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Success in peacekeeping

UN peacekeeping missions operate in the most dangerous and difficult environments in the world, dealing with conflicts – or their aftermath – which others cannot or will not address. We can achieve what others can’t, but success is never guaranteed.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president elect of the UN-supported Presidential election in Liberia, waving as she enters a car.

UNMIL Photo/Eric Kanalstein

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf after winning UN-supported Presidential election in Liberia.

We have, built up an impressive record of peacekeeping achievements over more than 60 years of our existence, including winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

Since 1948, the UN has helped end conflicts and foster reconciliation by conducting successful peacekeeping operations in dozens of countries, including Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mozambique, Namibia and Tajikistan.

UN peacekeeping has also made a real difference in other places with recently completed or on-going operations such as Sierra Leone, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Timor-Leste, Liberia, Haiti and Kosovo. By providing basic security guarantees and responding to crises, these UN operations have supported political transitions and helped buttress fragile new state institutions. They have helped countries to close the chapter of conflict and open a path to normal development, even if major peacebuilding challenges remain.

In other instances, however, UN peacekeeping – and the response by the international community as a whole – have been challenged and found wanting, for instance in Somalia, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. These setbacks provided important lessons for the international community when deciding how and when to deploy and support UN peacekeeping as a tool to restore and maintain international peace and security.

What factors are required for success?

As past experience shows, there are several factors that are essential for a successful peacekeeping operation. It must:

  • Be guided by the principles of consent, impartiality and the non-use of force except in self-defense and defense of the mandate;
  • Be perceived as legitimate and credible, particularly in the eyes of the local population;
  • Promote national and local ownership of the peace process in the host country.

Other important factors that help drive success include:

  • Genuine commitment to a political process by the parties in working towards peace (there must be a peace to keep);
  • Clear, credible and achievable mandates, with matching personnel,   logistic and financial resources;
  • Unity of purpose within the Security Council, with active support to UN operations in the field;
  • Host country commitment to unhindered UN operations and freedom of movement;
  • Supportive engagement by neighbouring countries and regional actors;
  • An integrated UN approach, effective coordination with other actors on the ground and good communication with host country authorities and population;
  • The utmost sensitivity towards the local population and upholding the highest standards of professionalism and good conduct (peacekeepers must avoid becoming part of the problem).

Unique global partnership

UN peacekeeping is a unique global partnership. It brings together the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Secretariat, troop and police contributors and the host governments in a combined effort to maintain international peace and security. Its strength lies in the legitimacy of the UN Charter and in the wide range of contributing countries that participate and provide precious resources.