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Containing Violence Conflict: Peacekeeping Essay


This chapter explores peacekeeping in places where violence is a routinely practice (Ramsbotham, Miall, and Woodhouse 147). Previously, it was asserted that keeping peace either suppressed war, or held it within boundaries, or fixed the damage after. The latter and the first points are the widest parts of the hourglass model; this chapter encompasses the narrow part of it. It is argued that agencies such as UN are the key actors in conflict mitigation and resolution – which is their primary task.

Peacekeeping has developed from the first- and second-generation phases into the third operation mode, within which the borderline between maintenance and enforcement has crumbled (148). As a matter of fact, some peace operations are likely to be mistaken for acts of war. Which is why the goal of this chapter is to redeem the bad image of third-generation operations and determine how they can resolve conflicts.

First- and Second-Generation UN Peacekeeping, 1956-1995

In the mid-1950s, the main principles of peacekeeping were singled out, particularly to control the UNEF I. The primary principles were focused on the parties’ consent, neutrality, nonpartisanship, refraining from force usage but for self-protection, and legality. It was the period of first-generation peace operations which functioned mainly to patrol borders and gray areas. After the Cold War was over, the operations experienced a paradigm and function shift, and also increased in number and cultural involvement.

The second-generation peacekeeping was more active and involved almost three times as many countries in the mid-1990s as it had in 1980s (149). As the quantity of peacekeepers increased, the quality of operations started fading (150). In 1994, the UN failed to curb the Rwanda genocide; in 1995, allowed 8,000 civilians to be murdered in a safe area (151). 11 September 2001 exacerbated the UN status further still.

War Zones, War Economies, and Cultures of Violence

When civilians are under siege of the militia, they and humanitarian providers are targeted. While the WWI took lives of the soldiers, the 1990s switched on to civil population (151). 2001 and 2002 were marked by thousands of casualties as a result of terrorist attacks – which can be regarded as a switchback to medieval brutality or have more profound reasons behind. The “scorched earth” tactics is deployed by terrorists to increase control and as a way of problem-solving between the groups, where civilians are seen as a resource, as well as the humanitarian aid (152).

Peacekeepers have to face not only the ideological and nationalistic baseline to these conflicts, but also the carnivorous greed for power and resources involved, particularly in embryo-phase self-governing states. Restriction of trade can be a solution, as well as peacekeeping. It is stated that peacekeeping strategies should be developed considering economic status of such states (153). However, the violence cannot be explained by economic issues alone: ethnic conflicts can also serve as a motivation for annihilation. The ultimate aim of “cultures of violence” is control over territory and people. Civil war divides rivalling parties into camps which try to prevent civilians from joining that of the enemy’s through violence (154). Where no control can be established, violence is sporadic and sweeping.

Thus, in war zones humanity and nonpartisanship are useful as guidelines but the reality dictates the necessity to deploy other methods suitable in politics- and ethnicity-driven conflicts.

Third-Generation Peacekeeping: What Counts as Peace Operations?

The efficiency of peacekeeping operations, as well as their impartiality and force non-usage, has long been argued. Ignoring or intervening resolutely was deemed more appropriate. On the other hand, peacekeepers were regarded as western value impostors.

However, since the 1990s and up to the present, peacekeeping has been experiencing revival (155). At the same time, the main characteristics of it – such as peace support, not using force, UN-controlled missions – were preserved. But as to the third-generation peacekeeping, these characteristics have been altered. The “new wars” meant no established agreement after; the forces were more robust and controlled regionally; peace keeping and peace enforcement became almost indistinguishable.

So, what is a peace operation and how it resolves conflict? By 2010, 18 such operations were enlisted by UNDPKO, but there has been more; some of these were strictly civilian-oriented (156). In fact, the terms “peacekeeping operations” and “peace operations” can be interchangeable, with enforcement and combat only a step away. The rest of the chapter tries to capture the changes in the concept (158).

Redefining Peace Operations

Since its establishment, the UNDPKO has attempted to replace the initial concept. These attempts included sending special forces to tackle specific cases, providing a supply chain to the UN and delegating civilian policies to a separate body (161). Also, the DPKO tried to assign unambiguous meaning to terms such as consent and nonpartisanship and refrain from armed combat for third-generation peacekeepers.

Impartial in the conflict, peacekeepers should stick to their mandate. Force could be used for purposes other than self-protection – the mandate and regulated groups ought to be protected as well. Nevertheless, some states were dissatisfied with the paradigm shift, which is why the final version of the doctrine was blurred (162). Given the disagreement over the doctrine and the fact that peace operations are not solely controlled by the UN, such operations are not guided authoritatively. What can be done is demonstrating in what ways third-generation peacekeeping differs from the first-generation one – and armed combat.

Third-Generation Peacekeeping and Human Security

It seems that peacekeeping tries to align powerful military force and nonaggressive purposes. There is a risk that armed parties might take on the “peacekeeping” mission without the UN’s consent. Consequently, the concepts of collective security and human security were developed. These concerned freedom from fear and want, as well as the right for sustainability (163). Peace keeping and maintenance was deemed the UN’s ultimate aim and not redeemed even after the 11 September attack.

Conflict Resolution and the Theoretical Debate about Peace Operations

Pluralist and solidarist concepts largely explain first- and third-generation operations, respectively. On the other hand, stabilization and emergency forces are consistent with realist and cosmopolitan ideas. Neo-realism, which crowns the spectrum, denies the UN and peacekeeping whatsoever (164). The US insists on the necessity of stabilization forces under its own guidance to establish and maintain international security. Russian and Chinese forces exemplify such approach by conducting operations in the threatening areas.

It is argued that sovereignty is by far the most effective mode of order maintenance while unipolar peace control would lead to power misuse. At that, first-generation model is the most optimal. Another view is that the global society should maintain peace by legitimate intervention – therefore requiring third-generation operations. The idea of fourth-generation peacekeeping combines the two advocating for global governance and “cosmopolitan peace operations” (165). Apparently, such idealistic approach is widely supported. The reason might be that the new mode is the most effective, enhanced, and capacious (166). Yet another theory is positioned from the point of advantage that international economy takes. It criticizes the current peacemaking modes for their non-self-awareness and ideological bias.

There are a few constructive suggestions to improve the situation. For instance, there is an idea of peace forces using civilian human resources, or non-state-controlled forces, or subordinate to global institutions, or recruited on a voluntary basis relying on their cosmopolitan stance. The critics agree that the need for peacemaking would evaporate if the reasons for conflict were eliminated.

Case Study: Somalia, 1991-2010

This decade has been challenging for peacekeepers working in Somalia after the dictator’s downfall and the state’s collapse, and the chaos that followed (167). The population suffered from famine as well as violence; it was estimated that 250,000 people died in 1991-1992. The UN’s peacemakers tried to facilitate negotiations but American forces were sent to institute control. The conflict took lives of many US rangers, after which the forces were withdrawn (168). A decade later the UN deployed another operation to expel the Islamists from the south and the center of Somalia. The Islamists declared holy war on AMISOM; the war mainly took place in urban surroundings where most of the victims were civilians. The fights in 2006-2008 have displaced 1.3 million of native civilian population.

Somalian conflict taught us that a local civil war can swiftly mutate into a global conflict. The minor independent states springing up in Somalia have proved an obstacle to peacemaking. Also, the local capacities in peacemaking tend to be underestimated.


This chapter has argued that the primary role of peacemaking is resolving conflicts. This subsumes maintenance rather than enforcement and regarding the conflict itself as the only foe. Also, the conflict is to be transformed to eliminate violence to facilitate changes in policies and other areas. The whole process should serve to protect those for whose sake the peacemaking is conducted.

Works Cited

Ramsbotham, Oliver, Hugh Miall, and Tom Woodhouse. “Containing Violent Conflict: Peacekeeping.” Contemporary Conflict Resolution, 3rd ed. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2011. 147-170. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Containing Violence Conflict: Peacekeeping." March 24, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/containing-violence-conflict-peacekeeping/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Containing Violence Conflict: Peacekeeping'. 24 March.

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