Peace operations and ‘no peace to keep’

Authored by: Berma Klein Goldewijk , Joseph Soeters

Routledge Handbook Of Defence Studies

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  February  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138122505
eBook ISBN: 9781315650463
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United Nations (UN) peacekeeping has grown in significance over the years, with an ever-increasing demand for troops to serve in more complex and continued armed conflict environments. Today, UN peacekeepers are mandated to complete their tasks in contexts where peace remains fragile or where there is ‘no peace to keep’. Before the 2000s, peacekeeping forces were usually deployed after a peace agreement to separate the conflicting actors. Today, multidimensional peacekeeping more often involves peace enforcement or stabilization into situations of recurrent conflict. After delineating some contemporary trends in peacekeeping operations, this chapter explores three key themes: a) major policy advances; b) types of peacekeeping operations; and c) the tendency towards robust mandates, the use of force, and stabilization in recurrent conflict. Subsequently, the chapter offers some remarks on ongoing efforts to evaluate peace missions and their impacts. In this way, this chapter identifies peace operations as a challenge for defence studies at various levels, sketches a few cases, and outlines future tendencies. It is concluded that there are limits to what UN peace operations realistically can achieve in conditions where there is ‘no peace to keep’.

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Peace operations and ‘no peace to keep’


United Nations (UN) peacekeeping has grown in significance over the years, with an ever-increasing demand for troops to serve in more complex and continued armed conflict environments. Peacekeeping has traditionally been the main international instrument for the settlement of armed conflict and the flagship activity of the UN. Before the 2000s, peacekeeping forces were usually deployed after a peace agreement to separate the conflicting actors. Today, multidimensional peacekeeping more often involves peace enforcement mandates into situations of recurrent conflict. In September 2015, more than 128,000 people were deployed in 39 UN peacekeeping operations and special political missions (UNSG 2015: n. 3).

The scope of UN peace operations is expanding with major innovations. The UN Security Council is authorizing multidimensional stabilization and peacebuilding mandates during ongoing armed conflict and established the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) as the first offensive combat force acquired by the MONUSCO mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (UNSC 2013; Müller 2015; Spijkers 2015). In addition, new technologies have increasingly become part of peace operations, such as unmanned aerial vehicles. Moreover, intelligence capacity is now explicitly involved, particularly in the MINUSMA mission in Mali, and inter-mission cooperation is being reinforced. Most important of all, member states are putting the UN under increasing pressure to adopt robust mandates in peacekeeping and stabilization efforts (Boutellis 2015). This chapter explores some key themes and experiences, sketches a few cases, and outlines current and future tendencies in peace operations since the 1990s.

Today, UN peacekeepers are often mandated to complete their tasks in contexts where peace remains fragile or where there is ‘no peace to keep’, as Secretary General Ban Ki-moon clearly mentioned (UNSC 2014: 2). This is a key trend in a changing global context for peace operations, as identified in the open debate of the UN Security Council on ‘New Trends in UN Peacekeeping Operations’. This trend currently affects more than two-thirds of all operating UN military personnel in contexts such as Darfur, South Sudan, Mali, the Central African Republic (CAR), and the eastern part of DRC. The second trend Ban Ki-moon mentioned is recurrent conflict, where conflict persistently re-emerges as in South Sudan, or where UN operations are being authorized in the absence of clearly identifiable parties or a viable political process. The third trend outlined is that peacekeepers are increasingly facing asymmetric and unconventional threats in more complex environments, which challenge full compliance of UN peacekeeping troops with obligations of international human rights and humanitarian law. As a fourth trend, Ban Ki-moon pointed at a renewed commitment of the Security Council to peacekeeping challenges. In addition, the Secretary General asked for more consideration of the limits of UN peacekeeping. In the 2014 open debate that followed, member states confirmed such core trends: robust operations and mandates, cooperation with regional partners and states, and peacebuilding and state-support in the midst of ongoing conflicts. In fact, peacekeeping today overlaps with peacebuilding tasks, including humanitarian assistance, supporting the (re)building of state institutions, promoting the rule of law and the implementation of human rights, monitoring the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants, and promoting security sector reform (SSR).

Under UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the compounded UN peacebuilding architecture identified ‘sustainable peace’ as being the ultimate objective of peace interventions (UNSG 2001: n. 8, 30, 46). This stands for consolidated peace by preventing renewed armed conflict and by establishing the conditions for a self-sustaining durable peace. The idea of sustainable peace has now become the cornerstone for UN interventions and has become institutionalized throughout the UN’s peacebuilding framework, particularly through UN’s Peacebuilding Commission. 1 In fact, one of the main goals of peace operations has always been to stop the violence and create (institutional) conditions that prevent a country from sliding back into violent conflict. After recognizing that early elections supervised by UN military peacekeeping troops after a peace agreement were often destabilizing and inflaming renewed conflict, UN policies shifted to the challenges of peacebuilding, including international involvement in statebuilding and the design of political institutions; in brief, rebuilding the political system (Brancati and Snyder 2013; Flores and Nooruddin 2012). The longer time frames in peace operations are now towards more complex missions with the ultimate objective of sustained or consolidated peace.

UN peacekeepers are deployed under the UN Charter in mission mandates that increasingly put the protection of civilians as first priority. For example, in the case of the CAR, the UN Security Council authorized (on 10 April 2014) the deployment of MINUSCA, a multidimensional UN peacekeeping operation, with the civilian protection as its principal priority. This goes back to 1945, when the Charter of the UN could not envisage what would later become ‘peacekeeping’, but was resolute in the very first sentence ‘to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’ (UN 1945: Preamble). To this end, the Charter made provisions for the peaceful resolution of disputes (Chapter VI), the use of ‘all necessary means’ (use of force) to end conflict (Chapter VII), and the role of regional organizations in maintaining international peace and security (Chapter VIII).

Against these backgrounds, peace operations can be identified as a challenge for defence studies at various levels: they are an integral part of international security challenges, involving a more comprehensive understanding of security and a widening of the concept; they manifest the interaction between the political and military strategic levels; and they connect to warfare, conflict resolution, and sustainable peace.

Key themes: policy advances, operation types, and robust mandates

In this part, three key themes will be explored that further identify peace operations as a challenge for defence studies: a) major policy advances; b) types of peacekeeping operations; and c) the tendency towards robust mandates, the use of force, and stabilization in recurrent conflict.

Major policy advances

Decades of peace operations have enabled a number of major policy advances. Early peacekeeping operations, starting with a first observer mission in 1948 and then taking off with the 1956 Suez Crisis, are often denoted as traditional or conventional peacekeeping. UN international military force at the time of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld, as well as other peacekeeping missions deployed during the Cold War, created buffer zones between the warring parties, based on their consent. Such inter-position forces (Renn and Diehl 2015: 212) involved a neutral position of the UN. Since 1992, these deployments and developments have been guided by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in New York. The establishment of DPKO coincided with the end of the Cold War, an increase of intrastate war (period 1989–93), and a shift towards UN multilateral peacekeeping. In 2007, the UN peacekeeping capacity was further enhanced by supplementing DPKO with the Department of Field Support (DFS), serving to coordinate administrative tasks and logistics, whereas DPKO continued to focus on policy planning and strategic orientations in UN peace operations.

The UN peacekeeping ‘capstone doctrine’ by DPKO/DFS serves as the highest-level doctrine document, entitled United Nations Peacekeeping Operations: Principles and Guidelines (UN DPKO/DFS 2008; also Gerchicoff 2013). Beyond the more general approaches offered by Boutros-Ghali’s ‘An Agenda for Peace’ (UNSG 1992) and the Brahimi Report (UN 2000), this doctrine document further defines contemporary UN peace operations, develops a framework, and sets out a coherent doctrine as guide for UN personnel. This 2008 doctrine document needs to be understood against the background of developments in the 1990s, when questions were raised about whether the very character of conflict had not profoundly altered. At the time, conflicts appeared to have changed from wars between states (interstate) to conflicts within them (intrastate), involving regional ethnic and civil conflicts. By the mid-1990s, in a Supplement to his earlier Agenda for Peace from 1992, Boutros-Ghali (UNSG 1995) confirmed that there had been a rash of wars within newly independent states, often of a religious or ethnic character and mostly involving unusual violence and cruelty. This proliferation of armed conflicts within states came then to be seen as the most significant security challenge since the end of the Cold War. The latest policy advances can be found in the thorough assessment of UN peace operations and the recommendations by the 2015 High-level Independent Panel on UN Peace Operations (HIPPO), appointed by the UN Secretary General and chaired by José Ramos-Horta (East-Timor). The HIPPO Report particularly points at the strengthened demands for peacekeeping, the increased deployment of peacekeepers into active conflicts, and the limited resources for rapid deployment that have, among other factors, led to a clear sense of a ‘widening gap’ between what is being asked of the United Nations peace operations today and what they are able to deliver (UN HIPPO 2015: n. 91; also UNSG 2015). In fact, the UN clearly recognizes that it is not well suited to undertake peace enforcement operations (UN HPPO 2015; UNSG 2015; also de Coning 2017).

Types of peacekeeping operations

The UN Security Council (UNSC) mandates peacekeeping operations to protect civilians and authorizes the use of force to achieve this objective: the UNSC confers, modifies, and terminates peace operation mandates. At least three main types of UN and (regionally) allied missions (involving the African Union, the European Union, or NATO) can be distinguished (Doyle and Sambanis 2006), usually running through the DPKO. First, traditional peacekeeping operations mainly provide protection: conventionally, they separate conflicting actors, maintain buffer zones, monitor ceasefires, maintain law and order, and disarm and demobilize factions. Second, enforcement missions are undertaken when peace operations are authorized under Chapter VII of the UN Charter: they may execute large-scale combat operations involving the conflicting parties. An early example is the UN intervention during the Gulf War. Such missions are deployed to enforce an end to fighting, rather than maintaining a fragile peace, and are not necessarily based on consent by the receiving state. In 2013, such mandates were given to UN peacekeeping operations in the CAR, the DRC, and Mali (Hirschmann 2012: 176). For the eastern DRC, the operations were allowed to ‘use all necessary measures’ to neutralize and disarm groups. For CAR and northern Mali, the mandates ordered the troops to ‘stabilize’. Third, multidimensional operations include providing protection, but as a minimum also involve two dimensions of what may be called conflict management, including basic security, humanitarian assistance, human rights components, electoral support, transitional justice and the rule of law, or economic and social reconstruction. These operations tend to comprise civilian actors to carry out these dimensions.

Apart from these three main types of operations, at least two other types of international missions can be distinguished: political/diplomatic and observer missions. Political missions are fact-finding or mediation missions of a diplomatic type, such as the ongoing UN–Arab League mediation in the Syrian war undertaken by Kofi Annan (2012), Lakhdar Brahimi (2012–14), and Staffan de Mistura (2014 to date) (Klein Goldewijk 2017). In other cases, political operations or diplomatic missions may have a preventive character, preceding an anticipated outbreak of armed conflict, mostly without follow-up by a peacekeeping mission, and more permanent than ad-hoc. Such missions may be deployed via the UN Department of Political Affairs (UNDPA). The other type are observer missions, with a UN mandate to monitor, report, or observe, often unarmed and with limited rules of engagement.

At this point, some core elements of peace mission mandates need to be explained. The mandates of missions are for the most part determined by decisions of the UN Security Council, which is the main decision-making institution for peace missions. Mandates based on Chapter VI of the UN Charter aim at the peaceful settlement of disputes (consent), whereas mandates based on Chapter VII use sanctions or armed force (enforcement) and by consequence change the conflict dynamics and the balance of capabilities of the actors involved. If a large enough mandate of a mission changes from Chapter VI to VII, it is usually regarded as a new mission. Nonetheless, where missions have a Chapter VI mandate, a UN Security Council decision may offer them Chapter VII powers for its implementation. For example, a humanitarian support mission based on a mandate under Chapter VI can be given Chapter VII powers for its execution so that troops, if needed, may fight to implement the mandate. Evidently, since Chapter VII-based enforcement powers affect the conflict dynamics, all missions with Chapter VII powers tend to be understood as enforcement missions. In this light, the shift in mandates during the 2000s towards including long-term peacebuilding, a change that occurred since the 2000 Brahimi Report, is remarkable: ‘of the ten missions established between 2000 and 2007, nine were mandated to pursue tasks such as DDR of former combatants and SSR; five of them explicitly mentioned peacebuilding as a central goal for mission achievement’ (Hirschmann 2012: 176). However, recent transformations towards stabilization and more robust mandates may involve other policy directions as well.

Stabilization, use of force, and robust mandates

Today, UN peacekeepers are performing tasks in contexts where new security challenges have emerged – such as transnational organized crime, attacks by globalized extremist groups, and large-scale migrations – or where armed conflict persistently re-emerges in fragile states. Such environments are specifically referred to in statements about contexts where there is no peace to keep or where peace is fragile (Bellamy and Hunt 2015: 1277). These contexts have implied a greater UN focus on stabilization, aimed at strengthening state authorities, as currently in the DRC (MONUSCO), the CAR (MINUSCA), Mali (MINUSMA), and Haiti (MINUSTAH). These stabilization operations involve the use of ‘military means to consolidate a country, sometimes with all necessary means to neutralize potential “spoilers” to a conflict’ (Karlsrud 2015: 42).

Current UN stabilization operations differ from US-led military stabilization interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, which contributed to a broad disillusionment over protracted international interventions. Nonetheless, during the past decade, the term stabilization shows ‘remarkable staying power’ (Zyck and Muggah 2015: 2), including as a category for intervention in a number of UN missions: peacekeeping has been steadily in more demand and is typically being envisioned, designed, and justified as a means of stabilizing, securing, and strengthening fragile states. This is realized on the assumption that strong states are the necessary prerequisites for maintaining international peace and security, economic development, and the protection of civilians – the mentioned primary goals of peacekeeping.

The current integration of stabilization in UN peace operations involves various aspects. First, stabilization operations that support the host state in stabilizing a country may explicitly imply a one-sided and partial position by the UN – not necessarily linked to a peace process involving all warring parties (Bellamy and Hunt 2015: 1282). This demonstrates a marked difference with traditional UN peacekeeping widely perceived as neutral, overseeing peace processes in the sense of monitoring ceasefires and peace agreements. Second, stabilization operations stretch the strategic objectives of peacekeeping and conflict termination to statebuilding (Karlsrud 2015: 40): they operate in active conflict areas, mandated – as in MONUSCO’s FIB – to ‘take all necessary measures’ to neutralize and disarm groups that pose a threat to state authority.

Last but not least, the UN High-Level Panel (HIPPO) Report noted that

in the past decade, the Security Council and the Secretariat have used the term ‘stabilization’ for a number of missions that support the extension or restoration of state authority … The term ‘stabilization’ has a wide range of interpretations, and the Panel believes the usage of that term by the United Nations requires clarification.

(UN HIPPO 2015: n. 114)

This need for clarification still stands out. In fact, this development has raised many questions and issues, such as whether the UN peacekeeping tool, which has mainly been consent-based, is appropriate and can be effective in carrying out stabilization mandates and what doctrine such operations should be based on (Boutellis 2015: 2; Hunt 2017).

The UN mission in Mali may serve as an illustration. Where there is ‘no peace to keep’ UN missions tend to be exposed to attacks by insurgent groups. The increasing number of asymmetric attacks against UN-affiliated troops (Boutellis 2015: 6–9) is perhaps publicly the most visible side of the MINUSMA mission (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali), which has been in operation since July 2013. On April 25, 2013, the UN Security Council authorized Resolution 2100 and thereby established MINUSMA in a context of increased instability in the northern regions of Mali, due to, among other things, a lack of state control, armed Tuareg fighters trained in and returning from Libya, and illicit trafficking (UNSC 2013). In the aftermath of the January 2013 French military intervention, admitting terrorism and organized crime as strategic threats, the UN envisaged a greater stabilization role as was demonstrated in MINUSMA’s mandate – though refraining from directly engaging in counterterrorism operations. This raised various critical questions about the adequacy and significance of MINUSMA’s mandate and capabilities in terms of training, equipment, and logistics. In addition, strengthening the authority of the state during ongoing armed conflict could easily be perceived by rebel groups or the local populations as one-sided statebuilding. In recognition of this setting, it has been remarked that ‘such a move should be based on an overarching UN stabilization doctrine and context-specific UN-wide stabilization strategies which are first and foremost political, and should not be confused with the re-establishment of state authority’ (Boutellis 2015: 1, see also 3–4).

Concurrently, the robust turn in mandates has largely been perceived as a signal towards greater preparedness to use force (Bellamy and Hunt 2015: 1280–1282). In early UN peacekeeping, force was used in self-defence or in defence of the mandate and in exceptional circumstances only (Karlsrud 2015: 41). Already by the mid-1970s, a greater scope for offensive force was allowed by authorizing peacekeepers to defend the mandate of their operations – though this was still mainly seen as a form of self-defence at the time (Sloan 2014). As from the 1999 UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), the Security Council more often invoked Chapter VII of the UN Charter to authorize peacekeepers to use ‘all means necessary’ to protect civilians from harm (Bellamy and Hunt 2015: 1282). The authorization of ‘all means necessary’ to protect civilians has since then become central to various new mandates, including for South Sudan (UNMISS), the CAR (MINUSCA), and Mali (MINUSMA).

In the case of threats to international peace and security, the Security Council bestows so-called ‘robust’ peacekeeping operations with the capacity to use offensive force. The robust approach has been included in the 2009 ‘New Partnership Agenda’ by DPKO as a political and operational strategy: this entails the use of force by a UN peacekeeping operation to deter threats to civilians or the undermining of an existing peace process based on resistance from spoilers (UN DPKO/DFS 2009; also UN DPKO/DFS 2008). Some more doctrinal fine-tuning, relevant for defence studies, refers to the level at which force is used, thus distinguishing peacekeeping (limited to tactical-level force) from peace enforcement (operational-level force): the use of force at the tactical level is in self-defence and defence of the mandate, which is different from the use of force at the operational level of an overall peace enforcement mission (Bellamy and Hunt 2015: 1281).

Evaluating peace missions and their impacts

The aforementioned policy changes since the Brahimi Report (2000) have not occurred in isolation; they have been the response to various, not always positive experiences with UN missions over the last two decades. The overall performance of UN peacekeeping operations is seen as mixed at best. As from the beginning, but more intensely and explicitly since the 1990s, these operations have been criticized.

The 1995 fall of ‘safe haven’ Srebrenica, a Bosnian town, and the corresponding loss of up to 8,000 lives contributed to an image of UN operations that are doomed to fail. This tragedy came shortly after the disaster in Somalia (1993) and the genocide in Rwanda (1994), where UN operations had conspicuously failed to protect citizens from being killed (e.g., Dallaire 2003). In addition, UN’s activities in the DRC – despite their relatively large funding and manpower – have ceaselessly been criticized as being ‘irrelevant’. In fact, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO, formerly MONUC) is an important case for understanding the ambiguous role of stabilization in UN peace operations. Causes for the mission to fail have indeed been found in contradictions within its ever-expanding mandate (Clark 2011; Melillo 2013).

UN peace operations in general have been phrased as ‘organized hypocrisy’ (Lipson 2007; Hirschmann 2012), because too often there is no, or even an inverse, connection between talk and actions, between decisions and implementation, and between the ambiguous directives at the policy level and the harsh realities on the ground. Surprisingly, this has both negative and positive consequences: negative consequences because policies in New York may become decoupled from everyday practice and dynamics of operations all over the globe, and positive consequences because it enables the UN to manage irreconcilable pressures that would otherwise threaten the UN’s survival (Lipson 2007).

In addition to such more general comments, there is a wealth of evaluative studies of the effectiveness of UN peace operations (among others Hunt 2017; Brosig and Sempijja 2017; Renn and Diehl 2015; Whalan 2013; Druckman and Diehl 2013; Diehl and Druckman 2010). In line with the previously mentioned experiences, Morjé Howard (2008: 9 and further), in a thorough study of ten UN operations, indicated the operations in Angola, Somalia, Bosnia, and Rwanda – all in the 1990s – as major failures. She distinguished six operations in the same decade as a (mixed) success: the operations in Namibia, El Salvador, Cambodia, Mozambique, Eastern Slavonia, and East-Timor. In an attempt to explain the differences, she discerned next to two well-known causes of success – Security Council consensus/intensity (‘political will’) and adherence to peacekeeping rules – another variable of great significance: learning, as the degree of first-level organizational learning within the mission at the work-floor or grassroots level and the degree of second-level learning in between peace operations at UN’s Headquarters in New York.

First-level learning was defined as the increasing ability to engage in multidimensional peacekeeping. This was broken down into four specific components of organizational learning: the use of information (needs to be based on a wide variety of technical and field sources); coordination (particularly the incremental re-evaluation and re-aligning of task priorities); organizational engagement with the environment (consisting of a wide distribution of staff in the field and the capability of communicating intentions to host-national population); and leadership (focusing on the capability of altering incrementally the goals of the warring elites). The connection of these work-floor level dynamics and the learning of UN’s policy circles in New York is the second aspect of crucial importance. The most recent policy developments in UN peace operations, as discussed earlier in this chapter, appear to be the consequence of the lessons learned during those earlier missions and their academic evaluations. For sure, the UN is a learning organization, even though some would argue that lessons could be learned at a greater pace.

Next to the more general evaluative studies, critical research increasingly demonstrates the importance for UN troops of developing good local relations with the host-national population to gain a thorough understanding of what is going on and to increase the local legitimacy of peace operations (Sabrow 2017; Ruggeri, Dorussen, and Gizelis 2017; Whalan 2017). Based on extensive fieldwork, Pouligny (2006) described the diverse ‘faces’ of local populations, such as political, military, and economic entrepreneurs, the various indigenous ‘civil societies’, and the role of local employees of UN operations, becoming a factor of influence in itself. Furthermore, she pointed at the different strategies and interests of local actors, including the highly volatile balances of power and coalitions among the local actors, and the unintended consequences of UN’s presence in unstable, mostly poorly developed conflict areas in the world. Examples of such consequences are the growing economic disparities among the local populations because of the different services the various groups have to offer and their differing wage-earning potentials as a consequence, and the extreme cases of criminal behaviour by UN peacekeepers. Oftentimes, internal actors report they feel overwhelmed and even intimidated by the momentum, scope, and depth of the external intervention (de Coning and Friis 2011: 268). These dynamics are not unique to UN missions; they have been observed frequently when the international community intervenes in conflicts in often remote and less well-developed areas.

On the side of the UN operations themselves, a number of observations seem important. First, particularly after the tragedies in the 1990s, the failing contribution of Western troops in UN operations – though well trained and equipped – has attracted much attention. The Americans in Somalia, the Belgians in Rwanda, and the Dutch in Bosnia were not effective when their efforts to protect civilians were wanted most. The question emerges if Western troops – and their politicians – are willing to sacrifice losses based on some universal or cosmopolitan motivation, whereas traditionally nationalist motives make soldiers fight (Blocq 2010).

In addition, after the tragedies in Somalia, Rwanda, and Bosnia, core-military operations by NATO-led coalitions have been conducted in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, with the result that Western troops were hardly interested in, and capable of, deploying troops to UN operations. In Western military perception the environment of a UN mission is not military enough; instead the whole atmosphere in UN missions is seen as too civilianized, too diverse, and too bureaucratic. NATO missions, including their standardized planning systems and structures, are much preferred by Western military forces (e.g., Resteigne and Soeters 2012: 106). If things had been going wrong (Rwanda, Bosnia) the UN was most often to blame – according to the military. Americans and British have been prime examples in this general depreciation, leading to very few numbers of their troops being deployed to military operations in UN missions. In more recent years, the French, Italian, and Spanish forces supplied large numbers of troops to the UN operation in Lebanon, as did the Australians in East-Timor, and the Swedes and Irish in Liberia. Now, hesitantly, the interest of Western states to participate in UN operations is growing and revitalizing again, as the participation of, for example, Dutch and Swedish forces in the Mali mission seems to indicate. However, the majority of troops in today’s UN operations are from non-Western nations, particularly Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Rwanda, and Nepal (UN Peacekeeping Fact Sheet 2015). 2

The fact that soldiers from different national contingents participate in multinational peace operations comes with advantages and disadvantages. The advantages pertain to a certain proximity non-Western troops may have vis-à-vis the host-national population – in terms of general acceptance, languages, and understanding of the local situation and customs. This applies, for instance, to African troops deployed to conflicts in African countries, such as Nigerian troops deployed to the UN mission in Liberia. The disadvantage is, however, that troops from non-Western countries often lack sufficient logistic capabilities (aircraft, vehicles, ICT) and training. It is not surprising that such troops are mostly in desperate need of such facilities, which they would want Western troops to supply.

Another point in this regard is the cultural variety of the UN peace missions’ composition, which involves different traits of each army’s military culture, different perceptions of the mission and context in which the troops are deployed, and different operational styles in one and the same mission (Ruffa 2017). Chiara Ruffa (2014) studied the contributions of four different nations in Lebanon (UNIFIL), all of them having their different approaches, styles, and expenditures, with quite important operational impact. Based on this operational variety, troops from different nations may learn from each other. Other scholars, such as Ben-Ari and Elron (2001) and Elron (2008), have pointed at mechanisms at the leadership level that can tie the various national contributions better together in a mission. It is difficult but certainly not impossible to align the various national contingents’ actions. Applying knowledge and experiences from the field of public administration may also help to further the effectiveness of UN policies to implement peace initiatives in complex situations (e.g., Williams and Mengistu 2015). In this connection, there is a growing demand for effects-based operations, with clear milestones, desired processes or end-states, measures of effectiveness for security, and a phased execution of activities. The UN mission in East-Timor has been a good example in this respect (Ballard 2008). The multinational composition of UN missions is not necessarily problematic: if properly managed, this facet of UN missions can have many advantages.

More recent evaluations and quantitative studies have indicated that peacekeeping operations have been effective in reducing the geographic scope of violence: such findings are grounded in research using different databases (Beardsley and Gleditsch 2015; Fortna 2004; Fortna and Howard 2008). However, peacekeeping operations also tend to create a greater future threat to the host state by allowing non-state actors to gain strength and legitimacy (Beardsley and Gleditsch 2015). Particularly when external actors such as the UN engage with internal post-war actors, fault-lines of the war at the expense of civilian leaders may be reinforced, ultimately undermining the peace process (de Coning and Friis 2011: 268).

Conclusions: future tendencies in peace operations

This chapter outlined the various trends and policy changes in UN peace operations over the last twenty-five years. There has been a growing emphasis on ‘robustness’, stabilization, and awareness of the multidimensionality of situations where there is ‘no peace to keep’. Those changes were needed because, particularly in the first half of the 1990s when new civil wars emerged, a number of UN missions had failed conspicuously. The names of Mogadishu, Kigali, and Srebrenica have gained a firm position in world history, for well-known tragic reasons, and the name of the UN is connected to these events.

The encouraging point made here is that the UN, in various policy advances, is learning from previous mistakes, mishaps, and dramatic failures. The many policy changes and expansions in UN peacekeeping since the early 2000s are a result of these developments. A particular challenge, however, lies in the political framework for peace operations and the implementation of new policies, especially in highly volatile and complex contexts. More political and practical coherence between principles, policies, and experiences would enable prioritization in UN peace operations and address the implementation of policy issues in a convincing manner.

It needs to be accepted that in certain conditions it remains difficult to achieve coherent and effective results of peace operations. The High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations notably pointed at the gap between the increased demand for UN peace operations today and what they are able to deliver. There are limits to what UN peace operations realistically can achieve in conditions where there is ‘no peace to keep’.


The UN peacebuilding framework mainly includes the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), and the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), in cooperation with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Development Operations Coordination Office (DOCO).

By 30 June 2015, the composition was as follows: African nations contribute nearly half the total size of the UN peacekeeping force; that is, 47.5% (including troops, police, military experts, and civilians); Asia contributes 40.8%; and European nations contribute 6.5% to this total. Source: UN Peacekeeping Fact Sheet (2015), accessed 21 August 2015, at


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