When Do UN Peacekeeping Operations Implement Their Mandates?
57 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2020 Last revised: 6 May 2020
Date Written: May 05, 2020
Under what conditions do UN peacekeeping operations (PKOs) implement the tasks assigned to them in their mandates? Contemporary PKOs are expected to fulfil increasingly fragmented multidimensional mandates, while they are increasingly deployed in active conflict zones. Drawing on principal-agent and constructivist accounts of the performance of international organizations more generally, we argue that these two trends -- increasingly fragmented mandates, increasingly implemented amidst ongoing conflict -- hinder PKOs' ability to pursue the tasks assigned to them, potentially undermining their legitimacy in the eyes of the UN Security Council, troop-contributing countries, and host governments. We test our argument using two new datasets on peacekeeping activities and mandates in Africa between 1998 and 2016. Combining results from instrumental variable and fixed effects models, we find that mandate fragmentation is indeed detrimental to mandate implementation, especially for peacebuilding-related tasks. We also show that violence in the field of operations is an impediment to mandate implementation, though the effects vary by perpetrator. Government violence diminishes mandate implementation, while rebel violence improves mandate implementation for security-related tasks, perhaps because political and diplomatic constraints make it easier for PKOs to respond to violence perpetrated by rebels rather than governments. We conclude by arguing that less fragmented mandates are needed to avoid setting expectations that PKOs cannot meet, especially during ongoing conflict, and to safeguard their legitimacy.
Keywords: peacekeeping; international organizations; implementation
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation