Views from Peace Operations Experts

Defining the Boundaries of UN Stabilization Missions

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... read more
Waging Peace: UN Peace Operations Confronting Terrorism and Violent Extremism

Waging Peace: UN Peace Operations Confronting Terrorism and Violent Extremism

Of the eleven countries most affected by terrorism globally, seven currently host UN peace operations. In countries affected by terrorism and violent extremism, peace operations will increasingly be called upon to adapt their approaches without compromising UN doctrine. But to date, there has been little exploration of the broader political and practical challenges, opportunities, and risks facing UN peace operations in complex security environments. This has created a gap between the policy debate in New York and the realities confronting UN staff on the ground. This policy paper aims to bridge this gap by examining the recent drive to integrate counterterrorism (CT) and preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) into relevant activities of UN peace operations, as well as the associated challenges and opportunities. It seeks to expand the scope of discussions beyond whether peace operations can “do CT” to how they can better support national governments and local communities in preventing terrorism and violent extremism. Based on extensive conversations with UN officials, member state representatives, and practitioners, the paper offers a number of recommendations. At the level of headquarters, the UN should: Improve its capacity to analyze and respond to the factors and grievances leading to radicalization and violence; Enhance system-wide dialogue, coherence, and policy guidance; and Prioritize objectives and capacities related to CT and P/CVE in mission mandates. To make field missions more effective, the UN should: Preserve and expand the space for dialogue with all parties; Enhance capacity for early warning and response; Integrate CT and P/CVE into compacts with host governments where relevant; Enhance mission engagement with civil society, women, and youth; Design integrated strategies... read more
Unarmed Civilian Protection: The Methodology and Its Relevance for Norwegian Church-Based Organizations and Their Partners

Unarmed Civilian Protection: The Methodology and Its Relevance for Norwegian Church-Based Organizations and Their Partners

Executive Summary Unarmed civilian protection (UCP) is one of the most effective responses there is to one of the greatest, consistent challenges of our time: The killing of civilians in warfare. As opposed to other approaches to reconciliation and peaceful resolution to conflict which indirectly target violence, UCP is directly aimed at stopping violence. Simply through being present, and through using their presence strategically, international civilians deter violence, protect local civilians and support the efforts of the locals to protect themselves and plan for a peaceful future. The most utilized element of UCP is accompaniment. Results from accompaniment and other UCP methods include significant drops in gender based violence, locally facilitated peace agreements or ceasefires, reduced levels of violence in camps for internally displaced people, reduced levels of humiliation of civilians at military check-points, an increase in children’s access to education, an increase in access to health care, accurate and timely information delivered to key humanitarian actors, and multinational companies pulling out of investments that cause breaches of human rights law. The main actors in the accompaniment and UCP field of work utilize a variety of means to protect civilians. The means include protective presence, monitoring and documenting, internationalizing local abuse, building relationships with all stakeholders, building and supporting local civic capacities, and facilitating dialogue. Accompaniers and protection officers create spaces where local actors themselves can find the best approaches to peace. UCP is especially relevant for the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. If the excruciating needs in conflict-affected areas are to be met, it is time to spend more energy on the women who suffer from violence... read more
Re-thinking police work

Re-thinking police work

A new NUPI working paper is out, examining the Norway-led specialized police team (SPT) that has been deployed to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) since late 2010. The objective of SPT is to build the capacity of the Haitian National Police (HNP) to conduct investigations into sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). According to the authors, Dr Marina L. Caparini and Dr Kari M. Osland, the SPT represents an innovative approach to deploying police personnel in UN peacekeeping operations and to building the capacity of host state police. By providing a closely coordinated team of police experts who work closely with local police in defining, developing and implementing a specific project that is independently funded yet embedded within the UNPOL component, this new deployment mechanism offers several advantages for supporting police and rule of law development compared to the traditional peacekeeping approach that relies primarily on using individual police officers (IPOs) to build police capacity. Download the working paper... read more
Freeing Prevention From Conflict: Investing in Sustaining Peace

Freeing Prevention From Conflict: Investing in Sustaining Peace

As the preparations for the May 2016 United Nations General Assembly’s high-level debate on peace and security intensify, prevention seems to be on everyone’s lips. The three 2015 UN global peace and security reviews that frame the debate have conveyed a common message: that the political instruments, tools, and mechanisms the world body deploys to address violent conflict all attest to the failure of early prevention. All three reports, not surprisingly, recommended a greater focus on prevention. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his follow-on report on the recommendations of one of these reviews, by the High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO), wholeheartedly endorsed this. The skeptics among political observers and those who have followed UN reforms over the years should not be blamed for asking, “So, what’s new?” This is not the first time that the UN and its member states, coming to grips with the woeful shortcomings of their responses to old and emerging global threats, have rediscovered the virtues of prevention. Nothing concentrates the mind more than imminent crisis and once that danger dissipates so does the political will needed, they would argue, to make prevention the first port of call before the outbreak of violence. To prove these skeptics wrong, it is necessary to find ways to help move the prevention discourse from rhetoric to action and to help member states deliver on their commitment to make prevention truly the core function of the UN. At least two inter-related strategies and conversations are needed. The first is to fully appreciate the policy, programmatic, and financial implications of this renewed focus on prevention, particularly as... read more
Getting clear about conflict prevention at the UN

Getting clear about conflict prevention at the UN

The 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations (UN) last year has prompted new questions about the organisation’s ability to effectively address peace and security problems around the globe. The UN peace and security architecture has expanded dramatically since the Cold War. This has partly been in response to the changing nature of conflict, but it is also a reflection of the organisation’s own ability to provide effective responses. After an increased number of complex intra-state conflicts in the 1990s, the world saw a sharp decrease in numbers in the early 2000s. However, in the past five years, these numbers have again been on the rise. This is particularly important for peace operations; perhaps the most visible of international responses to conflicts. Peace operations have, at best, delivered mixed results. This is particularly true for robust missions, which are drawn out over prolonged periods, and face increased challenges in their ability to deal with transnational threats such as terrorism and the protection of civilians. Attempts to reform the UN’s peace and security mechanisms have been undertaken since the 1990s. The so-called Brahimi Report of 1999 was a response to the challenges faced by UN peacekeeping in the ’90s, especially the failure to protect civilians in Bosnia and prevent the genocide in Rwanda. The report led to positive changes – including the creation of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture in 2005. Problems of effectiveness, funding, coordination and coherence remain, however. Peace operations have not, for example, been able to fulfil the goals of protecting civilians; nor has the UN been effective in preventing conflicts and sustaining peace. It is... read more
Doing What Can Be Done and Providing For It

Doing What Can Be Done and Providing For It

One of the current main shortcomings of UN peace operations is the authorization of mandates that are not fully implemented. While sometimes this happens because of the emergence of unpredictable external factors, it is common to see mandates whose implementation is hindered by insufficient planning or operationally unrealistic recommendations in the first place.

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Protection of Civilians and Raised Expectations

Protection of Civilians and Raised Expectations

In recent years, the United Nations has made significant advances with respect to the protection of civilians (PoC). Yet in South Sudan, Central African Republic, and elsewhere, these words from the “Brahimi Report” still ring true: “Promising to extend such protection establishes a very high threshold of expectation. The potentially large mismatch between desired objective and resources available to meet it raises the prospect of continuing disappointment.”

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How to contribute:

Future of UN Peace Operations is open to contributions from experts who wish to reach an engaged audience of policymakers, practitioners, and other professionals working in the field of peace and security. We welcome concise, insightful analyses on thematic or country-specific issues related to UN peace operations.

Articles published on Future of UN Peace Operations are distributed by the International Peace Institute.

If you are interested in contributing, please contact Olga Abilova (abilova at ipinst dot org).

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