Armaments and International Civil Order


By: Gerald F. Witherspoon, Sr.


According to Harvey Langholtz, “Peacekeeping forces are generally lightly armed and will deploy with only the armaments required for self-defence, consistent with the mandate and the situation in the area” (2009, 17).

Some have argued: No weapons, no peace. Although international civilian police officers do not compete with military personnel in an effort to amass the most casualties, peacekeeping operations may require the use of force. The UN has been authorized by the Security Council to “use all means necessary” for three particular purposes (2014):

  1. Deter forceful attempts to disrupt the political process
  2. Protect civilians from high threats of deadly violence
  3. Collaborate with national authorities to maintain law and order

An international civilian police officer would be well served by understanding the importance of these boundaries as to avoid becoming a casualty her or himself or a violator of international law. For example, she or he would not be obligated to allow a violent overthrow of an established government or the ordering of a governmental election process to go un-averted. Nor would she or he be obligated to stand idly by and allow the indiscriminate killing of civilians out of an unfounded speculation that authorized force is only granted to the military. Further, if the national authorities responsible for maintaining law and order were overcome or outnumbered by a member of the conflicting parties, the international civilian police officer would not be outside of her or his respective authority to assist the national authority in achieving stability.

However, she or he would need to exercise self-restraint and discipline. This speaks to the principle of “last resort.” There may well be the need to substantiate that all other options were exhausted and the decision to engage forcefully was indeed last resort. To that accord the international civilian police officer would need to remain vigilant at all times ensuring compliance with the mission mandate and operating within the confines of proportionality or the “principle of the minimum force necessary to achieve the desired effect” (UN 2014).
Therefore, an international civilian officer is neither a sitting duck with a badge, nor a toy cop without the ability to use force; She or he is a professional, hired and trained to carry out a professional mandate in adherence with professional and international standards.


Langholtz, Harvey J. (ed). 2009. United Nations Police: Restoring Civil Order Following Hostilities. Peace Operations Training Institute.

United Nations. Principles of UN Peacekeeping. 2014. (accessed December 11, 2014).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s