The West and Contemporary Peace Operations

In recent years, senior UN officials have raised concerns about the decline of Western contributions to UN peace operations. Although this is a worrying trend for supporters of the UN, it does not mean that the West is playing a smaller role in peace operations per se. Instead, the West has increased its contribution to `hybrid’ peace operations and missions that take place outside of the UN system. This article examines the West’s contribution to both UN and non-UN peace operations since the Brahimi Report and assesses whether its contribution has markedly changed and what impact any changes have had on international peace and security. It proceeds in three sections. The first provides a historical overview of the West’s ambivalent relationship with UN peace operations since 1948. The second analyses the West’s contribution to UN, hybrid and non-UN peace operations. The final section explores what Western policies mean for international peace and security by assessing their impact on the UN’s authority, the extent to which they save lives and their contribution to building stable peace. The article concludes that while in the short term the West’s willingness to participate in hybrid operations displays a commitment to finding pragmatic solutions to some difficult problems, over the longer term this approach may weaken the UN’s ability to maintain international peace and security.

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