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Carla Monteleone and Kseniya Oksamytna

Although UN peacekeeping fits the definition of an ‘international institution’, liberal institutionalism has not been the dominant theory in the literature. However, several aspects of UN peacekeeping – coalition-building in the UN Security Council, domestic pressures for intervention, and troop contributions – have been studied by drawing on liberal institutionalist concepts and insights. A particular difficulty is presented by the consensual and secretive nature of Security Council negotiations, which makes its voting record less informative than in other international organisations and requires other sources of data, such as on the sponsorship of peacekeeping resolutions. The analysis of sponsorship behaviour reveals that the dominant coalition consisting of the US and European states has drafted the majority of peacekeeping resolutions. The coalition has been quite successful at ensuring the smooth adoption of the resolutions. Yet recently, more states – including Russia and China – have abstained on peacekeeping resolutions, suggesting a weakening of the dominant coalition’s position. As new sources of data emerge (for example, on the content of peacekeeping resolutions), we can expect further applications of liberal institutionalism.

in United Nations peace operations and International Relations theory
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Ingvild Bode

The chapter discusses how practice theories have informed analyses of peacekeeping. Following a brief overview of practice theories, a theoretical agenda that has started with relying on the works of Pierre Bourdieu but has since diversified, the chapter argues that such approaches lend themselves particularly well to integrating practitioner perspectives into academic writing on peacekeeping. The chapter also surveys how practice theoretical approaches have benefited from close conversations with constructivism and examines this by summarising research making understandable considerable differences in implementing the protection of civilians. It closes by arguing that practice theories promise innovative and often micro-level accounts of peacekeeping dynamics just as peacekeeping operations become increasingly varied and experimental.

in United Nations peace operations and International Relations theory
Yf Reykers

This chapter takes a rational-choice institutionalist approach to UN peacekeeping and shows that the principal-agent model can offer valuable heuristic insights for analysing the most pressing challenges to date. It highlights the importance of studying preference heterogeneities among UN Security Council (UNSC) members, information asymmetries between the UNSC, the UN Secretariat and troops in the field, and the capacity and willingness of the involved principals to install credible and effective monitoring mechanisms. The chapter particularly focuses on the value of conceptualising so-called chains of delegation to get grip on the politics of control in the increasingly complex web of agents in UN peacekeeping. In doing so, it focuses on two challenges in particular: first, information flows between the UN headquarters in New York and the missions in-theatre; and, second, the difficulty that comes with the increased involvement of regional organisations in peace operations.

in United Nations peace operations and International Relations theory
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Philip Cunliffe

Realist scholarship and peacekeeping scholarship are rarely brought together, and this is to the detriment of both fields, suggests this chapter. This chapter shows how IR realism would help to enrich and boost the study of peacekeeping, and, conversely, how the study of peacekeeping may provide fertile new ground for realist investigations of world politics. The chapter reiterates the fact that peacekeeping concerns some of the most fundamental questions of political science such as peace, war, and order, and that realism may help significantly to broaden the scope of peacekeeping studies to macro-political questions. The chapter discusses different varieties of realism, and suggests that, if there is to be a new distribution of power within the international system, then realism may offer particularly timely insights to study the future development of peacekeeping operations in a multipolar world.

in United Nations peace operations and International Relations theory
Sarah von Billerbeck

This chapter applies a sociological institutionalist frame to UN peacekeeping and explains the role of norms, rules, and culture in shaping the behaviour of peacekeeping actors. More specifically, sociological institutionalism focuses on actors as social agents whose behaviour is culturally specific and constructed around ideas of appropriateness; we can thus better understand not only why UN peacekeeping takes the form that it does but also how and why it changes over time through an examination of the internal institutional environment of the UN and the self-images and values of UN staff. These dynamics are illustrated empirically with a discussion of local ownership in UN peacekeeping that demonstrates how UN staff engage in inefficient or contradictory behaviours because of their need to perceive that their actions are appropriate and legitimate and to remain aligned with their own institutional standards.

in United Nations peace operations and International Relations theory

UN peacekeeping is a core pillar of the multilateral peace and security architecture and a multi-billion-dollar undertaking reshaping lives around the world. In spite of this, the engagement between the literatures on UN peacekeeping and International Relations theory has been a slow development. This has changed in recent years, and there is now a growing interest tin examining UN peacekeeping from various theoretical perspectives to yield insights about how international relations are changing and developing. The volume is the first comprehensive overview of multiple theoretical perspectives on UN peacekeeping. There are two main uses of this volume. First, this volume provides the reader with insights into different theoretical lenses and how they can be applied practically to understanding UN peacekeeping better. Second, through case studies in each chapter, the volume provides practical examples of how International Relations theories – such as realism, liberal institutionalism, rational choice institutionalism, sociological institutionalism, feminist institutionalism, constructivism, critical security studies, practice theory, and complexity theory – can be applied to a specific policy issue. Applying these theories enhances our understanding of why UN peacekeeping, as an international institution, has evolved in a particular direction and functions the way that it does. The insights generated in the volume can also help shed light on other international institutions as well as the broader issue of international co-operation.

Kseniya Oksamytna and John Karlsrud

Although the literature on UN peacekeeping has been growing steadily in the last three decades, the engagement with International Relations theory has been slow. However, in the last few years, the scholarly attention to UN peacekeeping from a range of theoretical starting points has been burgeoning. The chapter first discusses this development, provides a brief overview of the history of peacekeeping, and outlines how peacekeeping is governed. It then summarises the main strands in the literature on peacekeeping and the accompanying methodological development of peacekeeping scholarship. Finally, the chapter provides a brief introduction to each of the chapters of the book.

in United Nations peace operations and International Relations theory
Jeremy Pressman

This chapter introduces the idea that, in the Arab–Israeli context, the dominant belief has been that military force is the best way for Egypt, Israel, the Palestinians, and Syria to achieve their goals. While there are some historical episodes that align with this idea, the reliance on military force often backfires. When it comes to signing peace agreements, military force cannot replace negotiations and mutual concessions. The threat or use of force often produces greater insecurity or even war. Force and coercion often obscure diplomatic openings, leading to missed diplomatic opportunities and an unsuccessful peace process.

in The sword is not enough
Jeremy Pressman

In the Arab–Israeli conflict, the dominant idea has been that force is the best way to achieve state aims while negotiations and concessions are a poor choice. What makes that idea hard to change? Three factors reinforce a commitment to military force as the dominant means: the realist structure of global politics; the multi-actor, non-unitary nature of global politics; and the impact that fear has in reinforcing the idea that force and sometimes violence are the best approach for achieving one’s national objectives or advancing one’s national security. At the same time, sometimes a secondary idea, that negotiations and concessions are the best available means and military force is counterproductive, has prevailed in this conflict. What leads to a change in the ideas? They include leadership from within the warring parties that embraces the idea of negotiations as a more effective policy tool, external mediation, an unexpected event or technological change, tit-for-tat interactions that build toward talking or even a mutually agreeable outcome, and changing threat environments. Both the 1970s and 1990s (with the Oslo process) witnessed some shifting in the dominant idea as Arabs and Israelis negotiated.

in The sword is not enough
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Jeremy Pressman

The conclusion considers the limits of military force in the central contested relationship, the Israeli–Palestinian one. Hamas and Israel clung to force as the best tool in 2014 and both paid a steep price. The chapter considers US foreign policy as well. US administrations have bolstered the dominance of the idea that force is the answer through a strong alliance with Israel while simultaneously pushing diplomatic processes that are meant to raise the profile of negotiations and mutual concessions. Israeli and Palestinian policy today both reflect the prioritization of military force and reveal the expected ramifications like insecurity and missed diplomatic opportunities. One or both could turn in a different direction, but that would require challenging the over-emphasis on forceful instruments of statecraft.

in The sword is not enough