United Nations peace missions

Peacekeeping: the UN’s principal task

According to Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations, the purpose of the organization is “to maintain world peace and international security”. As the German Bundestag confirmed on 22 June 2001, “the United Nations’ principal task remains unchanged: to play a central role in making and maintaining world peace and international security”. Given the many crises and conflicts around the world, as well as the new risks and threats to international security posed also by non‑state actors, the need for such efforts is no less pressing today than in the past.

Organs and instruments

The maintenance or restoration of peace is the paramount task of the United Nations Security Council. It takes appropriate measures and can, for example, issue mandates for peace missions. It can also mandate regional organizations (such as NATO, the EU, the OSCE or the African Union) or so‑called “coalitions of the willing” (for example, the military mission KFOR in Kosovo) led either by an individual country or by an international organization to settle conflicts. Since its founding, the United Nations has itself conducted or mandated over 65 peace missions.

A new approach: multidimensional operations

Since the end of East-West confrontation, the spectrum of tasks international peace missions perform has changed. The fact that the UN is today increasingly involved in efforts to resolve conflicts arising within states also means changes in the kinds of tasks peace missions are called upon to carry out. Today, most peace missions perform varied civilian and military tasks. Alongside military peacekeeping tasks, these so‑called multidimensional operations also assume a wide range of civilian duties such as supporting security sector reform, monitoring elections and democratic processes, humanitarian aid, economic reconstruction, rule of law institution-building and monitoring the human rights situation.

Since 2000 there has been a substantial increase in UN‑led peacekeeping (so‑called blue helmet missions), with currently more than 113,000 people involved in such missions (soldiers, police officers and other civilian personnel). The bulk of UN peacekeepers are deployed in Africa and this will presumably continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. The broad spectrum of tasks undertaken by UN‑led missions and the great increase in their size and scope present the UN system with significant challenges in terms of planning and implementing missions.

Improving the effectiveness of UN peace missions

UN-stabilisation mission in Haiti

UN-stabilisation mission in Haiti
© dpa/picture-alliance

Bild vergrößern
UN-stabilisation mission in Haiti

UN-stabilisation mission in Haiti

UN-stabilisation mission in Haiti

Germany is actively contributing to efforts to improve the effectiveness of UN peace missions. These efforts are guided by the findings of the Brahimi Report, which was drawn up in 2000 at the request of the UN Secretary-General and proposed a package of wide-ranging political, military, financial, personnel and organizational reforms.

The Report and its follow‑up documents, the recommendations and findings of the UN General Assembly’s Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C‑34 Committee) concerning the evolution of peacekeeping as a concept, as well as related proposals put forward by the UN Secretary-General, all provide important guiding principles for UN peace missions. The intention is not only to ensure peacekeepers have the resources necessary to accomplish their mission but also to improve the UN’s capabilities in the fields of early warning, crisis management and post‑conflict rehabilitation.

Given the substantial rise in the scope of UN‑led peace missions since 2000, further reforms have been launched aimed at improving operational capabilities, the speed of deployment and security for UN personnel on the ground. Moreover, measures for long‑term stabilization and peacebuilding are to be taken into account during the planning and implementation stages of UN peace missions. Closer cooperation with regional organizations (for example, the European Union or the African Union) and the systematic development of regional peacekeeping capabilities, especially in Africa, are two important goals the UN has set. In addition, guidelines and measures have been drawn up to tackle the problem of the sexual abuse of women by blue helmets (zero tolerance policy).

German support for the further development of UN peacekeeping

Along with its EU partners, Germany endorses these initiatives. As in other areas, the key to success is standardized operational conditions and training guidelines. At our UN Training Centre in Hammelburg and the Federal Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Hamburg, we therefore run courses with an international intake offering training and pre‑deployment preparation for military observers and staff officers, as well as future military commanders of UN peace missions.

In addition, the participation of our armed forces in peacekeeping exercises and exchanges with other UN training centres and German institutions involving both instructors and course participants serve to foster mutual understanding and trust, as well as all‑round professionalism. Internationally, Germany is also involved in groundwork to harmonize and standardize training for UN peace missions. In this connection we are working closely with the UN Secretariat’s Integrated Training Service on training modules designed for various command levels serving with peace missions, which will be introduced internationally in due course. Both through our contributions to UN peace missions and the highly qualified German nationals working for the UN in New York and its specialized agencies, Germany is helping strengthen the world organization.

Last updated 31.05.2013

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