Building on Brahimi

United Nations (UN) peace operations face an extended and dangerous period of strategic uncertainty. Since the end of the Cold War, global peacekeeping has undergone cycles of expansion and contraction. After a round of boom and bust in the 1990s, UN operations expanded through the last decade, as did those of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and other organizations. But a series of set-backs have coincided with military overstretch and the financial crisis, raising the risk that UN peacekeeping may contract once more.

Much would be lost if it did. UN peacekeeping has proved to be a versatile tool for deterring or reversing inter-state conflict, ending civil wars, and mitigating humanitarian crises. UN operations have also started to play important roles in the extension of state authority in areas where state capacity is weak or contested. Not all operations succeed, or succeed in full. But both individual operations and the peacekeeping system as a whole require continued political, military and financial commitment by states and institutions. Even an optimistic forecast of future conflict trends suggests that demand for global peacekeeping will rise, not fall.

How will that demand be met? What types of operation and mandates will be necessary? Will supply meet the demand? What role will the UN play relative to other institutions and coalitions? What capabilities will it need? What are the limits of UN-commanded operations, and what are realistic alternatives?

This report addresses these and related questions to forecast some aspects of the likely future of UN peacekeeping over the next five to seven years. It is necessarily speculative and raises issues not easily discussed in formal settings. The paper is not normative or prescriptive. It sets out a series of politically charged challenges and choices, but aims to be as objective as possible in its assessments.

Read the full Policy Report here