United Nations Peace Operations in a Changing Global Order

This book has been published by Palgrave and is available under an Open Access arrangement at:

Palgrave MacMillan


It was co-edited by Dr. Mateja Peter and myself.

Below is few endorsements, the table of content, and chapter abstracts. The full text is available at the links above.

A youtube video of a book launch event on 14 November 2018 at NUPI is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1lCktCznd4&feature=youtu.be

A podcast of a book launch event on 25 February 2019 at Kings College is available here: https://soundcloud.com/warstudies/event-united-nations-peace-operations-in-a-changing-global-order/s-XWwje?in=warstudies/sets/events


Endorsements for the volume

I have seen the UN perform on a changing global stage in many UN missions. This book examines how the UN must continue to evolve amongst changing state actors, differing regional organisations and a constant global paradigm shift. It is essential material for enhancing one’s understanding of the nature of international conflict and for the continued relevance of the UN as a key stakeholder and participant in world affairs.

 Maj. Gen. Kristin Lund, Head of Mission and Chief of Staff, UN peacekeeping mission in the Middle East (UNTSO)


This outstanding collection is a must-read for anyone interested in the central challenges of peacekeeping today. From big ideas about changes in global order, to more focused analyses of policing and the protection of civilians, this book provides a comprehensive overview of where peacekeeping is now, and what we may expect in the future.

Lise Morjé Howard, Associate Professor, Georgetown University


The book analyses recent developments in UN peacekeeping in the context of the historic changes underway in the global order. I would recommend it to policy makers, peacekeepers and scholars who wish to understand, optimise and improve the effectiveness of modern peacekeeping.

Lt. Gen. Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, former Force Commander in the UN missions in the DRC (MONUSCO) and Haiti (MINUSTAH)


Peacekeeping has been the most visible UN activity in its primary mandate to maintain international peace and security. In aworld in disarray, as security threats mutate and the world order shifts away from US primacy and fresh challenges arise, the UN must respond with nimbleness and flexibility to stay relevant. This exceptional collection of analyses by experts from both the global North and South will be of interest to practitioners and scholars alike – highly recommended.

Ramesh Thakur, Professor, Australian National University


Peacekeeping is not what it was even a decade ago: global power is shifting, new types of conflicts are emerging, and demands on the United Nations and regional organizations are growing. Anyone interested in contemporary conflict resolution and the changing character of international peace operations should read this excellent book.

Roland Paris, Professor of International Affairs, University of Ottawa


This book is an insightful and forward-looking scholarly contribution to debates within the United Nations. It shows how profound the recent changes affecting peace operations are and pushes us all to rethink our assumptions about conflict, peace and the role of international organizations. It could not come at a better moment.

Jean-Marie Guehenno, UN High-level Advisory Board on Mediation, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations


Table of Content:


Foreword (Ian Martin)


Chapter 1: UN peace operations: Adapting to a new global order? (Mateja Peter)


Part I: Political and strategic context: past, present, future

Chapter 2: Peacekeeping: Resilience of an idea (Mateja Peter)

Chapter 3: UN peacekeeping in a multipolar world order: Norms, role expectations, and leadership (Adriana Erthal Abdenur)

Chapter 4: Politics in the driving seat: Good offices, UN peace operations, and modern conflict (Adam Day)

Chapter 5: People-centred approaches to peace: At cross roads between geopolitics, norms, and practice (Youssef Mahmoud)


Part 2: Mandates and strategy

Chapter 6: What are the limits to the use of force in UN peacekeeping? (Mats Berdal)

Chapter 7: Protection of civilians in the United Nations: A peacekeeping illusion? (Hilde Frafjord Johnson)

Chapter 8: UN peace operations, terrorism, and violent extremism (John Karlsrud)

Chapter 9: Peace operations and organised crime: Still foggy? (Arthur Boutellis and Stephanie Tiélès)

Chapter 10: UN policing: The security–trust challenge (Kari M. Osland)


Part 3: New and old partnerships

Chapter 11: Africa and UN peace operations: Implications for the future role of regional Organisations (Cedric de Coning)

Chapter 12: The European Union and UN peace operations: What global–regional peace and security partnership? (Thierry Tardy)

Chapter 13: China rising and its changing policy on UN peacekeeping (He Yin)

Chapter 14: Religion, governance, and the ‘peace–humanitarian–development nexus’ in South Sudan (Jonathan C. Agensky)


Chapter 15: UN peace operations and changes in the global order: Evolution, adaptation, and resilience (Cedric de Coning)






Chapter 1: UN peace operations: Adapting to a new global order? 

Mateja Peter 

The introduction identifies four transformations in the global order, whose implications on the UN peace operations are studied in the remainder of the volume. These four transformations are: (1) the rebalancing of relations between states of the global North and the global South; (2) the rise of regional organisations as providers of peace; (3) the rise of violent extremism and fundamentalist non-state actors; and (4) increasing demands from non-state actors for greater emphasis on human security. With the entry of new actors from the global South as important players in the peace arena, we are entering a more pragmatic era of UN peace operations. At the same time, the UN is facing a classic struggle between the promotion of liberal international norms and realist security concerns.


Part I: Political and strategic context: past, present, future

Chapter 2: Peacekeeping: Resilience of an idea 

Mateja Peter 

This chapter examines the evolution of the idea of UN peacekeeping, asking how an instrument developed in the late 1940s managed to not only survive but also respond to the changing geopolitical and conflict landscape over the last seventy years. Through an overview of major doctrinal developments and institutional adaptations, the chapter analyses how the peacekeeping tool was adapted from a bipolar world, via a unipolar one to today’s multipolar world. Peter argues that peacekeeping started as a conflict management instrument, which was adapted to a conflict resolution mechanism after the end of the Cold War, but has now come full circle and is again increasingly used to manage and contain, not resolve conflicts.


Chapter 3: UN peacekeeping in a multipolar world order: Norms, role expectations, and leadership 

Adriana Erthal Abdenur 

The multipolarisation of the world order is accelerating; while established Western powers are in decline, whether due to policy decisions or lack of cohesion, several rising powers both contest Western dominance and actively promote multipolarisation. What are the implications of multipolarisation for UN peacekeeping? Abdenur examines two inter-related dimensions: norms-setting and role expectations. Uncertainties about global leadership and constraints on resources prompt changing expectations of, and concern about, rising powers, especially those viewed as playing a pivotal role in UN security governance. This chapter highlights China as a potential leader in UN peacekeeping, but contends that Beijing’s willingness and ability to quickly expand its influence should not be taken for granted.


Chapter 4: Politics in the driving seat: Good offices, UN peace operations, and modern conflict 

Adam Day

Modern conflict presents a complicated terrain for the UN’s conflict prevention work, where politically-driven solutions have become more elusive. Driven by the changing nature of armed conflict, the “good offices” function of the UN has evolved significantly in past decades. Based on a comparative assessment of the UN’s political engagement across different settings and eras, key elements for successful use of good offices include: (1) in-depth understanding of the conflict based on sustained contact and relationships on the ground; (2) timing of the intervention; (3) leverage over the key conflict actors; and (4) credibility of the mediator. A light, nimble presence on the ground—rather than multidimensional peace operations—appear best placed to achieve these elements of success.


Chapter 5: People-centred approaches to peace: At cross roads between geopolitics, norms, and practice 

Youssef Mahmoud

Despite the pressing call by the 2015 UN High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations for a shift towards more people-centred approaches in peace operations and the wide recognition that peace, like a tree grows from the bottom up, many challenges still stand in the way of realising this shift on the ground. This chapter provides a cursory review of the factors underpinning these challenges and explains the rationale of the Panel’s renewed focus on this approach. It reflects on the conundrums faced by the UN Security Council in its attempts to embrace such an approach in a changing security landscape. The chapter makes concrete recommendations on how best the Council could overcome these conundrums when crafting the mandates of peace operations.


Part 2: Mandates and strategy

Chapter 6: What are the limits to the use of force in UN peacekeeping? 

Mats Berdal

The chapter traces the thinking and the practices surrounding the use of force by UN peacekeepers from the conceptual foundations laid in the era of classical peacekeeping to the contemporary focus on the protection of civilians and more “robust” operations. At the tactical level, a properly equipped and properly commanded force has on occasion been used with decisive effect in response to immediate crises or emergencies. The larger and more critical strategic lesson from the history of robust peacekeeping since 1999, however, is a cautionary one; one that highlights the need for the activities of UN “blue helmets” to be much more closely aligned than they have become over the past decade and a half to the search for viable political solutions to conflict.


Chapter 7: Protection of civilians in the United Nations: A peacekeeping illusion?

Hilde Frafjord Johnson

Protection of civilians (POC) is at the centre of UN peace operations, with majority of UN military and police personnel having this mandate. This chapter examines whether peacekeepers are provided with the means to fulfil it. Drawing on her experience from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Frafjord Johnson reveals systemic weaknesses in the way the UN deploys, resources, and supports missions. A major problem is lack of guidance when host governments prove to be the main perpetrator. The primary responsibility to protect civilians rests with host governments, but the UN system also needs to train its forces in POC-operations and security reform. The chapter concludes that protection will remain an illusion for many civilians at risk unless these challenges are addressed.


Chapter 8: UN peace operations, terrorism, and violent extremism 

John Karlsrud

There are practical and financial reasons to give UN peace operations more robust mandates and mitigate and respond to violent extremism and terrorism. But the idea of UN peacekeepers conducting counter-terrorism operations is not without its challenges. Karlsrud argues that UN peace operations neither are, nor will be ready operationally, doctrinally, or politically to take on counter-terrorism tasks. Such a development could jeopardise the legal protection of UN staff; remove the ability of the UN to be an impartial arbiter of the conflict; and strongly undermine the ability for other parts of the UN family to carry out humanitarian work. However, peace operations should, in cooperation with the UN Country Team, strengthen their conflict prevention and early peacebuilding agenda, to remove root causes for radicalisation.


Chapter 9: Peace operations and organized crime: Still foggy? 

Arthur Boutellis and Stephanie Tiélès 

While scholars have increasingly studied and recognised the importance of criminal agendas in post-conflict politics, organised crime is still a relatively new and foggy issue in the field of peace operations. This chapter examines how transnational organised crime has increasingly been recognised by the UN Security Council as a threat to international peace and security, and explains the limitations of the dominant law enforcement and capacity building approaches adopted by missions to date. Building on recent examples, it explores how UN peace operations could deal more effectively with the issue during the time they are deployed, by engaging more strategically with both the host state and local communities, and partnering with others with the ability to take longer-term preventive approaches.


Chapter 10: UN policing: The security–trust challenge 

Kari M. Osland

The demand for UN police is increasing due to the recognition that functioning local police is a central element of the UN exit strategy. UN policing was never easy, but the combination of an increasing deployment of UN operations in the midst of on-going wars, and the steady increase of UN police tasks without adequate increases in resources or training, has made UN policing even more complicated in recent years. Examining both the security and trust role of police in society, Osland argues that the main challenge for UN police in post-conflict situations is to close the security–trust gap. So far, most of the focus has been on the security aspects. The chapter asks whether the UN is set up to achieve both.


Part 3: External challenges and opportunities

Chapter 11: Africa and UN peace operations: Implications for the future role of regional Organisations 

Cedric de Coning

Over the last decade and a half, Africa’s peace operations capacity has significantly increased. African states have deployed operations of their own and they now contribute half of all UN peacekeepers. The African Union (AU) and the UN have developed a strategic partnership that plays out at the political, policy, and operational levels, and reflects the reality that neither will deploy peace operations in Africa without close consultations and some form of cooperation with the other. While the UN peacekeeping model is not found to be well-suited to enforcement, counter-terrorism or trans-national operations, the AU, sub-regional organisations and ad hoc regional coalitions have developed capabilities designed to address these challenges. These African capabilities help relieve the pressure on the UN to conduct such operations.


Chapter 12: The European Union and UN peace operations: What global–regional peace and security partnership? 

Thierry Tardy

Over the last twenty years, the EU has become a prominent crisis management actor. This chapter aims to locate the EU’s crisis management role in the UN mandate of “maintaining international peace and security”. What is the EU’s approach to managing crises? Does this approach converge with and support the UN peacekeeping agenda? What do EU member states’ institutional choices tell us about the UN–EU global–regional peace and security partnership? Tardy provides an overview of EU crisis management operations, compares EU and UN operations, and sheds light on the causes of this cooperation and its consequences for their relationship. Finally, the chapter assesses the European participation in Mali and suggests how EU member states’ institutional preferences may evolve in the coming years.


Chapter 13: China rising and its changing policy on UN peacekeeping 

He Yin

Changes in China’s national identity lead to changes in the country’s foreign policy, including that on UN peacekeeping. Since China’s return to the UN in 1971, China’s national identity has undergone a considerable transformation, from a semi-revolutionary state in the 1970s and an integrated member of the international community in the 1980s and 1990s, to a rising power in the twenty-first century. The country’s policy on UN peacekeeping has changed from opposition in the 1970s, to gradually expanded and reactive participation in the 1980s and 1990s, and finally to an increasingly active participation in the new millennium. China’s ambition is to contribute more than personnel and finances to UN peace operations, with this rising power wanting to also shape governance of UN operations.


Chapter 14: Religion, governance, and the ‘peace–humanitarian–development nexus’ in South Sudan 

Jonathan C. Agensky

This chapter highlights practices that seek similar outcomes as UN peace operations or otherwise affect the background conditions necessary for their success. Treating South Sudan as an illustrative case study, it demonstrates how the incorporation of religious institutions into global and regional aid-based governance networks enables church-based actors to pursue political, social, and structural interventions critical to UN peace operations. In doing so, this chapter emphasises the impact of religion, aid, and governance on peacebuilding in Africa, with a view toward contributing to discussions about holistic, integrated, and people-centered approaches to sustainable peace.



Chapter 15: UN peace operations and changes in the global order: Evolution, adaptation, and resilience 

Cedric de Coning

Changes in the global order are contributing to a more pragmatic era of UN peace operations. Peace operations are likely to become less intrusive and more supportive of locally-led solutions. Three overarching themes are identified. First, the degree to which a peace operation contributes to strategic political coherence will become a key measure of its effectiveness. Second, the principle of minimum use of force is likely to remain a defining feature of peace operations. Third, the scope of peace operations mandates may be trimmed down to focus on protection, stability, and politics. Whilst UN peace operations have shown a capacity to continuously adapt to new challenges, they will also remain resiliently identifiable by their enduring principles of peacekeeping.


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