The Future of UN Peace Operations

A knowledge platform for informing discussions and decisions of

UN Member States and societies on post-2015 UN peace operations reforms

A project of the International Peace Institute


Defining the Boundaries of UN Stabilization Missions

In 2004, the United Nations (UN) Security Council authorized the first stabilization mission in Haiti. Since then, it has authorized three more in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and the Central African Republic. Yet the Security Council has never defined the term “stabilization,” explained how stabilization missions differ from other UN peace operations, or elaborated on the outcomes it expects stabilization missions to achieve. This report argues that there is no consensus as to what stabilization means, and that there is a wide gulf between understandings in New York (where it is often viewed as involving offensive military force) and in the field (where it is often viewed as civilian-led and development-focused work). In the absence of a clear definition of stabilization, it is unclear to many stakeholders whether these missions violate the core principles of peacekeeping. The lack of a definition creates a risk of unrealistic expectations for what missions will accomplish and makes it impossible to evaluate success. It can contribute to a mismatch between mission objectives and capabilities, lead to ad hoc and ineffective implementation of mandated tasks on the ground, and discourage countries from authorizing or contributing troops to these missions. Recognizing these problems, the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations declared last year that “the usage of this term by the United Nations requires clarification.” Drawing on understandings of stabilization in concept and in practice, this report proposes a new definition of stabilization in the context of UN peacekeeping: supporting the transfer of territorial control from spoilers to legitimate authorities. This definition, unlike others proposed, is consistent with the mandates and activities of...

Has UN Peacekeeping Become More Deadly? Analyzing Trends in UN Fatalities

Has UN Peacekeeping Become More Deadly? Analyzing Trends in UN Fatalities by Marina E. Henke is the 14th paper in the Providing for Peacekeeping Series. How deadly is UN peacekeeping? Have UN peacekeeping fatalities increased over the past decades? Those who have attempted to answer these questions differ drastically in their assessments, in part due to the dearth of data and the variety of calculation methods employed. In order to fix some of these shortcomings and take a fresh look at these questions, this report analyzes trends in UN peacekeeping fatalities using a new dataset compiled by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. As a result of the new data employed and methodological innovations, this report constitutes the most detailed study of UN fatality trends thus far. The analysis reveals that overall UN fatalities are not substantively on the rise. Indeed, total fatality ratios are declining. Nevertheless, this decline does not equally apply to all types of UN fatalities; there is strong evidence that UN fatalities due to illness are on the rise. While these findings are important, further research is needed to adequately examine whether UN peacekeeping missions have become more dangerous in recent years. Read the paper...

South Africa’s conflict prevention efforts must be more strategic

South Africa appears to be at a crossroads in defining its foreign policy priorities; particularly in terms of its peace and security engagements in Africa. On the one hand, the country still places peace and security engagements at the core of its priorities in the continent. On the other hand, its approaches to peace and security are increasingly being questioned. This comes at a time when there is a growing drive to bring prevention to the core of global responses to conflict; the result of an increasing realisation that such responses need to become more proactive, inclusive and ultimately more effective. Acknowledging that the international community has not reached the potential of its peace and security tools, theUnited Nations (UN) conducted three reviews on its approaches to peace operations, peacebuilding and women, peace and security last year. The reviews reinforced the point that conflict prevention must be brought to the forefront of all UN initiatives. Similarly, the African Union (AU), in its efforts to achieve its vision for Africa in 2063, has declared its intentions to silence the guns by 2020. South Africa has long advocated for better use of conflict-prevention mechanisms internationally, including for tools like mediation, peacekeeping and peacebuilding support to be better integrated. South Africa could therefore become a more active player in assisting the UN and AU as the organisations rethink their conflict-prevention initiatives. South Africa could also assume a more important role in preventing the outbreak of conflicts on the continent. This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies. Read full article...

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