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Success of future peace operations will depend on managing expectations, allocating resources and balancing states’ contributions, says SIPRI

A new report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) identifies clarifying expectations, aligning resources and equitable burden sharing as key components of successful future peace operations. The report, to be launched today in New York City, aims to feed into a larger United Nations review of its peace operations.

The SIPRI report—released as part of SIPRI’s New Geopolitics of Peace Operations Initiative—brings an unprecedented regional perspective to the debate on the future of peace operations. Informed by a series of regional dialogue meetings and dozens of interviews with regional stakeholders, it examines regional perspectives on security issues and conflict-management approaches, and questions relating to the motives, financing and capacities of current UN peace operations.

At a time when the character of conflicts appears to be changing and the power balance between emerging and non-traditional powers is shifting, the report takes stock of changes in the global security landscape and their implications for future peace operations.


States’ reasons for supporting peace operations vary considerably

Although states express diverse motives for supporting peace operations, the report demonstrates a high level of consensus between states on the need for such interventions, and on the international norms that underpin them. There is some disagreement, however, on how these norms should be operationalized, particularly with regard to the use of force and the issue of sovereignty. 

The report also makes clear that, for the most part, efforts by emerging powers and major troop-contributing countries to exercise greater influence over peace operations are motivated by a desire to increase the success of operations and keep troops safe, rather than a need to shift the power balance within international institutions or advance national or political interests.


Future peace operations can be improved in significant ways

The report makes a series of recommendations that are highly relevant to the UN’s broader review of its own peace operations.

  • Manage expectations surrounding UN mission mandates
    Peacekeeping missions cannot seek to address all aspects of conflict. Mission mandates must be explicit on the challenges they are authorized (and equipped) to address, as well as the specific limitations of peace operations.
  • Align the means of peace operations with their aims
    Mission capacity and resources need to be aligned with mandates. If resources and capacity cannot support a mission, the mandate needs to be scaled down so that its objectives are achievable. Resources need to be sufficient to physically protect peacekeepers, and to allow them to protect civilians, when the mandate requires.
  • Correct imbalances in resources and capacities
    Certain member states support peace operations almost exclusively through the provision of troops, while others do so chiefly through financial contribution. This dichotomy creates tensions between the two groups. In order to maintain solidarity and understanding in the peace operations architecture, UN member states should contribute both troops and resources and have an equal say in them.


The role of the United Nations in future peace operations will be crucial

The UN is still viewed by most as the international authority on peace operations and conflict management, and there is growing convergence of the views of emerging and established powers on the importance of finding pragmatic solutions to new security challenges and shifting power dynamics.

Despite having deployed their own peace operations, regional organizations are less well-equipped to do so effectively and sometimes lack impartiality. In addition to the potential competing interests of international organizations, a failure of coordination among organizations poses a serious challenge when multiple institutions are present in a single conflict zone.

‘Decreased solidarity among UN member states and a lack of action on their part would have grave effects on the ability of the UN and other multilateral organizations to manage conflicts through future operations,’ states SIPRI Senior Researcher Jaïr van der Lijn, co-author of the report.

For editors

On 18 February 2015 the findings of the report will be launched at an event at the UN headquarters in New York City. The event will include a panel featuring Edmond Mulet (UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations), Youssef Mahmoud (Senior Adviser at the International Peace Institute, and a member of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations), Janne Taalas (Deputy Permanent Representative of Finland to the UN), Michèle Auga (Executive Director of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s New York office), and SIPRI Senior Researcher Jaïr van der Lijn. For more information about the event please contact Jennifer Landt ().

SIPRI’s New Geopolitics of Peace Operations Initiative is supported by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and is conducted in partnership with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.