Lost Blue Helmets in Wars Among People: Revitalizing UN Peace Operations for the Context of Modern Warfare

Earlier this year, The Strategy Bridge asked university and professional military education students to participate in our first annual writing contest by sending us their thoughts on strategy.

Now, we are pleased to present a third-place essay from Julian D’Souza from Warwick University, United Kingdom.

Introduction: Wars Among the People

Since the end of the Cold War, the nature of warfare has changed. “What stands out in the 21st century is the lack of large-scale interstate conflict,” note Pettersson and Wallensteen.[1] Contemporary warfare is predominantly comprised of civil or intrastate wars, where non-state actors play a significant role in asymmetric or irregular conflict that pits them against governments or other non-state actors.[2] Often, states afflicted by these wars are characterized by conditions favouring insurgency, such as poverty, slow growth, large populations, and financial and bureaucratic weakness.[3] Because these wars are fought by irregular or insurgent forces, authors such as Rupert Smith have come to call them “war among the people.”[4] Mary Kaldor, a researcher who popularized the phrase new wars, argues “the risks or threats we face are less likely to come from authoritarian states but from failing states...[in which] violence is primarily directed against unarmed and unprotected civilians rather than against other warring parties.”[5] Thus, in the context of contemporary warfare characterized by irregular forces and violence among civilian populations, whose causes are rooted in socio-political factors and state failure, this essay aims to engage with the following question: has the changing nature of warfare made UN peacekeeping outdated and can it be adapted to suit the conditions of contemporary war? In an effort to answer these two questions, this essay will be broken into two parts. In the first, it will study the concept of human security and what role it plays in understanding contemporary conflict. It will then review how UN peacekeeping has changed since the end of the Cold War and how these changes are reflected in UN peacekeeping doctrine. In the second part, the military doctrines of the United Kingdom and United States pertaining to counterinsurgency (COIN) and stabilisation operations published as a result of lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan will be studied in to understand how contemporary Western military doctrine perceives human security factors.

By pursuing this progression, the argument will be made that human security plays a fundamental role in understanding the causes of contemporary warfare today, and that US and UK military doctrine developed based on this knowledge offers a valuable framework by which to revitalize UN peace operations moving forward.

Brazilian Army participating in a 2010 UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David A. FrechU.S. Navy Photo/Wikimedia)

Human Security

Human security is a concept underpinned by a focus on individual human lives, and comes as a reaction to the traditional notion of national security which was “felt to be increasingly misleading or insufficient when most violent conflict is intra-national and overwhelmingly most of the casualties are civilians.”[6] This shifts the unit of analysis away from states and militaries towards a more relevant and nuanced understanding of the type of conflict occurring today. The concept does not have an agreed upon definition and varying interpretations of its meaning are subject to significant academic debate. Because this essay seeks to situate itself within policy debates it will utilize a conception of human security which foregoes its broadest definitions in favour of one which finds a middle ground. Taylor Owen provides a compellingly clear and useful definition of the concept when he argues “human security is the protection of the vital core of all human lives from critical and pervasive environmental, economic, food, health, personal, and political threats.”[7] This definition allows for a practical applicability of the concept within a liberal institutional framework, while also avoiding the trap of employing an overly narrow definition focused only on physical threats to security, thus missing a significant part of what causes insecurity to people in contemporary conflict. Based on this definition of human security, it is possible to study UN peace operations and how they have (or have not) responded to the imperatives of contemporary wars among the people.

UN Peacekeeping: Then and Now

Traditional peacekeeping was born in the bipolar world following World War II and was primarily intended to manage conflict between states. It did so by “posting slightly armed or unarmed troops in a buffer zone between the belligerent forces in an attempt to deter them from resuming hostilities once they have agreed upon a ceasefire, and to create a space for political dialogue conducive to reaching a peace agreement between the conflicting parties.”[8] These missions were fundamentally based on the principles of impartiality in their approach, the pre-existing consent of all parties prior to deployment, restraining the use of force to self defence, and not deploying without a peace to keep.[9] Since the end of the Cold War, however, the concept of UN peace operations has shifted to become “one of international society’s principal collective means of maintaining international peace and security,” leading to situations where much more is being asked of UN peace operations than previously expected.[10] Particularly in the context of intra-state conflict, “the assumption of new and multiple tasks by peacekeepers were not only placing the UN machinery for peacekeeping under growing strain, but were presenting peacekeepers with far more complex challenges than that which had become the norm in more ‘traditional’ operations.”[11] These strains arguably manifested themselves in the UN’s failure to prevent crimes against humanity in missions such as Rwanda and Somalia, forcing the UN to critically re-evaluate the purposes of its peacekeeping missions.

Lakhdar Brahimi (Violaine Martin/United Nations)

To assess the critical weaknesses in UN peace operations, the UN commissioned Lakhdar Brahimi, former Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, to provide a report on UN peace operations. For the purposes of this study, the most notable part of the report was the recognition that peacekeeping missions were becoming more complicated, and that the report recognized the failure of peacekeepers to distinguish aggressors from victims had seriously harmed the organization’s credibility.[12] To this end, the report called for peacekeepers’ rules of engagement (ROE) to be expanded to allow them to use force in a more robust manner for the purpose of protecting civilians. “Impartiality,” the report argued, “is not the same as neutrality or equal treatment of all parties in all cases for all time…It means that mandates should specify an operation’s authority to use force…to pose a credible deterrent threat, in contrast to the symbolic and non-threatening presence that characterizes traditional peacekeeping.”[13] This recommendation arguably signaled the beginning of the shift away from national security imperatives in UN peacekeeping missions, and towards one that saw the protection of civilians’ physical security as being a critical part of the mandate.[14]

Traditional peacekeeping was born in the bipolar world following World War II and was primarily intended to manage conflict between states.

Eight years later the Capstone Doctrine was released with the intention of clarifying the core principles of UN peacekeeping operations. It notably introduced the authority to use force to defend the mandate, to deal with spoilers of peace processes, and to protect civilians.[15] This signaled a further expansion of the rules of engagement in recognition that oftentimes non-state actors did not genuinely engage with peace processes, but rather used them to their strategic advantage. It further reaffirmed the core principles of peacekeeping, namely consent, impartiality, and minimum use of force. “As such, the Brahimi reform and the issuing of the Capstone Doctrine represent an attempt by the UN to draw a red line between what it is prepared to do in peace operations and what it cannot do—and should not be asked to do.”[16]

Special intervention brigade forces from Tanzania, part of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on duty in Sake, North Kivu, in July 2013. (Sylvain Liechti/United Nations)

The relatively recent emergence of missions which have stabilisation as part of their mandate in countries such as Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the Central African Republic (CAR), have seriously challenged the continued relevance of the UN’s peacekeeping core principles. Most notably in 2013, the UN Security Council increased the robustness of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), “deploying a Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) to ‘neutralize all negative forces.’” The mission at large sought to secure geographic areas in order to create space for the provision of basic public services and address the “extreme poverty and unsatisfied basic needs,” which constituted some of the Congolese population’s main grievances.[17] While Kjeksrud and Vermeij argue the Force Intervention Brigade improved human security in the areas it operated, they also note that the, “UN missions in Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo utilize military force in ways that fundamentally challenge the bedrock peacekeeping principles of consent, impartiality, and the non-use of force except in self-defense and defense of the mandate.”[18] The two go on to argue impartiality in such missions is now “merely an illusion,”[19] which Bellamy and Hunt build on by explaining that these recent stabilisation mandates were explicitly partial in their support of the state, and intentionally directed towards countries which had no peace to keep, and in which consent from all parties could not be ascertained.[20] These issues lend credence to the argument that the UN peacekeeping core principles were increasingly out of touch with the demands of the type of warfare in which the UN was engaged.

In 2015, the UN sought to again evaluate its peace operations by commissioning a report conducted by José Ramos-Horta, the former president of East Timor. In the report, he noted the widening gap between demands of UN peace operations and what they were capable of delivering, but added that the UN “must rise to the challenge of protecting civilians in the face of imminent threat, and must do so proactively and effectively.”[21] He argued four essential shifts must take place: 1) Politics must have primacy in all peace operations; 2) The full spectrum of peace operations should be used flexibly and responsively; 3) Stronger, more inclusive peace must be built; and 4) United Nations peace operations must become more people-centred.[22] Finally, he noted the UN should clarify terms and phrases such as stabilisation and defence of the mandate, which were being used more frequently in its peace operations.[23] In regards to the former phrase, several authors have gone a step further and argued that in addition to clarifying the term stabilisation, the UN should actually develop a doctrine by which to inform its stabilisation operations.[24]

Based on this review of human security and UN peace operations, several things should be clear. First, based on the changing nature of contemporary war, human security offers a compelling lens by which to understand wars amongst the people. Additionally, based on a review of UN reports and doctrinal publications, it is clear the UN has struggled to address this new form of war which it has recognized as more complex than those interstate wars with which it traditionally sought to engage. Recent operational imperatives in missions in exceptionally violent environments have driven the UN to violate all four of its core principles, implying they are largely irrelevant. Thus, the answer to the question “Is UN peacekeeping outdated?” is answer is “Yes” to the extent that UN peacekeeping is understood in its traditional form and in terms of its adherence to its traditional core principles. This is evidenced by the continual degradation of the relevance of said principles in informing the mandate by which UN peace operations engage with complex missions today. Next, the question of whether or not UN peace operations can be adapted to suit the conditions of contemporary war will be explored.


It is arguable that the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were highly informative to Western states involved in fighting the insurgencies in those respective countries, forcing them to reassess their military doctrines for fighting an enemy that was not a conventional military.[25] “The main lessons from these wars may well include the difficulty of using the military instrument, that superiority of military technology does not bring decisive victories, and that legitimacy is more important than force,” argues Kaldor.[26] Both the United States and United Kingdom released counterinsurgency doctrines intended to guide the operations of their respective militaries, and examination of these doctrines reveals distinctive themes of human security that imply applicability to the contemporary wars which UN peace operations engage in today.

The United States Department of Army Field Manual 3-24 Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies (hereafter referred to as FM 3-24) for example, notes:

...conditions in which an insurgency might take place include poverty, unemployment, economic inequality, inadequate essential services, political marginalization, and repression…The root causes of an insurgency are real or perceived grievances that insurgents use to mobilize a population in support of an insurgency.[27]

Recalling both Fearon and Laitin’s descriptions of what factors contribute to a country’s risk of civil war, as well as Owen’s definition of human security provided previously (which emphasizes environmental, economic, food, health, personal, and political threats), one begins to see that the insurgencies this doctrine aims to counter are rooted in similar factors as the complex civil wars UN missions often become engaged in. Thus an effective counterinsurgency campaign must employ political, diplomatic, economic, humanitarian, and security tools to address the underlying human security causes which have culminated in the insurgency.[28] FM 3-24 describes it as “comprehensive civilian and military efforts designed to simultaneously defeat and contain insurgency and address its root causes.”[29] Thus, there is an argument to be made that counterinsurgency is in fact a broadly political strategy in which military force plays just one part.

In regards to how insurgent and counterinsurgent forces engage in wars amongst the people, David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency scholar of note, describes how local populations interact with an insurgency, arguing they are “the center of gravity of an insurgent movement—the source of power from which its morale, its physical strength, its freedom of action, and its will to act,” is drawn.[30] Thus, protecting civilians is vital to any counterinsurgency strategy. This is observed by the British doctrine Countering Insurgency, which argues “the population is central to the outcome of the campaign…The object of security operations is to provide the population with the opportunity to go about their lives without fear of violence.”[31] It should thus be clear securing the population provides the strategic basis upon which the rest of a counterinsurgency strategy can flow, resulting in what is often referred to as a population-centric strategy in which military efforts are focused on securing the population as opposed to pursuing the enemy. The British counterinsurgency doctrine advocates a “clear-hold-build” approach “designed to wrest an area from insurgent control, secure the population and allow the restoration of the host government’s control.”[32] By securing the population, counterinsurgency forces aim to convince the local population of the legitimate authority of the state, in turn creating a more stable political environment.[33] Thus the most critical features of an effective counterinsurgency campaign center on establishing the state as the legitimate authority in the eyes of the local populace by securing them from violence and addressing their basic needs, thereby separating the insurgents from their support base, delegitimizing the grievances from which they draw support, and setting the stage for a political resolution to the conflict.

Relating counterinsurgency to UN peacekeeping, Friis notes the two are not so different, as both seek to protect civilian populations, where the former sees such a strategy as a means to an end while the latter sees it as a moral imperative.[34] He goes on to argue:

From the perspective of the population in a war-torn society, however, it may not make much difference, as legitimacy is established on the basis of the way the international actors behave. Improved security will, in most circumstances, be welcomed by the civilian population. Furthermore, both doctrines emphasise the importance of civilians as an integral part of a security complex and a cornerstone to sustainable peace and security.[35] 

To this extent, there is an argument to be made that some of the contemporary UN missions today are already blurring the lines between counterinsurgency and peace operations. For example, Bellamy and Hunt argue that the “[Force Intervention Brigade] epitomized a shift towards counterinsurgency (COIN) type operations to ‘clear, hold and build.”[36] As noted above, it is particularly the use of the Force Intervention Brigade and the broad mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) which has been particularly challenging to existing UN peace operations core principles. This essay argues counterinsurgency doctrine offers significant lessons which have been drawn from the successes and failures of the counterinsurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and these lessons have widespread applications to other wars among the people in which the UN is involved today. The lessons of counterinsurgency doctrine developed by US and UK militaries should be institutionalized in a future UN doctrine which makes a more explicit recognition of the fact that the UN is increasingly engaged in fighting insurgencies, and should put to use the best practices observed by its Western member states.

Indian peacekeepers with the MONUSCO mission watch over conflict zone in North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of Congo, in 2012. (Sylvain Liechti/United Nations)


As previously noted, the UN has recognized that it is already engaged in missions involving stabilisation, and lacks clarity on what it means when it specifies stabilisation as part of a mission’s mandate.[37] Similar to counterinsurgency doctrines, stabilisation doctrines were published by both the US and UK military in order to guide their forces during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and in deployments thereafter. While the US sees stabilisation operations as taking place under the wider umbrella of a counterinsurgency operation, the UK conceives of them as being overlapping but distinct activities.[38] This essay takes the position that the UN should adopt a stabilisation doctrine which sees counterinsurgency as situated within broader stability operations, thus making it it distinct from both UK and US viewpoints.

The UK stabilisation doctrine Security and Stabilisation: The Military Contribution defines stabilisation as:

The process that supports states which are entering, enduring or emerging from conflict in order to: prevent or reduce violence; protect the population and key infrastructure; promote political processes and governance structures which lead to a political settlement that institutionalises non-violent contests for power; and prepares for sustainable social and economic development…. Stabilisation takes place within fragile or failed states.[39]

This definition and the policies within apply suitably to the description of contemporary warfare provided in the introduction, and lists many of the same activities counterinsurgency doctrine conducts to address the root causes of said conflicts. Furthermore, the Security and Stabilisation doctrine is noteworthy for its explicit references to human security throughout the publication. The definition used aligns closely with the Owen definition employed by this essay, indicating a recognition by even those in the military that human security plays an increasingly vital role in conflict.[40] British stabilisation doctrine emphatically notes the critical nature of ensuring human security when engaging in stability, when it argues that “in a stabilisation environment the lack of human security can be acute and it is critical that it is addressed if the situation is not to spiral out of control…Winning the contests for human security therefore, is fundamental to the development of host nation government authority and, ultimately the security of the state.”[41] This argument aligns closely with that made by scholar Amartya Sen, who sees human security as being complementary to state security.[42] The imperatives of addressing human security concerns can be seen throughout both doctrines, providing further evidence of the role human security plays in causing and resolving wars today.

Much like counterinsurgency strategy, stabilisation operations revolve around strengthening the security of the state by providing security for civilian populations and making efforts to meet their basic needs. Stabilisation doctrine also recognizes the limited role military forces can play in this regard.[43] Based on this review of stabilisation doctrine, it should be clear that the US and UK militaries have gone much further in publishing doctrine, clarifying definitions, and establishing best practices by which to guide the deployment of their forces in wars among the people. These doctrines repeatedly and emphatically draw on human security imperatives, indicating clearly that they are designed to address the same conflicts which the UN continues to struggle with today. Thus, there is a clear need for the UN to do the same, by establishing its own doctrine which clarifies the way in which it will engage with contemporary wars, one which recognizes the role human security plays in both causing and resolving conflict.

Policy Recommendations

As noted, several authors have indicated the UN must do more to clarify what is meant when it uses the term stabilisation and what this implies for a mission’s mandate. Aoi and de Coning take this one step further, arguing the UN should create a new category of U peace operations with a broader and more forceful mandate under the title of “UN stabilization operations.”[44] This essay agrees with their argument, and aims to build on it by suggesting critical features UN stabilisation operations should follow.

…the notion that there must be a peace to keep in order for UN stabilisation operations troops to be deployed must be forgotten completely…

First, UN stabilisation operations must operate based on distinct principles which recognise the outdated nature of traditional UN peacekeeping principles and the need to revise them. These include the imperative to support the existing state structure by fostering its legitimacy in the eyes of its citizens. Naturally, the host nation must consent to the deployment of UN forces so as to conform with international law and show respect for national sovereignty; however, the traditional emphasis on attaining the consent of all parties must be done away with. Furthermore, the use of force in UN stabilisation operations should be guided by the imperative of securing the population. This implies largely a defensive posture, but leaves room for offensive operations when the mission demands it. This is distinct from the traditional principle in that it mandates the use of force to actively secure local populations as opposed to simply protecting civilians when UN forces are witness to violence. Finally, the notion that there must be a peace to keep in order for UN stabilisation operations troops to be deployed must be forgotten completely, as this would undermine the entire purpose of the creation UN stabilisation operations. The overall purpose of these operations is to establish significant stability to bring warring parties to the table in peace talks. These principles generally reflect the pre-existing principles of peacekeeping, but revise them in necessary yet fundamentally challenging ways in order to reflect the nature of contemporary warfare. It is arguable that the UN has been hampered by its insistence on clinging to the outdated principles described, and without making these necessary reforms, it will continue to struggle in addressing contemporary conflict.

UN peacekeepers on patrol in Kidal, Mali. (Blagoje Grujic/United Nations)

On a more practical level, this essay argues that the UN’s stabilisation doctrine must be informed by pre-existing counterinsurgency and stabilisation strategy which have been honed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but should also include the UN’s lessons learned in recent deployments such as Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These include the following;

  • Securing the local population

  • Neutralizing peace process spoilers and groups which attack civilians

  • Gathering human and signal intelligence to yield better understanding of the human terrain

  • Reforming and strengthening the security sector

  • Assisting in providing humanitarian assistance involving basic needs such as food, water, and health care provision

  • Ensuring basic necessary infrastructural needs are met

  • Encouraging economic growth by providing safe and secure environments for civilians to do business

  • Improving policing, the judicial branch, and the rule of law

  • Facilitating political processes based on inclusion, representation, and dialogue

  • Improving host government capacity to meet the basic needs of its citizens

  • Addressing trauma by supporting victims of physical and gender-based violence

These activities must be informed by the underlying themes of unity of effort, which calls for civilian and military cooperation in all regards. To this end, it is absolutely vital that forces involved in UN stabilisation operations are integrated with non-military actors and have structures in place allowing them to communicate effectively in order to coordinate their activities. With few exceptions the military should not be the primary provider of these operations, as it is vital that the host nation is the main actor when possible, with civilian international actors stepping in when the host nation does not have the capacity to do so. The role of forces involved in UN stabilisation operations is predominantly to provide a secure environment in which the rest of these activities can occur. These activities are not an exhaustive list of all that must occur, and must be tailored to the specific context of the conflict. In doing so, UN stabilisation operations will aim to provide the basis for the gradual resolution of the root causes of the conflict, thus weakening the imperative for warring actors to continue fighting, and setting the stage for a peace process to begin.


There are a variety of critiques that can be levied against the arguments this essay has made, which range from broadly theoretical to highly practical. At the theoretical level, Edward Newman argues the UN does not take a critical approach to human security, which degrades the solidarist intent of the concept while reinforcing existing and problematic structures which may in fact be the cause of human insecurity.[45] As noted above, this essay aims to situate itself within policy-making debates, making its use of the human security concept inherently inclined to a problem-solving definition within a liberal institutionalist framework, and less inclined to taking an emancipatory approach within a critical security framework, as the latter approach is often unworkable at the policy-making level. Additionally, there is empirical evidence that suggests UN peacekeeping is effective in mitigating the intentional killing of civilians in civil war, indicating that in the context of this research question it represents a useful institution to attempt to reform, one which should not be done away with.[46]

…insistence on clinging to outdated and and increasingly irrelevant, absolutist principles of impartiality, consent, and the non-use of force are exactly what has hampered the UN from progressing towards more effective peace operations.

Within UN policy-making debates, John Karlsrud argues a move towards more robust peace operations which mandate the use of force at the operational or even strategic level violates the core principles of UN peacekeeping.[47] In a sense, Karlsrud is correct, which is why this essay has argued traditional peacekeeping principles must be fundamentally changed to better reflect the demands of contemporary warfare. Karlsrud’s insistence on clinging to outdated and and increasingly irrelevant, absolutist principles of impartiality, consent, and the non-use of force are exactly what has hampered the UN from progressing towards more effective peace operations. Furthermore, the outright disregard for these principles within specific UN operations, such as those in Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo, suggests that at the operational level the UN has already accepted their limiting nature.

Finally at the most practical level of critique, Thierry Tardy argues a more robust approach to peacekeeping may be hampered by issues such as “weak political support, erratic availability and quality of troops, and reticence of troop contributors to embrace a robust approach.” These critiques are harder to address than those prior, and potential solutions rely on a change in their attitude of UN member states towards robust peace operations in general, an issue largely beyond the UN’s control. It is hoped that as wars among the people continue to plague the international security arenas, those member states opposed to robust peace operations and stabilisation operations will slowly recognize the fundamentally necessary rethinking of the role of militaries and the UN in addressing conflict today. These are lessons that the US and UK learned the hard way in the theatres of Iraq and Afghanistan. In regards to the latter critiques, the missions in Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo offer some potential solutions, as UN peacekeeping troops were supported in both by traditional military actors, in the form of the Force Intervention Brigade (in the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo) and the French military (in the case of Mali.) By cooperating with willing partners, UN stabilisation operations can outsource the most offensive (and arguably most rarely necessary) operations to those with the means to do so, thus reducing the risk and cost to troop contributing countries engaged in the standard, everyday affairs of stabilisation operations.

While there are certainly worthwhile critiques of revitalizing the UN’s peace operations in a more robust and forceful direction, ranging from theoretical to practical, these critiques should not dissuade the UN from pursuing the suggestions made. These critiques either support the status quo (such as those made by Karlsrud and Tardy), or are so revolutionary that they are simply not possible (such as the insistence on emancipatory human security approaches made by Newman.) Either way, if progress is to be made, it is vital for the UN to reform itself in a way that reflects the changed nature of warfare and the critical human security imperatives throughout.

United Nations Security Counceil (Devra Berkowitz/United Nations)


This essay has sought to answer the question: Has the changing nature of warfare made UN peacekeeping outdated, and can it be adapted to suit the conditions of contemporary warfare? At the outset, evidence was presented indicating contemporary warfare is characterized as intra-state in nature, adversely affecting civilian populations, and rooted in socio-economic and political causes. Based on this understanding, the argument was put forth that human security offers a more compelling lens through which to understand the causes and potential resolutions of conflict, and this understanding would therefore inform the essay throughout. The argument was then put forth that the UN has struggled to adapt its traditional peacekeeping structure and core principles to the changed nature of war. This is spelled out clearly by its own panel reports and academic commentators and implies a need for reform. Based on underlying themes of human security and more comprehensive measures to address the root causes of conflict, the argument was made that American and British military doctrine offered a useful foundation to inform UN stabilisation operations, which in turn merited the creation of a UN Stabilisation Operations body with a distinct set of core principles. By making these arguments, this essay situated itself within UN policy-making debates, making the case that while traditional UN peacekeeping is outdated, it can be reformed by implementing the suggested measures. In this way the UN can become a more effective actor in the provision of human security and the quest to decrease conflict around the world.

Julian D’Souza is a student in International Security at the University of Warwick with an interest in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. He earned a BA in Political Science at the University of British Columbia, where he published on issues relating to Hamas in governance in Gaza, and the Canadian Armed Forces’ lessons learned in Afghanistan.

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Header Image: A military escort from the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) in December 2013. (Sylvain Liechti/United Nations)


[1] Therése Pettersson and Peter Wallensteen, “Armed conflicts, 1946-2014” Journal of Peace Research 52, no. 4 (2015): 537.

[2] Kendra Dupuy et al., “Trends in Armed Conflict, 1946-2016,” Oslo: Peace Research Institute Oslo, 2017.

[3] James D. Fearon and David D. Laitin, “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War,” The American Political Science Review 97, no. 1 (2003): 2.

[4] Rupert Smith, The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World, (New York: Vintage Books, 2008). 

[5] Mary Kaldor, “Human security: political authority in a global era,” in Routledge Handbook of Human Security, ed. Mary Martin and Taylor Owen (Oxon: Routledge, 2014), 67.

[6]  Amartya Sen, “Birth of a discourse,” in Routledge Handbook of Human Security, ed. Mary Martin and Taylor Owen (Oxon: Routledge, 2014), 18. Des Gasper, “Human security: from definitions to investigating a discourse,” in Routledge Handbook of Human Security, ed. Mary Martin and Taylor Owen (Oxon: Routledge, 2014), 32.

[7] Taylor Owen, “Human security thresholds,” in Routledge Handbook of Human Security, ed. Mary Martin and Taylor Owen (Oxon: Routledge, 2014), 60.

[8] Jacques L. Koko and Essoh J. M. C. Essis, Determinants of Success in UN Peacekeeping Operations, (Lanham: University Press of America, 2012), 4.

[9] Chiyuki Aoi, Cedric de Coning and John Karlsrud, “Introduction: Addressing the emerging gap between concepts, doctrine, and practice in UN peacekeeping operations,” in UN Peacekeeping Doctrine in a New Era: Adapting to Stabilisation, Protection and New Threats, ed. Cedric de Coning, Chiyuki Aoi and John Karlsrud (New York: Routledge, 2017), 13.

[10] Alex J. Bellamy and Charles T. Hunt, “Twenty-first century UN peace operations: protection, force and the changing security environment,” International Affairs 91, no. 6 (2015): 1278.

[11] Mats Berdal and David H. Ucko, “The Use of Force in UN Peacekeeping Operations,” The RUSI Journal 160, no. 1 (2015): 6.

[12] Lakhdar Brahimi, “Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations,” General Assembly Fifty-fifth session (2000): IX.

[13] Ibid, 25

[14] Bellamy and Hunt, “Twenty-first century UN peace operations,” 1279.

[15] Aoi, de Coning, and Karlsrud, “Introduction,” 12.

[16] Ibid., 13.

[17] Alberto Barrera, “The Congo Trap: MONUSCO Islands of Stability in the Sea of Instability,” International Journal of Security & Development 4, no. 1 (2015): 4-5. Bellamy and Hunt, “Twenty-first century UN peace operations,” 1290.

[18] Stian Kjerksrud and Lotte Vermeij, “Protecting governments from insurgencies: The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali,” in UN Peacekeeping Doctrine in a New Era: Adapting to Stabilisation, Protection and New Threats, ed. Cedric de Coning, Chiyuki Aoi and John Karlsrud (New York: Routledge, 2017), 248.

[19] Ibid., 255.

[20] Bellamy and Hunt, “Twenty-first century UN peace operations,” 1282.

[21] José Ramos-Horta, “Report of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations on uniting our strengths for peace: politics, partnership and people,” United Nations General Assembly Seventieth session (2015): 9-11.

[22] Ibid., 24.

[23] Ibid., 43,46.

[24] Bellamy and Hunt, “Twenty-first century UN peace operations,” 1295; Kjeksrud and Vermeij, “Protecting governments from insurgencies,” 249; and Chiyuki Aoi and Cedric de Coning, “Conclusion: Towards a United Nations stabilization doctrine - stabilization as an emerging UN practice,” in UN Peacekeeping Doctrine in a New Era: Adapting to Stabilisation, Protection and New Threats, ed. Cedric de Coning, Chiyuki Aoi and John Karlsrud (New York: Routledge, 2017), 206.

[25]  Karsten Friis, “Peacekeeping and Counter-insurgency - Two of a Kind?” International Peacekeeping 17, no. 1 (2010): 50.

[26] Kaldor, “Human security,” 68.

[27] United States. Department of the Army, The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual : U.S. Army Field Manual No. 3-24 : Marine Corps Warfighting Publication No. 3-33.5. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007): 4-3.

[28] United Kingdom Ministry of Defense, Volume 1 Part 10 Countering Insurgency. (Warminster: Ministry of Defence, 2009): 1-8.

[29] Dept. of Army, FM 3-24, 1-2.

[30] David Kilcullen, Counterinsurgency, (London: C. Hurst & Co. Ltd., 2010), 7.

[31] UK MOD, Countering Insurgency, 1-8 - 4-7.

[32] UK MOD, Countering Insurgency, 4-7.

[33] Martijn Kitzen, “‘Legitimacy is the Main Objective’: Legitimation in Population-Centric Counterinsurgency,” Small Wars & Insurgencies 28, vol. 4-5 (2017): 856.

[34] Friis, “Peacekeeping and Counter-insurgency,” 52.

[35] Ibid., 58.

[36] Bellamy and Hunt, “Twenty-first century UN peace operations,” 1290.

[37] Ramos-Horta, “Comprehensive review,”

[38] Stuart Griffin, “Iraq, Afghanistan and the future of British military doctrine: from counterinsurgency to Stabilization,” International Affairs 87, no. 2 (2011): 326.

[39] United Kingdom Ministry of Defense, Joint Doctrine Publication 3-40 Security and Stabilisation: The Military Contribution. (Shrivenham: Ministry of Defence, 2009): XI-3.

[40] Ibid., 6.

[41] Ibid., 24-78.

[42] Sen, “Birth of a discourse,” 27.

[43] UK MOD, Security and Stabilisation, 60.

[44] Aoi and de Coning, “Conclusion,” 294.

[45] Edward Newman, “The United Nations and human security: between solidarism and pluralism,” in Routledge Handbook of Human Security, ed. Mary Martin and Taylor Owen (Oxon: Routledge, 2014), 225.

[46] Lisa Hultman, Jacob Kathman and Megan Shannon, “United Nations Peacekeeping and Civilian Protection in Civil War,” American Journal of Political Science 57, no. 4 (2013): 876.

[47] John Karlsrud, “The UN at war: examining the consequences of peace-enforcement mandates for the UN peacekeeping operations in the CAR, the DRC and Mali,” Third World Quarterly 36, no. 1 (2015): 2.