UN Peacekeeping Missions Face Challenges And Increased Scrutiny

While many would agree that involvement by United Nations has been in recent decades a success story in terms of prolonging post-war peace and containing the spread of regional conflicts, continued abuses of civilians by peacekeepers themselves mars those gains.

In a recent report, the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services said it received 480 reports of sexual exploitation and abuse between 2008 and 2013, with the majority of cases reported in Liberia, Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. A third of the victims were children.

“Evidence from two peacekeeping mission countries demonstrates that transactional sex is quite common but underreported in peacekeeping missions,” the report said. In a Washington Post op-ed written by three political scientists on whose research the UN report was partially based disclose that 13 years after the UN banned transactional sex by peacekeepers, their “survey of 475 18- to 30-year-old women in greater Monrovia revealed that about half of them report having engaged in transactional sex, and within that group of women, over three-quarters report having done so with U.N. personnel.”

And the sex is hardly consensual as 58 percent of the women who report the age at which they engaged in their first sexual transaction say they were younger than 18, report Bernd Beber (NYU), Michael Gilligan (NYU), Jenny Guardado (University of Chicago) and Sabrina Karim (Emory University)

One suggestion they offer is to recruit more troops “from countries where gender equality norms are already widely held by the population at large” because evidence shows peacekeepers native to nations that have better records on gender equality.

Peacekeeping also faces the challenge of emerging and evolving changes in the nature of war, a subject addressed in a recent report released by the UN.

On 31 October 2014, UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon announced the establishment of a High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations that would be responsible for making a comprehensive assessment of the state of UN peace operations today and the emerging needs of the future, the panel was also tasked with examining special political missions.

The report released last week found one of the biggest challenges was preventing politics to drive the deployment of UN forces.

“Lasting peace is achieved not through military and technical engagements, but through political solutions. Political solutions should always guide the design and deployment of UN peace operations. When the momentum behind peace falters, the United Nations, and particularly Member States, must help to mobilize renewed political efforts to keep peace processes on track,” the report stated.


“More and more we see that the separation between war and peace is not as clear-cut as it used to be,” says Jean-Marie Guéhenno, president and CEO of the International Crisis Group and head of United Nations peacekeeping operations from 2000 to 2008. Among the topics discussed during his podcast are the importance of the political process to the success of peacekeeping operations, what approaches work best for peacekeeping efforts and which he believes were failures.

Guehenno is also the author of the book, The Fog of Peace: A Memoir of International Peacekeeping in the 21st Century.” A brief excerpt of his book can be read here.  

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