During the meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations held in September 2014 in New York, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced the intention of the Mexican State to participate in Peacekeeping Operations (PMO) of the UN. Derived from this declaration, on October 1, 2018, the National Defense Secretariat (SEDENA) inaugurated the Joint Training Center for Peace Operations in order to train military and civilian officers in these missions.
In the framework of the Mexican presidential transition, the government to take office in December 2018 has declared its intention to ensure unrestricted compliance with the constitutional principles regarding foreign policy. Thus, we are faced with a dilemma as to whether participation in the PMOs will strengthen or transgress these guiding principles. Is it possible to bring Mexican multilateralism to the level of PMOs? What are the risks and opportunities for Mexico to participate?
The main objective of the PMOs is to safeguard the state of peace reached after an armed conflict, whether by a treaty or an armistice. They were born with the objective that a neutral actor (composed of elements from different countries) prevents a localized conflict from spreading to involve larger geopolitical interests.
It is important to note that it is the developing countries that have contributed most to the formation of PMOs. Mexico -for example- is one of the main financial contributors to these missions and has contributed with civilian elements for its development. However, the Mexican State has not participated with military personnel in any international operation.
However, the fight against organized crime that began in 2006 has exposed the Armed Forces to national and international media, particularly the perception that they have systematically violated the Human Rights of the civilian population in this fight. In this sense, their participation in OMP can be an opportunity to improve their reputation by carrying out humanitarian work within the framework of International Law; or a risk if they commit human rights violations while carrying out these missions.
On the other hand, PMOs are no longer limited to monitoring armistices. They have been entrusted with more proactive tasks such as: public security in peacebuilding processes, humanitarian work by natural catastrophes, implementing diplomatic channels to guarantee a lasting peace, promoting trust between the parties in conflict, advising on electoral processes ( in which Mexico has been very active), contribute to the creation of Rule of Law and implement programs for social development. In this sense, precisely the fight against organized crime has given the Mexican army experience, training and resources that can serve these objectives necessary to achieve lasting peace in the States in conflict.
Making the jump from a welfare profile to an intervenor profile is justifiable with a renewed reading of the guiding principles of Mexican diplomacy. But it is crucial that this new reading be accompanied by an analysis of the risks involved. An important task for the government to take office in 2018 will be to carefully analyze the risks of the participation of military contingents in the PMOs.
It must be borne in mind that there are three ways in which Mexico can send military personnel to OMP: through national contingents, hiring private military companies, and with mixed contingents. However, the debate on the best way to manage Mexico’s participation in Peacekeeping Operations only makes sense if the Mexican State has a real intention to intervene more actively in these missions. The foregoing should be seen as a long-term internal and external policy strategy. In this sense, the PMOs are a window of opportunity for Mexico to position itself as an average power and exercise leadership in the international concert. The Joint Training Center of SEDENA will undoubtedly be crucial to achieve these objectives, as long as it has the resources and the necessary budget to do so.
Likewise, it must be considered that sending elements of our armed forces to OMP is an alternative, in the long term, for the armed forces to leave the internal security tasks against organized crime. It is also an opportunity for the transparency and accountability of SEDENA and SEMAR with the help of international pressure. In addition, carrying out this type of operation favors the professionalization and training of the elements of the armed forces.
On the other hand, the recognition by the Mexican government of its limitations to carry out an effective humanitarian intervention could lead to a public-private partnership between the Mexican State and private military companies, either subcontracting the entire operation or sharing it. , where each one would contribute the experience they have in the different tasks of the PMS. In this sense, Mexico could innovate in the administration of the PMS, which, obviously, implies risks, which can be overcome through better national regulations in this type of associations and a better delivery of military justice. Likewise, this association could be the catalyst for the international community to regulate the intervention of private companies in areas of conflict or fragile states.
Finally, it is clear that Mexico has opted for multilateralism in its foreign policy agenda strategy and is very clear about its proposal to reform the United Nations Security Council. Mexico can not wait for the international community to take into account its proposals on these sensitive issues if it does not participate actively in the construction of peace in the world. It is not enough the diplomatic task and the soft power to be a middle power, it is necessary to get involved militarily in the construction of international peace. It will be necessary to give a precise follow-up to how the PMOs will be addressed within the national and international policy agenda of the government of President López Obrador.
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