Peacekeeping to evolve in response to new crises

UN military peacekeeping vehicle UN military peacekeeping vehicle © Photo by Fbhenrg on iStock

 In Focus by Carla Leonetti; Editor: Francesca Mencuccini

The United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations are experiencing  what many observers define as a crisis. As reported by the International Peace Institute (IPI) Global Observatory, since 2015 UN peacekeeping has suffered a downsizing of both personnel and spending by respectively 24 and 23 percent. In recent years, peacekeeping operations have been undermined by the growing disagreements among the great powers and declining financial contributions by the UN member states, which are likely to further decrease due to the financial instability brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The closing of missions in Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, and Liberia in 2017 and 2018, followed by the downsizing of the operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the announced withdrawal of the United Nations – African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), to be completed within June 2021, are raising doubts about the role and the resilience of peacekeeping. However, peacekeeping still accounts for the second largest deployment of uniformed personnel in the world after the United States, with more than 90.000 peacekeepers and 12 active operations worldwide, as reported by the United Nations. According to the IPI Global Observatory, UN peacekeeping is more likely to evolve in response to crises rather than cease its operation for four reasons. First, there is a persistent need for peacekeeping as conflicts continue; second, peace operations have been proven to be effective and cost-efficient, requiring less than 0.5% of global military spending; third, peacekeeping is the best conflict management tool devised so far; fourth, historically peace operations have adjusted to changes rather then disappear.

Nevertheless, peacekeeping needs to adapt to new challenges to survive. Therefore, in 2018 the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, launched the Future of Peacekeeping project, an initiative aimed at analyzing the long-term trends in conflict and peace, and the strengths and challenges of peacekeeping  to understand how to adapt it to new challenges and structure future reforms.


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