On Friday, April 12, Dr. Kal Raustiala visited Occidental College for a conversation about the Rise of UN Peacekeeping, with special focus on the American political scientist and diplomat: Ralph Bunche.
Dr. Raustiala is a professor of International Law at UCLA and the Director of the Burkle Center for International Relations. His biography of diplomat Ralph Bunche, the first Black American to win the Nobel Peace Prize, is a timely reminder of the role of the UN in the liberation of colonized people. Dr. Raustiala visited Occidental College to discuss his biography of Ralph Bunche and the role he played in the United Nations during the 20th century.
Dr. Raustiala began his talk with an introduction of Ralph Bunche who was an African American diplomat and scholar who received the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his work as a mediator in the Palestine conflict. Born in 1904 in Detroit, Michigan, Bunche would go on to become one of the most important figures in the history of the United Nations. As a PhD student at Harvard, Bunche took an interest in West Africa, and conducted research on comparative governments of colonies in French West Africa. In 1936, Bunche then went on to become a professor of Political Science at Howard University, focused on world politics as an engine of capitalism, and colonialism as the highest form of imperialism.
During the negotiations of the UN Charter in 1945, Bunche played a significant role in creating the UN Trusteeship, which was a reformation of the Mandate System under the League of Nations. As a result, Bunche quickly drew interest into the question of what to do about Palestine and was appointed deputy mediator to negotiate some form of peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Bunche was instrumental in the creation of the UN peacekeeping force in Palestine, making both micro and macro decisions about how peacekeeping would work, and which countries would put forward their troops.
Dr. Raustiala concluded his talk by discussing Congolese independence in 1960. Bunche played an important role in the shift over of power from Belgium, and was appointed the chief mediator between the competing factions as Congo headed into civil war. The UN put forth peacekeepers once again, however, this round of peacekeepers was larger and much more violent than previous ones, and made use of artillery and air power. In the late 1960s, the conflict in Congo faded from the UN’s peace efforts, with more attention shifting toward the Vietnam War.