United Nations Military Observers

Canada and other United Nations (UN) member nations send military groups and members to take part in peace support operations around the globe. These missions are a contribution to the UN. Some officers take special training to become United Nations Military Observers (UNMOs).

A UNMO serves with a UN peace support operation. They do not carry weapons. They keep track of and oversee any military agreements between parties to a conflict. These include:

  • a ceasefire or armistice;
  • withdrawing their forces; or
  • keeping a neutral buffer zone.

UNMOs serve in areas of conflict. They help keep peace between hostile parties. They must be honest, ethical, not take sides, and always act as military professionals. An UNMO is also known as a MILOB (military observer).

UNMO responsibilities

UNMOs are grouped in teams made up from different countries. This helps them to remain neutral and objective. They work in pairs in the field. A UNMO will normally join with a colleague from another nation.

The primary tasks of UNMOs are:

  • to keep track of and report on the military situation in their area of responsibility; and
  • to look into, record and report alleged violations of ceasefires or other military arrangements.

UNMO roles vary and are based on several factors. One is the specific state of affairs in the area. The purpose of the mission is another. UNMOs may also perform special tasks, such as:

  • disarming and demobilizing aggressive forces;
  • supervising, collecting and destroying weapons; and
  • assisting election teams.

UNMOs also build and keep relationships with people living in the mission area. They especially work with community leaders and police. In this role, they act as a link between the mission and people in the host government. UNMOs also let aid groups know about security in their area of operations. Further, they help to calm potential conflicts between hostile groups.


The first UNMOs went to southern Palestine to serve in June 1948. They were part of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) peacekeeping mission. They were sent under the authority of Security Council Resolution 50 of 29 May 1948. This resolution followed fighting between Israel and several Arab states in the region. UNMOs helped the UN Mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte of Wisborg. He worked to negotiate a truce between the new state of Israel and the states of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen.

UNMOs also serve with peacekeeping operations that use military forces to keep order. One such operation is the Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies de stabilisation dans la République démocratique du Congo (MONUSCO). Another is the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) UNMOs

The first CAF members to serve as UNMOs were sent to Kashmir in 1949. They were part of the United Nations Military Observer Group India–Pakistan (UNMOGIP).

More CAF UNMOs went to the Middle East in 1954. They were sent on Operation JADE. This is Canada’s longest-running overseas operation. It is still going on today.

CAF UNMOs have been sent on other UN missions.

  • Operation SAFARI (2005-2011), the CAF support for the United Nations Mission in Sudan;
  • Operation ADDITION (2000-2003), the CAF support for the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea;
  • Operation RECORD (1991-2001), the CAF support for the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission; and
  • Operation HARMONY (1992-1995), the CAF support for the United Nations Protection Force Balkan Region.

External links

Government of Canada

Canada and the Middle East Peace Process (Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada)

Peace Operations and Fragile States Policy (Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada)

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