Why Peacekeeping Missions are Often Portrayed as Simultaneously Unable to Restore Peace And Yet Indispensable

By [Name]









Professor’s Name


Location of Institution



The concept of peacekeeping was developed following the frustrations of the United Nations being unable to promote peace under its aims provided in the Charter, and its quest to make an extra effort in terms of international armed conflict, instead of just conciliating and mediating from afar (Hegre, Hultman, and Nygård, 2019, p.215). The United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions are aimed at enhancing sustainable peace and security in the nations experiencing conflict. In doing this, the UN has to factor in the aspects of resourcing, international politics, the mission management. With the end of the cold war, the peacekeeping operations of the UN have been structured to protect civilians, stop wars in the early phases, and enhance long-term security and peace. Regardless, the UN peacekeeping missions have faced various challenges that have made it to be termed as being unable to restore peace while they are indispensable at the same time. In this essay, the various reasons why UN peacekeeping missions have been criticized for failing to restore peace, yet they remain indispensable will be discussed. A case study will also be discussed regarding this issue. Thereafter, a conclusion will be provided.

Theory: Reasons for Criticisms against Peacekeeping Missions, Yet they Remain Indispensable

Organizational Challenges

Similar to other local and international agencies, the United Nations also needs to initiate programs and projects that will support the various aspects that each mission wishes to address. International NGOs and state governments also establish their projects. Due to this, these organizations may be required to employ tens of thousands of foreign and local staff. It is the staff that aids the UN in achieving its peacekeeping missions, but by following their particular priorities and approaches (Allen and Yuen, 2014, p.624). Hence, it may not be a surprise that the UN coordination of complex peacebuilding entities is most of the time, not a reality but just an aspiration. While the UN appoints a high representative to coordinate and manage every mission, in reality, they can only be said to be “first among equals” in the continual process of persuasion and negotiation (Peter, 2015, p.351).

More often, the UN has been associated with increased issues of bad practices and inconsistency. For example, there have been certain scandals where the UN missions have ended up creating an impression of not tackling the issue of corruption with the seriousness that it deserves (BBC News, 2022). In other instances, the United Nations military peacekeepers have also failed in their attempt of protecting civilians against violence, as seen in South Sudan (Kindersley and Rolandsen, 2021), p.479). Moreover, there have been reports where the United Nations and its staff have utilized poorly their positions in trying to get sexual favors, with specific reference being the DRC case (Odello and Burke, 2016, p.839).

Since it does not have the authority, the UN secretariat tends not to be in a position of tackling issues such as these. The military forces that the UN deploys to its missions are only accountable to their local governments and national commanders. Therefore, they are likely not to put maximum effort during the peacekeeping talks involving other countries. Regardless of the orders that they obtain from the UN, they may not wish for their forces to engage in risky actions as they protect civilians (Hutabarat, 2014, p.186). Moreover, governments may also be slow in setting up measures that tackle abuses that may be conducted by their citizens. Due to these issues, some members of the public may deem the UN as being unable to fully restore peace.


Reduced Support

Global support for the UN peacebuilding initiative has been on a decline since 2011 (Sarjoon and Yusoff, 2019, p.202). Some fast-developing countries like China and India have also not truly made up their minds on the UN peacekeeping missions. The changes in the US policy and funding during the Trump administration also rendered the western support patchy. Concerning this concept, the efforts of addressing and recognizing risks of abusive or bad activities for the future improvement of the UN peace missions can easily be utilized in painting a bad picture of the general approach of peacebuilding (Coleman, 2017, p.101). It may appear politically and financially convenient for the UN to return to its modest peacekeeping missions. Nonetheless, this would imply that it would be less attentive towards sustainable human security, peacebuilding, and protection and empowerment of women and vulnerable groups. These aspects have been crucial in boosting the UN’s peacebuilding missions over the last three decades.

Introduction of the New Peacekeepers

The new peacekeepers refer to the states that have been involved in a UN peacekeeping mission for the first time in their history since 1989. Over half of the current 80 UN peacekeeping contributors are said to be ‘new’ (Weinlich, 2014, p.3). One of the various reasons for the criticism against the UN’s ability to restore peace can be attributed to the introduction of the new peacekeepers. For example, concerning the new peacekeepers, the UN has had to endure some tough consequences such as the military and other deployed personnel not being properly equipped or trained for peacekeeping, constitutional and political complexities constraining, delaying or ruling out their participation, and some governments not willing to accept the command and control of UN over their forces. There is no way public opinion can tolerate the ambiguities, subtleties, and frustrations of peacekeeping (Richmond, 2020, p.58). Therefore, the new peacekeeper may be deemed not well suited to restore peace.

The new peacekeepers tend to have been thrown into the world of peacekeeping yet they do not have the same training and experience as the old ones. This makes the peacekeeping mission a heavy task given that the dynamics of the peacekeeping approach are no longer the same as they used to be some years ago. However, the old peacekeepers tend to have an advantage over the new ones given that the traditional peacekeeping ethos is still applicable in the new peacekeeping. This factor was somehow evident in Somalia the UNOSOM II  was forced into operations for peace enforcement, which it was not prepared for, due to their skepticism or unfamiliarity with the traditional approach to peacekeeping (Woods, 2018, p.160).

Reasons why the Peacekeeping Missions remain Indispensable

Despite all of the above issues making the public term the peacekeeping missions as being unable to restore peace, the services from the peacekeeping missions have yet remained indispensable. This is because such missions have made and are continuing to make milestones concerning maintaining and promoting global stability. First, it is important to note that UN peacekeeping is the biggest and most evident representation of the United Nations (Beary, 2020, p.3). For over seven decades, the peacekeepers have contributed to tangible differences in the lives of very many vulnerable individuals throughout the globe. They have aided in developing conditions for long-term peace.

The UN peacekeeping missions also remain indispensable since it is a global investment towards security, peace, and stability. Being a political process, peacekeeping will always have an insurmountable level of criticism directed toward it. However, the success of the mission has always depended on the actual prospect of a peace process. Therefore, the UN Security Council has an important role in providing missions that have been mandated and that are realistic. The peacekeeping operations have had success in completing their mandate globally over the years thanks to a strong relationship between the Security Council, the UN Secretariat, and the nations that play a role in forming uniformed personnel (Ruggeri, Dorussen, and Gizelis, 2017, p.163).

Empirical Analysis: A Case Study on “Ineffectiveness” of UN Peacekeeping Mission to peace Restoration

The Germany Case Study: Hans-Georg Ehrhart

This is a case study that involved an internal German debate that influenced not only the future international contribution of Germany to peacekeeping but also its political identity. It is the role of German in the cold war and World War II that influenced the country’s relationship with the UN (Koops, 2016, p.652). Initially, Germany was an ‘enemy state’ to the United Nations, but this changed in 1973 when the two German States agreed to become members of the UN. Upon unification, Germany has been subjected to the challenge of restructuring its political aims and priorities regarding the security environment which was rapidly evolving.

Germany has been involved in various UN peace missions. However, not all of them were based on the traditional perception of peacekeeping. For example, Germany supplied emergency shelter and food to Kurdish refugees in western Iran in 1991. The German Air Force also distributed huge tons of humanitarian relief supplies to Somalia between 1992 and 1993. The government also offered to help the UN with transport and supply only to be utilized in Somalia’s ‘pacified areas’.

The Somalia situation acted as a turning point for Germany in deciding the type of support that it would wish to offer on the UN peacekeeping mission. In 1993, the German government allowed 1640 men to help the UN under UNOSOM II in Somalia regarding logistic, transport, and engineering roles (Longhurst, 2004, p.11). However, instructions were offered by the government that the armed forces should not be engaged in any combat role. Later, Germany and the UN were involved in a small controversy on the role of the armed forces towards UN peace missions. Some people wanted Germany to fully and actively participate in the UN peace mission while others believed that the constitution only allows the military to operate only within confined regions. Later, the matter was cleared by the UN Secretary-General who said that it all lies within a country to decide what they will contribute to the UN on matters relating to peacekeeping.

Germany has a peacekeeping challenge to tackle, even today about its contribution towards the UN’s peacekeeping mission. This is one of the clear indications that while the UN might be having positive intentions towards peacekeeping, its actual efforts on peace restoration may be limited and depend on what its member states are willing to provide. For example, Germany’s election to the UN Security Council for 1995-96 and the appointment of two Germans as top UN officials give the impression of the country attainer a bigger role in the UN (Koops, 2016, p.655). However, there also seems to be limits on the support being directed by the German Government towards UN peacekeeping. One clear indication of such limits comes across through the negative response that the country gave towards the request of the UN Secretary-General regarding the country’s standby peacekeeping contingent (Longhurst, 2004, p.15).

The reaction of the public in Germany about the Somalia events also showed a quick declining public support towards a strong UN mission. This means, there is only a certain extent that the UN can go concerning peace restoration while undertaking its peacekeeping missions. In the general outlook, is possible for Germany to take part in every mission of the UN today. However, there is still a long learning process that it has to undergo. Peacekeeping operations have a huge chance of receiving public acceptance. However, this can be jeopardized when the process is confused with enforcement actions, which most of the time can lead to military escalation, swaying away from the objective of peace restoration (Fortna, 2004, p.269).


The UN’s Peacekeeping missions have always helped in protecting civilians, ending wars, and promoting long-term peace and stability after the cold war. However, there is a public perception that the peacekeeping missions by the UN do not truly materialize in the restoration of peace. Some of the various reasons why there is this perception have been discussed in this essay and they include: organizational challenges like limited support from the member nations, conflict of political and constitutional ideologies between the local governments and the UN orders on the peacekeeping mandate, and misuse of power by some top UN official leading to a poor public reputation; reduced support where some fast-growing countries like China are not offering total support towards the peacekeeping mission; and the aspect of new peacekeepers who may tend not to have experience and training on how to approach the peacekeeping mission. The case study of Germany and its relation to the UN’s peacekeeping mission has been discussed to offer an empirical overview of how the issues discussed have affected peacekeeping missions in real life. However, UN peacekeeping missions are still proving to be indispensable thanks to the fact that there have been increased international tensions and the strong relationship between the member states and the Security Council have ensured that the UN remains strong towards its mission of promoting global peace, security, and stability.



















Allen, S.H. and Yuen, A.T. (2014). ‘The politics of peacekeeping: UN Security Council oversight across peacekeeping missions’, International Studies Quarterly, 58(3), pp.621-632.

BBC News (2022). UN sexual abuse claims ‘must be investigated. Available at:  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-61826551 (Accessed 7 Jan 2023).

Beary M. (2020). ‘Evolution of Practice in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations’, In Richmond O., Visoka G. (eds) The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Peace and Conflict Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Coleman, K.P. (2017). ‘Extending UN Peacekeeping Financing beyond UN Peacekeeping Operations: The Prospects and Challenges of Reform’, Global Governance23, p.101.

Fortna, V.P. (2004). ‘Does peacekeeping keep the peace? International intervention and the duration of peace after civil war’, International studies quarterly48(2), pp.269-292.

Hegre, H., Hultman, L. and Nygård, H.M. (2019). ‘Evaluating the conflict-reducing effect of UN peacekeeping operations’, The Journal of Politics, 81(1), pp.215-232.

Hutabarat, L.F. (2014). ‘Indonesian participation in the UN Peacekeeping as an Instrument of Foreign Policy: Challenges and opportunities’, Jurnal Global dan Strategis, 8(2), pp.183-199.

Kindersley, N. and Rolandsen, Ø.H. (2021). ‘Prospects for peace and the UN regional protection force in South Sudan’, African Affairs120(480), pp.479-490.

Koops, J.A. (2016). ‘Germany and United Nations peacekeeping: the cautiously evolving contributor’, International Peacekeeping23(5), pp.652-680.

Longhurst, K. (2004). ‘Germany and the use of force: The evolution of German security policy 1990-2003’, Manchester University Press.

Odello, M. and Burke, R. (2016). ‘Between immunity and impunity: peacekeeping and sexual abuses and violence’, The International Journal of Human Rights20(6), pp.839-853.

Peter, M. (2015). ‘Between doctrine and practice: The UN peacekeeping dilemma’, Global Governance, 21, p.351.

Richmond, O.P. (2020). ‘Peace in International Relations’,  New York: Routledge, chapter 2, pp. 52 -72).

Ruggeri, A., Dorussen, H. and Gizelis, T.I. (2017). ‘Winning the peace locally: UN peacekeeping and local conflict’, International organization, 71(1), pp.163-185.

Sarjoon, A. and Yusoff, M.A. (2019). ‘The United Nations Peacekeeping Operations and Challenges’, Academic Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies8(3), pp.202-202.

Weinlich, S. (2014). ‘The UN Secretariat’s Influence on the Evolution of Peacekeeping,’ Springer.

Woods, J.L. (2018). ‘US government decisionmaking processes during humanitarian operations in Somalia’ In Learning from Somalia (pp. 149-172). Routledge.




Subscribe For Latest Updates
Let us notify you each time there is a new assignment, book recommendation, assignment resource, or free essay and updates