Hope For Returning UN Peacekeepers

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By, KRISTIAM HERRERA-CARRASCO, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Within the current atmosphere of the post-conflict zones, the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces seeks to instigate a collaborative effort in order that those who are leaving the battlefield might be able to re-enter society once more.  This is obviously a great move forward into a progressive future, one that could foster hope for combatants, their families, and even the members of those societies of which they would become a part. Future conflicts, if they should appear inevitably, may lose more of their bleak outlook if the individual combatants do not have to surrender their whole identity as a person because of their involvement.

It is an unfortunate presumption that those who fight in wars would be deemed persons who have sacrificed their humanity. After all, killing another human being must require a person devoid of empathy – such is the typical perspective of those who have never been involved in war of any kind. With the help of the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) process, this type of negativity could become a thing of the past. We cannot forget that these fighters are still human. They have had to live without the basic comforts of functioning society.

The UN Peacekeeping Forces has not operated entirely without criticism, of course. Some of their efforts have created quite a stir, especially with gun owners in the United States of America.  The Small Arms Treaty attempt at disarmament of returning American soldiers is one example of an initiative that sparked some controversy. In the viewpoint of the DDR processes’ opponents, the United Nations seems to be quite determined to remove any sign of weapons among civilians. This is seen as a means to wipe out civilians’ protective measures. Yet it is unlikely that the UN intends to leave societies unsafe. Their desire is to see peacekeeping through to the end, and in turn, tying up the loose ends – “loose ends” representing the many returning combatants who have become displaced in their own motherlands.

Such an expansive process like DDR will indeed require trial and error, and, as a result, such a process leaves many anxious about the consequences of the “disarmed.” Still, perhaps it would be more effective to focus on the very real issue of soldiers’ displacement. The efforts of reintegration might be the most pertinent at hand. If the UN can properly execute the final part of the whole DDR process, then the problems that arise from disarmament and demobilization can be assessed. It may be better to aim towards peacekeeping that successfully includes the returning combatants in the way of reintegration. Once our soldiers can feel completely as part of their society’s established peace – once the process can be finished through and through – then we may be able to address the validity of the concerns.

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