Glossary of Terms

Peace Operations Glossary



Applicable Law :
In some post-conflict environments there may not be agreement between the parties on the applicable legal code, whether substantive or procedural. The question of which law to apply is essentially a political issue that cannot be resolved by a peacekeeping mission. Agreement among the parties as to the applicable law is an important first step in judicial and rule of law reform. (ref. Conflict of Laws and Hague Convention 1996)

Capacity Building / Capacity Development :
The development of self-sustainable knowledge, skills and attitudes in individuals and groups relevant to the design, development and maintenance of an institution, operational infrastructures and processes that are locally meaningful.

Conflict Resolution :
The methods and processes involved in facilitating the peaceful ending of conflict. through negotiation, mediation, diplomacy, and creative peacebuilding.

Coup d’état :
Sudden, violent overthrow of a government by a small group, usually the military.

Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration (DDR) :
Disarmament entails the physical removal of the means of combat from ex-belligerents (weapons, ammunition, etc.); demobilization entails the disbanding of armed groups; while reintegration describes the process of rentegrating former combatants into civil society, ensuring against the possibility of a resurgence of armed conflict.

Ethnicity :
A social group distinguished, by others or by itself, on the basis of its unique culture, national origin, or racial characteristics.

Forced Migration / Forced Displacement :
The coerced movement of a person or persons away from their home or home region.

Formed Police Unit (FPU) :
Police teams (platoon and company strength) specialised in public order management e.g. protests, riots etc. Often referred to as Riot Police.

fragile and conflict affected states

International Policing :
An umbrella term for four law enforcement fields:

  1. formalised international law enforcement investigation bodies (e.g. Interpol, Europol, ICC etc.)
  2. police cooperation (transnational, regional, global) – information sharing, joint investigations, training etc.
  3. integrated Rule of Law and Security Sector Reform Missions (e.g. peacekeeping, peace-building, civilian crisis management etc.)
  4. comparative policing

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) :
People forced to flee their homes but who, unlike refugees, remain within their country’s borders.

Mandate :
The term “mandate” refers to the governing principles and length of time under which entities, such as the UN (peacekeeping forces, assistance missions or offices, representatives of the Secretary-General, or groups of experts) have been authorized to perform tasks.

Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) :
A document describing a bilateral or multilateral agreement between parties. It expresses a convergence of will between the parties, indicating an intended common line of action. It most often is used in cases where parties either do not imply a legal commitment or in situations where the parties cannot create a legally enforceable agreement.

Mediate / Mediation :
An attempt to bring about a peaceful settlement or compromise between disputants through the objective intervention of a neutral party.

Mentorship / Mentoring :
Developmental faciliation in which a more experienced or knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person, through an ongoing relationship of learning, dialogue, and challenge.

Monitor / Monitoring :
To observe the behaviour of individuals/groups or a situation for any changes which may occur over time.

Non-Compliance Report :
Used in Monitoring Missions, the Non-Compliance Report details points where an individual has violated or not fulfilled their duties and/or responsibilities.

Peacemaking :
Peacemaking brings hostile parties to agreement through diplomatic means.

Peacebuilding :
intervention designed to prevent the start or resumption of violent conflict by creating the conditions that promote a sustainable peace.

Peace Enforcement :
Entails the physical intervention of armed forces to separate ongoing combatants to create a cease-fire that does not exist.

Peacekeeping :
Involves monitoring and enforcing a cease-fire agreed to by two or more former combatants. It proceeds in an atmosphere where peace exists and where the former combatants minimally prefer peace to continued war.

Peace Support Operations (PSOs):
The term “Peace Support Operation” is now widely used by many agencies to describe their activities in complex humanitarian emergencies. PSOs are multi-functional operations, conducted impartially, normally in support of an internationally recognised organisation such as the UN or Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), involving military forces, international police, diplomatic and humanitarian agencies. PSO are designed to achieve a long-term political settlement or other specified conditions. They include Peacekeeping and Peace Enforcement as well as conflict prevention, peacemaking, peace building and humanitarian relief.

All enforcement operations are conducted with restraint, in adherence to the Law of Armed Conflict. PSO are neither in support of, nor against a particular party, but rather are conducted in an impartial and even-handed manner. PSO are designed to create a secure environment in which civilian agencies can rebuild the infrastructure necessary to create a self-sustaining peace.

Refugee :
A refugee is a person who has been forced to live outside of their own country or habitual residence because they have suffered (or fear) persecution due to their ethnicity, religion, nationality, or political opinion, or because they are fleeing armed conflict.

[The] Role of Police :

  • Law enforcement officials shall at all times fulfil the duty imposed on them by law, by serving the community and by protecting all persons against illegal acts, consistent with the high degree of responsibility required by their profession.
  • Law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.
  • Law enforcement officials shall not commit any act of corruption.
  • The term “law enforcement officials” includes all officers of the law, whether appointed or selected, who exercise police powers, especially the powers of arrest or detention.
  • In countries where police powers are exercised by military authorities, whether uniformed or not, or by State security forces, the definition of law enforcenent officials shall be regarded as including such services.UN Blue Book

Rule of Law (RoL) :
Is intended to be a safeguard against arbitrary governance. Whether governor or governed, rulers or ruled, no one is above the law, no one is exempted from the law, and no one can grant exemption to the application of the law.

Rules of Engagement (RoE):
Rules or directives to military forces (including individuals) that define the circumstances, conditions, degree, and manner in which force, or actions which might be construed as provocative, may be applied.

Security Sector :
The structures, institutions and personnel responsible for the management, provision and oversight of security in a country, including:

  • defence, law enforcement, corrections, intelligence services, border management, customs, civil emergencies, the judicial sector responsible for the adjudication of cases of alleged criminal conduct and misuse of force
  • actors that play a role in managing and overseeing the design and implementation of security, such as ministries, legislative bodies and civil society groups
  • non-State actors that could be considered as part of the security sector include customary or informal authorities and private security services.

Security Sector Reform (SSR):
Refers to a process of rebuilding/reforming a state’s security sector through assessment, review and implementation as well as monitoring and evaluation.

S.M.A.R.T. = Support for human rights, Monitoring, Advising, Reporting, and Training

  • Advise
  • Mentor
  • Monitor
  • Observe

S.O.F.A. = Status of Forces Agreement
An agreement between a host country and the UN/ESDP/NATO regarding the stationing of military forces in that country. The purpose of such an agreement is to set forth rights and responsibilities between the peacekeeping forces and the host government on such matters as criminal and civil jurisdiction, the wearing of the uniform, the carrying of arms, tax and customs relief, entry and exit of personnel and property, and resolving damage claims.

S.O.M.A. = Status of Mission Agreement
In which the status, privileges and immunities of a Mission and its members (diplomats, police, civilian adminstration etc.) are defined and set out.

Sovereignty :
The ability of the State to act as ultimate rule making and rule enforcing organisation; supreme authority within a territory. The state is the political institution in which sovereignty is embodied. In practice this equates to:

  • domestic sovereignty – actual control over a state exercised by an authority organized within this state
  • interdependence sovereignty – actual control of movement across state’s borders
  • international legal sovereignty – formal recognition by other sovereign states

State :
A State is a sovereign political entity in public international law; a society having exclusive domain over a territory. The State carries out a number of functions including the provision of security, extracting revenues, and forming rules for resolving disputes and allocating resources within the boundaries of the territory in which it exercises jurisdiction. It also claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within its given territory.

Terrorism :
Most definitions of terrorism refer only to those violent acts that are intended to create fear (terror); are perpetrated for a religious, political, or ideological goal; and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants(e.g., neutral personnel or civilians).

“The purpose of terrorism is to strike fear into the hearts of opponents in order to win political concession.”

United Nations Resolution :
A formal text adopted by a United Nations body. Although any UN body can issue resolutions, in practice most resolutions are issued by the Security Council or the General Assembly. Under Article 25 of the Charter, UN member states are bound to carry out “decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the Charter”, however under Articles 10 and 14 of the UN Charter, General Assembly resolutions are considered be non-binding “recommendations”.

United Nations Security Council Resolution (SCR) :
A resolution voted on by the fifteen members of the United Nations Security Council; charged with “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security”. The UN Charter specifies (in Article 27) that a draft resolution on non-procedural matters is adopted if nine or more of the fifteen Council members vote for the resolution, and if it is not vetoed by any of the five permanent members.

Use of Force / Reasonable Use of Force :
Right of an individual or authority to settle conflicts or prevent certain actions by using force to either: a) dissuade another party from a particular course of action, or b) physically intervene to stop them.


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