Peacebuilding – helping societies make the transition from civil violence to a durable peace – has been the United Nations’ principal security activity since the end of the Cold War. Although peacebuilding methods have been refined during years of trial and error, it remains an uncertain science, yielding mixed results. But for all its shortcomings, the international peacebuilding "project" remains one of the most remarkable exercises in collective conflict management the world has ever witnessed. This chapter identifies the principal features of the UN’s peacebuilding operations, examines the record of peacebuilding since the end of the Cold War, and describes some of the main issues and controversies surrounding these missions.
We do not yet know where, when and how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will deliver on his commitment to increase Canada's involvement in UN peace operations. As columnists and commentators begin to discuss these questions, however, two misconceptions are worth correcting.
The first is that the Trudeau government is exploring new peacekeeping opportunities in order to win a Security Council seat. Former general Lew MacKenzie made this assertion in today's Globe and Mail.
Of course, any contribution to the UN could potentially strengthen Canada's bid for a seat. However, the Prime Minister's commitment to reengage in UN operations seems to reflect his conviction that these operations play an important role in containing violence and promoting peace, and that Canada could make a useful contribution. (The Liberal election platform did not even mention running for a Security Council seat. Nor did the ministerial mandate letters. They did, howeve...
Abstract: Policy practitioners and scholars have tended to treat the responsibility to protect (R2P) and peacebuilding as separate domains. This chapter, in contrast, argues that these two domains are more closely connected than both the policy discourse and much of the academic literature would suggest. Peacebuilding appears to be an integral part of R2P, and peacebuilding strategies aimed at reducing the risks of conflict relapse are core strategies for preventing atrocity crimes. Further, the use of coercive military force to stop an imminent or actual atrocity crime creates its own requirement for post-crisis peacebuilding. Thus, closer analysis of the relationship between peacebuilding and R2P would benefit both practitioners and scholars.
The greatest risk to United Nations peace operations is not operational failure, but the growing divergence of opinion among countries that mandate, finance and supply personnel to these operations regarding the purposes and practices of peacekeeping itself.
The UN currently runs 16 peacekeeping missions with roughly 103,000 uniformed personnel and 16,000 civilians – along with another 11 peacebuilding and political missions consisting mainly of civilian personnel. Contrary to those who suggest that UN peace operations are in decline, the chart below shows that business is booming: The number of uniformed personnel deployed on these missions has never been greater (click on image for larger version).
Number of Uniformed UN Peacekeeping Personnel, 1991-2014. Source: UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
The problem, however, is that business is literally booming: More and more, peacekeepers are finding themselves in situations where there i...
The study of peace operations, which has undergone remarkable growth in recent years, has been paying greater attention to the ‘micro-level’ processes and local dimensions of these missions. This is a welcome development. However, the closer one gets to the local specificities of individual peace operations, the easier it may be to lose sight of the broader patterns of these missions, including how they fit into – and are reflections of – international politics writ large. This article contends that there is a continuing need for this type of ‘macro-level’ research, particularly at a moment of shifting power in the international system. It further argues that a research agenda focusing on the ‘geopolitics’ of peace operations would open up at least three interesting and potentially important avenues of macro-level study.
Does peacekeeping work? Janice Stein (University of Toronto) and I had a lively exchange on this subject on the CBC radio program “The House” this weekend. Have a listen.
Prof. Stein was unconvinced. Some studies, she said, “show that the majority [of peace operations] are failures and that there is a return to violence after 5 to 7 years. So I think the record is the reverse.”
So, which is it? Does peacekeeping generally help to prevent a return to violence, or does it generally fail to do so?
The answer to this question matters – quite a lot, actually. If peacekeeping is ineffective and if outsiders can do little to help post-conflict societies transition towards a more stable peace, as Prof. Stein suggests, then Western policymakers and other leaders would be foolish to consider contributing to, or even supporting, such efforts.
If, on the other hand, peacekeeping has a reasonably positive record, it would seem foolish for the same policymakers not to support...
Abstract: At the core of policy debates on the state-level effects of transitional justice is a series of competing claims about the causal effects of various transitional justice mechanisms. A review of recent scholarship on transitional justice shows that empirical evidence of positive or negative effects is still insufficient to support strong claims. More systematic and comparative analysis of the transitional justice record is needed in order to move from ‘faith-based’ to ‘fact-based’ discussions of transitional justice impacts.
Abstract: Liberal peacebuilding has become the target of considerable criticism. Although much of this criticism is warranted, a number of scholars and commentators have come to the opinion that liberal peacebuilding is either fundamentally destructive, or illegitimate, or both. On close analysis, however, many of these critiques appear to be exaggerated or misdirected. At a time when the future of peacebuilding is uncertain, it is important to distinguish between justified and unjustified criticisms, and to promote a more balanced debate on the meaning, shortcomings and prospects of liberal peacebuilding.
Special commendation, British International Studies Association-RIS Best Article Prize
Reprinted in David J. Francis, ed., When War Ends: Building Peace in Divided Communities (New York: Routledge: 2012)
Reprinted in Susanna Campbell, David Chandler and Meera Sabaratnam, eds., A Liberal Peace? The Problems and Practices...
Co-edited with Edward Newman and Oliver Richmond (UNU/Brookings, 2009)
This volume explores and critiques the "liberal" premise of contemporary peacebuilding: the promotion of democracy, market-based economic reforms, and a range of other institutions associated with modern states as a driving force for building peace.
"A 'must read' for scholars and practitioners alike."
--Richard Caplan, Oxford University