It is October, 1956. The Egyptian army is blocking access to the Suez Canal. Britain, France and Israel respond by attacking Egypt in an effort to take control of the canal. The situation, known as the Suez Crisis, is threatening to spread and become a third World War.

The Suez Canal is a vital shipping link between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. It is important because it forms a direct route connecting European and American ports with southern Asia, eastern Africa, and Oceania. Without the canal, the only way for ships to travel between Europe and Asia would be to sail around the entire continent of Africa.

Before the Suez Crisis, a British company controlled the canal. This company made immense profits by charging shipping companies fees to use the canal. Then, Britain cancelled a joint project with the United States to finance a massive irrigation project in Egypt – a project that would bring water to the desert. When this happened, the Egyptian government reacted by seizing control of the canal and announcing that it would collect and keep all shipping fees.

England, France and Israel sent a combined military force to regain c Read More
It is October, 1956. The Egyptian army is blocking access to the Suez Canal. Britain, France and Israel respond by attacking Egypt in an effort to take control of the canal. The situation, known as the Suez Crisis, is threatening to spread and become a third World War.

The Suez Canal is a vital shipping link between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. It is important because it forms a direct route connecting European and American ports with southern Asia, eastern Africa, and Oceania. Without the canal, the only way for ships to travel between Europe and Asia would be to sail around the entire continent of Africa.

Before the Suez Crisis, a British company controlled the canal. This company made immense profits by charging shipping companies fees to use the canal. Then, Britain cancelled a joint project with the United States to finance a massive irrigation project in Egypt – a project that would bring water to the desert. When this happened, the Egyptian government reacted by seizing control of the canal and announcing that it would collect and keep all shipping fees.

England, France and Israel sent a combined military force to regain control of the Suez canal.The invasion of Egypt by these three countries was closely watched by the two super power nations of the time, the United States of America (USA) and the United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). If these two countries had chosen to get involved, the Suez Crisis could easily have become far more serious and started a third World War.

But the situation was not lost. The best minds of the United Nations (UN) used all their ingenuity to arrive at a surprising solution – an army designed to keep the peace.

© 2005, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Soldiers

United Nations (UN) forces are mobilized after the Egyptian army blocks access to the Suez Canal. The situation grows more and more tense as Britain, France and Israel attack the Egyptian army.

United Nations

©2005 United Nations


The invention of an army designed to keep peace was an act of creative problem solving in the face of a looming international crisis. In 1956, as armed conflict over the Suez Canal threatened to spiral out of control, the United Nations (UN) acted swiftly. They came up with a groundbreaking solution: the world’s first peacekeeping army, the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF).

The UNEF was a large military force made up of soldiers from many countries. The UN placed this force between the opposing Egyptian and Israeli armies. This meant the armies could not fight each other without first attacking the UN force – something they did not want to do. The UNEF then supervised a withdrawal of troops on both sides, which brought an end to the fighting. The UNEF helped maintain the ceasefire for over ten years.

The success of peacekeeping as a design is based on a number of unique and effective features. These features include: A clear visual identity. The UNEF was the first force to wear helmets in the UN’s official colour – an unmistakable shade of bright blue. These helmets have since become a familiar Read More

The invention of an army designed to keep peace was an act of creative problem solving in the face of a looming international crisis. In 1956, as armed conflict over the Suez Canal threatened to spiral out of control, the United Nations (UN) acted swiftly. They came up with a groundbreaking solution: the world’s first peacekeeping army, the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF).

The UNEF was a large military force made up of soldiers from many countries. The UN placed this force between the opposing Egyptian and Israeli armies. This meant the armies could not fight each other without first attacking the UN force – something they did not want to do. The UNEF then supervised a withdrawal of troops on both sides, which brought an end to the fighting. The UNEF helped maintain the ceasefire for over ten years.

The success of peacekeeping as a design is based on a number of unique and effective features. These features include:

  • A clear visual identity. The UNEF was the first force to wear helmets in the UN’s official colour – an unmistakable shade of bright blue. These helmets have since become a familiar symbol of peacekeeping around the world.
  • Troops from neutral, mid-level countries. UNEF personnel did not come from the global super powers nations of the time (the USA and USSR). Instead, they came from Canada, Columbia, Denmark, Finland, India, Norway, Sweden, and Yugoslavia – countries that did not favour one side over the other.
  • Limited use of force. Peacekeeping troops carry weapons but they are given orders to use force only in self-defense.

Today, United Nations peacekeeping forces are working all around the world to keep countries stable, prevent violence and keep people safe.


© 2005, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Peacekeeper

Peacekeeping troops are supposed to come from neutral, mid-level countries. These countries should not be involved or interested in the conflict. The ground troops are allowed to carry weapons, but are only supposed to use them in self-defense.

United Nations

©2005 United Nations


The Suez Crisis was solved through the creativity, diplomacy and negotiating skills of the great Canadian statesman Lester B. Pearson. Pearson worked with a small, international team at the United Nations (UN). The team included the Swedish Secretary-General of the UN, Dag Hammarskjold; African American Ralph Bunche; and Sir Brian Urquhart from England.

Pearson would later become Prime Minister of Canada, serving from 1963 to 1968. In 1956, however, he was Canada’s Secretary of State for External Affairs, representing Canada around the world. He played a crucial role in finding a peaceful solution to the Suez Crisis by suggesting "an emergency international United Nations force to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities" – in other words, an army designed not to fight, but to keep the peace.

Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in inventing peacekeeping. The Nobel committee said he “saved the world.”

Ralph Bunche also played a major role in implementing this first UN peacekeeping army, the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF). He wrote the original “UN peacekeeping manual&rdquo Read More
The Suez Crisis was solved through the creativity, diplomacy and negotiating skills of the great Canadian statesman Lester B. Pearson. Pearson worked with a small, international team at the United Nations (UN). The team included the Swedish Secretary-General of the UN, Dag Hammarskjold; African American Ralph Bunche; and Sir Brian Urquhart from England.

Pearson would later become Prime Minister of Canada, serving from 1963 to 1968. In 1956, however, he was Canada’s Secretary of State for External Affairs, representing Canada around the world. He played a crucial role in finding a peaceful solution to the Suez Crisis by suggesting "an emergency international United Nations force to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities" – in other words, an army designed not to fight, but to keep the peace.

Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in inventing peacekeeping. The Nobel committee said he “saved the world.”

Ralph Bunche also played a major role in implementing this first UN peacekeeping army, the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF). He wrote the original “UN peacekeeping manual” that was used to help train peacekeeping soldiers for decades.

The Commander of the UNEF was General E.L.M Burns, from Québec.

© 2005, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Lester B. Pearson

Lester B. Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his role in solving the Suez Crisis and in the process creating what we now know as peacekeeping.

Canadian Heritage Information Network

© Library and Archives of Canada.


The United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was the world’s first peacekeeping army. It helped to resolve a tense international conflict – the Suez Crisis – and as a result saved many lives.

Before the arrival of the UNEF, the Suez Crisis involved troops from Egypt, Israel, Britain and France. If the UNEF had not brought an end to the fighting, the Suez Crisis could have become much worse and grown to draw in soldiers and citizens from across that entire region – and from around the world.

According to the UN’s guidelines, a peacekeeping force like the UNEF can only enter a country when it is invited. Peacekeepers are considered guests in the countries in which they serve.

In addition to maintaining security, the peacekeeping soldiers – who are often called “blue helmets” because of their distinctive headgear – are now working more and more on “peace-building”. Peace-building includes activities such as clearing landmines and rebuilding damaged structures like buildings and roads.

Today, the UN is overseeing about sixteen peacekeeping operations around the world. These Read More

The United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was the world’s first peacekeeping army. It helped to resolve a tense international conflict – the Suez Crisis – and as a result saved many lives.

Before the arrival of the UNEF, the Suez Crisis involved troops from Egypt, Israel, Britain and France. If the UNEF had not brought an end to the fighting, the Suez Crisis could have become much worse and grown to draw in soldiers and citizens from across that entire region – and from around the world.

According to the UN’s guidelines, a peacekeeping force like the UNEF can only enter a country when it is invited. Peacekeepers are considered guests in the countries in which they serve.

In addition to maintaining security, the peacekeeping soldiers – who are often called “blue helmets” because of their distinctive headgear – are now working more and more on “peace-building”. Peace-building includes activities such as clearing landmines and rebuilding damaged structures like buildings and roads.

Today, the UN is overseeing about sixteen peacekeeping operations around the world. These operations involve over 64,000 troops from more than 100 countries.

Five of these missions started during the Cold War, between 1945 and 1989. They are: the United States of America (USA) and the United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). The operations that began in this period are:

  • The United Nations Military Observation Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), which is stationed on the border between the two countries;
  • The United Nations Peacekeeping Force In Cyprus (UNFICYP);
  • The United Nations Disengagement Observation Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights area of the Middle East;
  • The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL); and
  • The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), also in the Middle East.

In 2004 top ten countries supplying troops to UN peacekeeping missions were Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jordan, Nigeria, Uruguay, and South Africa. Canada is ranked 34th as a troop supplier.


© 2005, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Peacekeeper with Children

Peacekeepers are not only emergency forces. They help people in a variety of difficult situations, and lend a helping hand where they are needed and when they are asked.

United Nations

©2005 United Nations


“They had light arms, they had personal weapons, but they are not allowed to use force either except in self-defense.... It had never been done before, so we had to invent everything as we went along, including the headgear and the rules and everything.”
–Sir Brian Urquhart

The United Nations (UN) responded to the Suez Crisis with a series of resolutions. Specifically, the UN resolutions numbered 997 through 1000 addressed the Suez Crisis, and were voted on by the United Nations General Assembly – representatives from all the countries that were members of the UN.

Lester B. Pearson’s proposal to set up a new kind of peacekeeping army was approved by the General Assembly as resolution 998 (ES-I), on November 4, 1956, 57 countries voted for it; none voted against it; and 19 countries did not vote.

Today, a UN resolution is still required to start a peacekeeping mission. These missions depend on a complex set of international agreements and laws.

All UN member countries share the costs of peacekeeping operations, and give different amounts of money depending on their “capacity to pay.&r Read More

“They had light arms, they had personal weapons, but they are not allowed to use force either except in self-defense.... It had never been done before, so we had to invent everything as we went along, including the headgear and the rules and everything.”
–Sir Brian Urquhart

The United Nations (UN) responded to the Suez Crisis with a series of resolutions. Specifically, the UN resolutions numbered 997 through 1000 addressed the Suez Crisis, and were voted on by the United Nations General Assembly – representatives from all the countries that were members of the UN.

Lester B. Pearson’s proposal to set up a new kind of peacekeeping army was approved by the General Assembly as resolution 998 (ES-I), on November 4, 1956, 57 countries voted for it; none voted against it; and 19 countries did not vote.

Today, a UN resolution is still required to start a peacekeeping mission. These missions depend on a complex set of international agreements and laws.

All UN member countries share the costs of peacekeeping operations, and give different amounts of money depending on their “capacity to pay.” Each country pays its own soldiers and is in turn paid about US $1000 per month per soldier by the UN.

The UN provides all peacekeeping troops with instruction on how to best do their jobs. Part of this instruction is “sensitivity training,” which helps peacekeepers understand the people and culture of the country in which they will be stationed. Booklets such as Ten Rules: Code of Personal Conduct for Blue Helmets (see illustration at left) are used to keep all peacekeepers focused on the ideals and goals of the mission.


© 2005, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

10 rules for peacekeepers

Ten Rules

United Nations

©2005 United Nations


Rules 5-10 for peacekeepers

Ten Rules

United Nations

©2005 United Nations


Peacekeeping was not one of the original jobs of the United Nations (UN), and is not mentioned in the original 1945 UN Charter. However, the outcome of the Suez Crisis convinced people that peacekeeping was a valuable new tool. Within a few years, peacekeepers became symbols of a new age of conflict resolution and world government.

Peacekeeping missions were implemented thirteen times in the UN’s first forty years. These missions have become larger and more complex since 1989. That was the year that the Berlin Wall fell – an event that many people believed marked the end of political divisions in Europe. The Cold War between the United States of America (USA) and the United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) also ended in 1989. In 1992, the UN created a Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

Since then, many new peacekeeping missions have been created that include non-military people and organizations. Including these non-military – or civilian – elements ensures sustainability, and allows peacekeeping missions to take on other tasks, such as “peacemaking” and “peace-building.”

Peacekeeping is a low- Read More
Peacekeeping was not one of the original jobs of the United Nations (UN), and is not mentioned in the original 1945 UN Charter. However, the outcome of the Suez Crisis convinced people that peacekeeping was a valuable new tool. Within a few years, peacekeepers became symbols of a new age of conflict resolution and world government.

Peacekeeping missions were implemented thirteen times in the UN’s first forty years. These missions have become larger and more complex since 1989. That was the year that the Berlin Wall fell – an event that many people believed marked the end of political divisions in Europe. The Cold War between the United States of America (USA) and the United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) also ended in 1989. In 1992, the UN created a Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

Since then, many new peacekeeping missions have been created that include non-military people and organizations. Including these non-military – or civilian – elements ensures sustainability, and allows peacekeeping missions to take on other tasks, such as “peacemaking” and “peace-building.”

Peacekeeping is a low-cost activity compared to military action, even with the increase in the complexity and number of operations. The UN expects to have spent just under US $4 billion on peacekeeping for 2004, and Secretary-General Kofi Annan says that the UN has spent about US $30 billion on peacekeeping operations over its entire history. This may sound like a lot of money, but it is equal to just one thirtieth of the amount spent in 2003 alone on military operations around the world.

UN peacekeeping asks many countries to work together and share the burden of peace. But in the long term, peacekeeping is designed to create positive change by building a more stable and secure world for all of us.

© 2005, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Map of ongoing peacekeeping missions

Ongoing Peacekeeping Missions as of June 2004.

United Nations

©2005 United Nations


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

•Understand the evolution of peacekeeping
•Investigate the historical and modern-day implications of the ground-breaking formation of the first United Nations peacekeeping troops
•Explore the ways people with diverse backgrounds work together in spite of their differences
•Discover how Lester B. Pearson played a crucial role in finding a peaceful solution to the Suez Crisis
•Discover that without the United Nations Emergency Force, the Suez Crisis may have resulted in much greater international conflict
•Outline the rules and roles of peacekeeping forces
•Explain that the United Nations Emergency Force was made up of soldiers from many countries
•Understand that peacekeeping was not one of the original jobs of the United Nations
• Learn that since the Suez crisis, many new peacekeeping missions have been created
•Consider that peacekeeping is designed to create positive change by building a more stable world
• Understand that all UN troops are provided with “sensitivity training,” which helps peacekeepers understand the people and culture of the country in which they will be stationed


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