Peacekeeping by the United Nations is a role held by the Department of Peace Operations as “a unique and dynamic instrument developed by the organization as a way to help countries torn by conflict to create the conditions for lasting peace”. It is distinguished from peacebuilding, peacemaking, and peace enforcement although the United Nations does acknowledge that all activities are “mutually reinforcing” and that overlap between them is frequent in practice.
Peacekeepers monitor and observe peace processes in post-conflict areas and assist ex-combatants in implementing the peace agreements they may have signed. Such assistance comes in many forms, including confidence-building measures, power-sharing arrangements, electoral support, strengthening the rule of law, and economic and social development. Accordingly, UN peacekeepers (often referred to as Blue Berets or Blue Helmets because of their light blue berets or helmets) can include soldiers, police officers, and civilian personnel.
The United Nations Charter gives the United Nations Security Council the power and responsibility to take collective action to maintain international peace and security. For this reason, the international community usually looks to the Security Council to authorize peacekeeping operations through Chapter VII authorizations.
Most of these operations are established and implemented by the United Nations itself, with troops serving under UN operational control. In these cases, peacekeepers remain members of their respective armed forces, and do not constitute an independent “UN army,” as the UN does not have such a force. In cases where direct UN involvement is not considered appropriate or feasible, the Council authorizes regional organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Economic Community of West African States, or coalitions of willing countries to undertake peacekeeping or peace-enforcement tasks.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix is the Head of the Department of Peace Operations. He took over from the former Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous on 1 April 2017. DPKO’s highest level doctrine document, entitled “United Nations Peacekeeping Operations: Principles and Guidelines” was issued in 2008
In 2007, a peacekeeper volunteer was required to be over the age of 25 with no maximum age limit. Peacekeeping forces are contributed by member states on a voluntary basis. As of 30 June 2019, there are 100,411 people serving in UN peacekeeping operations (86,145 uniformed, 12,932 civilian, and 1,334 volunteers).] European nations contribute nearly 6,000 units[to this total. Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh are among the largest individual contributors with around 8,000 units each. African nations contributed nearly half the total, almost 44,000 units.
Every peacekeeping mission is authorized by the Security Council.
Once a peace treaty has been negotiated, the parties involved might ask the United Nations for a peacekeeping force to oversee various elements of the agreed upon plan. This is often done because a group controlled by the United Nations is less likely to follow the interests of any one party, since it itself is controlled by many groups, namely the 15-member Security Council and the intentionally diverse United Nations Secretariat.
If the Security Council approves the creation of a mission, then the Department of Peacekeeping Operations begins planning for the necessary elements. At this point, the senior leadership team is selected. The department will then seek contributions from member nations. Since the UN has no standing force or supplies, it must form ad hoc coalitions for every task undertaken. Doing so results in both the possibility of failure to form a suitable force, and a general slowdown in procurement once the operation is in the field. Romeo Dallaire, force commander in Rwanda during the Rwandan Genocide there, described the problems this poses by comparison to more traditional military deployments:
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