Military missions

When participating in a military mission, the Netherlands Defence organisation sends military personnel abroad in order to restore peace or to prevent a conflict. The United Nations (UN) organises military missions, as do the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the European Union (EU).

There are 3 types of military missions:

  • observer missions;
  • peacekeeping missions;
  • peace enforcement missions.

Observer missions

An observer mission is a military mission that is carried out by unarmed military personnel. These unarmed soldiers monitor whether the formerly belligerent parties in a former conflict area are observing the terms of the peace agreement and the cease-fire. The UN peace mission in Sudan is one example of an observer mission.

Peacekeeping missions

During peacekeeping missions, military personnel are deployed to separate the belligerent parties, while assuming a passive role. The aim is to win time for a military or political solution. The soldiers work with local authorities and humanitarian aid workers. The main characteristics of peacekeeping missions are:

  • prior consent from the permanent members of the UN Security Council;
  • prior consent from local parties;
  • absolute neutrality;
  • great restraint in using force. Military personnel are only permitted to use force when acting in self-defence.

Peace enforcement mission

During a peace enforcement mission, military personnel are permitted to use force in the interests of ending the conflict. A peace enforcement mission is not a long-term solution. Peace enforcement missions are combined with reconstruction programmes or full peace agreements. The Netherlands took part in the IFOR peace enforcement mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Blue helmets

Military personnel taking part in UN missions are also known as blue helmets, after their headwear. The blue helmets are a reference to the UN flag, which is a white emblem on a blue background.