Will the Biden administration answer the call to peace?

“I think it is an opportunity that we have now with this new administration to really get more involved, all of us, in United Nations peacekeeping, support UN peacekeeping both financially but also in terms of troops on the ground, in terms of recruitment, in terms of being an advocate for peacekeeping,” said United Nations Peace and Development Advisor Grace Kpohazounde.

On February 11, Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution hosted a discussion titled  ‘The Future of Peacekeeping in Africa’ which featured two panelists: Lise Howard, Professor of Government at Georgetown University, and Grace Kpohazounde who is a Peace and Development Advisor at the United Nations.

Michael O’Hanlon, Director of Research in Foreign Policy at Brookings moderated a powerful discussion about the importance of UN peacekeeping, and the present state of peacekeeping, especially in Africa.

 Lisa also brought attention to some core themes regarding peacekeeping operations: – The Power of Peacekeeping (The same title of her book, relying heavily on peacekeeping research since the cold war) and Peacekeeping Methodology.

The Power of Peacekeeping brings to light several important truths about peacekeeping:

  • Protection of Civilians is a priority: “Civilians die less often when UN blue helmets are deployed”
  •  It correlates with fewer military deaths
  • There is less sexual and gender-based violence during conflict
  • Peacekeeping helps sustain peace
  • It helps prevent the reoccurrence of civil war, there are shorter civil wars
  • It Improves law, civil-military relations, and legal systems
  • Produces civil society/improves democracy
  • Prevents the spread of violence
  • There has been a 2/3rd success rate at completing UN Peacebuilding mandates

She also explained the 3 general peacekeeping methods

  1. Soft power- Using words/Ideas to change minds and behavior
  2. Inducement- building institutions that channel behavior / take things away to change behavior  such as building schools, institutions, roads , networks.
  3. Compelling- using force, specifically the military to change behavior but only in defense of the agreed upon mandate of between the host country in need of relief, and the peacebuilders

Peace and Development Advisor Grace stressed the same points and added additional thoughts on the growing importance of consistence and camaraderie between countries in need of relief and the peacebuilding nations. She said, “The reason why over the past decade peacekeeping was more successful than it is today is because we had a better consensus on peacekeeping. Better mandate,  better and more accurate resources… It requires the consistency of the key constituencies to ensure success”

One of stronger focal points of the discussion surrounded the topic of the need for stronger U.S commitment to peacebuilding. Both panelists urged and challenged the new Biden administration to answer the call to peacebuilding participation.

As previously mentioned, Grace stated: “Moving forward , in particular for the Biden administration …It is one of the best multi-lateral tools we have in managing conflicts and dealing with conflicts….I think  It is an opportunity that we have now with this new administration to really get more involved,  all of us,  in United Nations  peacekeeping, support UN peacekeeping both financially but also in terms of troops on the ground, in terms of recruitment , in terms of being an advocate for peacekeeping”

Currently, There is 12 active peacekeeping missions in the world. 5 are complex missions, with 4 being in Africa(Mali, DRC, CAR and South Sudan) .  “The Central African Republic… [is] at a breaking point…[the] mission is asking for more troops and need help” said grace. 

In the tail end of the discussion Dr. Lise Howard added powerful words and a warning regarding the U.S decision to participate  in the future of African peacebuilding stating  “And if we think about the future of peace keeping, we want to think about  Who will be the main actors on the horizon? China is moving through… if China becomes the main actor in UN peacekeeping… peacekeepers are no longer going to be concerned with democracy, human rights, gender provisions. So Looking on the horizon of the future of UN peacekeeping.. unless the U.S and other decide to recommit to peacekeeping the future of UN peacekeeping is going to be Chinese”

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