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




7 thoughts on “Does Peacekeeping Work? Why or Why Not?

  1. I agree with your argument, Dan. I feel as though in many cases peacekeeping has helped the overall environment, but that peace is only kept temporarily. Also, the costs of peace keeping are astronomical, and it has to be taken into consideration if the results are really worth the amount of money invested. Also, in some cases, peace keeping essentially backfires, or ends up with negative results. For example, recently, in the Central African Republic, peace keepers of the UN raped an innocent girl. This is a truly disgusting act and one of many cases, and is the result of the peace keepers feeling as though they do not have to abide by any laws in this foreign country they are in. Finally, peace keeping is only a temporary method that does not instill long lasting peace and essentially wastes resources (food, water, military assets) in the process, while furthering angering the inhabitants of the foreign country with their presence.

  2. I also agree with Dan’s point about peacekeeping. I believe that the U.N.’s policy of peacekeeping can be lacking when armed combat is introduced as a form of peacekeeping. Taking examples of military struggles happening throughout Africa and the greater world, many times in order for the U.N. to effectively provide aid for civilians, there must be some opening for supplies and aid personnel to access the people. Looking to the reasons for strife during wartime, it can be seen that many of the issues that arise for the civilian population; healthcare, education, food, economic revitalization come as a direct result of continued warfare. For example, many of the civic structures destroyed during fire fights tend to be things like roads and bridges, key infrastructural tools for transferring supplies. In the case of the U.N., supplies to alleviate stress for civilians must be delivered, but with continued fighting and further combat, whatever infrastructure that remains tends to be destroyed even further. In a sense, the U.N. is fighting a losing battle as they cannot do their job of alleviating stress and being the arbiters of the wars, but when they actively pursue and participate in combat they are largely ineffective and allow their true peacekeeping activities to fall to the wayside. One way to ameliorate this problem maybe to enlist the help of other nations states instead of taking on the combative aspects of wartime aid. The U.N. acts as a state in the sense of supplying aid and supplies, in order to stay impartial and as the arbiters of military situations, the U.N. must allow other states to provide the combat aspects of warfare in order to void issues of partiality and painting an image that causes civilians and those around the word to see the U.N. as simple extensions of other states.

  3. I agree with Fortna that peacekeeping works. Peacekeeping manages to bring peace in the long run to a nation, just like Fortna says, that their work “will significantly improve the chances that peace will hold. However there are some failures and shortcomings which the media focuses all of their efforts on, almost not acknowledging the positive outcomes of these peacekeeping organizations in most places. Hence the media should also focus more on the positive side of these peacekeeping forces as peacekeeping does work and continues to “improve the chances that peace will last” in a country. Acknowledging the fact that the presence of peacekeeping forces such as the UN in a country indeed reduces the risks of war resuming, as they work with the country in making progress, and on diplomatic steps to reduce the chances of war in that country.

  4. I agree with your argument that professionals brought into areas to help enact peace do not seem to be successful, but I think it’s important to look at Fortna’s definition of “peacekeepers” when comparing her argument to your own. She says peacekeeping refers “to the deployment of international personnel to help maintain peace and security in the aftermath of war”. Your examples reflect circumstances where there is still war/ conflict going on, and so people are sent in to create peace, not maintain it. So I definitely agree with your argument and examples that what the UN is doing right now doesn’t seem to be working, but I’m more inclined to agree with Fortna that in the aftermath of war, peacekeepers do seem to give the country a better chance at maintaining peace.

  5. I think that out of today’s four posts, this one brings forth my biggest concern about Peacekeeping. The fact that peacekeepers and their campaigns are determined by a bigger political organization, but that is itself regulated by a smaller faction of it (the Security Council in the example of the United Nations), and also equipped by the same or equally small international agents, makes peacekeeping another force in a violent confrontation, not a maintainer of peace. When Dan says that “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” is my perception of peacekeeping, too. Other posts state that most of the criticism of peacekeeping comes from concentrating on the failed missions, but by the structure of the decision making, it is evident that peacekeeping does not favor the local community or their opinions, nor the majority representation of the peacekeeping sponsoring organization. Recent examples evidence that peacekeeper troops are deployed and equipped characteristically to engage in combat in the region. The unevenness and support to one force by the international community creates great disparity in the confrontation in favor of a democratic force (as it should, realistically), but also polarizes the local community depending on their own biases and beliefs. Thus, I think that it is fair to say that peacekeeping actions are set to fail by their own nature to favor one side or another, instead of creating dialogue for harmony. The only real peacekeeping that works, in my opinion, is a nonviolent, dialogic mission, but that had not been the historic approach to conflict resolution.

  6. Hello, My name is Kabir and I am Igancio’s friend. I agree with your sentiment that peacekeeping well intended but has not always been successful. However, in your argument you neglect to emphasize the importance of when peacekeeping has been very successful. For example peacekeeping efforts in Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mozambique amongst dozens of other nations have been successful. If peacekeeping efforts are truly failing at the extent you emphasize in your post, then how do you explain the countries where it has been successful. Perhaps it’s not the UN that’s the issue here. I believe much of the failure of UN’s peacekeeping efforts stems from unique issues that each individual country faces as opposed to failure of UN itself. Additionally you mention several times that UN must change the way it approaches these missions. I agree. However what changes do you suggest? Are the changes necessary and plausible? Can they happen quickly or will it take time? It is important to ask these questions before claiming that changes must be made because, well, change isn’t easy, especially when discussing peace in countries where it seems impossible.

  7. I agree with you and Fortna that peacekeeping is not always successful as it is hoped to be. As anyone would be, I think that citizens of any country involved in conflict are hesitant to accept these peacekeeper and often time question their motives. Most peacekeeping forces come from large Western nations and historically, Western nations visitation of smaller under-developed nations has not been come without ulterior motives. I also believe that the desire for peace in a country has to be internal and not external. Even though these countries must agree to the peacekeeping forces, it is better to show initiative from the people and leaders within a country and have them organize the efforts to find peace again. Although peacekeeping may help lower the chances of a reoccurrence in violence, it is not always as easy and sending in forces and hoping for the best.

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