Does Peacekeeping Work?

Concerning what has been going on in the world lately, it has become ever more important to have discussions about the nature, purpose and mechanisms through which international peacekeeping missions are undertaken. Virginia Page Fortuna’s work titled “Does Peacekeeping Work” is one genuine attempt to foster such a discussion that I believe to be beneficial, but a little naïve.

What this piece does an excellent job of is addressing three major shortcomings associated with the contemporary literature on peacekeeping missions which the author defines as: a lack of empirical data on the outcome of peacekeeping missions, a lack of solid understanding concerning how the specific mechanisms of peacekeeping contribute to the overall peacekeeping efforts, and an ignorance possessed by the peacekeepers concerning the perspective and role of the peacekept (Page Fortuna, 3). She writes that most debates regarding peacekeeping devolve into “casual arguments” resulting in “very little rigorous testing of an effectiveness of peacekeeping (Fortuna, 2).

In hopes of rectifying this lack of empirical data, the author launches an empirically motivated study of “does peacekeeping work? And if so, how? (Fortuna 3). By operationalizing crucial definitions and launching a study of range of cases, I think her conclusion that peacekeeping has a clear, positive impact on the persistence of peace can be accepted as true (Fortuna, 175). Statistically speaking therefore, peacekeeping does work.

While I appreciate this aspect of the study, I think the author’s explanation for why the international community chooses to involve itself into some conflicts and not others is lacking. The author focuses her study on the chance of success versus that of failure; making chance of success the independent variable and international involvement the dependent variable. And while her conclusion that “Peacekeepers tend to go to the most difficult cases” is interesting, this observation does little to explain a nation’s motivation for getting involved (Fortuna, 16). Rather, it serves as little more than an observation.

I believe the author touches on the issue briefly when speaking of how the United States’ public has seemingly become more and more against peacekeeping. She remarks that, “Even in Afghanistan and Iraq, where vital interests are not at stake, the United States has been reluctant to countenance widespread multilateral peacekeeping missions” (Fortuna, 1). I believe this statement illuminates the author’s naiveté concerning two vital aspects of peacekeeping in general. For starters, she recognizes here that vital interests seem to play a part but then excludes their influence from her analysis. Instead of focuses on the chance of success, it might have been more beneficial to study the how persistent exploitable resources or other identifiable motivations were. This might provide a much more causal relationship between independent and dependent variables.

Furthermore, I believe that the author ignores how the United States Public might not be so upset with peacekeeping as a principle and more upset with the way in which the government has undertaken peacekeeping missions. With Iraq in particular, much of the public’s resentment stems from the fact that we feel the government lied to the public about weapons of mass destruction. From my understanding at least, far less people have a problem with the War in Afghanistan than the War in Iraq and I believe this to do with the public perception of why we entered these wars in the first place. Studying ulterior motives other than peacekeeping, in my opinion, would have lead to much more practical insight into this difficult issue. Overall however, I think this work is extremely beneficial.



Fortna, Virginia Page. Does Peacekeeping Work?: Shaping Belligerents’ Choices after Civil War. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2008. Print.



Does Peacekeeping Work? Why or Why Not?

The act of peacekeeping throughout the international realm is a successful procedure implemented to nations “wracked by civil war” (Fortna, 2008, 1). As Fortna explains, groups such as the “United Nations, regional organizations, and sometimes ad hoc groups of states have sent peacekeepers to high-profile trouble-spots such as Rwanda and Bosnia and to lesser-known conflicts in places like Central African Republic, Namibia, and Papua New Guinea” (Fortna 2008, 1). These peacekeepers have excelled in ensuring that the chance of war reoccurring is much lower as a result of their work and presence than it would have been with the inhabitants attempting to deal with the issue themselves. Through the use of military forces and resources such as food and water, “a country is much less likely to fall back into civil war (Chenoweth, 2014, Np) with armed peacekeepers and medical staff providing aid, assistance, and reorganization. The overall goal of peacekeeping is to ensure that peace is kept in the nation after the peacekeepers have left. As Fortna suggests, when examining peacekeeping from this suggested angle of peace being kept, it can be seen statistically that peacekeeping is much more effective than perceived.


Statistically, it can be seen that peace keeping is a successful method in the majority of cases where violence and civil war has left countries in shambles. However, studies, the media, and the general public, tend to only focus on cases in which peacekeeping failed and countries underwent recidivism of violence, which is why peacekeeping is seen as ineffective, pointless, and a waste of money. In reality, studies show that peacekeepers actions alone while in the specific violent countries reduce the “risk of another war by 55%-60%” (Fortna 2008, 173). In addition, in cases where the peacekeepers are deployed and then leave after an extended period of time, “recidivism falls by at least 75%-85%” (Fortna 2008, 173). Furthermore, through interviews with rebels and governments, “the belligerents themselves view peacekeeping as an important tool that has helped them maintain peace” (Fortna 2008, 173).


Lastly, the method of peacekeeping, aside from preventing war from reoccurring, helps to “alleviate fear and mistrust, to some degree, merely by existing” (Fortna 2008, 177). The peacekeepers work in establishing communications between the two opposing parties of the nation, so that they can communicate their true intentions to one another without the use of violence. By doing so, the peacekeepers are “preventing either side from shutting the other out of a political process in a way that makes the political loser chose war” (Fortna 2008, 179). In addition, peacekeepers can essentially take over the entire administration or government of a country temporarily, in order to “prevent either side from dominating the political process during the most dangerous phase of the transition to peace” (Fortna 2008, 178). As a result, the peacekeepers are creating incentives for the opposing parties to follow while also establishing structure, security, communication, and peace. Finally, peacekeeping helps in identifying and eliminating hard-liners who pose a threat to peace, as well as control territory where violence could occur. Thus, I agree with Fortna’s argument that peacekeeping is effective and can continue to be of assistance to countries in need. Peacekeeping, specifically the work on the UN, is “aimed to maintain peace and prevent relapse into conflicts that caused so much suffering in the world” (Powers 2015, Np), and despite the publicity of its failures, statistics show that is has truly succeeded “in some of the worlds most dangerous places” (Ladsous 2015).


Works Cited:

Fortna, Virginia Page. Does Peacekeeping Work?: Shaping Belligerents’ Choices                after Civil War. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008

Chenoweth, Erica. “Peacekeeping Works Better Than You May Think.” Political Violence at a Glance.  August 12th, 2014.  Accessed December 6th, 2015.     

Ladsous, Herves. “United Nations Peacekeeping.” The New York Times. September 18th, 2015. Accessed December 6th, 2015.

Powers, Samantha. “Effective Peacekeeping in the 21st Century.” Sri Lanka Guardian.  November 21st, 2015. Accessed December 6th, 2015.  

Does Peacekeeping Work?

Fortna defines peacekeeping as the “deployment of international personnel to help maintain peace and security in the aftermath of war” (Page Fortna 2008, 5). Fortna rephrases the question of whether peacekeeping works to “does peacekeeping improve the chances that peace will last?” (Page Fortna 2008, 5). She ultimately argues a probabilistic conclusion, rather than deterministic, to the question. The conclusion explains that while peacekeeping does not ensure sustained peace, it does significantly improve the chances of the maintenance of peace.

Mozambique, one of Fortna’s case studies, showcases how peace keeping ‘worked’. The civil war in Mozambique lasted for 15 years starting in the late 1970s. In this aftermath of this conflict UN Peacekeepers utilized both observational and multidimensional operations. The ONUMOZ was established by the security council with four major components: humanitarian, military, political, and electoral. From this initiative a supervisory and monitoring commission was established, as well as a humanitarian program, and elections were conducted. The country has remained relatively peaceful and has held multiple democratic elections. The country actively works towards moving away from its violent past. In a recent news article in the Washington Post, Mozambique was shown to be completely land mine free. One HALO trust worker, a land mine clearance agency, stated that the country has the confidence to “really move forward and flourish, and move on from the civil war and war for independence” (Raghavan 2015).

From the example of Mozambique, it is evident that peacekeeping has the potential to improve chances of peace lasting, but this is not necessarily always the case. An important component to the success of peacekeeping is whether or not it is consent-based within the home country, as well as the different factions’ choice to maintain peace. This is a factor that peacekeepers do not have full control over, and could greatly influence the end result of the durability of sustained peace.


Works Cited

  1. Page Fortna, Virginia. “Peacekeeping and the Peacekept.” Does Peacekeeping Work?
  2. Raghavan, Sudarsan. “Mozambique Was Once Riddled with Tens of Thousands of Land Mines. Now, It Has None.” Washington Post. September 17, 2015
  3. “Mozambique- ONUMOZ Background.” United Nations News Center.

Does Peacekeeping Work? Why or Why Not?

Peacekeeping is well intentioned but performed poorly. Virginia Page Fortna argues in “Does Peacekeeping Work?” that peacekeeping overall is successful. She asserts that while peacekeeping does not guarantee peace, it “will significantly improve the chances that peace will hold” (Fortna 2008, 8). Unfortunately, this is not the case today. Fortna defines peacekeeping as a “multilateral activity” (Fortna 2008, 5) that promotes peace between conflicting groups when in reality, the United Nations forces have began breaking neutrality in war torn nations such as the Congo (Raghavan 2013) and has “failed to prevent fresh spasms of violence” (Raghavan 2014) in South Sudan and the Central African Republic. Peacekeeping, while good in theory, has failed to consistently promote peace and agreement between the conflicting groups.

As previously stated Fortna claims peacekeeping is a multilateral activity that “ensures impartiality” (Fortna 2008, 5) of the peacekeepers. However, in the Congo, the United Nations forces have “orders to react offensively to enforce peace, essentially transforming peacekeepers into combatants. And it is openly supporting Congolese government forces, a move away from the principle of neutrality that has guided other U.N. missions” (Raghavan 2013). The lack of dialogue with the rebel militias has made the United Nations similar to an ally in war rather than an arbitrator to conflict. The actions by the United Nations “risks deepening conflicts” (Raghavan 2013) and causes the militias to view them as “non-neutral potential targets” (Raghavan 2013).

In other African nations, it can be seen that peacekeeping does not increase the chances that conflicts will be settled and peace with hold. Interviews with citizens of Darfur have found that the “U.N. peacekeepers have not been able to stop the violence in Darfur” (Raghavan 2014) and has promoted violence in new areas such as South Sudan, where the “situation is now similar to Darfur” (Raghavan 2014). As senior U.N. official Tony Lanzer has stated: “what [peacekeepers] cannot do is stabilize a situation in a whole country that is erupting into violence” (Raghavan 2014). Placing troops on the ground in many situations has only caused rebel groups and militias to target the U.N. as well as their previous enemies. The U.N. in many cases has only caused tensions to increase between the groups involved and fail to increase the chances these nations will find peace.

Peacekeeping is not working and needs to be restructured if the U.N. desires to become more successful. Clearly the U.N. is not acting on neutrality and causing deeper divides among the groups fighting. Peacekeeping is an action that developed nations should support, but it requires adjustment if we hope to be successful in promoting peace across the globe.

Works Cited:

Fortna, Virginia Page. Does Peacekeeping Work?: Shaping Belligerents’ Choices                after Civil War. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.

Raghavan, Sudarsan. “In Volatile Congo, a New U.N. Force with Teeth. The               Washington Post, November 3, 2013. Accessed December 6, 2015.                          a-new-un-force-with-teeth/2013/11/01/0cda650c-423f-11e3-b028-              de922d7a3f47_story.html.

Raghavan, Sudarsan. “Record Number of U.N. Peacekeepers Fails to Stop                 African Wars.” The Washington Post, January 4, 2014. Accessed                           December 6, 2015.               number-of-un-peacekeepers-fails-to-stop-african                                           wars/2014/01/03/17ed0574-7487-11e3-9389-09ef9944065e_                             story.html



Does peacekeeping work ? Why or why not ?

Markese Wright


In my opinion, peacekeeping does not work. Peacekeepers, in many cases, just use peacekeeping as a “legitimate” justification for going into these countries, so that they can exploit resources – such as oil. In other instances, peacekeepers may really aim to create peace, but fail to actually end the chaos that takes place. And in other cases, peacekeepers do not aim to end chaos at all. For example, the U.N. documented confessions about its ineffectiveness. According to these confessions, “U.N. peacekeepers in Rwanda stood by as Hutu slaughtered some 800,000 Tutsi. In Bosnia, the U.N. declared safe areas for Muslims but did nothing to secure them, letting the Serbs slaughter thousands in Srebrenica”(Boot). This is not peacekeeping. And if it is, it is extremely ineffective at creating and maintaining peace.