Virtue Ethics and United Nations Peacekeeping Missions
26 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2017 Last revised: 14 Nov 2018
Date Written: June 7, 2017
United Nations peacekeeping missions bring to light a host of issues that conventional armed forces struggle with when it comes to ethics in theory and moral practice in military missions. Although ethics for UN peacekeepers calls for an approach to ethics and practice based on the premise of UN conflict neutrality, these practices need to be capable of addressing “new” military missions that challenge the UN’s neutral nature. In this article I illustrate that a virtue ethics approach helps us turn to a practical ethics approach for peacekeeping. This requires a change in theory and practice of communicating ethics to peacekeepers. The article points out references and guidelines for a virtue-focused approach of ethics while focusing on the military profession as practice. To illustrate this argument, the remainder of the paper looks at the example of Austrian peacekeepers. Their unstructured approach of teaching theoretical ethics illustrates one angle in which virtue ethics can enter ethical training and education. The article concludes that bringing in a virtue ethics focus complements traditional and established theoretical inputs and helps peacekeepers, the soldiers’ society at home and in the country of deployment to adjust better to the moral choices and practical ethical dilemmas ahead.
Keywords: United Nations, ethics, peacekeeping, practice, virtue
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