Peacekeeping operations mediate and facilitate peace agreements and help to keep their implementation on track. They help to maintain stability and dialogue between conflict parties that have not yet agreed on a durable peace agreement. They build trust between communities and conflict actors at the local level, linking local level mediation to national political processes and actors.
This pursuit of sustainable political solutions guides the design and deployment of peacekeeping operations. Peacekeeping partners at local, national, regional and international levels collaborate to help ensure lasting progress in strengthening security, national reconciliation, the rule of law, human rights and sustainable development.
Over 70 years, UN Peacekeeping has evolved to meet the demands of different conflicts and a changing political landscape. Many conflicts ended, either through direct UN mediation, or through the efforts of others acting with UN support.
Since 1948, UN peacekeepers have successfully completed their missions and left countries including Timor Leste, Liberia, Cambodia, Angola, Croatia and Sierra Leone. When the conditions for maintaining a peacekeeping presence cease to exist, operations sometimes transition to becoming Special Political Missions.
Politics as a core area of Action for Peacekeeping
In March 2018, the UN Secretary-General launched the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative aimed at “mobilizing all partners and stakeholders to support the great enterprise of United Nations peacekeeping.” This includes helping countries achieve lasting peace, supporting political processes, protecting civilians and building national institutions.
So far, 154 countries and four partner organizations endorsed the Declaration of Shared Commitments on Peacekeeping Operations.
Women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in peace processes
Ensuring women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in peace and political processes is central to the work of UN Peacekeeping. Peace and security can only be achieved and sustained if all members of society have equal opportunities, protection, access to resources and services and participation in decision-making.
Research shows that women and men experience, engage in, and are affected by violent armed conflict differently and have a different understanding of peace. Recognizing and integrating these differences into peacekeeping, as well as the various roles women have as actors in shaping conflict and contributing to peacebuilding, can mitigate the threat to peace and security.
Through the Women, Peace and Security agenda, UN Peacekeeping addresses social, cultural and political barriers and protection risks that limit women’s full participation in achieving and sustaining peace.
Peace and Security Pillar
Secretary-General António Guterres launched a series of interrelated reforms, including a restructuring of the peace and security pillar. This was designed to make the pillar more coherent, pragmatic, nimble and effective, capable of collaboration with partners across the UN system and outside it to prevent violent conflict.
It brought together the core UN peace and security capacities around a single political-operational structure with regional responsibilities and facilitated the integration of peacebuilding across the pillar.
Within the pillar, the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) and Peace Operations (DPO) share common goals: to prevent violent conflict and its negative impacts; to contribute to its transformation and resolution; and to help build strong, inclusive and resilient societies that will deepen peace outcomes for generations to come.
While the departments retain discrete mandates, plans, and sources of funding, the pillar draws on a range of tools and resources that are employed flexibly in mission and non-mission settings. Through political expertise, technical capacities, and a wide array of advisory and specialized support, DPO and DPPA are focused on maximizing impact in the field.
Examples from the field
Central African Republic
Working closely with the African Union and ECCAS, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) took advantage of its political mandate and robust security posture to create an environment that led the Government and 14 main armed groups, to sign the Accord for Peace and Reconciliation in February 2019. The Mission, together with the international community, is supporting the country ahead of combined presidential and legislative elections scheduled for 27 December 2020. These will be followed by local elections in late 2021 – the first elections since the restoration of the constitutional order and signing of the Political Agreement.
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), while implementing its four pillared mandate, has been instrumental in fostering peace and stability in South Sudan by making use of the good offices of the Secretary-General at national, state and local level. At the national level, UNMISS has significantly supported IGAD and promoted dialogue among stakeholders of the institutions of transition to facilitate the implementation of the peace agreement. At state and local level, UNMISS played a critical role in facilitating dialogue between commanders of the warring parties to see the Ceasefire Agreement take root, and supported intercommunal conflict mitigation mechanisms while protecting civilians through robust presence as well as protecting close to 170,000 IDPs in its Protection of Civilian (POC) Sites. At the same time, UNMISS has facilitated humanitarian operations upon request of humanitarian partners, and investigates and periodically reports on human rights violations committed against South Sudanese citizens.
In March 2020, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) supported legislative elections throughout the country. The decision to hold polls was one of the key outcomes of the national dialogue in December 2019. MINUSMA provided critical logistical and operational support in preparation for the elections, and secured polling stations on election day. Following the 18 August 2020 coup in Mali and the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, MINUSMA worked with the ECOWAS-led regional mediation efforts to support the stakeholders in Mali to agree on the modalities for the transition and to restore constitutional order.