UN peacekeepers frequently operate in highly volatile areas with conflict. While our military and police peacekeepers work to protect civilians, stabilize conflict zones and strengthen rule of law, many other peacekeepers work to strengthen social and civic conditions necessary for peace. Peacekeepers help strengthen national and sub-national institution to address the root causes of conflict such as discrimination, inequalities and marginalization.
Our civil affairs officers are a key civilian component that helps facilitate interactions between peacekeeping missions, partners and local communities to prevent conflict. Civil affairs work depends on a mission’s mandate and the evolving situation on the ground. Three constant key activities that civil affairs officers undertake are engaging local stakeholders, participating in local conflict management and supporting the extension of state authority. As of January 2017, there are about 732 Civil Affairs Officers in 12 UN Field Missions worldwide.
United Nations Civial Affairs Deployment as of January 2015
Engaging local stakeholders
Civil Affairs officers engage extensively with local communities by working on social cohesion, extension of state authority and mitigation of local conflicts. Interactions at the local level are crucial to implement mission-mandated tasks and to enhance a mission’s credibility. Missions like our one in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA, use a whole-of-mission approach with community engagement that will help the mission have a consistent and coherent method when assisting local communities.
Local conflict management
Local conflicts are often complex and easily influenced by national political processes and are able to influence and derail peace processes. These disruptions can be triggered by political and resource-based factors including land disputes, cattle migration patterns and much more. Peacekeepers work to prevent and mitigate these disruptions by supporting communities and actors at the sub-national level with community dialogue, facilitating mediation efforts and supporting localized peace agreements and reconciliation processes. .
Support to the extension of state authority
The extension of state authority is a key peacekeeping task that focuses on activities to ensure that the state authority is present throughout the territory of the country, that it is able to provide goods and services and that it is legitimate in the eyes of the population. This is an area of work in which Peacekeepers are increasingly engaged with these activities by supporting state institutions and good governance practices at the sub-national level in Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, among others.