International Organizations: Department of Peacekeeping Operations of the United Nations

History: United Nations peacekeeping initially developed during the Cold War era as a means to resolve conflicts between States by deploying unarmed or lightly armed military personnel from a number of countries, under UN command, between the armed forces of the former warring parties.

The end of the Cold War precipitated a dramatic shift in UN and multilateral peacekeeping. In a new spirit of cooperation, the Security Council established larger and more complex UN peacekeeping missions, often to help implement comprehensive peace agreements between protagonists in intra-State conflicts. Peacekeeping came to involve more non-military elements to ensure sustainability. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations was created in 1992 to support this increased demand for complex peacekeeping.

Mission and focus: The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) assists the Member States and the Secretary-General in their efforts to maintain international peace and security. The Department’s mission is to plan, prepare, manage and direct UN peacekeeping operations, so that they can effectively fulfill their mandates under the overall authority of the Security Council and General Assembly, and under the command vested in the Secretary-General.

UN peacekeepers are soldiers and military officers, civilian police officers and civilian personnel from many countries. They monitor and observe peace processes that emerge in post-conflict situations and assist ex-combatants to implement the peace agreements they have signed. Such assistance comes in many forms, including confidence-building measures, power-sharing arrangements, electoral support, strengthening the rule of law, and economic and social development.

Governance: Jean-Marie Guéhenno is the head of the Peacekeeping Operations appointed in 2000. The United Nations Security Council normally creates and defines peacekeeping missions. It does this by providing the mission with a mandate— a description of the mission’s tasks. To establish a new peacekeeping mission, or change the mandate or strength of an existing mission, nine of the Security Council’s 15 member States must vote in favor. However, if any one of the five permanent members—China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom or the United States—votes against the proposal, it fails.

The Secretary-General directs and manages peacekeeping operations and reports to the Council on their progress. Most large missions are headed by a Special Representative of the Secretary-General.

The authority to send or withdraw peacekeepers remains with the Government that volunteered them, as does responsibility for pay, disciplinary and personnel matters.

Budget: UN peacekeeping is highly cost-effective but is far cheaper than a war. UN peacekeeping cost about $2.6 billion in 2002.The approved peacekeeping budget for the year 2004-2005 is $2.80 billion. All Member States are legally obliged to pay their share of peacekeeping costs under a complex formula that they themselves have established.

Facts and Figures:

– Peacekeeping Operations since 1948: 60
– Current Peacekeeping Operations: 15 (Cote d’Ivoire, Burundi, Sudan, Haiti, Cyprus, Lebanon, Kosovo and other countries)
– Current peace operations directed and supported by the DPKO: 18
– Estimated total cost of operations from 1948 to 30 June 2006: about $41.04 billion

Important fact: International Day of UN peacekeepers is May 29. It was established by General Assembly resolution 57/29 in 2002 to honor those men and women who have served and continue to serve in the UN peacekeeping operations.

University of Hawaii at Manoa; Center of Excellence in DMHA; ICRC

Contact Information

Disaster Management & Humanitarian Assistance
University of Hawai'i at Manoa
2424 Maile Way, Saunders Hall 118
Honolulu, HI 96822