Research Case Study

Impact: Improving peacekeeping – locally and on the ground

Essex research improves the training of peacekeepers around the world.

  • Tagged under

    Economy, business, politics and society
    Global perspectives and challenges

  • Lead Academics

    Professor Ismene Gizelis
    Professor Han Dorussen

international relations conflict war army soldier gives aid to two small children

Essex research has improved the training of practitioners working in peacekeeping at a local level around the world. It has also highlighted the need for and benefits of an increased female presence amongst peacekeepers. Our findings have informed international government officials, NGOs and the United Nations Police (UNPOL).

The challenge

Peacekeepers are often deployed quickly in response to outbreaks of violence and maintaining support and acceptance of them from locals on the ground is key. This is important both for the duration of their stay and for the legacy peacekeepers will leave when they move on.

Each situation and location carries a diverse range of circumstances and interests and it is essential these are recognised to ensure nothing undermines the purpose of the peacekeeping.

What we did

Professors Han Dorussen and Ismene Gizelis, both from our Department of Government, have been researching local peacekeeping practices and outcomes since 2005.

We looked at where peacekeepers are deployed, what they do whilst in an area, who they interact with, and the quality of those interactions.We found that UN peacekeepers work better with government officials as opposed to rebel groups.

We also found that sometimes peacekeeping missions fail or are too slow because of organisational problems – although even a modest deployment of peacekeepers can limit conflict.

Professor Dorussen focused on the legacy of UN peacekeeping efforts from the point of view of the local population in Timor-Leste in southeast Asia. He found that personal security and trust in the national police and military continued to improve once the UN peacekeepers left, and that there was generally a positive response toward the peacekeepers, although people were also happy once they had moved on.

Professor Gizelis focused on improving peacekeeping performance by increased integration of women as peacekeepers, acknowledging that they bring different sets of skills and networks in order to improve effectiveness. 

What we changed

Via strong links with the Folke Bernadette Academy (FBA) and the UN Police (UNPOL), Professors Dorussen and Gizelis have had significant impact.

The FBA trains and recruits civilian personnel and expertise for peace operations led by the EU, UN and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Our research increased the FBA’s evidence-based approach to their work by informing and strengthening the advice they give to key partners and national stakeholders.

Professor Dorussen wrote a policy brief, Putting Civilians First, and presented his findings on the legacy of peacekeeping for local security to practitioners working directly with the issues at hand. They included representatives from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), various NGOs such as Peace Direct, Oxfam and Save the Children, and UN agencies such as UNPOL.

Professor Gizelis ran a training session at the International Association of Women Police (IAWP) on how a peacekeeping presence leads to improvements in maternal health. IAWP was attended by 490 police officers from 91 countries.

Whilst at IAWP she conducted a survey on the reasons for low levels of female police officers joining UNPOL. Professor Gizelis then sent a list of recommendations to UN HQ and had follow-up conversations with their Police Division, the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions (OROLSI). 

She also participated as a global expert in a research focused workshop, the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations Research to Action Workshop at The Hague. This was aimed at breaking down barriers to women’s participation in peace operations and was organised by the Canadian and Dutch governments. It has led to further research.