Peacekeeping - The United Nations Blue Helmets and What They Do


Peacekeepers are groups of soldiers, officers or civilians that go to a conflict area and try to keep warring parties apart. They do many things, for example, monitor elections, organize meetings between enemy factions or protect human rights.

UN peacekeepers are often called Blue Helmets because of their headgear. The United Nations Security Council must approve of peacekeeping missions before soldiers are sent there. Sometimes the UN gives NATO or other military organizations permission to send peacekeepers to conflict areas.

Peacekeepers are not always soldiers. Although they carry weapons they are only allowed to fight back when attacked. Normally peacekeepers are sent to conflict areas to observe a ceasefire and keep enemies apart. In the meantime diplomats can try to find a political solution in a conflict.

The first United Nations peacekeeping operation started in 1948, only three years after the UN had been founded . UN soldiers were sent to the Middle East to supervise the conflict between Israel , which had just become an independent country, and the Arab states.

In 1953 UN forces lined up on the border between North and South Korea after the Korean War where they stayed until American soldiers took over in 1967.

Not all peacekeeping is controlled by the United Nations. Mostly American soldiers have been on duty on the Sinai Peninsula since Egypt made peace with Israel in the 1970s. In the 1990s NATO sent troops to Bosnia and Kosovo with permission by the UN.




Peacekeeping missions are not always successful . In Somalia UN peacekeepers failed to stop a civil war among the warlords of the country. They also failed in Rwanda where hundreds of thousands of people were killed.

Under the UN charter all member states are required to supply troops where necessary to help secure peace. However , mostly developing countries send soldiers on UN peacekeeping missions.  In the past years Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Egypt have made up most of the Blue Helmet contingent

Since the founding of the United Nations in 1945 about one million soldiers, policeman and civilians have fought for peace in various hotspots all over the world. Peacekeeping costs a lot of money. Especially since the end of the Cold War costs have gone up dramatically . Missions in the Balkans and in Somalia cost the United Nations billions of dollars.

UN peacekeepers are very often in danger. They only have light equipment and often lack the weapons to keep the warring parties apart. When stationed in a crisis area for a longer period of time peacekeepers suffer from stress and develop mental problems. In many cases they are attacked by guerrillas or other groups who do not want them there.



Related Topics



  • approve = to say yes
  • billion = a thousand million
  • border = the line between two countries
  • ceasefire = when two or more groups agree to stop fighting for a period of time
  • charter = agreement, written document
  • civil war = conflict in which two groups of the same country fight against each other
  • civilian = a person who is not in the army
  • conflict area = place where there is a war or where people fight against each other
  • contingent = party, group
  • develop = get, have
  • developingcountry = poor country of the Third World
  • dramatically = very much
  • equipment = tools, machines, weapons
  • especially = above all
  • faction = group
  • fail = not succeed
  • forces = group of soldiers
  • foundfounded = to start something new
  • guerrilla = member of a small military group that fights against a government or other groups
  • headgear = what you wear on your head
  • hotspot = area of conflict or crisis
  • however = but
  • human rights = the basic rights that people should have, like the right to vote or the right to express their opinion
  • in the meantime = in the time between …
  • independent = free
  • lack = to have not enough of something
  • line up = to take up a position
  • mental = about the mind
  • mission = job
  • NATO = North Atlantic Treaty Organization ; group of countries including the USA, Canada and European countries that give military help to each other
  • observe = control, watch
  • officer = someone who is in a high position in the army
  • on duty = work
  • operation = mission, action
  • peninsula = piece of land that has water around it on three sides
  • permission = to allow something
  • protect = guard, defend
  • require = have to
  • secure = make
  • Security Council = most powerful part of the United Nations; it decides what the UN should do in case of conflicts or war; the Security Council has five permanent members (the USA, Russia, China, France, Great Britain) and 10 non-permanent members who change every two years
  • soldier = member of an army of a country
  • solution = answer, result, way out
  • station = place, put
  • successful = to go well
  • suffer = feel
  • supervise = control , watch
  • supply = send, give
  • take over = to get control from someone else
  • troops = soldiers
  • various = different
  • warlord = leader of a military group that fights against other groups or the government
  • warring = at war
  • weapon = objects you use to fight , like a gun or knife