Ready or not? Revamping UN Peacekeeping for the 21st Century


  • Claes Nilsson
  • Kristina Zetterlund

Publish date: 2014-02-26

Report number: FOI-R--3833--SE

Pages: 76

Written in: English


  • United Nations
  • UN
  • peacekeeping
  • peacebuilding
  • chain of command
  • command and control
  • African Union
  • AU
  • European Union
  • EU
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  • NATO.


This study looks at the UN's capacity to lead peacekeeping missions and how this capacity has evolved since the beginning of the 21st century. In the 1990s sharp criticism was levelled at the UN's ability to lead complex peacekeeping operations after failures in for example Rwanda and the Balkans. This led to the disengagement from missions by several UN member states. Was the criticism justified, and what is the state of affairs today? The study looks at some larger reforms which have taken place since 2000, and analyses the UN's current capacity to lead complex peacekeeping missions. Issues such as the UN chain of command, internal coordination, cooperation with external partners, robust peacekeeping and possible future scenarios for the development of UN peacekeeping are discussed. Since 2000, there has been an ongoing reform process in the UN peacekeeping system. Guidance, policy and training on UN peacekeeping and the ability of the Secretariat to lead missions have steadily evolved and improved. The study concludes that the organisation that deployed peacekeepers to the Balkans 20 years ago is in many ways no more. However, some things have not changed and are unlikely to do so. The UN is a political organisation where national interests ultimately take precedence. The missions are also aimed at facilitating a political process which means that the military components' effectiveness sometimes suffers. The chain of command and inability to deploy quickly are highlighted as problematic areas. Such negative aspects can be minimised by continuous reform efforts and an understanding of when the UN is the most appropriate actor to respond to a crisis militarily or, alternatively, when the UN should preferably contribute with other instruments from its comprehensive toolbox.

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