deployment. In the case of UNSAS, there is no assurance that the political will exists. Critics frequently point to the refusal of member states to provide adequate forces to avert the 1994 catastrophe in Rwanda. Not one of the nineteen governments that had undertaken to have troops on standby for UN peacekeeping agreed to contribute to the UNAMIR mission under these arrangements.[96] Proponents of UNSAS now have grounds to argue that the system has been expanded and improved, but commitment to the system will have to be far more comprehensive and binding if it is to succeed. The onus is now clearly on member states to demonstrate the viability of this system.

    Once approved for deployment, standby units will have to stage independently and assemble in-theatre. For some, this will be their first experience working together, and it will likely occur under conditions of extreme stress. Some military establishments are reluctant to acknowledge the need for prior training of their personnel beyond a general combat capability. Thus, high standards of cohesiveness and interoperability will be difficult to assure in advance. Moreover, the UN will continue to confront the complex task of co-ordinating lift capabilities for participating elements across the world. This, too, can only slow deployment. Logistics and sustainment arrangements are gradually improving, but the UN is still coming to grips with the challenge of supplying different national contingents with a wide range of equipment.

    A UN RDMHQ of some sixty-one personnel could provide the necessary impetus for developing and co-ordinating headquarters arrangements, but there are legitimate doubts about its ability to fulfil its five primary tasks in any period of intense activity where it may face multiple operations. Even in its full composition, it is still only the shell of an operational mission headquarters. As presently constituted, it is best seen as a necessary improvisation, an arrangement that may need to be rapidly augmented.

    Current plans entail a multidimensional RDMHQ of both civilian and military personnel. This is to be encouraged, as it has grown out of the requirement to address the diverse needs of people in desperate circumstances. SHIRBRIG, however, is a purely military force. While this facilitated the brigade's organisation, planners would be wise to expand its composition with civilians in both planning and deployable elements. For there are limitations to what military force alone can achieve. To secure respect, legitimacy, and consent (i.e., host nation approval) it is increasingly important, even in rapid deployment, to provide a broader range of incentives and services in the initial stages of a UN operation.

    In sum, while current efforts are definitely helpful, additional arrangements will be necessary to provide reliable and effective responses to increasingly complex conflicts.

    Possible Roles

    There are numerous potential tasks for a UN rapid deployment capability. Roles and responsibilities for specific missions will vary with Security Council mandates, of course, and much will depend on what is provided and on what terms. Expectations vary considerably over the tasks that should be incorporated into planning.

    Many officials propose that any rapid deployment capability should assume responsibility for the initial stages of a peacekeeping mission. Deployable elements will be the first in to establish security, headquarters, and services, and then the first out, to be replaced by regular peacekeeping contingents within four to six months. Such a capability is also seen as the preferred instrument for preventive deployment.[97] Moreover, as the effectiveness of any UN rapid deployment capability will diminish once a conflict has escalated to open warfare, there is a case to be made for restricting its early use to proactive and preventive measures. If it is to succeed in stemming imminent crises, an enduring emphasis will have to be accorded to flexibility and mobility. In 1995, Sir Brian Urquhart outlined the following range of potential roles:

  • to provide a UN presence in the crisis area immediately after the Security Council has decided it should be involved;
  • to prevent violence from escalating;
  • to assist, monitor, and otherwise facilitate a cease-fire;
  • to provide the emergency framework for UN efforts to resolve the conflict and commence negotiations;
  • to secure a base, communications, and airfield for a subsequent UN force;
  • to provide safe areas for persons and groups whose lives are threatened by the conflict;
  • to secure humanitarian relief operations; and
  • to assess the situation and provide first-hand information for the Security Council so that an informed decision can be made on the utility and feasibility of further UN involvement.[98]

    Urquhart expressed support for a new standing UN capability in which the "rules of engagement and for the use of force will be different from either peacekeeping or enforcement actions." Flexibility was a prerequisite: the force "will be trained in peacekeeping and problem-solving techniques but will also have the training, expertise and esprit de corps to pursue those tasks in difficult, and even violent circumstances."[99] Indeed, such a mechanism can be more easily justified if it can provide a cost-effective and timely response to an array of challenges.

    The confusion emanating from discussions of what a rapid deployment capability is intended for stems partly from two distinct but complementary objectives.[100] Initial interest in developing a rapid-deployment capability was premised on the need to improve peacekeeping. But expectations were also raised at the prospect of a mechanism which would be capable of prompt, decisive responses to desperate situations; even those which necessitated humanitarian intervention and limited enforcement. In the near term, these latter hopes may not be fulfilled. It should be acknowledged that there are also far more ambitious objectives similar to those outlined in the UN Charter, including the gradual development of a collective security system that facilitates a wider process of disarmament.

    However, as we begin to understand the need for increasingly flexible options and a wider array of instruments, the range of choice appears to have narrowed. UNSAS stipulates that the resources are to be used exclusively for peacekeeping.[101] Similarly, the RDMHQ and SHIRBRIG are also strictly for Chapter VI operations. While this may attract initial support, it may entail political and operational constraints. In cases involving extreme violations of human rights, including genocide, the UN may be unable to intervene rapidly if the situation demands a mandate beyond peacekeeping. Strict adherence to Chapter VI, could diminish the wider deterrent effect, as well as its capacity for dissuasion.

    The prospects for preventive deployment in the critical early stages of a conflict may be impeded by delays in arranging the consent of various factions or agreement among contributors. The experience of the past decade suggests that even supportive member states are inclined to "wait and watch" as they assess the risks, the costs, and the conditions for participation. Incipient distant crises seldom present the images or the political pressure necessary to mobilise governments into preventive action.

    This dilemma may be partially resolved with the 'wider' interpretation accorded to peace support operations. Over the past five years, this has become an increasingly sophisticated exercise combining positive incentives with coercive inducement strategies. Kofi Annan suggests UN operations will continue to evolve and expand with two main tasks: first, suppressing violence with a credible coercive capacity, the purpose of which is to intimidate recalcitrants into co-operating; and second, assisting the parties toward reconciliation with the provision of rewards in the mission area, including what the military refers to as "civic action," as well as broader peace incentives.[102] Expanded multidimensional operations entailed some of the more robust tools associated with limited enforcement, as well as broader peacebuilding services. Security Council mandates for Chapter VI operations began to acknowledge these wider requirements and DPKO has demonstrated its capacity to provide sound guidance and planning. An array of expanded tasks may be accommodated within Chapter VI, but these and others that require immediate preventive action will continue to challenge both the UN and its member states. Neither will be able to escape the need for more substantive resources, new mechanisms, and innovative practices.[103]

    Further Requirements: A Proposal to Expand the Foundation[104]

    The development of a reliable and effective UN capability will take time, vision, and a coherent, goal-oriented plan, one that is guided by a long-term sense of purpose and the prospect of contributing to a critical mechanism for conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance. As we look to the long term, it is evident that there will be a need for further measures that complement and build on the existing foundation. The prospect of immediately initiating some form of UN standing capability is remote, but an ongoing cumulative development process appears feasible. Several stages are envisaged in this development. As capabilities are consolidated at each stage, one can anticipate a parallel expansion in the scope and scale of potential activities. One assumes the UN will require a capability commensurate with the tasks it is likely to be assigned.

    There are several cost-effective options that merit consideration by the United Nations, its member states, and interested parties. The following sequential proposals are intended to stimulate further discussion and analysis:

    Stage One

  • Revitalise and expand the consultative process of all supportive parties with the following objectives:


  • launch a concerted effort to promote establishment of similar arrangements in other regions;
  • after an initial trial in peacekeeping, negotiate new MOU facilitating deployment to operations necessitating a mandate within Chapter VII.
  • integrate civilian elements to ensure provision of necessary services; and,
  • initiate research into the financing, administration, basing, equipment, and lift arrangements necessary to ensure immediate responses from co-located, standing national SHIRBRIG units.


  • given the promising foundation established, promote standby political commitments whether through expanded Memoranda of Understanding or Article 43.

    UN Standing Emergency Capability

  • initiate a parallel inquiry into the option of dedicated UN volunteer elements with particular emphasis on administration, financing, recruitment, terms of service, remuneration, training, basing and command.

    Stage Two

  • establish a UN rapid deployment base, with consideration accorded to the use of redundant military bases to provide existing infrastructure for training and equipment stock-piling, as well as nearby access to air and sea lift for prompt staging;
  • develop a permanent, operational-level headquarters at the UN base.

    Experienced officers, civilian experts, and qualified planners can be seconded to the base and co-assigned responsibility to expand the operational and tactical foundation for future efforts.

    To manage a variety of complex tasks effectively, it is in the interests of all parties to shift from a skeletal RDMHQ within UNHQ, New York to a static, expanded operational-level headquarters at a UN base. It would also be prudent for cost-effectiveness, as well as for the obvious benefits from a military, doctrinal, and administrative perspective, to co-locate two field-deployable tactical (mission) headquarters at this base.

    Stage Three

  • assign the national elements of a SHIRBRIG group to the UN base for a one to two-year period of duty;

    The general reluctance to move quickly can be partially overcome by stationing these multinational elements in a sound operational and tactical structure. The response times of standing multinational elements should be considerably quicker than the projected fifteen- to thirty-day response from home-based national SHIRBRIG elements. Tactical units and civilians would still remain under national political control and operational command. Locating these elements under the operational control of the permanent headquarters would improve multinational training, exercises, lift, and logistics co-ordination. Standing co-located national units would enhance overall effectiveness, increase the prospect of timely national approval and lead to faster responses. Several multinational SHIRBRIG's might also fill a large void in the current system of conflict prevention and management.

  • launch an ongoing process of doctrine development for the range of diverse elements likely to be required in future multidimensional operations. Emphasise the unity of purpose and effort necessary to co-ordinate and integrate the various elements into a cohesive team;

  • identify five appropriately-dispersed regional facilities to serve as UN bases for the preparation and deployment of other SHIRBRIG groups;

    Stage Four: A Composite Standing Emergency Capability

  • recruit and co-locate professional UN volunteers into distinct capability component groups of both the headquarters and field-deployable elements at the initial UN base. Integrate volunteers into a dedicated UN Standing Emergency Capability of 5,000 personnel under one of the two field-deployable mission headquarters. Provide personnel with advance training and two complete, modern equipment kits (one for training and one pre-packed for immediate staging). Ensure UN elements have a credible stand-alone strength for emergency deployments of approximately 4,000 civilian and military personnel.

    The integration of UN volunteers into this group should be viewed as a complementary and mutually reinforcing stage in the development of an increasingly effective UN rapid deployment capability. Its relatively small size would alleviate fears of a new supranational force. Moreover, the use of this relatively discrete UN emergency capability could only be authorised by the UN Security Council and directed by the UN Secretary-General or his special representative.

    A standing emergency capability with dedicated UN volunteers might respond to a crisis within twenty-four hours of a decision by the Security Council. Expanding the operational and tactical structure of this capability to include dedicated UN personnel would also expand the range of options at the political and strategic levels. As the Commission on Global Governance reported in 1995, "the very existence of an immediately available and effective UN Volunteer Force could be a deterrent in itself. It could also give important support for negotiation and the peaceful settlement of disputes."[105] The Report of the Independent Working Group on the Future of the United Nations expressed its preference for a standing UN Volunteer Force to enhance the UN's performance in both time and function.[106] The Carnegie Commission report acknowledged that "a standing force may well be necessary for effective prevention."[107] A Canadian discussion paper on the issue acknowledges that:

    It would provide the UN with a small but totally reliable, well-trained and cohesive group for deployment by the Security Council in urgent situations. It would break one of the key log-jams in the current UN system, namely the insistence by troop contributing nations that they authorise the use of their national forces prior to each deployment. It would also simplify command and control arrangements in UN peace support operations, and put an end to conflicts between UN commanders and contingent commanders reporting to national authorities.[108]

    The case for such a capability is premised on the need not only to avert human suffering, but also to reduce the high costs of major peacekeeping and enforcement operations, not to mention the reconstruction of war-torn societies.[109] As Urquhart writes, it"…should be seen as a vital investment for the future, and one which by its very nature, is designed to act at the point where action can be most effective, thus eliminating or reducing the necessity for later, larger, less effective, more costly options."[110]

    Recurring costs for a standing UN brigade have been estimated at $253 million US per annum. Acquiring a redundant military base capable of hosting 10,000 personnel might reduce the start-up costs. Ultimately, the UN will also require its own equipment if the deployable elements of a standing capability are to be interoperable. Standardisation of equipment and vehicles would greatly reduce overall costs in terms of manpower and overhead. To acquire equipment for a UN brigade would likely entail an expenditure of approximately $500-600 million US. Clearly, this new UN capability would not entail a significant financial burden if shared proportionally among 185 member states.[111]

    A host of related issues will have to be addressed before any standing capability becomes a reality. Financing is one major concern. Developing the organisational and operational capacity of the United Nations to the point where it has the confidence of member states is another. But these issues hardly preclude the need to design a compelling sequence of steps that will facilitate the transition to a viable, permanent UN capability. Making the case for a more robust force, Carl Kaysen and George Rathjens write:

    There could be great benefit in getting on with dealing with these other problems — regardless of the creation of a standing military force — but we do not believe that progress in the analysis of the case for a standing force, and possibly its recruitment and training should be delayed pending its resolution. We do concede the case for such a force will be much stronger to the extent one can assume substantial progress in these other areas.[112]

    The Netherlands study demonstrated that many of the technical obstacles are surmountable. The Danish study did not rule out permanently assigning military units to the UN, but acknowledged that it was a long-term option.[113] And the Canadian study noted that, "no matter how difficult this goal now seems, it deserves continued study with a clear process for assessing its feasibility over the long term."[114]

    One of the initial statements of the Canadian study cautiously advised that, "any plan to operate a standing force presupposes adjustments at the political, strategic and tactical levels, which in many cases must be put in place on an incremental basis, starting as soon as possible."[115] Many of these adjustments are now in place. Although no time frames were established, it would appear we are now at the mid-term of a process that needs to be revitalised. Both the Security Council and other member states are likely to need powerful encouragement to resume and expand this process. In this respect, there are several preliminary yet, critical requirements.

    First, the need for a wider educational process is now evident, as is the need for a broad-based coalition and constituency of support. A new 'soft power' approach could help to advance both objectives.[116] Aside from the benefits of informing member states and citizens, it might rejuvenate the 'Friends', prompt further partnerships, and activate numerous supportive NGOs and related parties. Of equal importance, is the need to draw the initiative back from the exclusive domain of 'high politics' between states, and what has become a relatively dysfunctional Security Council. This would effectively entail a campaign to democratise, politicise and publicise further discussions. By encouraging a clearer appreciation of the issues and current arrangements, there is the prospect of increasing confidence and commitment. This might also be a useful step toward acquiring wider political influence and leverage, as well as attracting powerful political champions. The latter can only lead as far as their constituents are prepared to provide support.

    Second, if rapid deployment is to succeed as a legitimate and widely-valued mechanism for conflict prevention, there will be a need to ensure a far more comprehensive and sophisticated approach. Whereas much attention has been devoted to ensuring sufficient 'hard power' (military forces) capable of restoring security, greater efforts will have to be devoted to ensuring they are accompanied by 'soft power' civilian elements that can restore hope and address human needs. Complex political emergencies will demand prompt attention from both.

    Third, it is time to restore the vision that inspired these and former efforts to empower the United Nations. Regrettably, the earlier sense of opportunity and hope has faded, replaced by heightened cynicism and despair. Few recognise the potential to transform the wider security environment through an expansion of these capabilities. If we hope to inspire a broader base of support, there will be a need to demonstrate the potential benefits.[117] In the short-term, this capability should help to prevent and resolve some violent conflicts, not all. That is progress, as well as an indication of potential. Although there are risks in being too ambitious at the outset, there are reasons why opponents of a UN rapid deployment capability view it as a subversive process and a 'slippery slope'. Any demonstration of success might encourage further co-operation toward the far more ambitious objective of a co-operative security system – a likely pre-requisite for moving on to an era of global human security.

    Progress in addressing the three preliminary requirements of revitalising wider efforts, ensuring the inclusion of appropriate elements, and restoring the necessary vision, will likely depend on the extent to which officials begin to recognise the potential contribution of conflict resolution and peace studies. These are common objectives that cannot be managed in isolation. It is time for a far more inclusive and co-operative approach that draws on the respective strengths of all supportive parties.


    At the dawn of this new millennium, the UN will have a preliminary rapid deployment capability for peace support operations. Three middle powers -- Canada, The Netherlands and Denmark -- were instrumental in co-ordinating related studies and broad co-operation through national and international consultative processes, as well as the development of a supportive organisational framework. In turn the UN Secretariat and the Friends of Rapid Deployment played a pivotal role in both prompting and implementing supportive changes. The majority of their short-term objectives were either achieved or are being implemented. There are substantive increases in the quantity and quality of resources listed in the UN Standby Arrangement System. A UN rapid deployment mission headquarters may soon be available to assist in the critical start-up phase of new operations. A multinational Standby High-Readiness brigade is available. As previously noted, over the past five years there has been supportive innovation at the political, strategic, operational and tactical levels.

    As Kofi Annan wrote, "the initiatives taken by these countries have been valuable both for what they have achieved in themselves and for the way in which they have refocused the debate among peace-keeping contributors at large." He went on to note: "in the context of that wider group, however, a number of further actions will need to be taken if we are to intervene more effectively in either a preventive or curative capacity."[118] Fortunately, both the UN and member states now have a base foundation on which to take further action.

    The potential for wider systemic change is evident. There are cost-effective and more reliable options that merit serious consideration and action. In the last several years, there have been noteworthy attempts to model the composition of viable UN standing forces.[119] Several of these studies have demonstrated that there are few, if any, insurmountable operational or tactical impediments. One shortcoming, that is also frequently evident in the numerous studies cited since 1945, is the inability to address how such a dedicated UN mechanism might be established. What approach or transition strategy might mobilise political will, attract wider support, increase confidence and restore the necessary momentum?

    Both pragmatists and visionaries are aware that the recent political environment was not conducive to the immediate establishment of a UN standing force. Nor, in the earlier period of unprecedented activity, was the Organisation prepared to manage additional, controversial capabilities. As well, by 1997 the former political and diplomatic enthusiasm dissipated quickly when it encountered concerns related to sovereignty, risks, representation, limited support and insufficient financing. Yet rapid changes, ongoing conflicts, and the wider challenges of interdependence, are now altering the former context. We can anticipate a review of contemporary approaches and mechanisms for preventing and resolving violent conflict, including the option of a UN standing capability or force. In the earlier words of Stephen Kinloch, "driven back, the idea will, as in the past, ineluctably re-emerge, Phoenix-like, at the most favourable opportunity."[120]

    Rather than await the next catastrophe, it is time to consider how additional SHIRBRIGs and dedicated UN standing elements might be introduced as a complementary expansion on current arrangements.[121] In this respect, independent analysis may still be necessary to generate the ideas that can move events.[122] Further progress will likely depend on far wider educational efforts directed not only at the governments of UN member states but also at global civil society. Among the challenges that warrant consideration are:

  • generating a broader public and professional understanding of current UN rapid deployment initiatives and the various options available for enhancing these efforts;
  • co-ordinating a 'soft power' approach not only to refocus the Security Council and revitalise the 'Friends', but also to organise a transnational coalition and constituency of support among citizens, non-governmental organisations, related agencies and academic communities.
  • planning a coherent, sequence of stages or 'building blocks' to facilitate the further development of UN and multilateral efforts; and
  • building the unity of effort and purpose necessary to co-ordinate national military and civilian units, as well as the conditions for integrating volunteers into a composite standing UN emergency capability.

    Modest progress has been made since William R. Frye made the case for a planned evolution in his seminal 1957 study, A United Nations Peace Force. We have yet to achieve Frye's objective, but it is worth recalling his words:

    Establishment of a small, permanent peace force, or the machinery for one, could be the first step on the long road toward order and stability. Progress cannot be forced, but it can be helped to evolve. That which is radical one year can become conservative and accepted the next.[123]

    The failure to avert organised mass murder in Rwanda prompted a reappraisal, as well as a multinational process that must now be revitalised and accelerated in the aftermath of Kosovo and East Timor. The phenomenon of 'too little', 'too late', 'too lame' or 'too lethal' has simply gone on for far too long. But, there are promising options and with further co-operation, we can do better. The former UN DPKO web page on the RDMHQ provides an appropriate conclusion, as well as an indication of the need for further support:

    United Nations Peace-Keeping
    Please Bear With Us!
    Under Construction


    1. This paper expands on several themes presented in 1998 to the Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Academic Council on the United Nations System. It also includes research undertaken while the author was a member of the Core Working Group of the Canadian Study to Enhance a United Nations Rapid Reaction Capability. I am indebted to this group, particularly to Major James Hammond (CF) and Carlton Hughes. A number of individuals in the UN Secretariat provided additional insight and information. Special thanks are extended to: Chris Coleman, First Officer, Policy and Analysis, DPKO; Andrew Greene, Policy and Analysis; Col. Cees van Egmond, Chief Mission Planning Service; Col. Kulikov, Deputy Director, Mission Planning; Col. Peter Leentjes, Chief Training Unit; Peter Dew, Office of Operations; Comm. Marik Jamke, Head Standby Arrangements Management Unit; Col. Carlos Daniel Ravazzola, Standby Arrangements Management Unit; LTC Bernard Saunders, RDMHQ Implementation Team; Frederick Schottler, Information Officer, DPI; Ambassador David Karsgaard, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations; Ambassador Michel Duval, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations; Gabriel Dueschner, First Officer, Mission of Canada to the United Nations; Paul Meyer, Director, IDC, DFAIT, Canada; Col. Ernie Reumiller, Head Peacekeeping Section, IDC, DFAIT, Canada; Line Poulin, Desk Officer, IDC, DFAIT, Canada; LTC. Ib Sorenson, Military Advisor, Danish Mission to the United Nations; Major Lollesgaard, Asst. MILAD, Danish Mission to the United Nations; LTC. Steve Moffat, Director Peacekeeping Policy, DND, Canada; and Sir Brian Urquhart, former UN Under-Secretary -General. Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this article, as well as any errors or omissions, are the author's.
    2. Major General Franklin van Kappen, Military Advisor to the Secretary-General quoted in "Standby Arrangement System: Enhancing Rapid Deployment", UN Chronicle, no. 1, 1997, p. 2. (
    3. As noted in a Canadian briefing paper, "the Security Council adopted a Presidential Statement which strengthens the consultations between the Council and troop contributor nations. The two key changes which enhance this process are: that consultations will be chaired by the Security Council Presidency alone rather than jointly with the UN Secretariat. This advance should allow for future meetings to focus on policy issues and political aspects of new or existing Security Council mandates. The UN Secretariat will continue to chair separate troop contributor meetings to discuss operational issues. The second change is that the Security Council, when considering peacekeeping operations, will now hold meetings with prospective troop contributors that have already been approached by the Secretariat." See Canada, DFAIT, "An Update on the Canadian Study, Towards a Rapid Reaction Capability for the United Nations ," prepared by Daniel Livermore, Director of Regional Security and Peacekeeping, Summer 1996, p. 5.
    4. The term 'peace support operations' is an elaboration on the former concept of 'wider peacekeeping' involving tasks beyond those associated with traditional peacekeeping to "cover a wide range of potential operations from conflict prevention to peacemaking, and to provide a doctrine which is relevant to the post-Cold War geostrategic environment". See, British Ministry of Defence, Joint Warfare Publication 3.01, Peace Support Operations, Sept. 1997, thereafter issued as Joint Warfare Publication 3.50. For a thoughtful review see, Tom Woodhouse, "The Gentle Hand of Peace? British Peacekeeping and Conflict Resolution in Complex Political Emergencies", International Peacekeeping , vol. 6, no. 2, Summer 1999, pp. 24-37.
    5. United Nations Security Council, "Progress Report of the Secretary-General on Standby Arrangements for Peacekeeping", S/1996/1067, 24 Dec. 1996, p. 3.
    6. A number of these criteria are drawn from the Government of Canada's report, Towards a Rapid Reaction Capability, Ottawa, Sept. 1995. See, for example, chapter 2, "Principles of the Study," pp. 8-16.
    7. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, An Agenda for Peace: Preventive Diplomacy, Peacemaking and Peace-keeping , Report of the Secretary-General Pursuant to the Statement Adopted by the Summit Meeting of the Security Council on 31 Jan. 1992, New York, 17 Jun. 1992, (A/47/277-S/2411), paras. 42-44.
    8. See, Brian Urquhart, "For A U. N. Volunteer Military Force," The New York Review of Books., vol. XL, no. 11, 10 June 1993, pp. 3-4. For an early response to the Urquhart proposal, see Lord Richard Carver, "A UN Volunteer Military Force: Four Views," The New York Review of Books , vol. XL, no. l2, Jun. 24, 1993, p. 59.
    9. For a more thorough overview of these diverse perspectives see, Stephen P. Kinloch, "Utopian or Pragmatic? A UN Permanent Military Volunteer Force", International Peacekeeping , vol. 3, no. 4, Winter 1996, pp. 166-190.
    10. Canada, Department of National Defence, "Report on Consultations UN Rapid Reaction Capability Study", May 1995, Prepared by LTC Joe Culligan, DIPOL 3.
    11. This was evident as early as Aug. 1992, when US presidential candidate Bill Clinton expressed support for a voluntary UN rapid deployment force. In February 1993, US Secretary of State Warren Christopher informed the UN Secretary-General that the US would back proposals for a UN rapid deployment force. On various occasions, Russian statesmen endorsed UN standby forces, negotiation of Article 43 agreements, and even their readiness to commit forces to a UN army. In 1992 French President Franí§ois Mitterand called for revitalising the UN Military Staff Committee and offered to commit 1,000 French soldiers at its disposal on forty-eight hours' notice with another 1,000 ready for UN service within a week. See the section on "Presidential Support" and "International Support" in Capt. Edward I. Dennehy, LTC William J. Droll, Capt. Gregory P. Harker, LTC Stephen M. Speakes, and LTC Fred A. Treyz, III, A Blue Helmet Combat Force , (Policy Analysis Paper 93-01, National Security Program, Harvard University, 1993), pp. 9-10.
    12. A number of the early commitments of member states such as the United States and France were overlooked in their subsequent responses to the UN General Assembly and to the Secretary-General's An Agenda for Peace. See "Statement of France," 28 July 1993 in response to An Agenda for Peace, in "Improving the Capacity of the United Nations for Peacekeeping: Report of the Secretary-General—Addendum, UN doe. A/48/403/Add. l/Corr. l, Nov. 2, 1993; and US Presidential Decision Directive 25, or The Clinton Administration's Policy on Reforming Multilateral Peace Operations (Washington, DC, US Department of State Publication 10161, May 1994; cited in Adam Roberts, "Proposals for UN Standing Forces: History, Tasks and Obstacles," in David Cox and Albert Legault (eds.), UN Rapid Reaction Capabilities: Requirements and Prospects , (Cornwallis: The Canadian Peacekeeping Press, 1995), pp. l-l5.
    13. Government of The Netherlands, The Netherlands Non-Paper, "A UN Rapid Deployment Brigade: A preliminary study," (revised version), April 1995, p. 3.
    14. Ibid., p. 4.
    15. See Robert C. Johansen, "UN Peacekeeping: The Changing Utility of Military Force," Third World Quarterly, 12 Apr. 1990, pp. 53-70.
    16. Brian Urquhart, "For A UN. Volunteer Military Force."
    17. The Netherlands 'Non-Paper', p. 5.
    18. Ibid., p. 8.
    19. Ibid., p. 18.
    20. Ibid., pp. 14-15.
    21. Towards a Rapid Reaction Capability for the United Nations, Sep. 1995. The report was formally tabled on Sep. 26, during the UN's fiftieth anniversary. The rationale for the study was outlined by Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, André Ouellet: "the experience of the last few years leads us to believe that we need to explore even more innovative options than those considered to date. Recent peacekeeping missions have shown that the traditional approach no longer applies. As we have seen in Rwanda, rapid deployment of intervention forces is essential. In light of the situation, the Government of Canada has decided to conduct an in-depth review of the short-, medium- and long-term options available to us to strengthen the UN's rapid response capability in times of crisis. Among these options, we feel the time has come to study the possibility, over the long term of creating a permanent UN military force. We will ask the world's leading experts for their input and will inform all member states of the results of the study." Notes for An Address by André Ouellet, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to the 49th General Assembly of the United Nations, New York, Sep. 29, 1994, p. 7.
    22. See Chapter 5, "A Practical Agenda for Reform: The Short to Medium Term," pp. 36-54.
    23. See Chapter 6, "A Vision of the Future: The Long-Term Prospects for Rapid Reaction," pp. 55-65.
    24. See Chapter 1, "Why Rapid Reaction," pp. 1-7.
    25. See Chapter 2, "Principles of the Study," pp. 8-16.
    26. See Chapter 3, "The Record of Rapid Reaction: Recent Experience," pp. l7-23.
    27. See Chapter Four, "Elements of Rapid Reaction: How the UN Shapes up," pp. 25-35.
    28. Among the proposals for reform at the political level were the establishment of a troop contributors' committee for each operation; a troop contributors' forum to consider general issues of an operational nature, and; convening informal groups of "friends" to deal with related issues. Five recommendations pertained to improving various financial procedures. Ibid., pp. 37-42.
    29. At the strategic level, there were calls for refining the early-warning capabilities of the Secretariat and advancing co-operation with member states toward the development of an "early-warning alert" system. The report advised strengthening the Department of Peacekeeping Operations with additional staff, enhancing the office of the Military Advisor, initiating rosters of senior military commanders, developing standing contractual arrangements with suppliers, particularly with respect to the provision of strategic movement, and producing packages of equipment for generic missions. Both the Secretary-General and member states were urged to continue refining and strengthening the Standby Arrangements System established in 1993. The Secretary-General was encouraged to use new techniques such as the "peacekeeping services agreement" to facilitate more rapid deployment and efficient support services. Member states were asked to explore the advance identification of personnel with expertise in relevant areas to assist the UN in responding to urgent situations. Ibid., pp. 43-46.
    30. Ibid., p. 54.
    31. Ibid., p. 51.
    32. As indicated in the report's title, a concern arose that the approach should be on enhancing a UN capability rather than simply a force. The increasing complexity of UN operations, as well as the requirement for a co-ordinated unity of effort also pointed to the need for both a multidimensional and a multifunctional capability.
    33. The report noted that the vanguard concept "is based on the principle of linking all of the levels of the UN system, especially an operational headquarters and mission groups provided by member states at the tactical level, for the purpose of deploying a force as rapidly as possible for a brief period, either to meet an immediate crisis or to anticipate the arrival of follow-on forces or a more traditionally-organised peacekeeping operation." p. 52.
    34. Ibid.
    35. Ibid., p. 52. "Both member states and the Secretary-General were encouraged to organise UN standby units into multinational-capability components," corresponding to function, with appropriate training and exercising to enhance readiness. "These capability components might include some of the newer tasks of multidimensional operations (natural disaster relief, humanitarian emergencies), working in close conjunction with other sectors of the UN and other non-governmental organisations."
    36. Ibid.
    37. Ibid., p. 55.
    38. Denmark, Chief of Defence, "United Nations Stand-by Arrangements for Peacekeeping: A Multinational UN Stand-by Forces High Readiness Brigade," 25 Jan. 1995. Denmark conducted four international seminars between May and August 1995. Participating nations were Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland and Sweden. The DPKO was also represented.
    39. See Denmark, Chief of Defence, "Report by the Working Group on a Multinational UN Stand-by Forces High Readiness Brigade," 15 Aug. 1995.
    40. Ibid., p. 9. It was noted that Allied nations with a tradition of peacekeeping were a natural choice when forming the core and setting the standards for a future brigade. Others would have to be encouraged to participate to secure impartiality.
    41. "Report by the Working Group on a Multinational UN Stand-by Forces High Readiness Brigade," pp. l0-11.
    42. A nation's right to decide whether or not to participate on a case-by-case basis would thus be protected. It was assumed "this would be accomplished through the maintenance of a brigade pool of 'extra' units which would 'back up' those units which might not be made available due to national decision."
    43. Canada, DND, "Report on Consultations UN Rapid Reaction Capability Study," May 1995, prepared by LTC. Joe Culligan, DIPOL 3.
    44. Cited in the briefing summary of WKGR8708 — Friends of Rapid Reaction Meeting, December 4, 1995 prepared by Canadian MILAD, Col. Michael Snell.
    45. Lloyd Axworthy, Hans van Mierlo, and Niels Helveg Petersen, "Let's Team Up to Make UN Peacekeeping Work," International Herald Tribune, 22 Oct. 1996. (http://www. undp. org/missions/denmarktpolicy/article. htm)
    46. Briefing summary of WKGR8708 — Friends Meeting, 4 Dec. 1995.
    47. Among the other participants attending this meeting were Ministers of Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, Senegal, Nicaragua, Ukraine and Jamaica.
    48. See, Canada, DFAIT, "An Update on the Canadian Study, Towards a Rapid Reaction Capability for the United Nations", Prepared by Daniel Livermore, Director of Regional Security and Peacekeeping, Summer, 1996, p.4.
    49. Ibid.
    50. Opinion on the future of the vanguard concept varies with some suggesting it has been replaced and others arguing that it is still being pursued through related arrangements such as the SHIRBRIG.
    51. The emphasis for 1997 was initially to be on developing a mechanism to co-ordinate the activities of peacekeepers, UN police forces, NGOs, and other UN agencies, but the need to arrange clear guidelines for logistics emerged as a more urgent priority.
    52. Cited in "Daily Highlights", October 25, 1996, Central News Section, Department of Public Information, United Nations.
    53. Many acknowledge that the Committee of 34 is an exceptionally slow vehicle that does not lend itself to quick action. This was a determining factor in the establishment of the 'Friends' as some member states wanted an informal body to act as a catalyst for change and to stimulate the work of the Committee of 34.
    54. See, United Nations, General Assembly, Report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, "Comprehensive Review Of The Whole Question Of Peace-keeping Operations In All Their Aspects", A/50/230, June 22, 1995, Section 3, p.12. Also see, A/51/130, May 7, 1996, Section 5, p.13.
    55. See, for example, "Concerns Over High Readiness Brigade Expressed At Special Committee On Peacekeeping Operations", United Nations, GA/PK/152, March 31, 1998.
    56. Cited in Canada, DFAIT, IDC1286, "Report of the meeting of Foreign Ministers on a Rapid Reaction Capability for the UN", September 27, 1995.
    57. For a brief review of the related changes in DPKO see Kofi Annan, "The Peace-keeping Prescription", in Kevin M. Cahill, (ed.), Preventive Diplomacv: Stopping Wars Before Thev Start , (New York: Basic Books, 1996), pp. 185-186. For a more critical perspective, also see Trevor Findley, "Armed conflict prevention, management and resolution", SIPRI Yearbook 1996: Armaments. Disarmament and International Securitv, (London: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 53-60.
    58. DPKO's Training Unit has written training guidelines, manuals and other materials to assist Member States in preparing military, civilian and police personnel for UN assignments. Aside from its numerous publications, the Training Unit has also helped to improve and standardise peacekeeping training through seminars, workshops and training assistance teams.
    59. The Mission Planning Service is the focal point for all peacekeeping planning. Its activities include: generic guidelines and procedures to streamline the process of mission planning; generic guidelines for troop-contributing countries, from which mission-specific guidelines are formulated; the preparation of standard operating procedures for essential functions; and in-house studies pertaining to important issues such as command and control, rules of engagement, structure of mission headquarters, etc. See "General Framework", United Nations Peacekeeping", (http:/
    60. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Supplement To An Agenda For Peace: Position Paper Of The Secretary-General On the Occasion Of The Fiftieth Anniversary Of The United Nations, A/50/60, S/1995/1, January 3, 1995.
    61. "In these circumstances", the Secretary-General wrote, "I have come to the conclusion that the United Nations does need to give serious thought to the idea of a rapid reaction force. Such a force would be the Security Council's strategic reserve for deployment when there was an emergency need for peacekeeping troops. It might comprise battalion-sized units from a number of member countries." As he noted, "these units would be trained to the same standards, use the same operating procedures, be equipped with integrated communications equipment and take part in joint exercises at regular intervals. They would be stationed in their home countries but maintained at a high state of readiness." Ibid., p.11, para. 44.
    62. See for example, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, "Empowering the United Nations", Foreign Affairs, 1992, p.93. At the time, the UN Secretary-General suggested the solution was "to extend and make more systematic standby arrangements by which governments commit themselves to hold ready, at an agreed period of notice, specially trained units for peacekeeping service".
    63. See, Statement by the President of the Security Council on February 22, 1995, (S/PRST/1995/9).
    64. See Ibid., (S/PRST/1995/9).
    65. For a response to this statement and the impression that the Security Council had voiced its opposition to a rapid reaction force see, N.H. Biegman, Dutch Ambassador to the UN in New York, "The Netherlands gain honour with the idea for a UN brigade", De Volksrant, March 1, 1995. However, for some within military institutions opposed to a standing force, the message was interpreted as a decisive 'no' to the option. For example see, Canada, DND Facsimilie, "Rapid Reaction Capability Study Communications Plan", from Col. M.W. Appelton, SPP 3, 3450-1 to LCol. Bentley, July 28, 1995.
    66. United Nations Press Release, GA/9212, December 18, 1996, p.9. It is noteworthy that the Secretary-General went on to state that "a Government like Denmark's has set up a 5,000 man and woman brigade that could be deployed fairly quickly. It has indicated that the headquarters elements can be deployed within 48 hours and the bulk of the force within a month. If we can encourage 12 or 20 Member States to do this, 12 or 20 Member States who will have the will to respond if the Council makes an appeal, we should be able to reduce considerably the time it takes us to deploy troops in the field."
    67. It should be noted that the UN began to construct a system of stand by forces in 1964, but only a small number of member states demonstrated a willingness to enter into any related arrangement with the UN.
    68. See United Nations, DPKO, "United Nations Standby Arrangements System Description". Also see United Nations, Security Council, "Progress Report Of The Secretary-General On Standby Arrangements For Peacekeeping", (S/1996/1067) 24 December 1996. 69. See, United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, "Monthly Status Report: United Nations Standby Arrangements", Status Report as of Sept. 1, 1999. (
    70. As previously noted, response time is defined by the UN as the period between the time the request to provide resources is made and the time these resources are ready for airlift/sea-lift to the mission area.
    71. "Annual Update Briefing to Member States on Standby Arrangements", May 29, 1997, p.2.
    72. As reported, the information available under the standby arrangements proved most helpful in the planning for and subsequent deployment of peacekeeping operations in Haiti, Angola, and the former Yugoslavia, in particular the successful United Nations Transitional Administration in Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Sirmium (UNTAES). More recently, the UNSAS helped officials co-ordinate the preventive deployment operation (MINURCA) for the Central African Republic. Favourable circumstances in this instance also facilitated a rapid deployment.
    73. Among the other determining factors noted are "political approval and support at the national level, availability of airlift/sea-lift, a capacity for mission management and logistic sustainment in the field, as well as the conclusion of the necessary administrative procedures".
    74. Notably, the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations also urged the Secretary-General to develop a rapidly deployable headquarters team in their spring 1995 report. This request was subsequently endorsed by the General Assembly in Resolution 50/30(1995). The proposal for such a headquarters was also at the forefront of the priorities of the Friends of Rapid Deployment. It was reported that the Friends Group also submitted a similar proposal to the Secretary-General. See "Rapid-reaction headquarters possible by fall: Canadian led proposal calls for small group to assess world crises", Ottawa Citizen, July 23,1996.
    75. See Major-General Frank Van Kappen, Military Advisor to the Secretary-General, "Presentation on the Rapidly Deployable Mission Headquarters (RDMHQ)", to the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, 24 October 1996. Also cited in "Peacekeeping Operations Committee - 5 - Press Release PK/144 140th Meeting, 24 October 1996.
    76. Once operational, the UNRDMHQ should begin to fill the gap in DPKO's initial management of UN operations. In the past, there was a risk of serious operational difficulties and complications arising when military contingents and other components arrived in the mission area to operate over extended periods without a proper mission headquarters.
    77. Major-General Frank Van Kappen, "Presentation on the RDMHQ", October 24, 1996, pp. 5-7.
    78. Ibid. pp. 4-5.
    79. Friends of Rapid Deployment, Technical Working Group Paper, "A Rapidly Deployable Headquarters: Roles, Functions and Implementation", March 26, 1996. As this paper noted, "this headquarters would be multinational, drawing its personnel widely from contributing member states of all regions. It would also be multidimensional, reflecting the requirements of the more complex operations of the 1990s, with a substantive civilian staff of diverse experience in the areas of civilian police, humanitarian assistance, human rights, and legal affairs. This headquarters would be a 'first-in, first-out' operation, moving into an area rapidly but capable of being removed equally quickly. It should be capable of directing at least 5,000 personnel, possibly more if it is augmented at the time of deployment. This staff, seconded or loaned by Member States to the UN Secretariat, could be deployed into a theatre of operations under the authority of the Security Council and at the direction of the Secretary-General but without further authorisation at the national level."
    80. "At the UN, A Proposal to Speed Aid During Crises", New York Times, July 21, 1996. Cited in, Patrick A. McCarthy, "Towards an Independent United Nations Peacekeeping Capability", paper presented at the eleventh annual meeting of the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS), The Pearson Peacekeeping Training Centre, Cornwallis, Nova Scotia, June 18, 1998.
    81. The two RDMHQ positions that received approval for funding in 1998 were in civilian police and humanitarian affairs.
    82. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark, "Background Paper about establishing a Multinational UN Standby Forces Brigade at High Readiness (SHIRBRIG), Meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers in the 'Friends of Rapid Deployment' Group, New York, 26 September 1996. (
    83. The countries that initially signed the 'Letter of Intent' are Austria, Canada, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Denmark. The Czech Republic, Finland and Ireland participated in the signing ceremony as observers. See "Status in the establishment of the Multinational UN Standby Forces High Readiness Brigade", Danish Ministry of Defence, December 19, 1996. (
    84. Among the new members of the SHIRBRIG are: Argentina, Italy, Jordan, Romania and Spain. Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal and Slovenia are also participating as observers but have yet to sign a Memorandum of Understanding indicating their specific commitment. (See,
    85. Moreover, Danish officials write that when SHIRBRIG is deployed it will be "subject to UN command and control arrangements and operate exclusively under the direction of the Secretary-General or his Special Representative and under the operational control of the Force Commander for the operation." Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark, "Background Paper about establishing a Multinational UN Stand-by Forces Brigade at High Readiness (SHIRBRIG), pp. 1-2.
    86. Ibid., p.2.
    87. For example, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is pursuing a co-operative arrangement similar to that of the SHIRBRIG, albeit without sufficient funding to effectively organise their brigade. There are also indications that a coalition of states in South Eastern Europe are engaged in related plans.
    88. Canada, DFAIT, "An Update on the Canadian Study: Towards A Rapid Reaction Capability for the United Nations", Briefing Paper prepared by Daniel Livermore, Director, IDC, Summer 1996, p.4.
    89. Cited in "Daily Highlights", October 25, 1996, Central News Section, Department of Public Information, United Nations.
    90. Statement by Hans van Merlo, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Kingdom of the Netherlands, "The United Nations: Joining Forces", September 23, 1997, p.3. (
    91. Attempts to secure funding and wider political support for the RDMHQ's eight core positions were insufficient and repeatedly stymied. Several nations agreed to supply personnel, as well as a percentage of start-up costs in a specific trust fund. However, gratis personnel raised concerns over equitable opportunity for personnel of developing nations and the trust funds did not attract sufficient money. Some officials remain confident the required resources will eventually clear the committee approval process.
    92. The elimination of all gratis personnel meant a loss of 100 individuals to DPKO.
    93. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Supplement to An Agenda for Peace,, p. 11, para 43.
    94. Ibid. p. 11, para. 44.
    95. The former Secretary-General previously cautioned, "the system of standby arrangements does not so far ensure the reliability and speed of response which is required in such emergencies. It is essential that the necessary capabilities are reliably available when they are needed and can be deployed with the speed dictated by the situations. It is evident that member states possess such capabilities; what is needed is the will to make them available for the execution of Security Council mandates." Cited in, "Peace-keeping in a Changing Context". (
    96. Boutros-Ghali, Supplement to An Agenda for Peace, p. l8, para 43.
    97. As Kofi Annan wrote, "rapid response is vital particularly from a preventive perspective, because in cases like Rwanda, the conflict's worst effects are often felt in its earliest stages. A rapid response is thus essential if we are effectively to limit the range, extent and momentum of a conflict." Kofi Annan, "The Peacekeeping Prescription," in Cahill, Preventive Diplomacy, p. l84.
    98. Sir Brian Urquhart, "Prospects for a UN Rapid Response Capability," Address to the Twenty Fifth Vienna Seminar on Peacemaking and Peace-keeping for the Next Century, Government of Austria and the International Peace Academy, Vienna, 3 Mar. 1995, p. 6.
    99. Ibid., p. 7.
    100. Confusion was partially compounded by the announcement that the Government of Canada would be conducting an in-depth study into the option of a UN Standing Force.
    101. See "United Nations Standby Arrangements: System Description," p. 2.
    102. Kofi A. Annan, "P. K. and Crisis Management: Where are we going?" Tokyo, 23 Sep. 1996, pp. 3-8.
    103. Fortunately, the arrangements now being implemented are not a "done deal." They represent a promising start, yet they need not, and should not, be viewed as having achieved sufficient reliability or sophisticated capability.
    104. This section draws on the previous work of Peter Langille, Maxime Faille, Carlton Hughes, and Major James Hammond, "A Preliminary Blueprint of Long-Term Options for Enhancing a UN Rapid Reaction Capability," in Cox and Legault, UN Rapid Reaction Capabilities, pp. 179-200.
    105. Report of the Commission on Global Governance, Our Global Neighbourhood , (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 112.
    106. The Report of the Independent Working Group on the Future of the United Nations, The United Nations In Its Second Half-Century , (A project supported by Yale University and the Ford Foundation) 1995, pp. 21-23.
    107. Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict, Preventing Deadly Conflict: Final Report , (Washington, DC: Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict, 1997), p.66. It should be noted that this report did not endorse UN volunteers but proposed the establishment of rapid reaction force of 5,000 to 10,000 troops to be drawn from sitting members of the Security Council.
    108. Canada, DFAIT, "Improving the "UN's Rapid Reaction Capability: Discussion Paper," 29 April 1995, p. 3.
    109. For a recent variation of this argument see, Lionell Rosenblatt and Larry Thompson, "The Door Of Opportunity: Creating a Permanent Peacekeeping Force", World Policy Journal , Spring 1998, pp. 36-42.
    110. Brian Urquhart elaborates on this point: "experience of recent UN operations shows that even a small, highly-trained group, with high morale and dedication, arriving at the scene of action immediately after a Security Council decision, would in most cases have far greater effect than a larger and less well prepared force arriving weeks or even months later. The failure to come to grips with a situation before it gets completely out of hand usually necessitates a far larger, more expensive and less effective operation later on." See Urquhart, "Prospects for a UN Rapid Response Capability," in Cox and Legault, UN Rapid Reaction Capabilities , pp. 3-35.
    111. Ibid. p. 196. For further detailed analysis of similar projected expenses see, Jean Krasno, "A United Nation's Rapid –Deployment Permanent Force: Cost Analysis", (paper prepared for the Yale University United Nations Study Program, 1994).
    112. Carl Kaysen and George Rathjens, Peace Operation by the United Nations: The Need for a Volunteer Military Force (Cambridge, MA: Committee on International Security Studies, 1996), p. l3.
    113. "Report by the Working Group on a Multinational UN Stand-by Forces High Readiness Brigade," p. 7.
    114. Towards a Rapid Reaction Capability , p. 62.
    115. Canada, DFAIT, "Canada Announces a Study to Improve the UN's Rapid Reaction Capability," Press Release No. l, July 4, 1995, p. 4.
    116. The term 'soft power' has been interpreted as entailing the ability to communicate, negotiate, mobilise opinion, work within multilateral bodies and promote international initiatives. It is essentially about increasing political leverage to advance peaceful change by building new partnerships and coalitions not only between governments, but also with other elements of civil society such as NGOs, related agencies, the media and interested parties. The term was coined by Joseph S. Nye, Jr. in, Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power , (New York: Basic Books, 1990. It has since become a foreign policy strategy for a growing number of small and middle powers. For a Canadian perspective see, Lloyd Axworthy, "Why 'soft power' is the right policy for Canada", Ottawa Citizen , April 25, 1998.
    117. Even prior to the League of Nations, it was understood that an effective collective security system would provide states with more than simply a security guarantor. For one, it would reduce tensions, thereby, allowing all to reduce their national defence expenditures and devote those resources to other pressing challenges. It would also restore the conditions necessary for wider, if not universal, disarmament. In short, an empowered UN holds considerable promise to introduce further co-operation in a mutually-reinforcing and progressively positive manner. For a more contemporary assessment of the potential of UN rapid deployment capabilities see, The Centre for Defense Information, "The United Nations At Fifty: A Force For The Future", The Defense Monitor , vol. XXV, no. 1, January 1, 1996.
    118. Kofi Annan, "The Peacekeeping Prescription," in Cahill, Preventive Diplomacy , p. l86.
    119. Aside from the Netherlands "Non-Paper" and a section of the Canadian study, see Kaysen and Rathjens, Peace Operations by the United Nations: The Case for a Volunteer UN Military Force ; Carl Conetta and Charles Knight, Vital Force: A Proposal for the Overhaul of the UN Peace Operations System and for the Creation of a UN Legion (Cambridge, MA, Commonwealth Institute, 1995); and Sir Brian Urquhart, "Prospects for a UN Rapid Response Capability," in Cox and Legault, UN Rapid Reaction Capabilities , pp. 30-35. Also see, Joseph E. Schwartzberg, "A New Perspective on Peacekeeping: Lessons from Bosnia and Elsewhere", Global Governance , vol. 3, no. 1, Jan.-April 1997, pp. 1-15.
    120. Stephen P. Kinloch, "Utopian or Pragmatic? A UN Permanent Military Volunteer Force", International Peacekeeping , vol. 3, no. 4, Winter 1996, p.185.
    121. For a thoughtful example of recent work that encourages building on current UNSAS arrangements with article 43 agreements, leading to a UN Volunteer Force see, Patrick A. McCarthy, "Towards an Independent United Nations Peacekeeping Capability". For an earlier attempt at outlining this stage-by-stage process, see Langille, Faille, Hughes, and Hammond, "A Preliminary Blueprint of Long-Term Options…,".
    122. Unfortunately, at least in the near term, there is unlikely to be further research of this evolution within government, and there is little evidence of government assistance for related research. Neither is a research programme of this nature on the agenda of the UN Secretariat or DPKO. Major-General Frank van Kappen, suggested that a study of a UN Standing Emergency Group would have to be conducted in co-operation with other UN Departments. Yet, one should not be overly optimistic about the prospects of these departments engaging in a co-operative inquiry that many member states do not support. van Kappen acknowledged, however, that "further studies could be done by establishing Working groups to present their reports to DPKO. Working Groups could either be established within UNHQ and/or Member States could sponsor a Working Group. Studies could be conducted in a sponsor county with participants from Member States, as well as from UNHQ." See, Major-General Frank van Kappen, MILAD, DPKO, "Implementation of the Canadian Recommendation on Rapid Reaction Capability," Summary of Presentation on 4 Dec. 1995, pp1-4.
    123. William R Frye, A United Nations Peace Force , (New York: Oceana Publications, 1957), pp. 106-107.
    124. United Nations Peace-Keeping. (

    Published in Oliver Ramsbotham and Tom Woodhouse, (eds.), Warlords, Hawks and Doves: Peacekeeping as Conflict Resolution , (London: Frank Cass Publishing, 2000).
    Reprinted in International Peacekeeping, Spring 2000.

    H. Peter Langille, MA, PhD
    Global Human Security: Ideas & Initiatives
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    Dr. Peter Langille teaches Canadian Foreign Policy and International Conflict Management in the Department of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario. In 1994-95, he worked on the Government of Canada's study to Enhance United Nations Rapid Deployment Capabilities. He was a co-author of the initial proposals and blueprints to develop a Canadian, Multinational Peacekeeping Training Centre at CFB Cornwallis. Earlier, he was the author of Changing the Guard: Canada's Defence in a World in Transition, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990). More recently he completed a book manuscript, "A Rudimentary Foundation for UN Peace Support Operations: Initiatives to Enhance Training, Role Specialisation and Rapid Deployment".

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