Men in jumpsuits carrying white buckets

Exploring Civilian Staff Trends in UN Peacekeeping, 2012–2017


Welcome to the first installment of our new blog series CIC Data in Focus, where we discuss trends, peculiarities, and questions arising from UN data, mainly drawn from our data sets here at the Center on International Cooperation.

This week we are looking at civilian staff in UN Peacekeeping Operations (PKOs) in aggregate over the last several years, examining which kinds of staff have increased in number, decreased, or stayed steady across all PKOs.

First, a word about the data itself, which covers 2012 through mid-2017. This data comes from the UN, and is only as good as the record keeping that underlies it. Civilian staff are grouped into the following categories (including only those that have consistently employed 100+ personnel), which have been subject to change (and occasional overlap) over time:

Data Source: United Nations. Prepared by the Center on International Cooperation. Annual medians are calculated based on available monthly data

We have not been able to find precise definitions for these categories, but the names are, to some extent, self-explanatory. Several categories with similar names saw big swings in opposite directions (e.g. Transportation and Aviation), which is probably the result of overlap and renaming — not so much real trends — as also evidenced by the modest downtrend (-13%) in civilian staff numbers overall.

There are certain categories, however, that seem to be trending in a particular direction without any immediate explanation. Here is a graph chronicling some of these year-by-year:

Civilian Staff in UN PKOs by Occupational Group, 2012–2017

Data Source: United Nations. Prepared by the Center on International Cooperation. Annual medians are calculated based on available monthly data.

The data shows that there has been notable growth over time in Language, Political Affairs, and Human Rights Affairs positions, while Rule of Law positions have stayed roughly steady, and Human Resources, Engineering, and Public Information have all fallen more sharply than the overall downtrend.

Going forward, it wouldn’t surprise us if we started to see all categories tick down as the data gets updated, given the recent closures of longstanding peacekeeping missions MINUSTAH, UNOCI, and UNMIL, as well as the potential winding down of UNAMID and several other large missions.

If you have more ideas about these trends, we welcome your tweets: @nyuCIC.

In our next post, we will look at civilian staff trends within some of the largest ongoing PKOs.

Thanks for reading CIC Data in Focus. We welcome and appreciate your feedback.

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