Peacekeeping consensus unravelling: SIPRI

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The broad consensus on the principles, purpose and methods of contemporary peace operations is ever more fragile, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says in its latest yearbook, released yesterday.

“Key characteristics of United Nations peace operations are continually revised, while a shared understanding of what these operations should achieve is increasingly lacking. Peace operations suffer from a commitment gap between different categories of states, divergences on some of the key parameters of interventions, and a normative disconnect between established and new state actors,” the demilitarisation thinktank says in a summary of the chapter.
“After the surge in deployments of the past decade, UN operations seem to have reached a plateau, and the focus is now on consolidation. Yet needs for peacekeeping and peacebuilding remain high, even as the operations are increasingly contested by host countries and challenged in their efficacy by a combination of overstretch and weak political support. Simultaneously, the consensus that peace operations have enjoyed is undermined by the very nature of the liberal model that peacekeeping and peacebuilding actors promote.
“What is at stake is the question of how far the international community can go in trying to establish and sustain peace while maintaining the legitimacy of the intervention as well as a degree of acceptability at all levels in the host countries,”chapter author Thierry Tardy says.
“In this context, the consensus on peace operations is potentially challenged by the increasing
engagement of emerging regional powers—in particular Brazil, China, India and South Africa. Their contributions represent a quantitative as well as a qualitative shift for peace operations but can also pose a threat to the Northern-dominated agenda. Emerging powers have a principled approach to peace operations, with conceptions of sovereignty, non-interference and local ownership that
may impact the actual peace operation mandates.
“However, if existing norms and practices have indeed been challenged by emerging powers, the clash of normative agendas with Northern countries has not yet materialised,” SIPRI says. “Emerging powers have so far revealed a high degree of pragmatism, which has shaped their policies in line with current practices rather than along fundamentally different paths. The
question arises whether peacekeeping, as a relatively low-profile activity, is for these countries worth the clash that normative divergences could imply — leading, in turn, to the question of what
role emerging powers will play in building a new consensus on peace operations.”

SIPRI notes 52 multilateral peace operations were conducted in 2010, in 33 locations. Two peace operations closed during 2010, making it the second consecutive year in which the total number of operations fell. The upward trend in the total number of personnel deployed to peace operations continued to gather pace, with totals increasing by 20% between 2009 and 2010, to reach 262 842.

Of these, 91% were military personnel, 6% were civilian police and 3% were civilian staff. The main reason for this significant increase was reinforcement of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operation in Afghanistan run by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Its troop level increased from 84 146 in 2009 to 131 730 in 2010, an increase of 57%. SIPRI says for the fifth year running, ISAF was the largest multilateral peace operation. “Indeed, the number of troops deployed with ISAF exceeded the total number of personnel deployed to all other operations
combined.”

However, the United Nations continued to be the main conductor of peace operations in 2010. The African Union (AU) was the only organization besides NATO to significantly increase its personnel
deployments.

Peace operations, by organisation, 2010:
Number     Force level
  • United Nations                             20              103 401
  • African Union                               1                7999
  • CEEAC                                         1                 880
  • CIS                                                1                1442
  • EU                                                12               4606
  • NATO                                          3                140 354
  • OAS                                             1                 30
  • OSCE                                           7                 363
  • Ad hoc coalition                           6                 3757
             Total                                            52                262 842

For more on this subject, consider attending defenceWeb‘s Peacekeeping Africa conference at Gallagher Estate, September 22-23.

For more information contact Maggie Pienaar at ++27 11 807 3294 or [email protected]