United Nations Military Observers

A United Nations Military Observer (UNMO, also abbreviated MILOB) is an unarmed officer deployed with a United Nations peace operation to monitor and supervise any military arrangements the parties to a conflict may have agreed to, such as:

  • a ceasefire or armistice;
  • a withdrawal of forces; or
  • the preservation of a demilitarized or neutral buffer zone.

A wide range of UN member nations, including Canada, deploy military personnel to serve as UNMOs on missions around the globe. UNMOs act as intermediaries between hostile parties, and as such, impartiality, integrity, and military professionalism are essential to fulfilling their role.

UNMO responsibilities

UNMOs are organized in multinational teams to ensure neutrality and objectivity. They work in pairs in the field and are normally partnered with a colleague from another nation.

The primary tasks of UNMOs are:

  • to monitor and report on the military situation in their area of responsibility; and
  • to investigate and document alleged violations of ceasefires or other military arrangements.

The role of UNMOs vary based on the specific circumstances and mandate of the mission at hand. UNMOs may also take part in special tasks, such as:

  • disarming and demobilizing belligerent forces;
  • supervising the collection and destruction of weapons; and
  • assisting election teams.

UNMOs are also responsible for building and maintaining relationships with people living in the mission area, especially community leaders and police. In this role, they provide liaison between the mission and elements of the host government. UNMOs also advise aid agencies on security in their area of operations and help to defuse potential conflicts between hostile factions.

Background

The first UNMOs deployed in June 1948 to southern Palestine as part of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) peacekeeping mission. They were deployed under the authority of Security Council Resolution 50 of 29 May 1948 following hostilities in the region between Israel and several Arab states. UNMOs provided support to the UN Mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte of Wisborg, in his efforts to negotiate a truce between the new state of Israel and the states of Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Yemen.

UNMOs also serve with peacekeeping operations that include military forces, such as the Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies de stabilisation dans la République démocratique du Congo (MONUSCO) and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) UNMOs

The first Canadians to serve as UNMOs deployed to Kashmir in 1949 to serve with the United Nations Military Observer Group India–Pakistan (UNMOGIP).

Canadian UNMOs began deploying to the Middle East in 1954 during Operation JADE, Canada’s longest running overseas commitment which continues today.

The CAF has deployed UNMOs on a number of other UN missions, such as:

  • Operation SAFARI (2005-2011) – the CAF contribution to the United Nations Mission in Sudan;
  • Operation ADDITION (2000-2003) – the CAF contribution to the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea;
  • Operation RECORD (1991-2001)  – the CAF contribution to the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission; and
  • Operation HARMONY (1992-1995) – the CAF contribution to the United Nations Protection Force Balkan Region.

External links

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