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.

12 thoughts on “Does Peacekeeping Work?

  1. Abby, I agree with you that the success of peacekeeping relies on whether or not it is consent-based within the home country. In her writing, Virginia Page Fortina, mentions that peacekeeping is costly, both in terms of money and personnel. In order for peacekeepers to make a significant difference they need the right amount of resources and the right amount of people. Many of the countries that require peacekeepers barely have enough money and resources to support themselves, never mind support peacekeepers. Sometimes peacekeepers from more developed countries will bring their own resources. However, they still need support from the war-torn country in order to be able to communicate and bring the country up from ruins. Additionally, the size and scope of peacekeeping missions has skyrocketed since 1989, which has hindered optimism from large supporters like the United States. With that being said, I think peacekeeping is a nice idea, but maybe not the most realistic.

  2. Fortna emphasizes the need for political will, in which the “potentially difficult test case” of Mozambique had which resulted in a considerably successful peacekeeping effort. Not only is affluence an important factor of these efforts but what I really think is key to peacekeeping is the consent that can be very hard to achieve. Other case studies such as Sierra Leone act as perfect examples with their numerous failed efforts consisting of dead ended peace talks and cease fires. Fortna also touches on another evident reason why peacekeeping efforts often fail, which is the misunderstood side of the policies, although there is often an optimistic approach. Fortna claims that she provides sufficient evidence as to why peacekeeping does work, but does she take too optimistic of an approach? Possibly, due to the underlying notion that permanent peace has not been kept but just shortly sustained.

  3. Mozambique presents an ideal outcome but I think it might have been really interesting to hear of situations where the presence of peace-keeping forces didn’t bring peace as well as the reasons why.

  4. I felt that this article did not do a great job in explaining why peacekeeping is misunderstood. Fortna claims that there are misconceptions regarding the effectiveness of peacekeeping and explains three loopholes many seem to overlook yet from an outside view, I do not think there can be misconceptions in regard to peacekeeping.

    “In short, our current understanding of peacekeeping suffers from three gaps: we know too little about whether or how much peacekeepers contribute empirically to lasting peace, we lack a solid understanding of the causal mechanisms through which peacekeepers affect the stability of peace, and we know too little about the perspective of the peacekept on these matters.”

    The only element that could cause one to misperceive the effectiveness of peacekeeping is if they do not have access to reliable news sources. When one looks at a country such as Iraq for example, it is clear that “peacekeeping” was not effective and only worsened conditions for Iraqi citizens and further angered militants. Fortna states that there is a gray zone where sometimes peacekeeping works partly, which I don’t believe to be possible. I feel that “peace” is not just a lack of violence, but also content, trust. Peacekeeping is a temporary solution for a long-term problem. Only time can bring true to peace to a war-torn nation.

  5. I agree with the conclusion that consent is important factor in whether or not peacekeeping efforts are successful. I believe these efforts have the potential to produce situations similar to the case with Rwanda, with cultural differences making it difficult for counseling services to take place. I believe that it is impossible to have a universally applied “one size fits all” peacekeeping plan. Rather, there need to be research teams to asses the culture of war torn areas and develop specific plans that will increase the chances of a healthy relationship between victims and peacekeepers.

  6. It was very interesting reading about Mozambique! Although I don’t know much about the topic, it seems like, in the long run, peacekeeping would produce safer outcomes than it does dangerous. I do agree with akamaozu and think that it’d be great if some situations in which peacekeeping produced negative results and what went wrong in that aspect. Peacekeepers remind me of those characters in The Hunger Games trilogy (I know it’s pretty lame for me to be reminded of them); perhaps in the negative situations, peacekeeping went too far and punished too many people for supposedly disobeying the laws, leading to ultimate repression?

  7. I agree that the success of peacekeeping can be influenced by consent within the home country. Fortna suggested “consent-based missions are typically much less expensive, and that it may be easier to find countries willing and able to contribute troops for them” (174). Consent is an important factor that can influence the overall success of peacekeeping. Although this may not entirely guarantee sustainable peace, this provides a chance for peace to last. Peacekeeping is an effective strategy when conflicts are less likely to fall back into wars. Fortna is optimistic and believes that the success of peacekeeping is gradually progressing. Even though peacekeeping does not ensure long-lasting peace, I believe that peacekeeping works where it increases the chances of peace to occur rather than eliminating the slight chance of hope for peace to ever happen.

  8. I agree that peacekeeping does have the ability to help a country. However, in order for that country to be helped they have to want to be helped and must accept the help. The approach to helping different countries must be unique for everyone. Each country does not face the same issues or have the same approach to problem solving therefore they must specialize their approach to that countries needs. Although it is a great base for a country to work of off. If a solid base is established than it is easier for a country to stay at peace.

  9. I’m glad you included that Fortna rephrased the question to whether or not peace keeping increases the chances of a long lasting peace. For all practical purposes, it does appear that peacekeeping has “worked” in Mozambique. I looked at Freedom House to see their report on Mozambique to see what their current state of “freedom” looked like. They reported that Mozambique is “partly free”, and they have been having “transparent and free” elections, as deemed so by international observers. In the most recent election, 29 parties participated. It also seems that Mozambique still struggles with crime and insufficient judicial processes. Despite this, however, and especially when compared to its civil war, is certainly moving past their violent past. All things considered, it does seem appropriate to say that peacekeeping has worked in Mozambique.


  10. While Mozambique is a very good example of a case study in which peacekeeping could be deemed a “success”, in more recent years it would seem that peacekeeping is becoming less and less practical. As we have discussed in past classes, people in countries that have been torn apart by war, domestic or not, are very likely to find strangers trustworthy, and this is in cases of aid workers and doctors. I think as the years continue to wear on, that lack of trust will grow, and be even more present in the cases of armed peacekeepers.

  11. Abby, I do agree with you (and Page Fortna, to an extent) that the success of peacekeeping is dependent on whether or not the peacekept have given their consent. However, I do not think the author of ‘Does Peacekeeping Work?’ has examined all viewpoints on this subject. She states, “Peacekeepers also alleviate fear and mistrust, to some degree, merely by existing. To the extent that agreeing to peacekeeping allows the parties to signal their intentions to each other, it is less what peacekeepers actually do than whether the parties have asked for them or not that makes a difference…Peacekeeping missions should thus be designed to be as intrusive as possible as a way of testing the credibility of this signal.” I do not believe that more intrusive peacekeeping missions would be more successful, and Page Fortna does nothing to prove that they would be either. In fact, I tend to think that even if the intended peacekept did consent to peacekeeping in their state, they would want the mission to be minimally invasive, so as to not disrupt their lives even further than belligerents already have been. Additionally, one may think, as I do, that belligerents may be aggravated further by the aggressive strategies of peacekeepers, and may inflict further damages on the innocent in their areas.

  12. The question of whether peacekeeping is a successful tactic of international forces cannot be answered generally but on an individual basis. Whether particular tragedies that are so severe they require the aid of peacekeeping forces will succeed is entirely based on Abby’s argument of “whether or not it is consent-based within the home country”. For peacekeepers to gain the trust of locals is all dependent on the levels of sensitivity, destruction and longevity of the particular domestic conflict combined with the tone and presentation peacekeepers present. Although as Abby mentions, “this is a factor that peacekeepers do not have full control over”, if peacekeepers do more research prior to their arrival of the history of the countries culture, religion, history of violence, gender dynamics, political stability, etc., the acceptance of peacekeepers by the locals may be higher which leads to a greater chance of trust. Trust is a key component in the relationship between peacekeepers in locals and if a certain level of trust is achieved, the peace is more likely to be sustained in the state.

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