What lessons to learn? Particularly about the UN and its members?

By Jan Oberg
August 2, 2005

The international community’s conflict-management:
Short status by 2005

This blog explains why, by and large, the security approach – as described in the Prologue – has been a failure. The reasons for judging it a failure are many and pointed out through both the blog and book. They have to do with the paradigm/discourse itself but also with concrete, fatefully counterproductive decisions made throughout the crisis, one tying the hands of decision-makers when approaching the next situation.

Some of the – rather simple – methods and principles we suggest in our writings could have been used irrespective of whether the security or the peace approach had been followed. [Read more…]

Advertisements

If the Western press covered this from Macedonia…

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 128 – August 28, 2001

Originally published here.

 

Few citizens can go to conflict regions to develop an understanding and form an opinion. Most of us rely on the dailies, the radio and television. So, the media stand between the events and each of us. What we obtain is not necessarily reality but an image of it, a part of it, some aspects and angles rather than others. In principle, it can hardly be otherwise.

But what if the coverage is systematically biased and what if there is a tendency in what is not covered?

Once again there is a Balkan crisis and once again some of us who have been on the ground for about ten years ask: do we have a free press on which those at home can safely rely?

Here follow some 20 examples of what could have featured prominently in the headlines about Macedonia the last few months. Most citizens are likely not to have heard much about them in the mainstream media and may, therefore, not have thought of these events and their implications:

– the story of Americans working with KLA/NLA and investigate why NATO, in contravention of its mandate in Macedonia, evacuated KLA/NLA soldiers with American advisers and equipment out of Aracinovo…

– why NATO/KFOR and the UN in Kosovo turned a blind eye to KLA/NLA operations in the American sector and the demilitarised zone…

– which governments, agencies, mercenary companies and arms dealers have supplied KLA/NLA with weapons since 1993…

– what kind of misinformation and propaganda campaigns the press itself is the object of by NATO and others, e.g. why it suddenly begins to call Macedonians “Slavs” or “Slav Macedonians,” something they have never been called before. Or why Macedonians are frequently called “nationalists” while you never hear that word about Albanians with guns in their hands…

– the suffering and socio-economic deprivation of Macedonians and not only the Albanians…

– the question of whether EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, the S-G of NATO at the time when it bombed Yugoslavia, and NATO S-G Lord Robertson, then British secretary of defence, are personally responsible for the de-stabilisation of Macedonia…

– why we get no conflict journalism but only war reporting and whether there was any ethnic hatred in Macedonia that could have sparked off a war had Western countries not meddled in the affairs of Macedonia…

– the story of why one of the best missions in the history of the United Nations, UNPREDEP, was forced out of Macedonia in 1999 to allow NATO to (mis)use the country for its own “peaceful” aims…

– why the UN’s Mr. Haekkerup in Pristina, the highest authority in Kosovo, has not been asked why 46,000 NATO/KFOR soldiers in Kosovo did not actually disarm the KLA in spite of the fact that it was stated officially in autumn 1999 that it was disarmed and declared illegal… [Read more…]

Intellectually the Kosovo Commission Report is a turkey and it won’t fly

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 105 – November 23, 2000

Originally published here.

 

We expect soldiers we send to the front to have some military education and training. As patients we hope the doctor has studied medicine. And who would write a constitution for a new state if not professionally educated lawyers?

But not so when it comes to conflict-analysis, mediation or peace-making. In this field it seems that neither specific education, practical experience nor knowledge about the conflicting parties and their cultures is of any importance. The important thing is that you want to do good.

Last year, Prime Minister Goran Persson of Sweden took the initiative to establish an independent international commission tasked with analysing the equally enigmatic and tragic Kosovo conflict and NATO’s bombing as well as outline the lessons to be learnt. He appointed Richard Goldstone, the well-respected South African judge and former chief prosecutor of the Hague Tribunal to chair it together with former Swedish education minister, Carl Tham, as his deputy.

The Swedish government allocated about 1 million dollar for the one-year work of the commission, which also obtained support from the Carnegie Corporation, George Soros, Ford Foundation and the U.S. Institute of Peace. Among its members are Mary Kaldor, Michael Ignatieff, Richard Falk (TFF associate) who represent themselves and not their countries – of which anyhow six are NATO members.

No doubt, it was a noble initiative, with all wishing to do good – although even Sweden never expressed a critical word about the West’s handling of the crisis or of what, at the time, I called NATO’s Balkan bombing blunder. To identify what we must learn from this conflict and the international attempts to handle it is, beyond doubt, one of the most important intellectual, political and moral tasks – for Sweden itself, for the EU, for NATO and for the United States. The problems that caused the violence in the Balkans are far from solved – if at all addressed – and the place with most rapid and positive change today is Serbia whose people took matters in their own hand and put an end to the Milosevic era. Around the world, conflicts similar to that in Kosovo are queuing up, waiting to be diagnosed and treated well or turn into tragedies.

My TFF colleagues and I have, since 1991, worked in Kosovo and Belgrade, with the political leaders on all sides and with civil society organisations. After some 40 missions and 3000+ interviews, we know a bit about the place, the personalities and the problems as well as about the rest of former Yugoslavia with which the Kosovo issue was and remains fundamentally intertwined.

During a number of years I personally functioned as unpaid, goodwill adviser to Dr. Ibrahim Rugova. Under his wise leadership the Kosovo-Albanians was the only people in ex-Yugoslavia who had decided – in contrast to everybody else – to try to achieve their dream about an independent state by means of a) a non-violent struggle, b) the building of a parallel society and c) intensive international diplomatic and media activity. It was a dream, of course, as nationalistic or and exclusionist as any other and was greatly assisted by the bullish arrogance of Milosevic and the repressive forces in the region.

But a simple conflict is about the only thing it was not. So the Commission has ploughed through hundreds of human rights documents and other types of materials and consulted hundreds of experts, politicians and military people involved in the matter – although, however, surprisingly few among those who were close to issue, on the ground. Goldstone and Tham want to do good, for sure, but none of them are conflict analysts or Balkan experts. That could, with a different mandate and more creativity, actually have brought in new aspects or have lead to the creation of more innovative proposals. But it doesn’t. This turkey won’t fly.

One the positive side, [Read more…]

NATO in Kosovo – Failed peacekeeping

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 72 – June 18, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“If a UN operation had gone this wrong from the beginning, if the mandate had been violated to this extent, politicians, diplomats and media worldwide would have cried ‘Failure!’

But since it is a US-lead NATO operation, independent-minded evaluations and criticism is conspicuously absent from mainstream media and the political discourse. The homogenisation of public opinion with NATO propaganda throughout the Western democracies is disheartening,” says TFF director, Dr Jan Oberg.

 

1. THE NATO DOG WILL WAG THE UN TAIL

While NATO troops have been in Macedonia the last 8 months, only on June 14 could the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan present a plan for a civil UN administration for Kosova. It puts the EU in charge of reconstruction and gives the OSCE primary responsibility for establishing democratic institutions, organising elections, and monitoring human rights. The UNHCR will take charge of the resettlement of refugees and displaced persons.

The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) will administer the police, justice, schools, public transport, telecommunications, and power plants. An international police unit of up to 2,000 will oversee the establishment of a Kosova police force. On 12 June, Annan appointed UN Undersecretary-General Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil as interim – interim! – special representative.

SC Resolution 1244 consistently mentions “the rapid early deployment of effective civil and security presences” and consistently mentions the two components simultaneously. Reality on the ground is already totally different. Evident for everyone who wants to see, the NATO dog will wag the UN tail as it pleases, in time and in space. And it will take months before the civilians are in place and co-functioning. Remember that it took 5-6 months to get the former OSCE KVM mission of 1200 deployed – only to be forced out due to NATO’s bombing plan.

This is catastrophic. Precisely in this type of conflict, the need for social, village-based security provided by civil police and what the UN used to call ‘Civil Affairs’ staff is absolutely essential. While NATO is simply not trained for this or has any experience in it, the UN an OSCE and civilian NGOs everywhere have.

[Read more…]