The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon

Multiple Perspectives on a Multinational Peace Operation

by Elena Aoun (Volume editor)
©2018 Edited Collection 340 Pages


UN Peacekeeping is a complex endeavor resting on multinational partnership in strained contexts. Diverse national interests, doctrines, policies, and cultures come together in one operation to pursue common goals defined by the UN Security Council. They do so with usually ambiguous mandates and often find themselves operating in intricate environments. This is particularly true in the case of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. The UNIFIL has been deployed since 1978 in South Lebanon to prevent hostilities between Israel and non-state actors operating from the Lebanese territory. Over the decades, it has witnessed significant shifts in its security and political environments yet survived them. The Force and its mandate have been significantly strengthened in the aftermath of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. Its large contingent often draws from over thirty troop-contributing countries. Combined with a volatile political and strategic context, this diversity makes the UNIFIL a particularly interesting case to study the various challenges facing multinational peacekeeping.
This book brings together researchers and practitioners from various backgrounds, including from the two beneficiaries of the UNIFIL – Lebanon and Israel. Grounding their contributions either on first-hand experience or on fieldwork, the authors address a variety of issues affecting a peace mission such as the UNIFIL. The first set of contributions investigates the defining features of UNIFIL’s environment from different perspectives. The second set analyzes the multicultural challenges to the peace operation with a focus on European countries. The third one explores the rise of non-European countries. Overall, through the case of the UNIFIL, the various chapters weave a broad picture of today’s peacekeeping, the challenges it faces, and avenues for the enhancement of its effectiveness.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Foreword. Studying Peacekeeping Requires Patience and Stamina (Joseph Soeters)
  • The UNIFIL: Multiple Perspectives on a Peace Operation’s Challenges and Effectiveness (Elena Aoun / Efrat Elron)
  • Part One. Defining Features of the Local Environment of the UNIFIL: Politics, History, Perceptions
  • The Evolving Environment of UNIFIL. Old Challenges and New Threats (Elena Aoun)
  • Lebanese Perceptions of the UNIFIL. Views from the South (Matthieu Cimino / Nadim Farhat)
  • The European Involvement in Post-2006 UNIFIL. The Art of the Possible (Elena Aoun)
  • Turkey’s Role in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) (Ünsal Sığrı / A. Kadir Varoğlu / Serdar Genç / Demet Varoğlu)
  • Part Two. Multicultural Challenges to Peacekeeping
  • Between National Character and Multinational Coexistence. The Italian Contingent in UNIFIL II (2008-2014) (Giulia Aubry)
  • Smaller Contingents in Peace Operations. Comparing Slovenian and Belgium Cultures and Perceptions within UNIFIL (Janja Vuga Beršnak / Delphine Resteigne / Ljubica Jelušič)
  • Multicultural Challenges in Peace Operations. The Case of Germany’s Involvement in UNIFIL’s Maritime Task Force (Sonja A. Sackmann / Manuela Bräuer)
  • Europeans to the Front! The Role of France, Italy and Spain in the UNIFIL Enhancement (Alexander Mattelaer)
  • Part Three. The Rise of Non-European Troop-Contributing Countries
  • UN Peacekeeping Operations. Perspective of an Indian Peacekeeper (Major General AK Bardalai)
  • UNIFIL’S East Asian Presence. Pioneering a Peacemaking Role in the Middle East (Eduardo Lachica)
  • Contributors
  • Series Index

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This edited volume has taken several years to come to fruition. For a variety of reasons, some authors have opted out along the process, some others have kindly accepted to join in, and many have stuck to the project since its beginning and accepted to adapt their chapters as the concept of the book evolved. Without naming them, I would like to thank each and every one of them.

I would also like to thank a small set of institutions that have been involved in the prehistory of the project and have provided either financial or logistic support to early meetings: the Fondation Saint-Cyr, Università Roma Tre, the Toledo International Centre for Peace, and the International Peace Institute.

I am very grateful to Joseph Soeters who has agreed to write the foreword; in my mind, he remains one of the two initiators of the whole adventure. The other one is Efrat Elron who was unfortunately unable to follow the project in its later phases and was short of time to write a chapter centered on Israeli perceptions of the UNIFIL. I want to fully acknowledge the role she has played in the early stages of the project and thank her for all that input.

I am greatly indebted to Annick Bacq who has worked for weeks if not months on the chapters in order to harmonize the spelling, the rules of referencing, and all those minute details that are time-consuming. This is a truly precious though hardly visible work from the outside.

I am also very grateful to the director of this collection, Tanguy de Wilde, who has supported the project and reviewed the book.

My last thanks go to my university, the Université Catholique de Louvain that has provided me with the financial backing necessary to see this book published.

Elena Aoun

Brussels, 12 March 2018 ← 9 | 10 →

← 10 | 11 →

List of Abbreviations

← 14 | 15 →


Studying Peacekeeping Requires Patience and Stamina


Tilburg University
The Netherlands

This book has a long history. Its origin was based on the idea that peacekeeping is a phenomenon that is still little understood. Peacekeeping missions usually commence with challenging, sometimes even impossible mandates that are to be executed in a fuzzy and tense environment. Sometimes the international community is not capable of bringing any clarity in goals and approaches nor in allocating sufficient resources; sometimes the situation on the ground consists of too many intricacies; and sometimes all of these negative conditions apply. This has led to serious failures in the 1990s in which the UN was involved, particularly in Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia (e.g., Barnett and Finnemore, 2004). Unfortunately, these names have become all too familiar because of the endless numbers of people who lost their lives during the killings in those regions.

Besides, there is peace missions’ knotty organizational composition, consisting of military and police troops from a variety of nations added with more cosmopolitan civilian contractors. This composition accounts for inherent complexities in strategy, structure, leadership, process and performance that are hard to solve (e.g., Junk et al., 2017). From an organizational perspective UN missions are likely to belong to the most complex institutions one possibly can imagine; determining their effectiveness is only one dimension of this complexity. Yet, their importance is without question. ← 15 | 16 →

Because of its potential role in solving violent tensions, studying peacekeeping is an urgent matter. This applies all the more to the situation in the Middle East, where the UN-mission UNIFIL aims to play a pivotal role in calming the tensions in the region and controlling military-type movements in the Southern Lebanese borderland.

However, studying peacekeeping and UNIFIL in particular is not an easy matter. The project that results in the current volume was ambitious. Some ten years ago, Efrat Elron from Israel and myself set out to organize a multi-stakeholders-approach to studying UNIFIL from as many perspectives as possible. We had met earlier on various occasions that had led to the publication of a first volume on military cooperation in a variety of multinational peace operations, ranging from East-Timor, Kosovo, Liberia to Iraq and Afghanistan (Soeters and Manigart, 2008). The new idea was to map the multifaceted impact of one mission in one area, i.e. UNIFIL in the South Lebanese border region.

The timing and choice of the project was not coincidental. In 2006 a war had broken out between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. This led the UN Security Council to decide about an almost instant renewal and reinvigoration of the UN mission whose original inception had been several decades earlier in a region that was already highly contested at the time (e.g., Oz, 1989). The number of troops was raised from some 2,000 to about 15,000 uniformed and civilian men and women, including a significant maritime component. The variety of troop-contributing nations increased considerably, with relatively large contributions from a number of European nations at the Mediterranean shores – Italy, Spain, France – next to the more usual contributions from developing nations such as India, Tanzania and Ghana. The variety of troop-contributing nations combined with the interests and action logics of the multiple local stakeholders in both Lebanon and Israel constituted the complexities that we felt necessary to address.

We were able to assemble academics and practitioners, people from the military and civil administration, to get together and discuss the multiple perspectives. We had fruitful workshops, one in Rome in 2008 at the University Roma Tre supported by the Fondation Saint-Cyr, which was called ‘The multi-perspective story of a peace operation’. A year later, hosted by the Toledo International Centre for Peace, we organized a workshop in Madrid, that was called ‘Multiple perspectives on UNIFIL’. In those meetings we aimed to come to an exchange of data, analyses and views with regard to the state of affairs. Participants ← 16 | 17 → were independent general experts in UN peacekeeping and EU politics, academics and reflective commanders from troop-contributing nations, and (in)formal representatives from UNIFIL’s recipients, i.e. Lebanon and Israel, including their respective armed forces. The approach in these conferences was meant to be comprehensive, not leaving any aspect of the matter aside. Between those conferences we visited the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) at UN’s HQs in New York, where we received full recognition for the importance of the work we had set out to do.

The period after the conferences proved to be challenging because participants found it difficult to author contributions that were substantiated enough. The operational arena was difficult to access for a number of participants making thorough data collection and analysis difficult. Some participants had a hard time to produce any written contribution at all because of the ceaselessly changing situation in the political and operational arena in the area and the many interests at stake. This caused a serious delay in the production of this volume.

Thanks to Elena Aoun’s patience and stamina, the current book sees the daylight. She persisted in bringing this project to a proper end, which is admirable in itself. Given the overflow of the current problems in neighboring Syria, the book has not lost any relevance. On the contrary, its importance has grown larger.

In the same vein but with a slightly different structure than originally planned, this volume provides a general overview of the general historical and political context of the UNIFIL-mission. Besides, it produces an analysis of the many multicultural challenges in the mission that emerge from the cooperation of so many troops that vary so largely from each other in all kinds of perspectives.

If this book adds to reveal only parts of these challenges, it has fulfilled its intentions. The conundrum of how to improve UN missions’ effectiveness is still far from being solved, but volumes like these are indispensable to come closer to the goal. ← 17 | 18 →


Barnett, M. and Finnemore, M. (2004) Rules for the World. International Organizations in Global Politics, Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press.

Junk, J., Mancini, F., Seibel, W. and Blume, T. (eds.) (2017) The Management of UN Peacekeeping. Coordination, Learning & Leadership in Peace Operations, Boulder/London: Lynne Rienner.

Oz, A. (1989) The Slopes of Lebanon, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

Soeters, J. and Manigart, Ph. (eds.) Military Cooperation in Multinational Peace Operations. Managing Cultural Diversity and Crisis Response, London/New York: Routledge.

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The UNIFIL: Multiple Perspectives on a Peace Operation’s Challenges and Effectiveness


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (July)
Bruxelles, Bern, Berlin, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2018. 335 p.

Biographical notes

Elena Aoun (Volume editor)

Elena Aoun holds a PhD from Science Po Paris and is currently assistant professor in International Relations at the Université catholique de Louvain. Her research interests revolve around EU foreign policy, the conflicts and crises in the Middle East and international involvement in the region. She also works on security issues and peacekeeping.


Title: The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon