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Blessed are the Peacekeepers, but they need Intelligence Officers

Blessed are the Peacekeepers, but they need Intelligence Officers

Peacekeeping operations have become a fixture within the international arena and core practice of international organizations since the end of the Cold War. However, these operations, particularly those run by the United Nations, have had a torrid relationship with intelligence collection and analysis. There has been consistent opposition by member states to establishing an intelligence office within the UN, and, up until 2017, the UN had no procedures for acquiring and analyzing information in support of their peacekeeping operations. Despite this improvement, not having a standing office capable of independently deciphering and combing through the piles of information has severely limited the ability of the UN to prepare and support its peacekeeping operations. The current policy is too reliant on the kindness of its member states which does nothing but create a situation where vital information is given based on national interest. However, a permanent office capable of doing so in a way that protects civilians and the reputation of the UN is not only easily conceivable but entirely feasible.

Two reports commissioned by the UN Secretary-General have begged the UN to establish an office for acquiring and analyzing information pertinent to the operation’s success. The Brahimi Report, which debuted in 2000, detailed an office capable of collecting and analyzing data for the Secretariat to plan peacekeeping operations and identify potential conflicts. The Brahimi Report notes that an information analysis office would allow for developing short-term and long-term mission planning and crisis response. Had this office been implemented, it would have allowed several peacekeeping operations to possess adequate resources and prevented disasters like the kidnapping of over 200 UN peacekeepers in Sierra Leone, which happened that same year. The UN was again warned of the dangers of being unable to independently analyze information in the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO Report) report, which further pleaded for the UN Secretariat to expand its analytical capabilities to support peace operations. The UN took these cries for reform and formulated an intelligence and information analysis policy that relied upon member states willingly turning it over to the UN, potentially exposing their sources, methods, and collection from peacekeepers.

The unreliability of the status quo therefore necessitates the creation of an office as described by both reports and addresses any potential concerns laid out by UN member states. This office must be impartial, assist in the planning of peacekeeping operations, and make use of emerging technologies.

Covert and clandestine operations have been a prominent feature within states’ intelligence agencies since their very inception. This is likely a feature that has probably led to the opposition of an intelligence analysis service. However, the rise of social media platforms and the Internet have led to the expansion of open-source intelligence (OSINT) tools that make information gathering and analysis accessible to even the average person. Therefore, an intelligence analysis office that the UN would not need to rely on secretive methods; instead, they would be utilizing techniques and practices widely available worldwide. The only real need for classification by a UN information office would be to protect human intelligence (HUMINT) sources for their safety.

Intelligence needs to be politically independent and free of bias to be effectively understood and respected by decision-makers, especially when coming from the UN. Moreover, since this office would need to be constantly analyzing information to plan for peacekeeping operations, states may feel threatened by being labeled as a threat to international peace and security. As such, an office meant to support peacekeeping operations would need to be professional and adhere to the same recruitment and hiring practices that all UN employees go through. Of course, maintaining the utmost professionalism is crucial to any intelligence agency. Still, it will be incredibly essential to one serving at the bequest of the UN; an international organization meant to support international peace and security.

Being able to assess and take action on information accurately is crucial to the success of any operation, especially peacekeeping ones employed by the UN. Without a longstanding office, the ability of peacekeepers to conduct themselves will eventually diminish and render them unable to protect civilians, one of their highest priorities effectively. However, new technologies and robust professionalism by analysts can make for the perfect early warning system for crises that may require the presence of UN peacekeepers. As a result, these operations will be better resourced, planned, and overall more effective.

Peter Roberto is a M.A. candidate at Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations where he is the Incoming Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Diplomacy & International Relations and conducted research with the National Security Fellowship.