The United Nations Observer Mission in El Salvador (ONUSAL) was established in May 1991, in the midst of the Salvadoran civil war, before the brokering of a cease-fire or a final peace agreement. The mission had been invited, under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, by both sides of the conflict – the Salvadoran government and the opposition, the Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN) – to monitor the abysmal human rights situation in the country. After the warring sides signed the peace accords in January 1992, ONUSAL expanded to include significant civilian police, military, and later elections-monitoring divisions. Specialists in Central America have argued that, as of the mid-1990s, “of the UN's internal peacemaking efforts since the end of the Cold War, its work in El Salvador stands out as the most unambiguously successful.” While I would argue that the UN was comparatively more successful in Namibia, because of the results of its widespread engagement directly with the population, there is no question that the peacekeeping mission in El Salvador was successful, both in terms of implementing its mandate, and in terms of helping to reform and create domestic institutions that would ensure the future peaceful development of El Salvador.
I argue that the operation was a success in large part because the UN mission functioned as a learning organization over the course of shaping and implementing its mandate.
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