New Geopolitics of Peace Operations

New Geopolitics of Peace Operations
This article was part of the Briefing Book prepared for the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations by IPI and CIC.


Some would argue that the shift of influence from established to emerging powers runs the risk of destabilizing contemporary arrangements for international conflict management. For instance, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recently stated that the efficacy of the UN Security Council is at stake ‘when there is limited consensus—when our actions come late and address only the lowest common denominator’. Despite such pessimism, the preliminary results from an ongoing SIPRI research project suggest that consensus remains possible in the future peace operations landscape.

  • Contrary to the popular assumption that increasing multi-polarity is detrimental to cooperation and consensus on peace operations, emerging powers have largely expressed a positive sentiment towards peace operations. Traditional and emerging powers have common interests in conflict management in many key regions, particularly in Africa.
  • In the past few years, debates about peace operations have been riddled by misconceptions that have often led to a counter-productive and polluted exchange in policy circles. By focusing the discussion on the exceptional cases, discussions become unnecessarily polarized. In the long run that may lead to throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
  • Many of the current operations require risk-taking, while only a limited number of contingents are able and willing to take these necessary risks. Acknowledging and dealing more openly with the risks that peace operations entail is vital.
  • There is an unbalanced approach to burden sharing in peace operations and an oversimplification of what constitutes an equitable division of labor in the eyes of TCCs. The peace operations architecture would be healthier if the imbalance between FCCs and TCCs would be decreased.
  • Regionalization will not be sufficient for meeting the future challenges for peace operations. There are few ‘regional solutions to regional problems’. While more investment, respect and ownership for regional organizations are needed, one should not expect them to solve regional issues on their own.
  • The norms and concepts in peace operations are generally not questioned, but the operationalization of some sometimes is. Therefore further agreement has to be reached on the modus operandi of in particular R2P, POC and robust operations.


The New Geopolitics of Peace Operations Initiative has examined how the shift of power away from the West to a greater number of actors often referred to as emerging powers may influence the future of peace operations. The first phase of the initiative aimed to gain a better understanding about the points of view of emerging powers and troop contributing countries (TCCs) by organizing regional dialogue meetings around the globe, and as a result obtaining a clearer picture about the future direction of peace operations. The current second phase focuses on the future of peace operations in Africa. 


Jaïr van der Lijn and Xenia Avezov are associated with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and Marius Müller-Hennig, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung