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.
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.
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.