Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding
Definitions of peacekeeping and peacebuilding
The main activities aimed at promoting peace and stability, on the one hand, and maintaining it, on the other, are known as peacekeeping and peacebuilding. While both terms are often used interchangeably, they refer to distinct but complementary approaches to achieving these goals.
Peacekeeping, in practical terms, refers to the deployment of international military or civilian personnel to areas of conflict. The mission of this staff is to monitor and maintain peace. United Nations Peacekeeping forces are typically deployed to monitor ceasefires, protect civilians, and support peace agreements.
The primary goal of peacekeeping is to prevent the outbreak of violence and protect civilians in conflict areas. To do so, UN peacekeepers conduct patrols and checkpoints, and support missions to local law enforcement agencies. They also run other activities, such as the construction or reconstruction of security institutions. UN peacekeepers train and build up local police forces, ensuring they respect human rights and use adequate crowd control and conflict resolution methods.
Peacekeepers assist in reforming judicial systems. They train judges and lawyers in fair legal processes that uphold the rule of law. They facilitate disarmament and help former fighters transition to civilian life by offering training and psychological help. UN forces also bolster border security and customs management to prevent illegal weapons flows.
The goal of peacebuilding is to address the root causes of conflict and build the foundations for sustainable peace. This takes a long-term commitment from the international community. However, peacebuilding efforts often require more actors than the mere ‘international community’. Government officials, civil society organisations, and community leaders must also be involved as local stakeholders.
Challenges of integrating peacekeeping and peacebuilding
To find the conditions for peace, the UN and NGOs often work alongside local actors. However, it can be challenging to get many groups and stakeholders to work together.
While they all aim for lasting peace, actors involved in peacebuilding may have different priorities. NGOs tend to focus on alleviating human suffering. The UN seeks to bring stability to the country's institutions and society. Local actors may want to re-establish strong political power and assert their sovereignty.
Also, insufficient funding and resources can make peacekeeping and peacebuilding more challenging.
Waging war requires huge amounts of resources, but establishing peace is also extremely costly. Peace organisations and local actors often have limited funds for their international work. This may make it challenging to implement comprehensive peacebuilding initiatives.
Limited resources may make it difficult to keep the peace in the short term as well. Lack of funding for disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration programs can contribute to ongoing conflicts. Likewise, insufficient funding could make it hard to reorganise security forces. This may affect the ability of police and military forces to maintain law and order. All in all, peacekeeping programs with inadequate funds can cause the resurgence of conflict.
Another potential challenge is the power imbalance between international organisations and local actors. International organisations and NGOs tend to have more funding and influence in the process. This can lead to unbalanced outcomes that do not sufficiently involve locals who know the community at a deeper level. Indeed, local actors often have the best understanding of the context. They are also more likely to be accepted by the local population.
Even within local communities, there are often power imbalances between different factions. Some voices may be marginalised or excluded from peace processes. Unequal power dynamics can hinder the ability of the peacebuilding process to be truly inclusive. This can lead to a lack of legitimacy for the peacebuilding outcome. It can also lead to a general lack of trust and suspicion on the part of local communities towards international actors.
Because peacebuilding depends so much on effective communication, cultural differences can also make it challenging. Misunderstandings and communication barriers can occur between locals and peacekeepers due to language, communication, and cultural differences. When peacekeeping actors operate in a multicultural environment, clear and open communication becomes crucial. In such situations, interpreters have an important role in bridging language gaps.
Cultural sensitivity is also often a requirement in effective communication. In certain communities, peacekeepers may need to use indirect or subtle communication instead of assertive styles. Peacekeepers can build trust and rapport with the local people by adjusting how they communicate to fit different cultures.
Building and gaining trust between local communities and peacekeeping actors can take considerable time and effort. Equally challenging is establishing effective peacekeeping coordination mechanisms and structures that are acceptable to all stakeholders.
While peacekeeping and peacebuilding are distinct approaches, they are also complementary. Peacekeeping is often the first step in promoting peace and stability in areas of conflict. Meanwhile, peacebuilding is a long-term process. Its goal is to address the root causes of conflict and create lasting peace.
The UN mission in Sierra Leone, called<span class="span"><span id=hint class="box-source">UNAMSIL</span><div class="popover">Source:<br><br><div>Olonisakin, F. Peacekeeping in Sierra Leone: the story of UNAMSIL. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2007.</div></div></span>, began in 1999 to help stop the civil war. Many commentators called it a successful peacekeeping effort. The mission helped stop the fighting, create conditions for peace, and organise free elections. It helped restore overall stability in Sierra Leone.
<h6 class="textbox" font-size:14px>The UNAMIR’s mandate meant the peacekeeping force could not intervene militarily. Some UN staff based in Rwanda were killed at the start of the genocide, with no possibility to retaliate, making it difficult for peacekeeping force to operate. This resulted in the withdrawal of peacekeepers, leaving the population exposed and vulnerable to more mass killings.</h6>
On the other side of the spectrum, one example of an unsuccessful peacekeeping operation is the<span class="span"><span id=hint class="box-source">United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda</span><div class="popover">Source:<br><br><div>Des Forges, A. L. and Kuperman, A. J. Shame: Rationalizing Western Apathy on Rwanda. Foreign Affairs, 2000.</div></div></span>(UNAMIR) during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The mission was allegedly not prepared well enough to handle the increasing violence.