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.
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.
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.
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.