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  • Roland Paris

Peacekeeping and the Constraints of Global Culture

Abstract: Why do peacekeeping agencies, such as the United Nations, pursue certain strategies and not others? Most accounts suggest that peacekeeping mandates reflect the interests of major parties, along with perceptions of how effectively certain strategies will accomplish the goals of peacekeeping. This article argues that another factor —the international normative environment, sometimes called ‘global culture’ — also shapes the design of peacekeeping operations in fundamental ways. Peacekeeping agencies seem predisposed to adopt strategies that conform with global culture, and to reject strategies that they view as normatively inappropriate, even if the rejected strategies are potentially more likely to accomplish the goals of peacekeeping. Changes in the international norms have been accompanied by corresponding shifts in peacekeeping policy; and UN officials have summarily rejected certain proposals for more effective peacekeeping, including the idea of establishing a new trusteeship system, on largely normative grounds. These observations suggest that global culture limits the range of possible policies that peacekeepers can realistically pursue.

Reprinted in Paul James, ed., Globalization and Violence, vol. 3, Globalizing War and Intervention (Sage, 2006)

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