How did the United Nations fail to protect minorities in Kosovo during the March 2004 unrest?

The United Nations failed to protect minorities in Kosovo during the March 2004 unrest because they did not properly respond to the violence. Peacekeeping forces were undermanned, poorly organized, and slow to respond. This allowed mobs to attack minorities for many hours without opposition.

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The United Nations has received a lot of criticism for its failure to protect ethnic Serbs, Roma, and other non-Albanian minorities in Kosovo during the series of violent riots that occurred in March, 2004. Simply put, UN forces in the area (UNMIK) did not respond in time to riots that resulted in the destruction of homes, churches, and businesses, as well as numerous injuries and several deaths.

UN peace-keeping forces, working alongside NATO counterparts, took hours to arrive in several villages in which minorities were under siege. Residents in the small communities such as Djakovica, Lipljan, Svinjare, Čaglavica, and Priština were outnumbered and overwhelmed by the size of the mobs that attacked. UN forces were harshly criticized for their failure to protect Priština, which was under attack for six hours before help arrived. Mostly, the UN's failure was a result of inaction. There were often peacekeeping forces in close proximity to the violence, but they failed to react with urgency, coordination, and speed.

A detailed report blames this on several factors. This includes a general lack of preparedness, as the peacekeepers were caught by surprise at the apparent spontaneity of the violence. UNMIK was also undermanned and often outnumbered by the size of the mobs it was up against. They also had received little anti-riot training. The command structure was also found wanting. Poor coordination between NATO, UN, and local forces meant that inadequate and inaccurate information stymied the peacekeepers' responses. This failure led to a full review of UN peacekeeping actions and an overhaul of many of their systems and programs.

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