This is the report presented to the Secretary-General on 16 June 2015 by the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations. The official, edited version of this report will be available shortly in the six official UN languages.
UN Peace Operations in a changed and changing landscape In 1948, the first peacekeeping mission and the first high-profile mediator were deployed as innovative solutions by a young United Nations. Nearly seventy years later, United Nations (UN) peace operations - which span peacekeeping operations to special political missions, good offices and mediation initiatives - are a central part of the Organization's efforts to improve the lives of people around the world. More than 128,000 women and men serve under the blue flag in almost 40 missions across four continents working to prevent conflicts, help mediate peace processes, protect civilians and sustain fragile peace processes.
UN peace operations have proven highly adaptable and contributed significantly to the successful resolution of conflicts and to a declining number of conflicts over two decades. Today, however, there is evidence of a worrisome reversal of some of this trend and a widely shared concern that changes in conflict may be outpacing the ability of UN peace operations to respond. The spread of violent extremism, overlaid onto longsimmering local or regional conflicts and the growing aspirations of populations for change, is placing pressure on governments and the international system to respond. As UN peace operations struggle to achieve their objectives, change is required to adapt them to new circumstances and to ensure their increased effectiveness and appropriate use in future.
A number of peace operations today are deployed in an environment where there is little or no peace to keep. In many settings today, the strain on their operational capabilities and support systems is showing, and political support is often stretched thin. There is a clear sense of a widening gap between what is being asked of UN peace operations today and what they are able to deliver. This gap can be – must be – narrowed to ensure that the Organization’s peace operations are able to respond effectively and appropriately to the challenges to come. With a current generation of conflicts proving difficult to resolve and with new ones emerging, it is essential that UN peace operations, along with regional and other partners, combine their respective comparative advantages and unite their strengths in the service of peace and security.
A call for change
In many ways, UN peace operations have become more professional and capable over the past decade but significant chronic challenges remain. Resources for prevention and mediation work have been scarce and the United Nations is often too slow to engage with emerging crises. Too often, mandates and missions are produced on the basis of templates instead of tailored to support situation-specific political strategies, and technical and military approaches come at the expense of strengthened political efforts. In the face of a surge in demand over the past decade, the Organization has not been able to deploy sufficient peacekeeping forces quickly and often relies on under-resourced military and police capacities. Rapidly deployable specialist capabilities are difficult to mobilize and UN forces have little or no interoperability. Secretariat departments and UN agencies, funds and programmes struggle to integrate their efforts in the face of competing pressures, at times, contradictory messages and different funding sources. UN bureaucratic systems configured for a headquarters environment limit the speed, mobility and agility of response in the field. These chronic challenges are significant but they can, and should, be addressed.