Strategic Summary test

| Alischa Kugel |

UNMISS peacekeepers assisting displaced civilians

One month before launching the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations to examine the state of UN peacekeeping operations and political missions, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon remarked the time had come to take stock of the lessons we have learned. “The world is changing and our support to peacekeeping, and indeed all peace operations, must keep pace.”1

The nature of conflict is shifting with the inter-state confrontations that led to the creation of the world body giving way to internationalized civil wars.2 Peace operations today are deployed into complex operating theaters, intractable political situations and high-risk environments. This summary details four main trends of this pivotal moment for multilateral peace operations during 2013 and 2014 including:

  • Innovation around peace operations;
  • Surging African peacekeeping;
  • Proliferating peacemaking initiatives by regional organizations, and;
  • Increased risk for peacekeepers and civilian staff.

Trends in Peace Operations

In 2014, 230,797 troops, police and civilian personnel were deployed in global peace operations.3 Both UN and non-UN peacekeeping deployments increased after a period of contraction in 2012.4 UN peacekeeping deployments grew by 8.5 percent, while non-UN forces (excluding the NATO mission in Afghanistan) increased by 60 per cent. This underlined the role regional organizations play in fielding peacekeeping missions as this growth was primarily driven by deployments by African organizations.

Figure 1: Overall Military Deployments in Peace Operations, 2000-2014


Civilian deployments in field-based military and civilian-led peace operations totaled 29,266 personnel. While UN missions experienced a six percent decrease in civilian deployments since 2012, civilian components in UN missions still comprise 77 per cent of the total civilian deployments in field-based global peace operations.

Events in 2013-14 have shown the wide breadth of international crisis management responses to new challenges. Despite the continued demand for hefty military deployments in cases such as Somalia and Mali, another notable feature of the last two years has been a high level of innovation in response to new challenges:

  • The UN launched two highly unusual missions to manage the dismantling of the Syrian chemical stockpile (2013-2014) and the Ebola crisis (2014-­2015);
  • The African Union has increasingly engaged in civilian as well as military crisis management, launching six new political missions in this period;
  • The European Union experimented with its first land-based military mission in Africa for almost a decade (in the Central African Republic) as well as a number of national and regional security sector/training missions across the continent, and;
  • The OSCE launched its first monitoring mission in more than a decade in Ukraine.

These initiatives reflect a larger pattern of innovation around peace operations. This includes the Security Council’s experiment with the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the Democratic Republic of Congo and efforts by the UN and OSCE to use drones and other technologies in their operations.

The international peace operations system is adapting and evolving to a complex security environment. But the UN and its partners are struggling to find sustainable political and security solutions to many of the challenges they face in cases including Mali, Libya, South Sudan and Syria. It is possible that these challenges will grow further, with demands rising for new international presences in Libya and, possibly, Ukraine.

The period under review was also notable for the surge of African peacekeeping deployments. In Mali (2013) and the Central African Republic (2013-14), African regional actors fielded military bridging missions until larger-scale UN operations were able to deploy. While these African-led operations received additional military support from France and the EU, the deployments point to an increased capacity by African regional actors to field larger peacekeeping deployments. At the same time, the need for such bridging operations highlights the ongoing difficulty the UN has in deploying its missions in a timely manner.

Regional organizations also took on a greater role in fielding political missions, particularly in Africa. Seventeen out of the twenty-four political missions launched by regional organizations in 2013-14 are based on the continent. Beyond large players such as the AU, EU and ECOWAS, it includes less dominant institutions such as ECCAS that lead the mediation effort in CAR. IGAD fielded envoys in Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan. The OIC deployed a mediator for Mali and the Sahel.

The proliferation of mediation efforts also further increased parallel deployments by different institutions in the same country or sub-region. In the two Sudans, ten envoys and mediators from five different institutions are working to support political processes alongside three UN peacekeeping operations (see graph below).5 In Mali and the Sahel region, eight political missions from five different institutions work alongside three military operations. In CAR, three envoys from different institutions work on mediation efforts next to an equal number of military operations. This operational reality requires enhanced coordination between organizations fielding peace operations to avoid duplication and/or counterproductive processes. It also offers opportunities for regional organizations and the UN to discuss how to jointly manage increasing risk levels that their missions face in countries of operation.

Figure 2: Parallel Peace Operations in CAR, Mali and Sahel, and South Sudan and Sudan


Peace operations increasingly operate in highly volatile environments where there is no peace to keep. In 2014, UN peacekeepers were deployed in four high-intensity conflicts in CAR, DRC, Mali and South Sudan. A once benign operating environment in the Golan Heights has become dangerous after spillover from the Syrian civil war. Terrorist groups frequently target the UN mission in Mali. With 33 fatalities up until April 2015, this has become the second deadliest UN peacekeeping operation on record after Somalia twenty years ago.6

While the fatality rates in South Sudan and CAR are considerably lower, peacekeepers in these theaters are presented with multiple armed state and non-state actor groups that defy negotiated settlements. In the Golan Heights, military observers were attacked and kidnapped by extremist rebel groups operating in Syria, leading major troop contributors to withdraw their personnel. At UN headquarters discussions ensued about providing troop contributors with a “risk premium,” a financial incentive aimed to acknowledge the work of some units under challenging circumstances.7

Non-UN missions of different types are also increasingly deployed to such environments and often accept a high degree of risk. Regional or ad hoc missions deployed peace operations in eight of the eleven high-intensity conflicts in 2014.8 The African-led missions to Mali and CAR incurred significant casualties (see below), although still far below those of the ongoing AU mission in Somalia.9

The EU and France fielded missions in high risk areas in Mali and CAR, although these interventions raised concerns in Paris and other European capitals. Through AMISOM as well as the missions in Mali and CAR, the AU demonstrated that it may be politically better positioned to field peace enforcement and counterinsurgency missions. While less risk adverse than the UN or EU, the AU still needs assistance in funding, equipment, training and logistical support to field its operations.10

Figure 3: Fatalities by Malicious Acts Incurred in a One-year Period in African-led and UN-led Peacekeeping Missions in Mali and CAR


Civilian staff as well as troops face higher levels of risk. A recent UN University study found that almost 90 per cent of UN political missions are operating in high-intensity conflicts,11 increasing the level of risk for non-uniformed personnel. In Somalia on 19 June 2013, only two weeks after the deployment of UNSOM, the UN compound housing the mission suffered a devastating attack killing 22 people.12 Additional attacks on the compound since then caused further casualties. In Libya, the UN and EU were forced to relocate their missions’ staff indefinitely after the deterioration of the security situation. In Ukraine, civilian OSCE monitors were abducted and held for almost 30 days.

The UN has had to innovate to address these challenges. In 2014, it deployed two guard units of up to 560 troops to CAR and Somalia to protect UN civilian personnel.13 A third deployment to Libya was scrapped due to concerns by the Libyan authorities about the effect the guards’ effect on the volatile security situation. Questions about the deployment of guard units and their legal and normative operational bases are shared by the wider UN membership. While some concerns regarding the mandate and responsibilities of guard troops are addressed through Status of Mission agreements between the UN and host governments, broader questions remain on the legal protection of guard troops and their obligations to act in the face of grave crimes.14 Given the proliferation of regional organizations’ political missions, these actors will also have to find effective measures to protect their staff in high-risk environments.

Peacekeeping Operations

UN Operations

With the launch of three new peacekeeping operations in 2013 and 2014 – the Force Intervention Brigade in the DRC, MINUSMA in Mali and MINUSCA in CAR – military and police deployments to the sixteen UN peacekeeping missions in 2014 stood at 105,173.Expenditure on UN peacekeeping continues to rise. The peacekeeping budget for the fiscal year 1 July 2013-30 June 2014 was $7.83 billion and rose by 8 per cent to $8.47 billion for the 2014-15 period.

Bangladesh, India and Pakistan remain the top three leading troop and police contributing countries. African countries comprised twelve out of the top twenty troop and police contributing nations, with Ethiopia in fourth place. Measured by troop contributions alone, Ethiopia would move ahead of Bangladesh as the leading TCC in 2014. Among European countries, Italy and France took the lead on the 25th and 26th place respectively, followed by Ukraine on the 35th spot.

The role of gender in peace operations has received renewed attention in 2015 as this year marks the 15th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. The UN has made efforts to mainstream gender into peacekeeping operations by providing guidance and policy directives, but the data shows there is still work to be done.

In 2014, the organization appointed the first female force commander to its mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP). General Lund’s appointment also makes UNFICYP the first UN peacekeeping operation with a dual female leadership. While these are important steps, the staff composition in UN peace operations demonstrates that more has to be done to ensure a more equal gender balance (see graphs below).15

Most striking is the gender gap for military personnel. In 2014, women accounted for three per cent of military staff. The figures for police is higher, but still only account for 10 per cent of those in UN peace operations.

Figure 4: Gender Breakdown of Troops and Police in UN Peacekeeping Missions





Female representation among civilian staff in UN peace operations is higher at 21 per cent, although down from a decade ago when it was 23 per cent. The upcoming High-level Review of Resolution 1325 in October 2015 will highlight the obstacles to increasing women’s participation in peace operations as well as their role in conflict prevention, resolution, protection and peacebuilding.

Figure 5: Gender Breakdown of Civilian Staff in UN Peacekeeping and Political Missions


Most missions still struggle to reach full deployment. With an authorized strength of 12,640 and 11,820 respectively, MINUSMA and MINUSCA should be the UN’s fourth and fifth largest peacekeeping operations. As of December 2014, they were at 75 and 69 per cent respectively of their authorized strength. The Security Council remains willing to authorize large scale deployments, but member states are not always prepared to supply them with the required personnel and capabilities.

Figure 6: MINUSMA Actual and Authorized Strength, July 2013 – July 2014


The deployment gap is most pronounced in high risk environments. Responding to the 15 December 2013 political crisis and the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in South Sudan, the Security Council authorized the increase of the overall troop and police strength of UNMISS from the initially authorized 7,000 military and 900 police personnel to 12,500 troops and 1,323 police. Six months later, the mission was only at ¾ of its authorized strength. In 2013, the Council also authorized higher troop levels for the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) from the initially authorized 4,200 to 5,326 military personnel. By the end of 2014, the mission’s military component stood at 3,942 or at 74 per cent capacity.

Figure 7: UNMISS Actual and Authorized Strength, December 2013 – December 2014


Not all missions are increasing in size. Force reductions in four long-standing UN operations offset the increase of troop levels and deployment of new operations in UNMISS and UNISFA. In the Darfur region of Sudan, UNAMID continued its force reduction with further decreases planned for 2015. These cutbacks, taking place despite a considerable deterioration in the security situation, are happening in response to both pressure by the Sudanese government to withdraw the mission and criticisms of the mission’s effectiveness by some UN member states, particularly in protecting civilians.

In West Africa, UNOCI began its troop drawdown in 2014 with the aim of reducing its military component from 7,137 to 5,437 by 30 June 2015. In neighboring Liberia, UNMIL in February 2014, began the second phase of a three-phase troop drawdown, which was completed in June. Due to the Ebola outbreak, the Security Council in December 2014 decided to halt the last phase of the drawdown and keep the force strength at 4,811 military and 1,795 police personnel with a possible resumption of the drawdown process in 2015.

Following the consolidation plan of March 2013 for the UN mission in Haiti that foresees the complete drawdown of MINUSTAH in 2016, the mission continued to lower its force strength with the aim of reducing its presence to 2,370 troops by June 2015, depending on the situation on the ground. The mission’s police component remained close to its authorized level of 2,601, reflecting the mission’s efforts to strengthen the national police force ahead of the 2015 elections.

Regional Organizations

Non-UN peacekeeping deployments increased significantly during the period under review. Most notable were the ECOWAS and AU-led short-term bridging operations in Mali and CAR. Both actors also maintained longer-term operations in Guinea-Bissau and Somalia respectively. ECOWAS provided the bulk of troops of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) and saw its military deployments increase fivefold in 2013.16

The AU operated its second larger-scale peacekeeping operation with the deployment of the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA), which had just over 6,000 military, police and civilian personnel. The organization’s principal peacekeeping mission, the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), neared full deployment by the end of 2014, following an increase of its authorized troop strength from 17,731 to 22,126 military personnel. Uganda, Burundi and Ethiopia were the largest troop and police contributors in missions fielded by the AU and ECOWAS.

The EU in 2014, deployed its first military mission in six years in the Central African Republic.17 Though authorized with unusual speed in February, the EU experienced difficulties in generating the close to 800 troops and the equipment to launch the operation. This was in large part due to member state concerns about the risk of deploying troops in a volatile environment. The EU’s two other field missions authorized in 2013 and 2014 respectively are training missions in Mali.18

France overshadowed the EU’s effort. Paris fielded two military operations in Mali and the Central African Republic in 2013. In January, France launched Operation Serval, a 1,600 strong counter-terrorism mission alongside Malian forces that engaged in offensive operations against rebel and Islamist groups in Mali’s north. It was also mandated to intervene in support of MINUSMA when under imminent threat. In August 2014, Operation Barkhane, a 3,000 strong anti-terrorist operation with a larger regional scope, replaced Serval. The new operation still carries out support functions for MINUSMA. In December, France deployed 2,000 troops to the Central African Republic as part of Operation Sangaris to support MISCA and later MINUSCA in the discharge of its mandate.

Political Missions

UN Political Missions

In Africa, where the UN fielded about half of its field-based political missions and special representatives, the organization closed four long-standing field missions in Somalia, Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic and Burundi in the course of 2013 and 2014. In June 2013, the UN Political Office in Somalia completed its mandate after accompanying the country’s political transition for almost two decades. Its replacement, the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), provides support to the newly formed Somali government. In Sierra Leone, following the country’s successful elections, UNIPSIL in March 2014 ended its operation and handed over responsibility to the UN Country Team. The mission’s closure concluded more than fifteen years of UN peace operation support to the country.

In the Central African Republic, following the December 2012 outbreak of violence that required the redeployment of peacekeeping forces, BINUCA was subsumed in MINUSCA in April 2014. In December 2014, after repeated requests by the government, the UN Office in Burundi transferred responsibilities over to the UN Country Team, amid political tensions ahead of the legislative and presidential elections scheduled for May and August 2015.

In addition to the new mission in Somalia, the UN also established the position of the Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region to support the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, aimed to stabilize the DRC and the region.

In the Middle East, where the UN remains an important institutional player, Staffan de Mistura was appointed as the new Special Envoy for Syria after the resignation of Lakhdar Brahimi as Joint UN-Arab League Envoy for Syria in May 2014. The position is no longer institutionally shared, largely because of tensions between the Syrian regime and the Arab League as well as deep divisions among its membership on the approach to the crisis. This leaves the AU-UN Chief mediator for Darfur the sole institutionally combined political mission.

The approved budget for field-based UN political missions and envoys for the period covering 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2013 was $565 million. The budget increased by 4 per cent to $590 million in 2014. The 2014 budget reflects larger decreases in several missions due to drawdown of operations as well as staffing reductions in the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s (UNAMA) as part of operational rationalization efforts. These budget savings were offset by a 60 per cent increase in the budget of the UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), primarily driven by the enlargement of the mission’s security section by 80 new positions, as well as the inclusion of UNSOM’s budget, which with over $50 million is the fourth highest grossing political mission.

Regional Organizations

A host of regional organizations established new political missions over the last two years, with eight regional organizations deploying twenty new envoys to mediate various conflicts.19

For the first time in over ten years, the OSCE in March 2014 launched a field-based civilian observer mission in Ukraine. With an initial strength of 100 observers, the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has since then become the largest OSCE field operation with an authorized strength of 1,000 monitors and more than 700 support staff.20 The organization also launched three other new civilian missions in 2014, focused on addressing the conflict in Ukraine, including two representatives of the OSCE Chairman in Office and one Personal Envoy, all of whom deal with the conflict’s political dialogue aspect.

The EU and AU both launched six new missions, including three missions that deployed alongside each other in the Mali/Sahel region and three in Libya.21 In addition to the new EUSR post in the Sahel and two new Special Envoy positions in Libya and Central Asia, the EU also deployed three smaller scale field missions in Libya, Mali and Ukraine. These focus on border monitoring, capacity building of internal security forces and civilian security sector reform, respectively.22

The EU Envoy to Libya, Bernardino Léon, was appointed to head the UN Mission in Libya in August 2014, and the Libya Envoy position was not filled again. The AU established a civilian field presence, the AU Mission for Mali and the Sahel (MISAHEL) in August 2013, and further appointed three Special Envoys for Burkina Faso, Libya, Western Sahara and Tunisia. It also established a High-Level Panel for Egypt mandated to work with Egyptian stakeholders on a political dialogue aimed at national reconciliation.

IGAD established four civilian presences all focused on South Sudan: the Office of the three IGAD Special Envoys for South Sudan and the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism that monitors compliance with the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement between the government of South Sudan and SPLM/A.

ECOWAS appointed a Special Representative to Burkina Faso following the November 2014 political crisis in the country, as well as a Special Representative to Liberia who will provide support to the government’s peace and stability consolidation efforts. The International Organisation of La Francophonie, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the League of Arab States established Special Envoy positions in CAR, Mali/Sahel and Libya, respectively.