Various Types of Peace Support Operations

Peace support operations or peacekeeping operations as many calls it, is “[…] among a range of activities undertaken by the United Nations and other international actors to maintain international peace and security throughout the world." (United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, Principles and Guidelines 2008: 17) It is important to understand how peacekeeping relates and differs from the different operations that are considered as a part within peacekeeping. These different operations are conflict prevention, peacemaking, peace enforcement and peace building.

Conflict prevention or as many would call it, preventive diplomacy, “[…] involves the application of structural or diplomatic measures to keep inter-sate tensions and disputes from escalating into violent conflict." (ibid: 17) More easily explained it is to prevent disputes from arising between states and to prevent existing disputes from escalating into conflicts. Conflict prevention is built on structured early warning, information gathering and a careful analysis of the factors driving the conflict. Conflict prevention may include the use of confidence-building measures which are “[…]certain techniques that are designed to lower tensions and make it less likely that a conflict would break out through a misunderstanding, mistake, or misreading of the actions of a potential adversary." (Internet 1) It may also include preventive deployment which is an early deployment of forces to deter violence etc.

One example of conflict prevention is the Cuban missile crisis where the UN Secretary General was involved in the final agreement.

“Peacemaking generally includes measures to address conflicts in progress and usually involves diplomatic action to bring hostile parties to a negotiated agreement." (ibid: 17) The United Nations Secretary-General, upon the request of the Security Council or the General Assembly or at his her own initiative, may exercise his or her “good offices" to facilitate the resolution of the conflict. Peacemakers may also be envoys, governments, groups of states, regional organizations or the United Nations.

Peacekeeping is defined by the United Nations as a “unique and dynamic instruments developed by the Organization as a way to help countries torn by conflict create the conditions for lasting peace" (United Nations Peacekeeping: Internet 2) Furthermore you can say that peacekeeping is a technique designed to preserve the peace where fighting has been stopped, and to assist in implementing agreements achieved by the peacemakers. (United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, Principles and Guidelines 2008: 18) United Nations Peacekeeping began in 1948 when the Security Council authorized the deployment of UN military observers to the Middle East. The mission’s role was to monitor the Armistice Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbours – an operation which became known as the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). (History of UN peacekeeping: Internet 3) Peacekeeping has evolved over the years from a primarily military model of observing cease-fires and separation of forces to incorporate a complex model of many elements; military, police and civilians all working together to help lay the foundations for sustainable peace.

“Peace enforcement involves the application of a range of coercive measures, including the use of military force. It requires the explicit authorization of the Security Council." (Internet 4) Such actions are authorized to restore international peace and security in situations where the Security Council has determined the existence of a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression. The Security Council may also utilize regional organizations and agencies for enforcement action under its authority. NATOs participation in the Kosovo conflict is an example of this, where they bombed both parties in the conflict. Another example of peace enforcement is the conflict in Congo, where the UN forces had mandate through article VII to use all necessary force to implement peace in the area. UNOSOM/UNITAF involvement in Somalia in 1992 is also a well-known peace enforcement operation. Where resolution 837 reaffirmed that the Secretary-General was authorized to take all necessary measures against those responsible for the armed attacks and to establish the effective authority of UNOSOM II throughout Somalia.

“Peacebuilding involves a range of measures targeted to reduce the risk of lapsing or relapsing into conflict by strengthening national capacities at all levels for conflict management, and to lay the foundation for sustainable peace and development." (United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, Principles and Guidelines 2008: 18) Peacebuilding is a complex and long-term process of creating the necessary conditions for sustainable peace. A number of national and international organizations describe their activities in conflict areas as peacebuilding operations. The United Nation is maintaining peacebuilding through the Peacebuilding Fund in for instance Liberia, Burundi and Central African Republic.

The boundaries between the different peacekeeping operations have become increasingly blurred and peace operations today rarely consist of one type of activity. The United Nations peacekeeping operations today are deployed to support the implementation of a cease-fire or peace agreement, they are often required to play an active role in peacemaking efforts and may also be involved in early peacebuilding activities. United Nations peacekeeping may also use force at the tactical level, with the authorization of the Security Council, to defend themselves and their mandate. The fine line between what is called “robust" peacekeeping and peace enforcement may appear blurred at times, but there are important differences between the two. Robust peacekeeping involves the use of force at the tactical level with the consent of the host authorities and/or the main parties to the conflict. Peace enforcement involves the use of force at the strategic or international level, which normally is prohibited for Member States under Article 2 of the UN Charter unless it is authorized by the Security Council. The transformation of the international environment has given rise to a new generation of “multi-dimensional" peacekeeping operations. This has evolved from what we have called traditional peacekeeping operations. These operations are typically deployed in the dangerous aftermath of a violent internal conflict and may employ a mix of military, police and civilian capabilities to support the implementation of comprehensive peace agreement.


United Nations (2008). United Nations Peacekeeping Operations. Principles and Guidelines. Hentet [23/11-2010] på URL: s. 12-43

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