Recent studies on the United Nations’ peacekeeping missions across the world have been successful. This is against the highly publicized failures.
The evidence, collected in 16 peer-reviewed studies, shows that peacekeepers significantly reduce civilian casualties, shorten conflicts and help make peace agreements stick. In fact, the majority of U.N. peacekeeping missions succeed in their primary goal, which is stabilizing societies and ending war.
“If we look systematically across the record, most of the time peacekeeping works.” That’s the verdict of Professor Lise Howard of Georgetown University. Her book, “Power in Peacekeeping,” is based on extensive field research across different U.N. missions.
“If we look at the completed missions since the end of the Cold War, two-thirds of the time, peacekeepers have been successful at implementing their mandates and departing,” Howard said in an interview with U.N. Video. “That’s not to say that in all of those cases everything is perfect in the countries. But it is to say that they’re no longer at war.”
Howard said millions of lives have been spared since the creation of peacekeeping in 1948. The idea of using Soldiers to help keep the peace was born during negotiations in the Middle East in 1948, when the newly founded state of Israel was in conflict with its neighbors.
One of Howard’s case studies is Namibia. In 1989, a U.N. peacekeeping mission helped end a civil war and supported the first free and fair elections in the country’s history. That was far from easy.
“Namibia is a country that has experienced tremendous hardship,” Howard said. “It’s had multiple colonial rulers. It had a genocide. It’s been victim of a regional war, of civil war. But surprisingly, Namibia has not fallen victim to this tremendously difficult history.”
Today, Namibia is a stable, upper middle-income country, with a functioning democratic system — an extraordinary achievement, given its historical background.
The U.N. mission in Namibia was innovative for its time. Women made up 40% of its personnel. Howard said U.N. peacekeeping is most effective when it does not rely simply on force of arms.
Howard argues that U.N. peacekeeping is most successful when using persuasion and inducement, rather than military force. But whatever the strategy behind the success, the data from extensive studies shows that the peacekeeping missions are effective much of the time.
“If we look systematically across the cases, peacekeepers are helping people, in their everyday lives, move from a situation where there’s war and violent conflict to a situation where there is more peace.”