A Tale of Three Nations?: The Role of United Nations Peacekeepers and Missions on the Concept of Nation-State, Nationalism, and Ownership of the State in Lebanon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Kosovo


The concept of nationalism of ideology and shared values has existed since Biblical times, and has only become more prominent in societal structure in the centuries which have followed . Many attempts to define what is and is not nationalism have been made throughout history, yet despite these attempts there is no perfect formula for what gives rise to nationalism or what makes a nation-state and how to create it. However, at its core a nation is made of people, and all nations, regardless of organization, ideology, or ethnicity, turn to law to control – if not shape – their societies. This duality of basic composition is perhaps best illustrated by the Black’s Law Dictionary definitions of “nation” and “state.” According to these definitions, a “nation” is “[a] large group of people having a common origin, language, and tradition and usually constituting a political entity,” while a “state” is “[t]he political system of a body of people who are politically organized; the system of rules by which jurisdiction and authority are exercised over such a body of people.” From this emerges the unity of people and law which forms the fundamental core of the global concept of a nation-state,, regardless of where one believes the concept itself originated.

With the advent of the United Nations (U. N.) in the aftermath of World War II, nations and nationalism became framed in the concept of “self-determination.” This concept has taken on a life of its own and has been used in the international law realm to support the idea of breaking up states and providing support for splinter groups wishing to form their own states, regardless of whether these groups were part of the colonial apparatus that the United Nations’ charter was intended to eradicate. The U. N. Charter also charges the members of the Security Council with maintaining international “peace and security.” From its initial conception as a means to stop interstate conflicts, the “peace and security” preservation strand of the U. N. Charter has been used in conjunction with the military portions of the Charter to justify the creation and deployment of United Nations peacekeepers to areas of intrastate and intra-society conflict as well. From keepers of peace and protectors of innocent populations, U. N. peacekeeping missions have come to encompass multi-faceted operations which attempt not only to protect human innocents, but also to create a legal and governmental structure for the affected areas. Many of the legal systems which the U. N. attempts to impose in the areas where peacekeepers are deployed involve creating a constitution which, at least in name, guarantees that all peoples in an affected area are represented in various governmental and political bodies.

This article will address the issue of whether U. N. peacekeeping missions and their attendant attempts to restructure the laws and governments of the affected areas actually promote the creation of a healthy and viable nation-state. By examining three United Nations missions – the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (UNMONUC) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) – this article will examine several cases to see whether these peacekeeping missions do in fact lead to viable nation-states. The areas to be examined are the physical stability of the area and the ability of the peacekeepers and missions to prevent and respond to violence; the stated goals and activities of the peacekeepers and the missions for the affected areas; and the constitutional and/or governing documents which the missions have either promulgated or are in the process of attempting to promulgate for the affected areas.


International Law | Law and Society | Organizations Law

Date of this Version

November 2005