WHILE a United Nations peacekeeper in Cyprus during the late 1960s, Canada's Lt. Col. Douglas Fraser worked out of an abandoned Greek Cypriot garage on top of a mountain. He did everything from gathering and processing data from infantry companies to escorting Greek and Turkish Cypriots to their jobs.
Firing between the two sides was routine, he recalls. "You become potentially a target ... but, hopefully, by using your peacekeeping skills and by strict impartiality ... you do not become an enemy." The peacekeeper's aim, he says, is to minimize tension, allow maximum normality, and "buy time" for the diplomats to resolve the underlying problems.
Lieutenant Colonel Fraser, who in the years since has visited several such UN peacekeeping ventures, is Canada's chief New York link to UN peacekeeping operations. He is the military adviser to Canada's ambassador to the UN.
Canada has an unusually long record of solid commitment to UN peacekeeping efforts. Former Canadian Foreign Minister Lester Pearson is credited with inventing the concept when in 1956, as head of Canada's UN delegation, he helped draft the agreement that sent armed UN forces into the Sinai. Though that was regarded as the first official UN peacekeeping operation, the umbrella term is now used to embrace all earlier small UN reporting and monitoring ventures as well. Canada now has more UN troops in the f ield - 1,026 as of Feb. 1 - than any other country. Another 1,300 Canadians will be joining the UN Protection Force in Yugoslavia. Canadians currently command both the Western Sahara and Cyprus operations.
One wall of Colonel Fraser's office, which is just one block from the UN Secretariat, is covered with overlapping maps showing the terrain of everything from El Salvador and Kashmir to Yugoslavia and Cambodia. "Canadians are everywhere," he explains. Still, Fraser admits to concern that such a small pool of nations still provides most UN peacekeepers. "It's tough to get enough people, and tough to get the right people," he says. One encouraging aspect, he says, is that many newer UN peacekeeping operati ons have some end in sight such as an election or referendum. Nations should then be able to "recycle" personnel into other operations, he says.