Peacekeeping operations by the United Nations are operations designed to restore or protect the peace in certain areas of conflict. They are initiated by the UN Security Council.

UN peacekeeping initiatives have ranged from small, diplomatic or political delegations to large mobilizations. From 1957 to 2003, there were 55 UN peacekeeping missions. 13 missions were continuing at the end of 2003. 130 nations have sent troops on peacekeeping missions with troops from 89 countries deployed in 2003. Canada and Fiji have been part of almost all peacekeeping missions.

A total of 1800 soldiers, hailing from over 100 countries, have been killed while serving on peacekeeping missions. 30% of the fatalities in the first 55 years of UN peacekeeping occurred in the years 1993-1995.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Participation
3 Issues with Peacekeeping
4 See also
5 External Link


The first peacekeeping mission occurred in 1948 when the UN sent in military observers to supervise the truce in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The group was called the UN Truce Supervision Organization. A similar group was sent to the India-Pakistan border in 1949. The first armed UN peacekeeping force was deployed in 1957 at the end of the Suez Crisis. The idea was developed by Canadian foreign minister Lester B. Pearson, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. The peacekeeping was a success in the Suez and the idea was soon applied to other conflicts.

In the first few years following the end of the Cold War the number of peacekeeping operations increased dramatically. The proliferation of operations reflected the view that, in the post-Cold War era, the UN could play an important role in defusing regional conflicts. Some of the peacekeeping operations of the early 1990s also saw an expansion of the traditional peacekeeping mandate to include such responsibilities as supervising elections, monitoring human rights, training police, and overseeing civil administration. 1993 saw a peak in the number of peacekeepers with 80,000 deployed.

From 1995 to mid-1999 there was a sharp decline in the number of UN peacekeepers in the field, from a high of around 70,000 to 12,000. The assumption by NATO of major peacekeeping responsibilities in the former Yugoslavia (and the resultant termination of UNPROFOR's mandate) accounted for much of the decrease. Other factors included the closeout of UN operations in Mozambique in January 1995, Somalia in March 1995, El Salvador in April 1995, and Rwanda in March 1996. With the U.S. and the UN taking a much harder look at proposed peacekeeping operations, the only major new UN mission set up in this period outside the former Yugoslavia was the UNAVEM III operation in Angola.

The mid-1990s saw two of peacekeeping's greatest failures. The genocide in Rwanda in 1995 occurred despite warnings from the field that the situation was extremely precarious. The Rwanda crisis illustated the difficulties of the UN's slow moving approval process for missions.

The other great failure was in Bosnia where, mostly Dutch, peacekeepers were attempting to create safe areas to protect civilians from Serbian aggression. The peacekeepers did not have the weaponry or the mandate to stand up to the Serbs, and the safe areas fell. Most notorious were the events at Srebrenica where over 7000 Muslisms were killed.

Beginning in June 1999, new missions in Kosovo and East Timor and expanded missions in Sierra Leone and the Congo dramatically increased both the costs and personnel levels of UN peacekeeping operations. They also added a new level of complexity to peacekeeping efforts, with a greater emphasis on civilian administration in East Timor and Kosovo. From July 1999 to June 2001, overall UN peacekeeping personnel levels increased to 43,000, with even more personnel authorized but not deployed. In August of 2003, 37,000 total UN peacekeepers were in 13 peacekeeping missions, from 89 countries.

Total UN peacekeeping expenses peaked between 1994 and 1995; at the end of 1995 the total cost was just over $3.5 billion USD. Total UN peacekeeping costs for 2000, including operations funded from the UN regular budget as well as the peacekeeping budget, were on the order of $2.2 billion USD.


The countries that form the core of UN peacekeeping operations are Canada, Sweden, Ireland, Finland, Norway, Denmark, India, Italy, Australia, with Canada putting more money and troops into peacekeeping than any other power. In recent deployments, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ghana and Nigeria have contributed large numbers of troops. That it is mostly middle powers that participate in peacekeeping can be acredited to the greater ease of appearing neutral in conflict situations. Soldiers from these countries also look far less threatnening to a nation than ones from the United States or Russia would. Since the end of the Cold War eastern powers have also started to often participate in peacekeeping, especially Poland and the Czech Republic.

US Participation in UN peacekeeping operations

Facing increasing demands on peacekeeping resources, the UN and member nations had to make difficult choices. In 1994 the U. S. Government responded to the challenges posed by the growing number and complexity of UN peacekeeping operations by implementing a policy framework suited to the new environment. The new policy involved six major areas of reform:

As of June 30, 2001, there were 797 U.S. personnel (1 troop, 756 civilian police, and 40 observers) in worldwide UN peace operations, accounting for 1.8% of total UN peacekeepers. As Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States never gives up command authority over U.S. troops. When large numbers of U.S. troops are involved and when the risk of combat is high, operational control of U.S. forces will remain in American hands, or in the hands of a trusted military ally such as a NATO member--though the U.S. Department of State insists that the U.S. must "allow temporary foreign operational control of U.S. troops when it serves U.S. interests."

The lack of United States involvement in UN peacekeeping operations has drawn criticism from other member states. The paltry investment of personnel in UN peacekeeping operations is attributed to "the Mogadishu factor" - a deep reluctance by US administrations to incur casualties in military operations which do not serve US strategic interests. The US, however, pays 27% of the UN peackeeping budget, down slightly from 30% before 2000. This amounted to 844 million dollars in 2002.

The US also deploys units, not under UN control, alongside UN peacekeepers in the Balkans, East Timor, and the Sinai.


Issues with Peacekeeping


Some peacekeeping powers have been accused of being hypocritical and pursuing peacekeeping for their own goals of increasing their international power and prestige. Countries such as Sweden, Italy, and the Netherlands have especially been attacked for being major arms suppliers while at the same time pursuing peacekeeping, often in the same areas as they are selling weapons.

The United States has complained bitterly about the ineffectiveness of UN peacekeeping but then threatened to shut down all such operations if it did not get its way over the International Criminal Court.

Harm to troops

Peacekeeping has also been viewed as a threat to the participating militaries. It has been worried that many peacekeeping operations will erode the combat ability of troops and make it harder for them to fight a real war. Peacekeeping has also been found to be extremely stressful, and there are higher rates of mental problems, suicide, and substance abuse among former peacekeepers than the general population. UN peacekeepers have also suffered a high level of deaths from violence against them.

However, the world's most experienced peacekeeper, Canada, feels that peacekeeping does not do excessive harm to its troops. Even though Canada has lost more soldiers in peacekeeping operations than any other nation, it feels that the cost is acceptable in order to maintain a more peaceful world. The Canadian forces experience in peacekeeping operations has proved invaluable when the troops have been called out to aid the civil poweres as in the Oka crisis.

Long term problems

Some have criticized peacekeeping for leaving conflicts unresolved. Peacekeeping can have the effect of maintaining an unstable status quo that will inevitably collapse in the long run.

However, it is not the job the peacekeepers to create a permanent solution. They can only stabilize the situation to give the politicians and diplomats the opportunity to create a permanent peace.

See also

External Link

UN Peacekeeping website