Sustaining peace involves preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict. Peacebuilding efforts need to focus on building resilient national institutions.

This task poses both governance and developmental challenges. Moreover, an engaged civil society is as important as formal government institutions.

Operational Outputs

Secure and Effective Humanitarian Relief Supported

There are important linkages and similarities between humanitarian relief efforts and the SDGs. Many peace ...

Women’s Role in Peace and Security Promoted

Women’s participation in conflict prevention is essential to long-term sustainable peace. Their involvement is crucial ...

Youth Participation Supported

Formal political structures, including peace processes, often underrepresent youth perspectives. This risks stoking grievances, making ...

Civil Society Engaged and Supported

Civil society plays an essential role in building and sustaining peace. Peace operations can leverage ...

Return and Reintegration of Refugees and IDPs Supported

The safe return and reintegration of refugees and IDPS is a sensitive and potentially volatile ...

Transition from Recovery to Development Enabled

Once the need for emergency assistance has subsided and early recovery is in progress, the ...

Independent Media Supported

Free and responsible information flows support efforts to build and sustain peace. A free press ...

National and regional leaders alone cannot enforce peacebuilding reforms. But peacebuilding efforts will need to engage with them.

A mission must consider mission exit and transition from the outset of a peace operation. Efforts to sustain peace must focus on addressing marginalization and unaddressed grievances.

This requires a different approach to peace and conflict analysis. It should allow for inclusive ownership. It should also identify the drivers of peace and conflict for state and society to address.

The MLT should continually update its peace and conflict analyses to maintain awareness of threats and risks.

Peace operations are rarely in the lead in peacebuilding efforts. The mission should allow other actors to lead where they have a mandate or advantage.

The SRSG and DSRSG-RC/HC must exercise leadership and create broad political consensus. They should ensure coordination among UN entities, mobilizing and maintaining donor funding.

Peacebuilding and the Role of Peace Operations

Activities to sustain peace continue long after a UN peace operation has left a country. This means the host government must support the post-conflict needs of the country. It must also ensure effective investment in sustaining peace and development.

A mission should plan its transition and from the outset. Sustaining peace requires much broader engagement. This goes beyond the host government. It means fostering inclusivity and dialogue throughout society with different individuals and groups. Examples include women’s and youth groups, civil society and the media.

The MLT will need to consider simultaneous efforts to sustain peace. This means “preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict”.

A mission’s task is to address particular threats to peace and security in a country. But it may also face risks from other regional and global threats. Terrorism, transnational organized crime, drug trafficking and violent extremism know no borders.

Marginalization, exclusion and unaddressed grievances present long-term threats to international peace and security.

Often, countries emerging from conflict have experienced significant socio-economic ruptures. Post-conflict intervention aims to repair these and lay the foundations for sustainable peace.  The goals is instilling or restoring citizens’ confidence in state leadership and institutions.

Emergency assistance and early recovery are the immediate priorities. This will pave the way for longer-term development. But longer-term development is fundamental. It ensures that local authorities and agencies take ownership of the process. This requires investment and engagement when a UN peace operation is first deployed.

It is worth repeating that peace operations are not in the lead in any of these efforts. The UNCT will lead many peacebuilding efforts.

Nonetheless, a peace operation’s presence should help create a permissive environment. Improved infrastructure and social and economic reforms can lead to better employment opportunities. They also help create the conditions for a range of peace consolidation activities.

A peace operation can also offer support to UN humanitarian and development agencies. One prime example is through the provision of security and logistical capabilities.

A multidimensional peacekeeping operation should also support the framework of the Capstone Doctrine. This assists all UN and other actors to work in a coherent and coordinated manner.


  • A safe and secure environment in which the local population can exist.
  • Humanitarian or development actors can operate without threats of physical violence or ERW.
  • Freedom of movement for UN agencies, local populations and goods.
  • Freedom of information and expression via a free press and an engaged civil society.
  • The donor community remains engaged and willing and able to provide adequate resources.
  • National authorities and institutions are ready to own recovery efforts.
  • National authorities and the international community identify and agree development priorities.



  • Emergency assistance delivered according to humanitarian principles, and supported by the host government.
  • Basic services provided by government agencies address specific needs of women and youth.
  • Return and reintegration of refugees and IDPs is voluntary, safe and dignified.
  • The immediate impact of mines, ERW, and small arms and light weapons addressed.
  • Peacebuilding efforts are sensitive to gender, ethnic and other issues.
  • Women, youth and minorities play an active role in implementing policies and programmes.
  • A strong legal framework based on the rule of law upholds human rights.
  • International actors and local population have confidence in social, political and economic institutions.
  • Independent media engaged, with press freedom and protections for journalists.
  • Youth engaged and included in educational, employment, political and civic programmes.
  • Disarmament and demobilization of combatants completed and reintegration initiated.

There are important linkages and similarities between humanitarian relief efforts and the SDGs. Many peace operations have a mandate to contribute to secure humanitarian relief activities.

But any relationship between humanitarian actors and a peace operation involves a balancing act. Humanitarian principles are paramount. The MLT must play a key role in this relationship, while delivering the mission mandate.

What is humanitarian relief?

Humanitarian activities aim to save lives, reduce suffering and protect human dignity. Humanitarian crises may be due to natural disasters or conflict. In both cases, a host state or government may not be in a position to provide basic services to the population.

A peace operation can assist the unimpeded delivery of relief by humanitarian agencies. Such agencies value their “humanitarian space”. They prefer to remain independent of and separate to uniformed UN personnel.

At the same time, a mission can support coordinating mechanisms (e.g. in concert with OCHA). This coordination can be indispensable in developing unarmed strategies to protect civilians.

In more volatile situations, peacekeepers may need to provide protection (e.g. for aid convoys). In extreme situations, the mission may also deliver humanitarian assistance. They might even need to assist in evacuating humanitarian workers. The DSRSG-RC/HC usually take a lead role in coordinating this.

If a peace operation has an enforcement mandate, it’s vital to separate humanitarian actors from the mission.

The host government has primary responsibility for the provision of basic services. Quite often, humanitarian actors will need to assist in service provision. Peacekeepers may also need to help if they are the only ones with access to isolated communities.

Relevant UN agencies and other actors may need to assist the government in the short term. But the mission should stress the primacy of the host government. This helps avoid perceptions that peacekeepers and other actors are the service providers.

OCHA, WFP, UNICEF and UNHCR coordinate the UN’s efforts with relevant NGOs. UNDP also helps mainstream early recovery.

Within the mission, the DSRSG-RC/HC (as Humanitarian Coordinator) ensures coordination of humanitarian and development activities. They also maintain close contact and cooperation with all relevant agencies.

Guidelines exist for the use of mission assets or personnel to support UN humanitarian activities. They require a detailed agreement between the MLT and the DSRSG-RC/HC, under the authority of the HoM.

Quick-impact projects in local communities can also help establish, strengthen or maintain relations. Missions should always consult with humanitarian and development actors before undertaking such activities. Quick-impact projects come under the authority of the HoM. The office of the DSRSG-RC/HC also plays a coordinating role.

Facilitating interaction between civilian and military actors occurs through established CMCoord mechanisms. The UN has developed extensive guidance on this relationship and its working methods.


Key Operational Activities

Key operational activities by the mission to support this output include:

  • Creating a secure and stable environment to allow the delivery of humanitarian relief.
  • Supporting UN agencies monitoring humanitarian needs and helping to plan humanitarian appeals.
  • Ensuring information sharing and joint planning between peace operation and humanitarian agencies.
  • Establishing CMCoord centres, coordinating activities with OCHA and other humanitarian agencies.
  • Providing protection and security for humanitarian facilities and convoys as and when required.




  • Humanitarian agencies and populations in need have access to each another.
  • Humanitarian agencies have conducted a needs assessment and identified priorities.
  • CMCoord mechanisms established and functioning.
  • Quick impact projects are being implemented.
  • Main access routes are safe and cleared of mines.
  • Basic services start to reach isolated communities.


  • Attacks on humanitarian convoys have decreased and former belligerents support humanitarian assistance.
  • Humanitarian and security vulnerabilities mapped for the mission and other entities.
  • Service providers are effective and uphold assigned responsibilities, with mission support.
  • Excessive speculation and price swings on basic service items reduced.


  • Local capacity and reliable mechanisms for delivery of humanitarian relief exist.
  • Humanitarian responses are better integrated with the host country and development frameworks.
  • Service providers are self-sufficient but can call on support from peacekeeping personnel.
  • Black-market structures have been overtaken by public sector providers of goods and services.
  • National and local institutions begin to show autonomy and self-sufficiency.


Challenges and Risks

  • Humanitarian aid delivery becomes politicized, aggravating armed groups and increasing insecurity.
  • Peacekeepers blur the line between political mandates and neutral humanitarian needs.
  • Support for humanitarian operations compromises the neutrality and impartiality of the humanitarian space.
  • Humanitarian relief falls into the wrong hands or actors take credit for political purposes.
  • Support to humanitarian operations diverts the resources required for other mandated tasks.
  • Lack of consultation and coordination between the peacekeeping operation and humanitarian agencies.
  • Quick-impact projects create unsustainable expectations and dependency among local communities.
  • Basic service provision blurs the line between humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts.



The MLT must balance access to populations in need against the safety of UN personnel. The HoM (as the DO for security) handles personnel security. Key members of the MLT and heads of principal UN agencies form part of the SMT. This means that the MLT must understand threat- and risk-analysis procedures. Security-risk-mitigation measures can often consume scarce mission resources.

Political mandates are drivers of peacekeeping missions. In contrast, the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence drive humanitarian action. The MLT needs to understand how peacekeepers and humanitarians apply these principles. For the mission, impartiality refers to the even-handed execution of a political mandate. For a humanitarian actor, it means an impartial response to an assessed need. This difference of interpretation can lead to misunderstandings and friction. The role of the DSRSG-RC/HC can ease some of this tension.

The UNCT is usually in a mission area before a peacekeeping operation arrives. And it will remain after peacekeepers leave. A mission always faces pressure to meet expectations and achieve some quick wins. It must balanced this against the long-term approach of the UNCT. This approach emphasizes tackling the root causes of conflict through development activity.

The military component’s civil–military activities aim to improve peacekeepers’ local standing. This is sometimes called “winning hearts and minds”. The MLT should be clear that this is a force- protection measure. As such, humanitarians may see it as at odds with humanitarian principles. To reduce potential tensions, the MLT must ensure coordination and mutual understanding. CMCoord mechanisms need to be in place. Peacekeepers should consider deferring to humanitarians’ counsel before engaging “hearts and minds”. Many TCCs like to see (and fund) peacekeepers engaged in “hearts and minds” activities. The MLT should provide guidance to make sure such activity is not perceived as political. It should not lead to unsustainable dependency or unrealistic expectations. Rather, it should focus on the long-term benefits to the local community.

Women’s participation in conflict prevention is essential to long-term sustainable peace. Their involvement is crucial when peace operations prepare to drawdown and transition. Missions should ensure mechanisms and reforms to promote women’s peace and security.

The Women, Peace and Security Agenda

Gender equality is a key indicator in assessing a country’s ability to emerge from conflict. The status of women in society affects its capacity to sustain peace. This is why women’s participation in political processes is so important. But women’s perceptions of their own security are also crucial.

Mechanisms to ensure women’s peace and security reflect the four pillars of the WPS Agenda:

  1. women’s participation at all levels of decision making in peacebuilding;
  2. prevention of conflict and all forms of violence against women;
  3. protection of women and girls and their rights; and
  4. gender responsive relief and recovery.

Responding to women’s needs entails mainstreaming a gender perspective. This applies to both the mission and local authorities.

Gender mainstreaming means asking how activities help reduce inequality between men and women. The MLT must also make sure its approach is sensitive to the wider social context.

The MLT should establish clear goals and provide resources to achieve gender mainstreaming. It should review and track compliance through regular meetings.

The MLT should consult gender advisers and encourage other components to do the same. It should draw on both civilian and military advice and expertise. This will assist senior leadership in monitoring progress and enhancing accountability.

This consultation should also include coordination with the UNCT and UN Women.

Promoting WPS is a shared responsibility for all mission personnel. But the MLT has a particularly important role in setting the tone when it comes to the WPS Agenda. It should make sure the mission follows the relevant UN resolutions. This includes actions to support women’s participation, and protect women and girls.

Local institutions can also help sustain women’s engagement in peace and security. The 2019 UN policy on gender-responsive peacekeeping provides options. To take one example, the MLT can ensure quick-impact projects apply a gender analysis. Further, at least 15% of these funds should go to projects supporting women’s empowerment.

The MLT should engage with donor countries in a similar way. For instance, it can ensure that all capacity-building projects include a gender analysis. It should coordinate this type of engagement with national authorities and the UNCT.


Key Operational Activities

The key operational activities by the mission to support this output include:

  • Undertaking gender analyses that include gathering of data disaggregated by sex and age.
  • Establishing monitoring and reporting systems on WPS to track progress and ensure accountability.
  • Advocating with national authorities for women’s equal participation in electoral processes.
  • Enabling participation of women in dialogue, peace processes and negotiations.




  • Gender advisers deployed to mission have regular access to MLT to discuss needs.
  • Gender mapping to identify women’s representation within the community undertaken.
  • Discussions held with national partners on women’s political and civic participation.
  • Women serve in military, police and civilian components.
  • Female-engagement teams enabled, where applicable.
  • Population protection needs (e.g from SGBV) assessed, and protection strategy developed and operationalized.
  • Frameworks established to track progress on UN initiatives related to women’s participation.
  • Gender responsive interventions developed for DDR programmes.


  • Targets and recruitment programmes in place for women in the security sector.
  • Dedicated capacities in national security structures to prevent and respond to SGBV established.
  • Rights and well-being of women and girls in corrections institutions safeguarded.
  • Women ex-combatants take part in community violence- reduction projects.
  • Gender-responsive legislation on women’s participation in elections and election-related activities enacted.
  • Capacity-building programmes and public-awareness campaigns on women’s political participation implemented.


  • Government institutions conduct meaningful engagement with women’s civil society groups.
  • Women enjoy full and equal participation in electoral and political processes.
  • Women’s rights and protections included in reforms of governance structures.
  • Gender-sensitive national security policies by national authorities developed and budgeted for.
  • Laws and policies to prosecute perpetrators of SGBV enacted.
  • Women have access to equal opportunities within the local security sector.


Challenges and Risks

  • Stakeholders do not agree on the importance of the WPS Agenda in the mission (or its budget).
  • Specific actors overlook women’s protection needs in crisis situations.
  • Women participating in peace negotiations or political processes have little substantive influence.
  • Parts of the population express resentment, feeling that their rights are being eroded.
  • National authorities provide inadequate support to increase women’s participation in national institutions.
  • A lack of women serving in uniformed TCC/PCC components limits popular engagement.



Men are often in positions of leadership in post-conflict countries. These men need to support any mission initiative to strengthen women’s participation. Focusing on women’s participation alone could make some men feel marginalized. A more comprehensive discussion about the importance of gender equality may alleviate this. The MLT will have to take care when considering its communications with local actors. This is especially true for women’s participation in politics and security institutions. It should emphasize the importance of gender equality to long-term, sustainable peace.

Force generation in peacekeeping missions is generally beyond the control of the MLT. Even so, mission leaders can use their influence to urge contingents to deploy more women. But the operational case needs to be clear to both the TCC/PCC and UNHQ. The MLT could encourage the deployment of available women on patrols where possible. This enables them to engage with the local population and security forces.


See Also

2.2 Promoting Integrated Planning and Operations

An MLT needs to understand how UN integrated planning works. This includes how planning interacts ...


Formal political structures, including peace processes, often underrepresent youth perspectives. This risks stoking grievances, making youth an accessible demographic for armed groups. It also ignores the need to listen to, value and provide opportunities for young people.

The Youth, Peace and Security Agenda

Missions can help foster youth dialogues between the host authorities and civil society. UN Security Council Resolution 2250 mandated youth engagement in maintaining peace and security.

In conflict-affected countries, youth comprise a significant yet heterogeneous part of the population. Young people play many changing roles in conflict and peacebuilding. They can be peacebuilders and community leaders. Youth groups are often a source of resilience in any community.

But youth also account for many of those affected by conflict, not least as refugees and IDPs. Conflict may have disrupted their education and economic opportunities, increasing their vulnerability. Overlooking young people’s rights can make them an accessible demographic for armed groups.

Narratives around young people in conflict tend towards stereotype. Gender norms reinforce this view: young women and girls are victims; young men and boys are fighters. There is little recognition of their agency, perspectives and positive contributions to peace.

Young people’s understandings of local realities provide valuable insights for a mission. They are relevant during a situational awareness phase or a conflict analysis process. Young people also often make up the majority of the electorate. This means the host government has demographic incentives to value their engagement.


Key Operational Activities

The key operational activities to support this output include:

  • Ensuring youth participation in peace and conflict analysis processes.
  • Mainstreaming a youth perspective in programme design, implementation and evaluation.
  • Establishing mechanisms to enable meaningful youth participation in national political forums.
  • Coordinating engagement with youth, bringing together the mission, the UNCT and civil society.
  • Enhancing institutional capacity by appointing a mission youth adviser and youth focal points.
  • Holding training and briefings for mission and UNCT senior leaders, and other staff.

Peace operations have several different mechanisms for engaging with young people. For example, a mission can mobilize funding for youth agency and leadership activities.

Various mission sections can foster dialogue with host authorities and civil society. Examples include Civil Affairs, Political Affairs, Strategic Communications, and Community Policing. Military and police components however should exercise caution when engaging with youth.

The host government, the UNCT and NGOs are likely to lead youth programmes. The PBSO, UNDP, the UN Population Fund and UNESCO may also pay a role. The mission can also help support and kick-start youth engagement post-conflict settings. Relevant sections include Civil Affairs, Human Rights, Community Policing and Strategic Communications.

The mission can support external entities’ activities and factor them into its planning. But despite youth participation’s importance, missions rarely plan or budget for it.  Activities to support youth engagement are thus likely to need extra donor support. The peace operation is not always responsible for this, but the MLT can play a role. It can engage with partners to support initiatives in fulfilment of its mandate.




  • Mapping of youth needs undertaken by mission, UNCT counterparts and young people.
  • Key actors identified to foster youth engagement in peacebuilding activities.
  • DDR programmes developed to support youth-specific needs.


  • YPS included in mission mandates, budgets and reports to the UN Security Council.
  • YPS Agenda roadmap developed for coordination between the mission, UNCT and other actors.
  • Institutional capacity ensured through a mission youth advisor and youth focal-point system.
  • Mechanisms established for consultation between the mission, UNCT and young people.
  • Youth groups collaborate and partner with mission on peace and conflict analyses.
  • Agreement among the donor community reached to avoid overlapping priorities and actions.


  • National and international policies and responses integrate with development frameworks that include youth.
  • A diverse range of youth actors provide meaningful input into the political process.


Challenges and Risks

  • Ill-informed assumptions stereotype young people as victims or perpetrators of violence.
  • Programming is for but not with young people, rather than seeing youth as partners.
  • Political elites value their own experiences over young people’s rights, knowledge and perspectives.
  • Conflict limits young people’s access to education, thus also limiting their engagement.
  • Efforts are not made to engage with a diverse range of young people and to seek their input.
  • Youth experience exclusion from employment and formal political processes.
  • Tokenism on the part of institutions takes advantage of youth for political goals.



Formal political processes and mechanisms often exclude young people. Young people, in turn, may choose to establish their own civic engagement initiatives. Young people’s own organizations are often a source of community resilience. The MLT will need to identify how to engage with and navigate these organizations. (This is also a task for the host government.) Consider partnering with these initiatives before creating new projects and programmes.

There are similarities between the YPS Agenda and the WPS Agenda. But they call for different approaches. They also address different power structures and forms of exclusion. It won’t be enough to ‘template’ these approaches. Furthermore, youth is not the same as “young men” any more than “gender” applies only to women. YPS intersects with several other agendas, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It also relates to efforts to counter violent extremism and DDR efforts. The MLT must understand how these agendas relate to one another when operationalized. In this way, it can enjoy synergies rather than trade-offs in their implementation.


See Also

2.2 Promoting Integrated Planning and Operations

An MLT needs to understand how UN integrated planning works. This includes how planning interacts ...

4.6 Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Programmes Implemented

Dealing with combatants is a crucial first step towards peace and reconciliation. DDR contributes to ...



Civil society plays an essential role in building and sustaining peace. Peace operations can leverage civil society’s help in implementing a mission’s mandate. In particular, civil society engagement can help:

  • prevent and mitigate local-level conflicts;
  • provide early warning on human rights violations and abuses;
  • devise protection strategies;
  • facilitate local consultations; and
  • foster greater inclusiveness (particularly women and youth).

Such engagement can also enhance the perceived legitimacy of the mission.

But civil society is not a monolithic unit. It is a voluntary political space for organized peaceful collective action. It involves a range of actors “motivated by shared interests, values, or purposes to advance common ideas and objectives”.

Civil society embraces a diversity of spaces, actors and institutional forms. Each of these varies in its degrees of formality, autonomy and power. It can comprise:

  • individuals
  • human rights defenders
  • journalists and independent media
  • community leaders
  • trade unions
  • women’s groups
  • youth groups
  • faith-based organizations
  • advocacy groups
  • social movements
  • social media communities

Peace operations often have a strong political mandate to work with civil society in the context of reconciliation, addressing local conflicts, promoting women’s participation and gender equality, fostering inclusiveness and reintegrating former combatants.

Mission activities with civil society must also account for the gender dimension. They should also address security risks to different groups. This might entail creating a space for consultations with the UNCT and civil society. Civil society advisory committees provide one possible model for this.

Although CSOs have an important role in shaping and transforming societies; they may not always support the same objectives as the UN, particularly when it comes to a peace process.

The mission must be aware of the nature of CSOs in their specific mission context and ensure “the needs of all segments of society are taken into account”. This requires understanding the extent to which different elements contribute to building peace. It will thus need to identify and map civil society actors on a regular basis. These stakeholder analyses should inform planning processes and reflect a theory of change.

If a mission only consults with elites, it will alienate other parts of the population. This has the potential to exacerbate tensions and conflict. The MLT should ensure that the mission take a holistic approach to civil society engagement and view it as a long-term process. If engagement is ad hoc, civil society will not view the mission as a reliable partner.


Key Operational Activities

The key operational activities to support this output include:

  • Conducting actor mapping and needs assessment of national and local civil society organizations; linking actors to objectives, identifying their interests and influence, and the relationships between key actors, the host state and parties to the conflict.
  • Establishing mechanisms for the mission and UNCT to engage with civil society in a structured and systematic manner, and which include specific consultation mechanisms for women and youth.
  • Integrating outcomes from peace and conflict and stakeholder analyses in relevant mission planning documents.
  • Sharing good practices with civil society groups, producing practical tools and fostering a conducive environment for a robust civil society.
  • Coordinating support by the donor community.


Engaging with civil society is also a whole of mission effort. Within the mission, the Civil Affairs section will have a central role in engaging with and forging partnerships with civil society. This reflects its focus on monitoring, facilitation, confidence building, and conflict management and reconciliation at the local level. It will also have a key role in amplifying local voices and forging civil society partnerships. well as confidence building, conflict management and reconciliation.

The Human Rights section will have a role to ensure that civil society is not coming under threat or having its rights violated). On security matters, it will be important to engage the FC and Police Commissioner in discussions.

Other UN actors (e.g. UNDP and OHCHR) also play an important role in supporting civil society.




  • Mapping exercise and needs assessment of CSOs undertaken between mission and UNCT counterparts.
  • Key actors with which to engage identified.
  • Local communities, civil society and diasporas are informed and consulted about mission objectives and mandate.


  • Structured and systematic mechanisms established for consultation between mission, UNCT and CSOs.
  • Civil society involved in development of sustainable options for peace and reconciliation.
  • Agreement reached within the donor community to avoid overlapping priorities and actions.
  • Best practices applied by bilateral and multilateral partners.


  • Climate of cooperation exists between civil society and the government.
  • National and international policies and responses integrated with frameworks that include CSOs.
  • Civil society institutions can mobilize without fear of interference or pressure from government.
  • Meaningful input into the political process by civil society actors established.


Challenges and Risks

  • Strengthening or rebuilding civil society is a long-term process. Peace operations can only, at best, provide initial support. This calls for humility, deference to local knowledge and avoidance of hubris.
  • A polarized society impedes the emergence of viable civil society structures.
  • Civil society expectations of mandate implementation may be unrealistic.
  • CSOs may expect support in the form of financial resources.
  • The host government may view civil society as a threat to its authority.



It is not possible for a peace operation to engage with every part of civil society. In reality, it often engages with local elites based in the capital. These elites may deem themselves representative of a wider group, demographic or set of interests. This can cause friction, tensions and even conflict. The mission should engage with civil society in a transparent but broad-based manner. Engagement at field-office level will be essential to achieve this.

Civil society represents a diverse range of views and interests. It is not always neutral, and may be divided by the conflict, with different groups supporting different parties to the conflict. The MLT needs to ensure the mission does not give the impression that it is supporting one party or another. Engagement with civil society may also exacerbate tensions with the host government. Social media platforms have provided new outreach methods for stakeholders, but many countries have also witnessed a growth in attempts by governments to control civil society groups, which are competing for resources and legitimacy. A key challenge for mission management will be how to properly identify the various actors that can promote and strengthen peace, and to navigate the relationship with the host government where there are differences. Broad engagement across civil society is essential.

A long-term view on supporting civil society argues that the most robust organizations should be free of any international support to maintain their local credibility.

The safe return and reintegration of refugees and IDPS is a sensitive and potentially volatile process. It begins with the identification and registration of affected persons and ends with their eventual voluntary return and subsequent reintegration. It is a process that emphasizes safety and dignity.

Specialized UN agencies (UNHCR and IOM) manage and lead the return of refugees and IDPs. WFP and UNICEF, and international and local NGOs, support them in this task. The mission can play important supporting roles before, during and after the return and is central to establishing safe and secure conditions.

The mission may use peacekeeping assets to support returning refugees and IDPs. The DSRSG-RC/HC should coordinate its efforts in concert with the FC for military matters.

Even after this return, political and security issues (e.g. property disputes) may arise. Others may have resettled in communities abandoned by their original residents. This may lead to tensions and renewed conflict.

The status of returnees who are former combatants may be complex. They may need further guidance in navigating legal and political challenges.

IDPs seeking protection from the UN

In extreme situations, missions may manage IDPs seeking protection from physical violence. This can occur in so-called “POC sites” on or alongside UN bases as part of their mandate to protect civilians.

This requires the direct and integrated engagement of the peacekeeping mission and the MLT. They must manage the facilities and provide security, in coordination with humanitarian actors. Similar issues apply to returning and reintegrating refugees in these sites.

Providing security for protection camps can tie down scarce mission resources. If possible, the mission should support local security services (i.e. the police). This will often mean providing police component resources.

Civilian sections (e.g. Political Affairs, Human Rights) perform several related functions. For example, they ensure that returns are voluntary and address potential disputes. This requires close coordination within the mission and the UNCT, and adequate resources.


Key Operational Activities

The key operational activities by the mission to support this output include:

  • Monitoring border crossings and securing return corridors. Providing physical protection (e.g. temporary shelters).
  • Coordinating and conducting mine clearance of routes and resettlement areas.
  • Ensuring a safe and secure environment around IDP camps.
  • In support of the host government, ensuring a safe and secure environment at places of origin.
  • Providing logistical support to humanitarian agencies.
  • Monitoring, recording and reporting human rights violations.
  • Conducting civil affairs activities to address tensions between returnees and receiving communities.




  • Refugee and IDP camps are safe and secure and women’s security is being considered.
  • Refugees and IDPs identified and registered and agree to voluntary return.
  • Border crossings and return corridors are secure and free of mines and other threats.


  • Places of origin are safe and secure, and women’s security is being considered.
  • Returns are taking place in an orderly and safe manner.
  • Accommodation and basic services are available on return.


  • Returnees reintegrated, and receiving population plays a supportive role.
  • Property disputes are being addressed through well- established and impartial mechanisms.
  • National and international policies and responses are better integrated with long-term development frameworks.


Challenges and Risks

  • Data on displaced people is lacking or inaccurate, or even manipulated.
  • Refugee camps become militarized and borders become risk areas, particularly for women.
  • Host governments have an interest in maintaining camps to garner international attention.
  • Involuntary returns create fear, tensions and instability.
  • Security conditions along return corridors remain fragile.
  • Returnees include former combatants who seek to restart hostilities.
  • Resentment between returnees and receiving communities creates instability and sparks renewed conflict.
  • The status of refugees and IDPs becomes institutionalized and dependent on long-term relief.
  • After prolonged periods in camps, IDPs are reluctant to move back to their areas of origin.
  • Lack of coordination between the peacekeeping operation and humanitarian agencies.



Refugees and IDPs and their camps can become political pawns. There is a danger that this will exacerbate tensions. The security of refugees, IDPs and their environment is a concern for the MLT. It must strike a balance between its responsibilities and national ownership. Camp security is a matter for UNHCR, the host government and camps’ internal structures. But the MLT may have a political role in facilitating the host government’s engagement in the issue. It also has a responsibility, in support of the host government, to ensure a secure environment for the camps. The amount of mission resources to commit to this process will be a matter of MLT judgement.

Many factors go into measuring a peacekeeping operation’s progress and success. One example is the existence and reduction in the number of dependent refugees and IDPs. While UNHCR is the lead on this issue, there may be tensions. The mission’s political motivations will wish to free up committed resources. But this may conflict with UNHCR’s humanitarian criteria. This will require close coordination of activities and messages within the UN system.



When I arrived in Liberia in July 2015, the country was already fairly advanced along the path of peace consolidation. Achieving the long-awaited UN strategic goal in Liberia – attaining a steady state of security with national institutions able to maintain security independently of a peacekeeping mission – seemed closer than ever before. The democratically elected government had been in office for nearly 10 years, and the process of institution-building in the rule of law and security sector was at an advanced stage. Yet, fragility was palpable.

The UN Security Council had been considering the drawdown and withdrawal of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) since 2007. In my pre-deployment bilateral meetings with key members of the Security Council, most made it clear to me that the closure of the mission before the October 2017 general elections was a priority, and that preparation for that eventuality constituted the core of my mandate. They expressed frustration over a “wasteful mission creep”, in terms of both mandated timeframe and expanse, leading to an “acute and chronic dependency syndrome”.

However, the common narrative in Liberia – whether in the government or civil society, cities or countryside, the mission and other UN entities, or neighbouring, subregional and regional diplomatic representations – was running in the opposite direction. They argued that while there was significant progress in the area of security, the state of stability was still vulnerable, and people remained deeply weary of a dangerous relapse, which the government might not be able to handle in the absence of peacekeepers.

They pointed out that the electoral campaign, which is always accompanied by heightened levels political tension, had the potential to lead to widespread violence. As such, they argued that the mission should remain in place until Liberia was ready to stand on its own.

It was obvious that UNMIL must rapidly and fully concentrate on helping prepare the country, psychologically and operationally, for a post-UNMIL future. The task of completing the UNMIL mandate in an accelerated manner had to be implemented in tandem with the mission’s further drawdown as we moved closer to its closure. Our actions included extensive dialogue and engagement with the government, political parties and civil society leaders, as well as massive outreach campaign with (and through) the media and the general public, with a view to instilling self-confidence and national pride in assuming full responsibility for their future.

In the meantime, we accelerated the transfer of residual responsibilities in human rights monitoring, rule of law, national reconciliation and security sector reform to the government institutions, civil society and the UN Country Team. Given the critical significance of ensuring that transfer of power from President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to a new president took place through free, fair and peaceful elections, the mission successfully supported the joint appeal by the President and her Côte d’Ivoire counterpart, as well as many regional and subregional voices, for the Security Council to extend the mission’s mandate until after the elections and the inauguration of the new president.

Furthermore, the mission enhanced its assertive engagement with the three branches of government to expedite full implementation of the transition agenda and the preparation of a peacebuilding plan.

Farid Zarif, SRSG UNMIL, 2015–18


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Once the need for emergency assistance has subsided and early recovery is in progress, the focus should be on a smooth transition to longer-term development activities. Peace operations must also support essential activities that contribute to peaceful consolidation. These include the restoration of basic services and the revitalization of the economy.

A transition to development entails a gradual handover of responsibilities to national authorities. A successful transition from recovery to development will be a defining factor in a mission’s drawdown and exit strategy.

Planning for transition should begin early in the peacekeeping and peacebuilding phase. Ideally, it should define the roles and responsibilities of all UN actors on the ground. Clear benchmarks will make it easier to plan the exit strategy of the operation. These should be defined together with national authorities, donor governments and civil society. Benchmarks should be based on developing local capabilities rather than internal mission progress. Planning & analysis frameworks such as the UNSDCF, ISF and Common Country Analysis are important tools

Only national actors are in a position to meet their country’s needs and objectives in the long term. Thus national authorities will also need assistance in bringing together all relevant government branches to implement a holistic approach.

A host of UN and external partners contribute to emergency assistance, early recovery and development. The mission’s involvement in all these efforts requires close coordination with relevant actors. While the entire MLT plays a role, that of the DSRSG-RC/HC is particularly important. Careful cooperation and coordination with UNHQ, including the PBSO will also be crucial to determine possible follow-on arrangements to the peacekeeping mission.

The resourcing of recovery and development efforts is rarely controlled by the mission. Voluntary contributions fund many recovery and development activities. The MLT, especially the SRSG and DSRSG-RC/HC, will play an important role in coordinating UN efforts. It can also mobilize donor support and engagement to avoid a “financial cliff”. Key players include the World Bank, IMF, EU and regional financial institutions.

Planning and Coordinating the Transition of MONUSCO

Key Operational Activities

  • Completing the DDR process.
  • Ensuring the ability of national armed forces, police and other law- enforcement agencies to provide security and maintain public order.
  • Monitoring the restoration of state authority and the resumption of basic services.
  • Overseeing the consolidation of legitimate political institutions and democratic processes.
  • Together with UNCT, benchmarking and achieving consensus on criteria for successful transition.
  • Developing transition plans in all relevant areas in coordination with the UNCT.




  • Security situation stabilized.
  • Host government generally considered legitimate and enjoys public support.
  • Disarmament and demobilization completed, and focus shifted to reintegration of former combatants.
  • Public participation in development visible.
  • Public expectations for development managed.


  • The state has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force.
  • Human rights violations decreasing.
  • Demands and needs of victims of the conflict have been largely met.
  • Reconciliation and transitional justice efforts underway.
  • Legitimate institutions of government established.
  • Capacity-building efforts, including at the local level, underway.
  • Long-term development plan in place.


  • Disputes settled peacefully within well-established and functioning political institutions and mechanisms.
  • The rule of law has been fully (re-)established.
  • General security and economic climate is conducive to foreign and local investment.
  • Secure financial structures and monetary policy established, and inflation rate is controlled.
  • Individuals and enterprises have access to loans and/or investment capital.

Challenges and Lessons Learned from Planning the Transition of MONUSCO

Challenges and Risks

  • The peace operation withdraws early, leaving structural causes of the conflict unaddressed.
  • National authorities and local institutions do not have the capacity to take over from the mission or UNCT.
  • Donor fatigue leads to disengagement and under-funding of recovery programmes.
  • Donors divert their focus to other emerging international crises.
  • There is a lack of funds for peace consolidation and development activities.
  • There is a lack of coordination between peacekeeping mission and follow-on operations/entities.
  • Analysis and consideration of the needs of women are lacking.



Resource pressure may compel the early termination or downsizing of a peacekeeping mission. Pressure to withdraw may also come from the host government. On the one hand, premature withdrawal could have disastrous consequences from a political, security and financial perspective. But the extended presence of a mission may lead to overdependence or inhibit the development of national capacities. Capacity development should start as early as possible. It should not only occur in the context of an international exit strategy.

International attention is greatest in the immediate aftermath of a conflict (approx. the first two years after a conflict has ended). Transitions may be a sign of successful peace consolidation, but they are also highly sensitive periods. National authorities may worry that the mission’s departure will have unintended consequences. It might also coincide with a huge drop in external political and financial support. The HoM and MLT should encourage international actors to continue their engagement post-withdrawal through: (a) enhanced economic support; (b) political oversight, perhaps through new Peacebuilding Commission country-specific mechanisms; and/or (c) security guarantees. This will improve the prospects for a responsible exit and reduce overall costs.


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Free and responsible information flows support efforts to build and sustain peace. A free press can ensure that citizens have access to diverse sources of information. This enables their effective participation in society. An independent media that is engaged with citizens can support many of the same objectives as a peace operation. It can encourage dialogue and foster a range of different views. These might counter or dispel efforts to perpetuate misinformation or hate speech.

Investigative journalism can shine a light on impunity, atrocities or injustices. This supports the strengthening of government institutions and accountability. It also supports the implementation of a peace operation’s mandate.

But in the context of many peace operations, the media can also play a negative role. Media organizations may spread misinformation and hate speech. Restrictive laws may target or censor journalists. A lack of plurality in media institutions can exacerbate tensions and conflict.

Efforts to establish an independent media depend on the host authorities. A basic prerequisite is that these authorities support freedom of expression. Moreover, independent media depends on impartial regulators and funders.

Peace operations do not have a lead role in establishing an independent media nor is it always a mandated task. But peace operations can play an enabling role via political offices and capacity-building. This provides an opportunity to foster judicial and legal institutions, for example. A mission could help set up a radio station to provide free and independent news. This may require coordination among the relevant sections, as well as donors.The Strategic Communications and Public Information section can also help train local journalists.

MLT members can also act as role models for the host authorities. For example they can show openness through their engagement with the media. Criticism of the mission’s actions might even present an opportunity in this regard.

Key Operational Activities

  • Encouraging and supporting local media professionals, including through the training of journalists.
  • Supporting the creation of self-regulatory media mechanisms (e.g. an independent media commission).
  • Supporting the development of institutions and/or legislation that will support press freedom.
  • Building the capacity of government institutions to engage with the media.
  • Supporting civic education programmes that foster an understanding of the media’s role.




  • Process to establish an independent regulatory mechanism for the media commenced.
  • Host authorities engaged in discussions about the importance of an independent media, and any judicial reforms that need to be considered.
  • Mission radio station and/or programmes (in local languages) established to engage with civil society and local journalists.


  • Legal framework guarantees freedom of speech and access to information.
  • Capacity-building or training programmes created to professionalize journalists.


  • Self-regulatory mechanisms created by the print and electronic media.
  • Independent media regulation/commission functioning.
  • Government engaging with the media to communicate with the population.


Challenges and Risks

  • Intimidation discourages civil society and the media from pursuing their work.
  • The media poses a threat to the mission if not engaged with effectively.
  • Global distrust in media organizations result in low public trust in news organizations.
  • Other actors capitalize on new media platforms to spread mis- or disinformation about the conflict or against the mission.



In some countries, traditional media may have more reach than new platforms. This may be due to limited or uneven Internet access. The MLT may need to prioritize and assess its activities supporting an independent media based on the availability and accessibility of different media platforms in the country.