Peacekeeping operations. How and under which criteria can we assess whether they are successful?

Essay, 2019

18 Pages, Grade: 8,4


Table of Contents


Literature review
Short-term analyses
Long-term analyses
Conclusion of the Literature Review

Case selection
Data selection

Background chapter on MINUSTAH

Research chapter on the success of MINUSTAH
Short-term analysis
Mandate and long-term analysis
Political, economic, and social development


Primary Sources
Secondary Sources


Since 1948, the UN has deployed more than seventy peacekeeping missions (UN Peacekeeping n.d.). Peacekeeping operations can be defined as “operations, which were deployed with or without the compliance of belligerent parties, depending on international legislation and mandate to sustain and implement a peaceful environment impartially and without using combat arms, if not necessary” (Sigri and Basar 2014, 389).

Statements about the success of such missions are hotly debated and are especially important for their legitimation (Rinke 2009, 3). Although the assessment of a peacekeeping mission as successful is dependent upon the criteria one selects (Garb 2014, 53), there is still a lack of agreement about appropriate criteria for assessing the success of peacekeeping operations (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 17).

This puzzle leads to the following research question: How and under which criteria can we assess whether peacekeeping operations are successful?

The question is approached by conducting a case study analysis of the Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haiti (MINUSTAH) (2004-2017), consequently also answering the question of whether this peacekeeping mission has been a success or not for the UN and/or the Haitian population.

This paper challenges the universality of well-recognised criteria that are used and suggested by scholars to assess the (lack of) success of peacekeeping operations, by arguing, based on the case of MINUSTAH, that often mentioned criteria of short-term analyses are not universally applicable and that there is a need of developing common criteria for the assessment of peacekeeping missions that go beyond a strict focus on conflict and security.

Therefore, the findings of this paper are relevant by analysing Haiti as a special peacekeeping mission as there was neither an ongoing war nor a peace agreement between the parties involved (Howland 2006, 469). Thereby, this paper contributes to the literature by stressing the importance of the development that due to the increasing relevance of long-term consequences of peacekeeping, scholars tend to focus more on positive peace (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 7), namely the development of peaceful nations (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 19). As it is crucial for scholars to have certain criteria of success to be able to compare missions and to draw generalizations (Diehl and Druckman 2013, 12), this paper makes an important contribution to the development of suitable criteria for assessing the success of peacekeeping missions.

Regarding the structure of the paper, in the first section, the criteria for evaluating the success of peacekeeping operations that have been identified by main authors of the research field, such as Bratt, Diehl and Pushkina, are critically reviewed to situate the paper within the state of research. In the second section, the methodology underlying the paper is outlined. This section is followed by a background chapter on the case study of MINUSTAH. In the fourth chapter, the criteria are applied to the case study, to then conclude in the last section that only mandate fulfilment and the criteria for long-term analyses are applicable, and that MINUSTAH was neither a (full) success for the UN nor for the local population.

Literature review

In order to determine the (lack of) success of a peacekeeping operation, it is first and foremost necessary to define success (Garb 2014, 46).


Evaluating whether a mission fulfilled its mandate or not is the easiest way of defining success (Pushkina 2006, 133). Several authors include them in their set of criteria, for example Pushkina (2006, 133) and Bratt (Sigri and Basar 2014, 391-392). Nevertheless, although this criterion should not be ignored, as the political success of such an operation is also important (Pushkina 2006, 134), only focusing on the fulfilment of the mandate is seen as too narrow by many authors who consequently argue that qualitative criteria are needed (Pushkina 2006, 133).

Regarding qualitative criteria, the literature can be divided in short- and long-term analyses of peacekeeping success (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 5). Short-term analyses concentrate on “whether missions contain and limit conflict violence”, making peace duration the most frequently applied measure (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 5). Long-term analyses focus on the broader goals of peacekeeping missions that go beyond the military aspect and observe a longer time horizon (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 7).

Short-term analyses

As the UN started to commit peacekeeping troops in situations of ongoing conflict after the end of the Cold War, the capacity of such missions to not only keep but also make peace has been added as a criterion (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 5-6). Due to that, success has been assessed based on the duration of war, and peacekeeping missions are awaited to “reduce the length of conflict and facilitate peaceful settlement” (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 6). Although this criterion for success bears the risk of a conflation of peacekeeping with peacemaking, these two criteria have become common measures of the success of peacekeeping operations (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 6).

A criterion that is often mentioned, for example by Ruggeri et al. (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 6), Salvatore and Ruggeri (2017, 2), and Pushkina (2006, 133), is the ability of such missions to put an end to the conflict. Especially for Diehl, this criterion is the most important one (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 4).

In relation to this measure, many scholars include in their set of criteria the protection of civilians, for instance Salvatore and Ruggeri (2017,2) as well as Bratt (Sigri and Basar 2014, 392), and lowering their suffering (Pushkina 2006, 133).

These criteria are main objectives of peacekeeping operations (Grab 2014, 48).

Furthermore, according to Salvatore and Ruggeri (2017, 2), Pushkina (2006, 133), and Bratt (Sigri and Basar 2014, 392) the containment of the conflict is also an important criterion for assessing the short-term success of a peacekeeping mission.

For Van der Lijn, the most important criterion in terms of success of peacekeeping operations is the factor of its involvement in establishing a long-lasting peace (Garb 2014, 49). In the eyes of the author, this means that “the operation must have helped to establish ten years of negative peace and a positive development in remedying the causes of the conflict” (Van der Lijn 2009, 2). For Ruggeri et al., the ability of the operation to prolong peace is also seen as an appropriate criterion (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 6).

Supporting the importance of the second criterion mentioned by Van der Lijn, Bratt defines an operation as successful when it “has facilitated a resolution to the conflict” (Garb 2014, 48). Next to the limitation of armed conflict, the promotion of conflict resolution is also suggested by Diehl as a criterion for evaluating the success of a peacekeeping mission (Garb 2014, 46). This is similar to Greig and Diehl who state that a successful peacekeeping mission “should not just shorten wars but also enable and strengthen peace processes”, reflecting Diehl’s second criterion (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 6).

Although Diehl’s work is highly popular, the criteria he proposes have not remained uncriticised (Garb 2014, 47).

Johansen, for example, argues that Diehl’s criteria lead to misconception (1994, 308). Regarding the first criterion, it is criticised for holding peacekeeping operations responsible for avoiding war in general between the antagonists (Johansen 1994, 308). This is seen as unfair by Johansen as he argues that it goes beyond their mission and is often out of their control (1994, 308). The same holds true for the second criterion as peacekeeping missions are not set up for solving underlying disputes (Johansen 1994, 308). Johansen addresses his criticism to Diehl, but, as shown above, many other scholars use these criteria too.

Contrary to Johansen, Diehl and Druckman think that “only evaluating peace operations to the extent that they control outcomes” is wrong (2013, 15). But according to Johansen, one should not assess peacekeeping operations based on measures that relate to an “ideal state of peace” or an “ideal form of conflict resolution” (Johansen 1994, 309). He proposes that the most appropriate criteria of measuring the success of peacekeeping operations is to compare the situation with or without the mission (Johansen 1994, 310). To do so, two measures are suggested: The first one is to evaluate the impact of the work of peacekeepers on the local population, and the second one is to “compare the degree of misunderstanding tension, or violence that occurs in the presence of UN peacekeepers to the estimated results of balance-of-power activity without peacekeeping” (Johansen 1994, 309-310).

Diehl and Druckman, however, do not recommend using one general criterion for success of peacekeeping missions as it is possible that politicians implement certain policies and oversee some consequences as they just focused on one standard for success (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 5).

This point is also stressed by Salvatore and Ruggeri by stating that mandates of peacekeeping missions have become increasingly multidimensional, consequently including more responsibilities that go beyond a focus on the conflict itself (2017, 18). Such mandate extensions include for instance “elements of longer-term postconflict economic, social, and political development” (Fortna and Howard 2008, 285).

Consequently, as peacebuilding and long-term consequences of peacekeeping have become more relevant, an increasing number of scholars refrain from concentrating on outcomes that strictly concern conflict and security, but rather focus on positive peace (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 7). This concept concerns the formation of peaceful nations (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 19).

Long-term analyses

This point leads us to long-term analyses of the success of peacekeeping missions. Doyle and Sambanis provided one of the most influential definitions of this approach (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 7). They use two definitions of success: The first one is called “lenient version” and it refers to three criteria, namely ”an end to the war and to residual lower-level violence and uncontested sovereignty” (Doyle and Sambanis 2000, 783). As this type of successful peacebuilding concerns the absence of violence, it refers to a negative standard of peace (Doyle and Sambanis 2000, 783). However, contrary to that, the “stricter version” adds the criterion of democratization, representing a “higher order of peace” (Doyle and Sambanis 2000, 783). The authors measure the outcome of peacebuilding missions after two, five, and ten years (Doyle and Sambanis 2000, 783). Several scholars have used this definition of success in their studies (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 7). Bratt, for instance, supports this point and suggests that the number of saved lives, as well as the “improvement of political, economic, and social justice” must be considered too (Pushkina 2006, 133-134).

According to a study published by Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, however, the success of operations abroad should not be measured by democracy and economic developments as long-term goals of political interventions in crisis areas, but rather by the question of whether human suffering has been terminated and a short- to medium-term stabilisation has taken place (Mair 2007, 16). In contrast to that, Rinke argues that such criteria do not represent appropriate measures for the success of such missions (2009, 2). His argument is supported by Hamann who claims that multidimensional peacekeeping missions should not be “oversimplified to its military component” but that one has to take the other components of the mission also into account when assessing its overall success (2009, 43).

Conclusion of the Literature Review

In conclusion, the literature review shows that although mandate fulfilment might be the easiest criterion for measuring the success of a peacekeeping operation, several authors advice to use broader criteria, such as the reduction of violence and the promotion of conflict resolution (Garb 2014, 53). Indeed, as one can note above, the majority of main scholars in the field focus on these short-term criteria. However, as the mandates of peacekeeping missions increasingly include goals that go beyond such criteria (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 7) and rather include long-term aims such as economic, political, and social progress in the relevant country (Fortna and Howard 2008, 285), a shift towards analyses concentrating on positive peace can be observed (Salvatore and Ruggeri 2017, 7).


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Peacekeeping operations. How and under which criteria can we assess whether they are successful?
Leiden University
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Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haiti (MINUSTAH), success, failure, criteria, short-term analysis, long-term analysis, mandate, UN, Haiti, multidimensional, conflict, peace, peacekeeping mission, peacekeeping operation, MINUSTAH, Erfolg, Misserfolg, Kriterien, Mandat, Konflikt, Friede, Langzeituntersuchung, Kurzzeituntersuchung, Langzeitanalyse, Friedensmission, Friedenseinsatz
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Carolina Gerwin (Author), 2019, Peacekeeping operations. How and under which criteria can we assess whether they are successful?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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