Despite all the progress the United Nations has made on protection of civilians (POC) policy in the past twenty years, and the innovative protection practices UN peacekeepers have implemented in the field as a result, it is unclear if and to what extent those practices are effective at reducing violence against civilians. This is because peacekeeping missions do not have systems in place to monitor and evaluate their efforts. It is imperative that peacekeeping missions begin to fill this gap in order to advance POC. Monitoring and evaluation is essential for missions to learn what’s working and what’s not, and to use that analysis to correct course and maximize impact.
Why It Matters
Several recent studies have found that peacekeeping missions reduce violence against civilians. But we know very little about which of a peacekeeping missions’ many activities is helping to reduce violence against civilians. Peacekeepers carry out dozens of different activities with the goal of protecting civilians—ranging from conducting patrols, to facilitating local peace dialogues, to strengthening legal and security institutions. Yet, because there is no monitoring and evaluation of these activities, we do not know which of them is effective at reducing violence and under what circumstances.
For example, it seems likely that the effectiveness of patrols at deterring armed groups depends on their motivations and capabilities, or the types of relationships peacekeepers have with the local community, or in which environments the peacekeepers operate, or at what time of day they patrol. We don’t, however, track and analyze the effects of patrols on levels of violence. Knowing more about the conditions under which patrols are more likely to be effective would help peacekeepers use patrols strategically in the areas where they are most likely to be effective.
The lack of monitoring and evaluation is a problem for all of a peacekeeping mission’s activities, but it’s a particular gap for POC. This is due, in part, to protection being costly and logistically challenging, and to the fact that there is little analysis available to inform decision-makers on how best to allocate resources for protection. Missions currently track and report on their own activities (e.g., through the results-based budget process) and collect data on levels of violence and perceptions of security (e.g., through perception surveys and POC incident databases). However, they have no processes in place to assess whether and how their field activities are linked to POC outcomes.
Particularly in the current environment of austerity, monitoring and evaluation is essential to making sure that scarce resources are allocated to the activities that will lead to the biggest reduction in violence against civilians. Systematic monitoring and evaluation is critical to providing mission leaders the information they need to make these decisions effectively.
Two recent developments have created an opening for real progress on this issue. First, UN member states recently recognized the need to evaluate performance as an urgently needed aspect of peacekeeping reform. For example, last year, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2436, requesting and supporting steps toward greater tracking of and reporting on performance data in peacekeeping missions.
Second, the UN Department of Peace Operations recently introduced the Comprehensive Performance Assessment System (CPAS) into peacekeeping missions in the field. CPAS is intended as a way to track a mission’s progress toward mandate implementation at the strategic level. CPAS is not designed for monitoring and evaluation at the operational level, and therefore cannot tell missions which of their POC activities is working and why (for example, why a local peace dialogue seems to be working in one village but not another, or why an early warning system appears to be less effective over time). However, the implementation of CPAS has spurred peacekeeping missions to institute new processes for data collection, analysis, and sharing, and is encouraging a culture in which mission leaders’ decision-making is informed by systematic tracking of indicators. As such, CPAS provides a useful entry point for monitoring and evaluation.
What stands in the way of peacekeeping missions implementing a monitoring and evaluation framework for POC? There are three main challenges.
The first is the risk of politicizing data. Peacekeeping missions operate in extremely complex and challenging environments which make it very hard to evaluate POC. The data available is often incomplete or inaccurate, and results can be interpreted in different ways. Missions may worry that member states will interpret the data to support their political agendas—for example, to justify reducing or closing a mission, or cutting a specific activity from the mandate. There is also the possibility that POC monitoring and evaluation may yield information about the POC performance of different troop- and police-contributing countries, which could also provoke political sensitivities.
The second is a lack of technical personnel. Monitoring and evaluating POC in volatile peacekeeping environments needs full-time personnel with the right technical expertise. Personnel are needed to train staff on data collection, ensure data are meeting quality standards, develop and adapt monitoring and evaluation methodologies, analyze the data, and brief decision-makers in the mission. Peacekeeping missions do not currently have staff with the time or skills to do this work.
The third is the absence of monitoring and evaluation culture. Since peacekeeping missions are not used to monitoring and evaluating their activities, introducing this system will likely cause friction and challenge the established organizational culture. Monitoring and evaluating POC would place a significant upfront burden on peacekeepers—particularly on military, police, and civilian personnel serving in field offices, who would be responsible for the bulk of the data collection and reporting. If the monitoring and evaluation system doesn’t offer real utility for those field personnel, they will be reluctant to take on this burden. Monitoring and evaluation could also suffer from competition between different sections and components, which may clamor to claim credit for successful initiatives. And most importantly, if senior leadership do not value the analysis and use it to inform their decision-making, personnel at all levels will not see it as a priority.
The Way Forward
These challenges are considerable, but they can be mitigated by designing the monitoring and evaluation system the right way.
Designated Mission Personnel
UN member states should fund full-time evaluation specialist posts in peacekeeping missions and include monitoring and evaluation of POC in peacekeeping mandates. The analysis these specialists produce will enable missions to implement their POC budgets more efficiently and effectively.
Automated Data Collection
To minimize the burden of data collection on field personnel, missions should enable automated (rather than manually inputted) data collection wherever possible. One valuable opportunity is through GPS tracking of peacekeeper patrols, which will allow missions to analyze the relationship between peacekeeper presence and violence against civilians more precisely without having to enter patrol data manually.
Focus on Outcomes at the Operational Level
Missions already collect a lot of data on their own activities (outputs), and some data on violence against civilians (impact), but very little on the direct effects of their actions (outcomes). The monitoring and evaluation system should try to fill this gap, linking specific POC activities in specific locations to outcomes in those locations. This will ensure that the data is not only useful to heads of missions, but can also inform operational decision-making by heads of field offices, heads of sections, and sector commanders.
Coherence with Other Reporting Systems
The monitoring and evaluation system should be linked to other reporting systems where appropriate, such as the results-based budget and CPAS. This will minimize duplication, enhance reporting quality, and, if done correctly, could even reduce some of the reporting burden on missions, for example by automatically populating the activities section of the results-based budget performance report.
Field Mission Ownership
UN member states should allow field mission leadership to “own” the data and analysis produced, and not require missions to make them public. This will incentivize accuracy and integrity in data collection and analysis and reduce the risk that the data will be politicized. It will also ensure that mission leaders are receiving POC analysis that is most useful for their own operational decision-making, reinforcing the system’s sustainability. Some top line findings could be included in reports of the secretary-general to ensure that member states also benefit. Mission ownership is essential to foster a culture of learning and adaptation within peacekeeping, which will improve POC effectiveness.