Peacekeepers Road Patrol

A United Nations vehicle carries members of the peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on road patrol. ( UN Photo/Marie Frechon)

Since the end of World War II, states and international organizations have deployed nearly 200 peace operations involving military contingents, and they remain the principal international mechanism for managing armed conflict. A closer look at the last decade of peace operations—from 2010 to 2020—highlights ten macro-level trends which can help us understand some of the key priorities, challenges, and where peacekeeping might be heading next.

First, there’s been a major increase in quality scholarship about peace operations, particularly United Nations “blue helmet” missions. There’s now a stronger evidence-base for understanding how UN peacekeeping works, as well as its impacts. The new quantitative literature is overwhelmingly positive, concluding that, despite some important limitations, UN peacekeeping still works. In comparison, the qualitative literature highlights more flaws and operational challenges facing peace operations but nevertheless recognizes they generally make bad situations better. Less scholarship has focused on non-UN peace operations, but here too there’s been significant recent progress. Read more