The gap between traditional peacekeeping principles and the realities of contemporary operations is becoming increasingly apparent.

Peace operations have undergone considerable change since the turn of the century. Peacekeepers are deployed in a greater variety of scenarios, ranging from monitoring ceasefires to complex peace operations. The protection of civilians has become an important focus, and operations have become more robust in their use of force to defend their mandates. At least some missions have the explicit purpose of helping to stabilise a country in the midst of an ongoing conflict.1

Despite these changes, the United Nations continues to champion its original peacekeeping principles, specifically consent of the parties;2 impartiality (in the sense of a referee holding the parties to the rules); and the non-use of force except in self-defence and to defend the mandate. Yet, as some operations have come to more closely resemble stability or counter-insurgency interventions than peacekeeping operations in the traditional sense, the gap between these principles and the realities of contemporary peacekeeping has become apparent. Notably, peace operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Mali have blurred the line between peacekeeping and peace enforcement. Within the United Nations, there has been a debate about whether to maintain the traditional principles or to adapt them to new challenges, a debate reflected in the report of the High-Level Panel on United Nations Peace Operations (HIPPO).3

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Peter Rudolf is Senior Fellow at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP).

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Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

June-July 2017

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