Laurie Mincieli: Changing Dynamics of UN Peacekeeping


In light of United Nations Day, it is worth considering the UN’s expanding role in managing international peace and security. Recently, conflicts in Syria, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are forcing the UN to confront its capacity limitations and international expectations for what can be achieved.

Having analyzed peace operations from within the UN and at other institutions, I learned that change within the UN system is a slow process that faces many political hurdles. The UN’s aversion to new risks is one reason that the March 2013 authorization of an offensive force as part of the UN operation in the DRC is significant. Authorizing this first-ever brigade to fight rebels in the DRC was a gamble by the UN, especially as the new mandate challenges many of the core tenets of peacekeeping and could redefine how the UN keeps peace.

Though the brigade presents fresh opportunities for the conflict’s peaceful settlement, it is not without serious risks to the actors on the ground and to all current peacekeeping operations. In a recent article in Ethics & International Affairs, I explore some of the repercussions of this new brigade and what it could mean for the prospects of peace in the DRC and for the UN as an arbiter of international peace and security.