The Effectiveness of UN Peacekeeping Forces and a New Approach to Increase it


Peacekeeping is a mechanism initially proposed and developed by the UN, which does not lend itself into a simple definition, as it has multiple dimensions and nuances. Originating as an international tool for maintaining peace, from the end of the Cold War, peacekeeping had firmly entered the arsenal of regional and sub-regional agreements and organizations on behalf of the entire international community under the auspices of the United Nations (MacQueen, 2006: 114-119).

Today, the UN is the largest multilateral peacekeeping player with more than 120,000 civilian and military stationed personnel currently in 16 peacekeeping operations (, 2015). Over the last decade, the number of deployed peacekeepers has increased almost tenfold and, at the same time, the focus of the missions has changed. The concept of UN peacekeeping has had to evolve and alter in order to meet the challenges of contemporary sources of conflicts by changing from a passive to an active force.

This paper examines a number of issues related to various multinational peace operations of the past and seeks to provide insights into the problems that contributed to the failures of peacekeeping forces. Furthermore, it will also analyze some cases of successful operations and examine a new, active generation of peacekeeping: The United Nations Force Intervention Brigade (FIB). Finally, it will give a glance toward the future of new peacekeeping operations and discuss if the FIB will be the new permanent face of UN Peacekeeping missions.


Table of contents


  1. Introduction:
    1. What is Peacekeeping?: The Definitional Wrangle
  2. A Look Back: A Brief History of the UN Peacekeeping Forces
    1. 1989-1994: Broadening the Scale and Scope of Operations
    2. The Mid 1990s: Reappraisal of Values
    3. On the Threshold of the 21st Century: New Operations, New Challenges
  • Confronting the Worldwide Turmoil: Successes and Failures
    1. Criteria of Efficiency of Peacekeeping Operations
    2. Successes and Failures of Peacekeeping Operations
  1. The Force Intervention Brigade (FIB): A New Approach
  2. Is the FIB Really Neutral? What are the Legal Consequences of its use?
  3. Conclusion: Does the FIB Set a Precedent for Future UN Peacekeeping Missions?
  • References


  1. Introduction


  1. What is Peacekeeping?: The Definitional Wrangle


Generally, peacekeeping is a process of maintaining international peace and security by the deployment of military forces from all around the globe in order to help countries make the difficult, early transition from conflict to peace (Murphy, 2007:2-3). This broad definition cover the basics, but it often does not reflect the complex developments in the field since then (Murphy, 2007:16) Therefore, it is difficult to find a functional definition for peacekeeping operations of “the new era” that does justice to the multiplicity of complex tasks undertaken. For example, it is evident that there are clear differences between governing a province like Kosovo and keeping the peace in south Lebanon or along the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea (MacQueen, 2006: 167-168).

In general, the definitions from various textbooks and elsewhere are so indistinct that the best way to comprehend the nature of any single mission is by examining its mandate and how it sets about achieving the mission. According to the Handbook on Multidimensional Peacekeeping Operations, depending on its mandate and the degree of the civilian component, a multidimensional peacekeeping operation may be required to:

  • Assist in implementing a comprehensive peace agreement
  • Monitor a ceasefire or cessation of hostilities to allow space for political negotiations and a peaceful settlement of disputes
  • Provide a secure environment encouraging a return to normal life
  • Prevent an outbreak or spillover of conflict across borders
  • Lead states or territories through a transition to stable government based on democratic principles, good governance, and economic development
  • Administer a territory for a transitional period, thereby carrying out all functions that are the normal responsibility of government (Murphy, 2007:17)

As all of the above examples fall into the definition of peacekeeping, it is clear that the definition must be broad.

  1. A Look Back: A Brief History of the UN Peacekeeping Forces


The first two UN peacekeeping operations were the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) and the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). Both of these missions, which operate to this day, illustrate the observation and monitoring type of operation and had authorized strengths in the low hundreds (MacQueen, 2006: 114-119). The UN military observers were unarmed. The premiere-armed peacekeeping operation was the First UN Emergency Force (UNEFI) deployed successfully in 1956 to address the Suez Crisis. The UN Operation in the Congo (ONUC), launched in 1960, was the first large-scale mission having nearly 20,000 military personnel at its peak.


  1. 1989-1994: Broadening the Scale and Scope of Operations


In the aftermath of the Cold War, dramatic changes occurred in the strategic context for UN Peacekeeping (MacQueen, 2006: 201-205). The UN shifted and enlarged its field operations from “traditional” missions involving generally observational tasks implemented by military personnel to complex “multidimensional” enterprises. These multidimensional missions were designed to ensure the implementation of compendious peace agreements and assist in laying the foundations for sustainable peace. The most famous of these new, multidimensional enterprises was the United Nations Operation in Somalia I (UNOSOM I).


  1. The Mid 1990s: Reappraisal of Values


Areas such as the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Somalia were territories where the deployment of missions took place under conditions of continuing hostilities and where, at the time, there was no peace that the peacekeepers had to keep (MacQueen, 2006: 220-224). These three operations gained notoriety and have been criticized; the peacekeepers were confronted with a situation where the belligerents did not respect the peace agreements and the peacekeepers had not received adequate resources and political support to deal with this properly. Failures of the early and mid-1990s and the desire to avoid such failures in the futur, led the Security Council to limit the number of new peacekeeping missions and to begin introspection and deliberate on how to be more efficient in managing conflict.


  1. On the Threshold of the 21st Century: New Operations, New Challenges


At the dawn of the new century, the United Nations undertook a comprehensive analysis of the problems faced by the peacekeeping mechanism in 1990 and started its reform. The goal of the reform was to strengthen the capacity in the effective management of field operations and their support. More profound awareness of the constraints and opportunities of its peacekeeping activities had allowed the UN to begin addressing new, even more complex tasks. Over the next decade, the Security Council also authorized the deployment of large-scale and complex operations in several African countries. One of the most important and more deeply analyzed here further on in this essay is the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) (, 2015).


  • Confronting the Worldwide Turmoil: Successes and Failures


From 1945 to 2007, twenty-seven peacekeeping operations involving military troops were conducted under the auspices of the United Nations in order to resolve civil wars. The results are ambiguous – only half of them (13 missions) were considered successful. In general, the tendency to increase the effectiveness of peacekeeping missions is within reach: of all operations carried out in the 21stcentury, none of them have outright failed (, 2015). Nevertheless, many of them have failed to achieve complete success.

The cause for many of these failures is that the historical and cultural characteristics, as well as the political and economic situation of the country, can significantly aggravate the situation of the conflict. This can lead to quite unexpected results, which are often impossible to predict, even relying on the logical and seemingly rational arguments. Moreover, in order to the mission to be effective, it is necessary, first, to define the criteria of the effectiveness and secondly, to analyze what conditions are necessary for the success of the peacekeeping operation in the settlement of the civil conflict.


  1. Criteria for Efficiency of Peacekeeping Operations


The most obvious indicator of success is the implementation of points from the relevant mandate during the mission. However, it is also important to analyze the degree of realization of the mandate of the mission as well as the content of the mandate. Some of the points included on the general UN mandate are as follows:

  • To stop the large-scale hostilities during the mission.
  • To ensure the implementation of the ceasefire agreement.
  • To reduce the number of victims of the hostilities.
  • To monitor the demobilization process and achieve progress in disarmament.
  • To see what extent peacekeepers managed to cope with the problem of infringement of human rights and provision of temporary housing for refugees.
  • To see what extent the integrity of neighboring countries has been affected and in what measure the order within a country is being ensured. For example, is it possible to prevent the subsequent use of force and the resumption of conflict? Consideration of these criteria allows one to estimate the effectiveness of the peacekeeping force in ensuring the peace and security in the country in which they are involved (, 2015).


  1. Successes and Failures of Peacekeeping Operations


In the 20th century, successful peacekeeping operations (as defined by their degree of fulfilling the mandate) were the UN Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) in Namibia, the UN Operation in Mozambique, the UN mission in Haiti, the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in the Republic of Macedonia. Partially effective missions (considered as such because they were unable to fulfill the all the points of their mandates) included the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), and the UN operation in Congo (MacQueen, 2006: 220-224).

Missions that were considered to be failures include The UN Angola Verification Mission, The UN Interim Force in Lebanon, the UN operation in Somalia, UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in Bosnia, and The UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (Murphy, 2007: 2-3).

In the 21st century, missions were successful in East Timor, the Central African Republic, Burundi, Liberia and Haiti. Partial successes were achieved in Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, the Republic of Sierra Leone, and Sudan.

Overall, missions that were considered to be successful accomplished most points of the respective mandates; the ceasefire agreement was compiled, armed uprisings were prevented, and the number of victims was reduced. In addition, assistance was provided in the provision of temporary shelter to refugees and displaced persons within the country and conditions in which there is no risk of large-scale resumption of hostilities were made after the completion of peacekeeping missions.

The characteristics of failed missions are different. For example, in Rwanda, hostilities did not stop even during the presence of peacekeeping forces. The number of victims, who suffered the conflict, did not diminish. This number, in fact, actually increased. This genocide took the lives of more than five hundred thousand people. The situation was complicated by the growing number of Tutsi refugees who rushed to the neighboring Burundi in search of salvation. Under such conditions, the attempts to prevent the conflict spreading beyond Rwanda failed, and there could be no question at all on national reconciliation (MacQueen, 2006: 202)

  1. The Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) – A new approach


One of the most complex conflicts of the last 30 years that the UN still has not been able to solve to this day (is the conflict completely stopped tis in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2012, after the advance of the rebel group M23 over Goma, DRC’s second biggest city, and the completely passive stance of the UN troops to protect the civilian population, the international outcry lead to the creation of the FIB – The Force Intervention Brigade (, 2014). It is a 3,000 men strong force, equipped with drones, and attack helicopters. It was created in the Resolution 2098 of the UN Security Council, based on a Chapter VII mandate where its main objective is stated to “Neutralize and Disarm” Congolese Rebels, Foreign Armed Groups. Therefore, for the first time in peacekeeping history, peacekeepers would not just wait to be attacked and then react; instead, they would engage the enemy before it attacks (, 2014).

The FIB had early successes by giving support to the National Congolese Army to completely defeat the M23 rebel group by the end of 2013. Early in 2014, the Congolese Army unilaterally attacked another rebel group, the ADF (Allied Democratic Force) with logistic support from the FIB (ISS Africa, 2014). However, this early victories supporting the official national army (directly and indirectly) was followed by complex operations with dubious alliances (, 2015).


  1. Is the FIB Really Neutral? What are the Legal Consequences of its Use?


When aiming for another rebel group, the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS), the FIB found itself alone, without the support of the government of Congo. This put the neutrality of the FIB in question. Was it being neutral and used to bring peace to the country or just to support one of the parties in the conflict, the Congolese army? The issue is that, according to some human rights organizations, the Congolese military is responsible and largely unaccountable for grave violations of human rights and international law and have some dubious relationship with some of the APCLS members. By supporting such an actor, the FIB can be seen as having a bias towards a morally corrupt institution.

This put the FIB in a very uncomfortable position and, up to this day, it has not taken actions against the APCLS, receiving criticism from the local population (‘DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: UN Pulls Out Of Joint Offensive, 2015). This brings questions about the legality and impartiality of the FIB, since it would probably not start unilateral operations without consent of the DRC government, even though it has a mandate to “neutralize” any non-state armed group. Moreover, the International Peace Institute (IPI) published a report in November 2014 which claims that the uniquely offensive mandate of the FIB, given by the UN Security Council, unintentionally made the FIB and the MONUSCO as a whole a party in the armed conflict. The IPI states that since the UN is now a party, all military personnel of MONUSCO will have lost the protections provided to them under international law and therefore no longer possess legal protection from attacks (, 2015).


  1. Conclusion – Does the FIB Set a Precedent for Future UN Peacekeeping Missions?


The establishment of the FIB remains unique in the history of UN peacekeeping missions. It was an audacious, pioneering, and controversial action undertaken by the UN Security Council. Fortunately, the fear of humanitarian impact by the offensiveness of the FIB operations did not materialize. However, it has contributed to the view of MONUSCO and the UN as becoming increasingly belligerent (Sheeran and Case, 2014:18). Although it was largely considered a success and probably will be replicated in future UN operations, the legal and moral issues associated with the practical problems faced by the FIB and MONUSCO in Congo, will also follow those future operations (Sheeran and Case, 2014:19).

Currently, UN Peacekeeping missions in Central African Republic and Mali have already borrowed some of the characteristics of the FIB and therefore sounding the alarm that the exception of an offensive UN might become the norm (, 2015). This may create a backlash with the local population and jeopardize the UN’s position in conflicts as an impartial actor as it moves from peacekeeper to peace enforcement and finally an offensive force. UN Peacekeeping missions have been adapting and evolving accordingly to the complexity of the new conflicts. In the future, this will certainly pose legal and moral questions that only the success or failures of future operations will be able to answer.


  • References, (2014). DRC: Assessing the performance of MONUSCO’s Force Intervention Brigade – By Christoph Vogel | African Arguments. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015]., (2015). Africa: UN Staying in Eastern DRC – for Now. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015]., (2015). CIA Site Redirect — Central Intelligence Agency. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Jun. 2015].

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: UN Pulls Out of Joint Offensive. (2015). Africa Research Bulletin: Political, Social and Cultural Series, 52(2), pp.20461C-20462C.

ISS Africa, (2014). ISS Africa | Is the Force Intervention Brigade neutral?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Jun. 2015]., (2015). Re-emergence of Rwandan rebel group in eastern DRC raises risk of border fighting and attacks on UN – IHS Jane’s 360. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Jun. 2015].

MacQueen, N. (2006). Peacekeeping and the international system. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Murphy, R. (2007). UN peacekeeping in Lebanon, Somalia and Kosovo. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press., (2015). International Peace Institute: The Intervention Brigade: Legal Issues for the UN in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 May. 2015].

Sheeran, S. and Case, S. (2014). The Intervention Brigade: Legal Issues for the UN in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. International Peace Institute., (2015). ‘Intervention Brigade’ Authorized as Security Council Grants Mandate Renewal for United Nations Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Jun. 2015]., (2015). United Nations Official Document. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Jun. 2015].

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