Error message

The Arab League this month called for the U.N. Security Council to approve a joint Arab-U.N. peacekeeping mission in Syria, where more than 5,400 people have died as the regime of Bashar al-Assad presses a brutal military crackdown on a popular uprising in Homs and other cities. Russia and China vetoed an earlier Security Council resolution on Syria, and it is not clear how seriously the recent Arab League proposal will be considered. The Arab League has scrapped its monitoring mission in Syria amid the intensifying violence.

Need for International Peacekeeping Missions on the Rise

The Arab League this month called for the U.N. Security Council to approve a joint Arab-U.N. peacekeeping mission in Syria, where more than 5,400 people have died as the regime of Bashar al-Assad presses a brutal military crackdown on a popular uprising in Homs and other cities. Russia and China vetoed an earlier Security Council resolution on Syria, and it is not clear how seriously the recent Arab League proposal will be considered. The Arab League has scrapped its monitoring mission in Syria amid the intensifying violence.

In Sudan, rebels in the restive Darfur area this week detained and later released 52 peacekeepers in a joint U.N.-African Union force. That force deploys some 8,000 troops, 5,000 police and thousands of civilians. An ambush against peacekeepers in Darfur last month left one Nigerian peacekeeper dead and three wounded. Meanwhile, in newly independent South Sudan, ethnic clashes near the town of Pibor last month are believed to have killed at least 150 local people, most of them women and children, despite the presence of several hundred U.N. peacekeepers in the town.

Amid such growing demands for international peacekeeping missions, the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) will host Andrew Shapiro, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, on February 27 for an address on global peacekeeping challenges and U.S. support for expanding peacekeeping capacity. 

As the nation’s nonpartisan conflict management center, the Institute itself supports peacekeeping operations through its on-the-ground programs and the training of key people in local populations in Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq and elsewhere on approaches to resolving conflicts before they become deadly. In Nigeria, for example, USIP specialists have been training African peacekeepers slated for Darfur on negotiation and mediation—skills that directly strengthen their ability to handle some of the tense situations they are likely to encounter in conflict zones. USIP has also worked to strengthen the U.N.’s peacekeeping presence in Haiti, where a force of 11,000 has been in place.

In all, the U.N. is currently leading 16 peacekeeping operations with about 121,000 military, police and civilian personnel. Its annual budget is about $7.8 billion, with the United States covering 27 percent of those costs.

Shapiro’s speech comes as the demands for United Nations peacekeeping missions are on the rise. He is expected to discuss the Obama administration’s strategy for making ongoing operations more effective, as well as describe its thinking about how support for multilateral peacekeeping advances U.S. national security interests in a time of fiscal austerity.

“Peacekeeping is not mentioned in the U.N. Charter but it is now one of the most important, demanding and visible aspects of the organization’s conflict-management work,” said Abiodun Williams, senior vice president of USIP’s Center for Conflict Management and former director of strategic planning to U.N. Secretaries-General Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon.

“U.N. peacekeepers now have to implement more complex mandates in the most challenging environments in the world. It is essential that any new operations are only deployed where certain minimum conditions are in place, including a peace to keep, adequate resources to do the job and the unified engagement and support of the Security Council, especially its five permanent members.”

The Obama administration has been attempting to strengthen U.N. peacekeeping capabilities, stepping up training efforts for international peacekeeping forces and helping to revamp the system of logistical support for the operations in such countries as Cote d’Ivoire, Congo, Liberia, Lebanon, Cyprus and Kosovo.

U.S. officials say they have focused on revising peacekeeping mandates that make the goals of the missions more credible and realistic. And following a period that saw the largest increase in the number of peacekeepers and missions in U.N. history—peacekeepers doubled over eight years—the administration has noted that no new peacekeeping missions have been launched in more than two years.

“They [U.N. peacekeeping missions] have addressed some of the world’s hardest and most challenging security situations,” Esther Brimmer, the assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, told a USIP audience on September 7, 2011. “They do all this at a fraction of the cost of sending U.S. troops, and mean that we need not choose between doing it ourselves or doing nothing.”

Explore Further

Related Publications

Building Peace and a Partnership with the Military

Thursday, December 8, 2011

We asked USIP leaders, from board members to senior staff and experts to explain the effect that events around the world and here at home will have on the U.S. and the contributions the Institute can and does make during a time of tremendous challenge – and opportunity. USIP Chief of Staff Retired Col. Paul Hughes served nearly 30 years on active duty with the Army.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Education & Training; Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue; Education & Training

Managing Conflict in a World Adrift

Managing Conflict in a World Adrift

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

By: Pamela Aall; Chester A. Crocker; Fen Osler Hampson; editors

In the midst of a political shift where power is moving from central institutions to smaller, more distributed units in the international system, the approaches to and methodologies for peacemaking are changing. "Managing Conflict in a World Adrift" provides a sobering panorama of contemporary conflict, along with innovative thinking about how to respond now that new forces and dynamics are at play.

Education & Training

The Value of Building Peace

The Value of Building Peace

Thursday, March 29, 2012

By: Michael Graham

We asked USIP leaders, from board members to senior staff and experts, to explain the effect that events around the world and here at home will have on the U.S., and the contributions the Institute can and does make during a time of tremendous challenge – and opportunity. USIP Chief Financial Officer Michael Graham describes the effect the federal budget crisis is having on the nation’s civilian agencies as very challenging. Graham believes that peacebuilding, by its very nature, saves money ...

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue; Economics & Environment; Education & Training

The Big Picture on Europe’s Travails

The Big Picture on Europe’s Travails

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

By: Judy Ansley

As part of USIP’s ongoing series about the U.S. role in the world, Judy Ansley, a member of USIP’s board and former deputy national security adviser discusses the economic crises in Europe, the changing relationship between the U.S. and Europe, and the contributions the Institute can and does make during this time of tremendous challenge and opportunity.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Economics & Environment; Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue; Education & Training

View All Publications