UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits the Peace Operations Support Training Center in Tavan Tolgoi,
Mongolia. July 26, 2009. (Eskinder Debebe/UN Photo)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits the Peace Operations Support Training Center in Tavan Tolgoi, Mongolia. July 26, 2009. (Eskinder Debebe/UN Photo)

The United Nations currently manages nearly 40 peace operations: 16 so-called peacekeeping operations and about two dozen special political missions. Combined, these operations involve over 125,000 UN peacekeepers, incorporating soldiers, police, and civilians from over 120 UN member states. They cost around US$8 billion to sustain each year. Since 1948, over 1,200,000 people have worn the UN’s distinctive blue helmets or berets in nearly 70 different peacekeeping operations. Over 3,500 of them have died while serving in those missions.

Current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called peacekeeping a “flagship enterprise” of the organization and presided over a series of positive reforms that aimed to make peace operations more fit-for-purpose. Whoever replaces him will need to build on some of these processes. But they will also inherit some difficult and unresolved challenges related to the organization’s ongoing and future peace operations. Five in particular stand out: ensuring what is now referred to as “the primacy of politics;” deciding whether the basic principles of UN peacekeeping are still appropriate; improving the UN’s force generation process; identifying and assessing performance standards for UN peacekeepers in the field; and ensuring peacekeepers are held accountable for misconduct. Read more