Linda McQuaig talks to independent researcher Peter Langille about the proposal for a United Nations Emergency Peace Service (Linda McQuaig, with Katie Addleman, “Linda McQuaig on the United Nations Emergency Peace Service,” This Magazine, May 2011):
The United Nations Emergency Peace Service, as the initiative came to be called, is imagined as the UN’s answer to 911: a permanent first responder, capable of deployment within 24 hours of authorization from the UN Security Council. Langille, whose slow, deliberate speech suggests years of explaining concepts that people don’t or won’t understand, stressed that UNEPS would be a service, not an armed force, meant to complement existing national and UN arrangements. “It would draw on the best and brightest of individuals who volunteer for a dedicated UN service—military, police, and civilians who are well-prepared, highly trained, and likely more sophisticated [than national armed forces] in addressing a wide array of emergencies,” he says.
It’s designed for five key functions: to stop genocide, prevent armed conflict, protect civilians, address human needs, and launch—quickly—the complex and long-term peacekeeping operations of the UN. The Canadian study, which concluded in 1995, “did attract 26 member states into a group known as the Friends of Rapid Deployment,” Langille says, “but it became clear that it was running into a lot of powerful political opposition.”
Despite strong endorsements from a number of high-ranking UN officials, politicians, and prominent peace researchers, UNEPS has yet to get off the ground.
More information on the UNEPS proposal.
Illustration by Matt Daley