You are here: Sir Brian Urquhart quote on UN Peacekeeping

“A peacekeeping force is like a family friend who has moved into a household stricken by disaster.  It must conciliate, console, and discreetly run the household without ever appearing to dominate or usurp the natural rights of those it is helping.  There have been times when the peacekeeping function was more like that of an attendant in a lunatic asylum, and the soldiers had to accept abuse and harassment without getting into physical conflict or emotional involvement with the inmates.  The feelings and reactions of peacekeepers must be kept under rigid control and must always come second to those of the afflicted. Thus they must often turn the other cheek, and never, except in the most extreme circumstances, use their weapons or shoot their way out of a situation.  But they must also be firm and assert their authority in violent situations

“In the scores of visits I have paid to peacekeeping operations in different parts of the world, they have seemed to me to be a microcosm of what a reasonable, cooperative international community might be.  The soldiers from every corner of the world, with their different racial backgrounds, customs, languages, and military traditions, work together in an atmosphere of friendship, dedication, and mutual support which is deeply moving.  If the armies of the great nuclear powers could participate in this civilizing experience - and why not? - we might make an important step toward the realization that in our hazardous times common endeavour must supersede old antagonisms.”

Sir Brian Urquhart's insightful and poetic take on UN Peacekeeping, taken from A Life in Peace and War – Sir Brian’s 1986 autobiography which current Secretary-General Antonio Guterres describes as “required reading for all who work for the United Nations and for all who wish to understand the Organization’s work”.