Twenty-First-Century Peace Operations: Learning Challenges and the Evolution of Organizational Capacity

Thorsten Benner, Stephan Mergenthaler and Philipp Rotmann

in The New World of UN Peace Operations

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199594887
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729065 | DOI:
Twenty-First-Century Peace Operations: Learning Challenges and the Evolution of Organizational Capacity

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Chapter 2 outlines the trends that define the learning challenge in peace operations, followed by an overview of the UN's institutional response: professionalizing its operations with the goal of becoming a learning organization. Three key trends define the reality of peacekeeping in the twenty-first century: growth, a new formula for the use of force, and the increasing scope of mandates to include complex institution-building in post-conflict settings. First and foremost, the past decade has been characterized by the explosive growth in peace operations from less than 20,000 to more than 120,000 troops, police, and civilians deployed around the globe. Combined with a high turnover rate in personnel, the result is a vast majority of personnel with little or no experience in their job which makes it all the more urgent to provide new staff with access to knowledge and guidance as well retain the lessons from departing staff. Second, the UN developed a new approach toward the use of force. The new formula combines the concept of a ‘peace to keep’ (a credible and effective political commitment by the major belligerents to work toward peace) with ‘robust peacekeeping’ (the capacity and willingness of peacekeepers to use force at the tactical level against splinter groups and spoilers). Third, since ceasefires and elections proved to be far from sufficient to create the foundations for sustainable peace, blue helmets were tasked to build and rebuild the full range of state institutions. Taken together, these trends compound the need for better guidance and knowledge management. Subsequently, the chapter analyzes the UN's slow institutional response in terms of building up its learning capacity for peace operations. As the centerpiece of an overall drive to establish a professional support infrastructure at the heart of the ‘peace operations bureaucracy,’ the goal was to introduce knowledge management, doctrine development, and training and evaluation to an old-fashioned international bureaucracy.

Keywords: peacekeeping; bureaucracy; learning; institution-building; leadership

Chapter.  17918 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: International Relations

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