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Twenty‐first century UN peace operations: protection, force and the changing security environment

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United Nations peace operations are deployed in greater numbers to more difficult operating theatres in response to more complex conflict situations than ever before. More than 100,000 UN peacekeepers are deployed in missions mandated under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to use ‘all necessary means’ to protect civilians from direct harm as well as to achieve a host of other tasks such as supporting the (re)building of state institutions, facilitating humanitarian aid, and overseeing compliance with ceasefire agreements and political commitments. With increasing regularity, UN peacekeepers are instructed to complete these tasks in contexts where there is no peace to keep or where peace is fragile. To understand these changes, and the implications for UN peace operations, this article examines three key transformations: the emergence of the protection of civilians as a central mission goal (and accompanying principles of due diligence); a subtle move away from peacekeeping as an impartial overseer of peace processes towards the goal of stabilization; and a so‐called ‘robust turn’ towards greater preparedness to use force. It identifies the challenges posed to contemporary UN peacekeeping operations by these transformations and evaluates the UN's efforts thus far to make peacekeeping fit for purpose in the twenty‐first century, noting that while significant progress has been made in areas such as policy and guidance, force sustainment and deployment, and the application of force enablers, there remains a considerable way to go.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2015

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