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Peace-Keeping Operations And Sustainable Development Goals: Counterbalancing Neo-Colonialism

The post-colonial world has exerted great pressure on colonial masters in a way that undermines their hegemonic power on the developing states. The output of post-colonialism is the neo-colonial structure in the contemporary world i.e. a gift from colonial legacies.

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Colonialism worked on the principle of exploiting the resources of the global South, while engaging in trade and incorporating missions to create a place for colonial powers. The post-colonial era after the formation of international institutions (United Nations, World Bank etc) paved the road for the neo-colonialist agenda in the developing world as well as socialist regimes to compensate the third world through western economic and political models. The true essence of neo-colonialism lies in the state holding sovereignty only theoretically, where state policies are determined by foreign powers. It involves reimbursements towards the cost of operating the neo-colonial state, the alignment of civil servants in positions where they can determine policy, and the management of financial infrastructure through the implementation of a banking system by international institutions controlled by great powers. Big state and big corporations influence others politically and domestically as a result of neo-colonialist policies. This article presents the contrasting issue of peacekeeping operations and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in relation to the neo-colonialist agenda.

Foreign investments and aid are employed for exploiting third world states rather than improving their status. Neo-colonial investments deepen the divide between the ‘have’ and ‘have-not’ countries, with the goal of maintaining financial dominance of the developed world over the developing world. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are another tool used to ensure major power control over politico-economic stability. The SDGs ostensibly strive to minimize poverty, promote socioeconomic inclusiveness, and preserve the environment with the help of 17 goals and 169 targets (UNSDSN); however, it has been argued that unlike the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the SDGs are difficult to attain and are unquantifiable. Easterly argues that the United Nations, on its mission to improve the standing of third world states, never explained or defined the word ‘Sustainable’. For them everything is a priority which encompasses nothing that is actually important. He claims that the basis of the SDGs is to find answers to the question ‘What should we do?’ but that this is determined by fallacious arguments based on ambiguity in implementing the necessary actions, and action recommendations are the only way to encourage development. The answer to that question lies in the hands of neo-colonialist powers. For example in order to eradicate poverty by 2030, the poverty line has been measured against people living under $1.25 per day. But the credibility of this action falls when the neo-colonialist institution added hundreds or thousands of people in this line by making it $1.9 per day. This instance creates a malicious structure of neo-colonialist powers and their manipulation in order to serve their interests by exploiting ‘others’ resources.

The United Nations estimated that these aid programmes account for only 0.5% of the total income of the powers providing them. In the context of health, vector-borne and infectious diseases have seen a global upsurge during the past decade. Almost more than 2 billion people are without safe water and sanitation, causing diarrhea in children. On the other hand, maternal deaths have been higher in the developing world, i.e. 1 in every 41 women, compared to 1 in every 3,300 women in developed countries. There is also the factor of climate change which has disturbed the environment; the dominant powers have contributed significantly to climate change by producing carbon dioxide in order to expand their industries, while the developing world is often compelled to accept the imperialist powers’ industrial goods at the expense of competitive providers around the world diminishing their economic power. All these evidences suggests that SDGs are another tool used by developed states to undermine developing states.

Neo-colonialism is a threat to world peace where imperial powers brought military conflicts into developing countries for their vested interests. These powers exert their influence by stationing their troops in these states to counter conflict and provide military aid, in the name of humanitarian military interventions. United Nations Peacekeeping missions carried out by blue-helmeted troops in war-torn countries are scattered around 14 conflict-prone states. These blue-helmets seek to provide protection to civilians by training police, disarming militias, monitoring human rights violations, promoting gender equality, organizing elections and providing relief funds. But in reality, the UN peacekeepers failed to do their jobs in most areas, as a result of the policies of member states. The involvement of UN peacekeepers managed to alleviate violent conflict in certain cases, but not in others. For instance, in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, UN peacekeepers were effective in maintaining the cease-fire along the Egyptian-Israeli frontier in the Sinai, but they were ineffective in doing so along the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights. The United Nations’ strategy supports top-down negotiations involving elites and emphasizes elections. This top-down approach makes it more decisive in the eyes of local residents, portraying them as passive outsiders who've been apathetic towards their task. For example, Salvadorans labeled the peacekeepers as ‘Vacaciones Unidas’ (United Vacations), Bosnians criticized them as ‘Smurfs’ etc. on the other hand,  abusive behavior and unnecessary violence have afflicted several UN peacekeeping missions, that have been characterized by rape and sexual assault, mismanagement, and much worse. According to Edmonds, such behavior discredits the credibility of the states that provide troops while also posing ethical and moral challenges for military and civilian authorities. The High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) highlighted two conflicting ideologies based on the essential values of peacekeeping, namely that the values are outgrown and need alteration in the light of these challenges. The report advocated adaptable and constructive understanding of the key principles. It reaffirmed that UN peacekeeping forces must be placed as part of a wider political process, that the host-state administration's approval is necessary for peacekeeping operations and that it must be strengthened. Other participant’s approval was mentioned as necessary, although it wasn't always attainable, especially in cases where conflict was still happening. The essence of peace building, according to Lederach, was indigenous participation, not Western knowledge. The main source for peace building in the longer term has always been anchored in the local people, not in accordance with legal representation in government, but in relation to the social dynamics and relationships in which they were involved. In this situation, the perspective towards the local was transformed, and individuals in the context would be seen as resources rather than recipients. On the other hand, the neo-colonialist states are on the table while the third world countries are on ground with lack of local understanding of conflict zones and proper equipments. For instance, Bangladesh is participating in more peacekeeping missions having 159 fatalities in contrast with China, Russia and United States of America with 20, 51 and 78 fatalities respectively. The present condition of peacekeeping is a mere Band-Aid on a bleeding wound. In conclusion, SDGs and UN Peacekeeping operations are examples of tools of neo-colonialism in order to oppress third world states so that neo-colonialist states can maintain their hegemonic economic and political power. The instances provided above demonstrate how the West exploits the third world states.