United Nations Peace Operations in Uncertain Times: Managing Conflict and Protecting Civilians

Dr. Charles Hunt
Panel Code

Peace operations are the most visible manifestation of the United Nation’s role in addressing issues of international peace and security. Today these missions are deployed in bigger numbers to more active conflict environments with more ambitious mandates of conflict management than at any time in their history. However, the environment within which they are authorised and resourced is under stress. Growing tensions between great powers in the Security Council and attempts by the US administration to reduce their financial contribution to the peacekeeping fund have created a climate of uncertainty around their future. Furthermore, in the field, underwhelming performance and crises of legitimacy at multiple levels jeopardize local, national and international support. While an ambitious reform agenda articulated by a high-level panel and the new Secretary-General and newly minted missions such as the one in Columbia point to an enduring status quo/business as usual, the UN peace operations bureaucracy is coming under pressure to variously downsize, withdraw and reconfigure their engagements. This raises questions about the future of existing missions as well as the use of the peacekeeping instrument going forward. This panel will bring together theoretical and empirical approaches to examine what works, what does not, and identify potential ramifications for the future of peace operations and conflict management through the UN. Papers will assess, inter alia, the utility of force towards the protection of civilians, the interaction of normative/thematic agendas and objectives in practice, the operation of legitimacy at multiple levels, the implications of the ‘sustaining peace’ agenda, and the potential for peacekeeping to contribute to conflict resolution.