Armed non-state actors (ANSAs) often act as important security-providers in conflict environments but are typically excluded from long-term strategies for peace. To succeed, pragmatic routes to peace should consider how to incorporate ANSAs into longer term frameworks for peace.
Resolving local conflicts between non-state armed groups, or between communities, is key to reducing violence against civilians. The United Nations is often involved in supporting local peace processes and seems to enhance the prospects for local conflict resolution. One major obstacle to a successful local peace process, however, is that local conflicts are often integrated into higher-level, national or transnational conflicts. A holistic approach to peacemaking is therefore necessary, which could allow peace to trickle down from the transnational or national level to the local, ultimately reducing violence against civilians.
The use of force by United Nations peacekeepers has always been contentious. As far back as 1956, the then-Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld warned that resorting to force in situations other than self-defense risked compromising the UN’s impartiality, and making peacekeepers a party to the very conflicts the UN was trying to defuse through political engagement.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres rightly prioritizes performance by including it as one of the five pillars of his Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) reform initiative. Peacekeeping operations are a principal tool, and one of the most expensive and visible ways, that the UN intervenes to prevent and mitigate conflict. Improving peacekeeping performance is thus essential, but it will not be easy.
The United Nations General Assembly has approved $6.8 billion in peacekeeping expenditures for the 2017/18 budget year. This total will increase, possibly to as much as $7.3 billion, since states only agreed on the first six months of funding for two ongoing operations. Yet even that total would still be some $600 million less than the amount requested by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and $500 million less than the approved resources for the previous year.
United States Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has celebrated this reduction: “Just five months into our time here, we’ve already been able to cut over half a billion dollars from the U.N. peacekeeping budget and we’re only getting started.” The UN’s Africa Group has warned, however, that excessive budget cuts would “endanger the implementation of [mission] mandates.”