Challenges for UN Peacekeeping Operations (PKO’s)


The main objective of UN formation was to foster global peace and prevent wars. But today, UN is confronting serious challenges and unable to deliver, because of the monopoly of some major powers. The several unresolved issues from many decades raise severe questions upon efficiency of UN i.e., Kashmir issue, Palestine issues, and many more. This static role of UN creates a regionalism concept as due to inefficiency of UN on significant issues, states are moving towards regionalism. Through this, UN has developed into a collective international, all-inclusive entity, intending to promote and ensure global peace and stability in resolving states’ problems, but it remained unable to resolve global problems after seven decades of its formation.

Under the preventive diplomacy framework Dag Hammarskjöld, former UN Secretary-General, has prompted to pursue peace-keeping operations vigorously. Since the creation of the United Nations, the PKO’s have been generally considered appropriate and been recognized as addressing conflicts.

Even though the peacekeeping term is not anticipated in UN charter still peacekeeping mission serves as “flagship” task of UN. The UN, as a legitimate conflict responding institute, described peacekeeping as “providing of security, political and peacekeeping support to help countries make the early transition from conflict to peace. This definition places peacekeeping specifically with other peace mechanisms, between “diplomacy and democracy.”

For “sustainable peace and stability” in the future, UN and its Member States are voicing their support. One should, however, consider whether the authorized institution can effectively conduct peacekeeping activities. Although UN fused different strategies for the fruitful tasks. Be that as it may, PKO faces diverse challenges that impact each other and lead to uncertainty. The COVID-19 is, however, the biggest obstacle, as it makes all the other challenges worse.

Because of the 2008 global financial emergency, UN peacekeeping subsidies were then reduced by 20% and the pandemic is judged to reduce the funding to an additional 30-50%. The most disturbing reality is the nations that contributed the most are the third world states (Rwanda, India, Ethiopia, Pakistan, and India). The monetary smash because of the pandemic can make these states under the national pressure of reducing numbers of troops, resulting in a capacity reduction of PKO’s. South Sudan’s government forces have, for instance, developed designated sites out of UN compounds in many places to stop or minimize UN movements, and other international peacekeepers are also held to account for the spread of the coronavirus disease.

Johan Galtung, a Norwegian sociologist, said, “By peace, we mean the capacity to transform conflicts with empathy, without violence, and creatively – a never-ending process”. This prompts the rise of thought if United Nations peacekeeping undertakings are nature of peace-keeping ​or peace enforcement. The appropriate response has been evident from Somali Peacekeeping operation (UNOSOM II), which turned into Security Council’s first mission approved to “use force beyond self-defense”. The logical inconsistency of practice and doctrine of UN for peacekeeping activity emerges as another challenge of prominent significance. Since UN peacekeeping doctrine demonstrates: consent, impartiality, and non-use of force as the critical standards for any peacekeeping operation, however in practice, the operations’ nature is peace enforcement.

The generally recognized challenges of peace-keeping operations include attacks and targeting of peace-keepers. In meeting with the Working Group of the Security Council on PKO’s, Deputy Permanent Representative of Pakistan to UN also expressed concern at the onslaught in attacks against peacekeepers. He highlighted the fact that this is essential to preserve the sacredness of the blue flag. However, the insight into UN Charter and System is essential in revealing the other hidden political, financial, and hierarchical challenges. The United Nations Charter Member and the P5 are the main challenges to PKO’s. Since the United States (member of the Charter) went to UN for validity only, it disintegrated the authenticity of the United Nations. US while utilizing its status is not satisfying its obligations, if the US takes care of its delinquent dues the reforms would be easier and the PKO’s will be secured from the financial challenge that continuously hampering the implementation of operations. As US Department of State’s three retired senior officials delineated, in 2021, that the US has been accruing dues, a total of more than $1 billion, for four years.


At the core of UN, peacekeeping decisions and the Security Council which is another major political internal challenge. The P5 assistance is crucial to effective PKO’s, but national priorities and dynamics of political power vary from one state to another, thus preventing tasks from being accomplished. Veto power plays an essential role in all this, and it is advisable to modify the veto power because it is ‘the thorniest thing on the current agenda. The decision-making power builds a great power supremacy structure in which the other members have no power. For example, Japan contributes about 13% of the overall budget but still has little said insecurity problems.

The Former UN representative for India, Tanmaya Lal during an open debate on the improvement of the flagship task of the Organization, expressed the concern that “… The changing nature of armed conflicts has led to the chronic lack of clarity in mandates, resources, and lack of consultation with troop-contributing countries.” The massive rise of intrastate conflicts led to a shift to multifaceted PKO’s. Various drivers are currently causing conflict. In terms of dimensions and expansion, advanced arms and innovation have also transformed conflicts. The peacekeepers used to patrol the buffer zones between two confrontational nations. Circumstances have now been confused with complex mandates, fragmented and diverse players contributing to the demolition of coordination and creating an inclined state of viciousness. The current situation leads to repeated changes to the mandate, which demonstrates a lack of clarity and credibility. For instance, Srebrenica genocide, slaughtering the Muslim civilians before UNPROFOR, because their mandate did not permit them to utilize power to secure civilians.

In addition to the complexities of complex mandates, finance and capabilities continue to subvert protection and security for personnel, the shift from peacekeeping to peace enforcement has carried the UNPKO’s to a critical juncture driving the fate of PKO’s, at stack. The UN will tarnish the prestige and the integrity of peace-keeping operations if it continues to stick with current inconsistent.

The distinction between enforcement and peacekeeping is strongly needed. As Mats Berdal, Professor of Security and Development, also argued, “the fundamental distinction between enforcement and peacekeeping should be maintained”. The move to enforcement raises many challenges, such as complicated mandates and misunderstanding, all of which hamper the legitimacy of PKO’s as well as of the UN.

The UN’s Former Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, unequivocally clarified: “Without peace, there is no development, and without development, there is no peace.” This assertion raises the question, why are PKO’s still facing problems as the Member States and the United Nations themselves drive for peace. The answer is clear that UN needs finances, strength, R2P, and the ability to promote and sustain the new wave of PKO’s, as the nature of war has changed, but peacekeeping must keep pace.

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