International Research Network

Cultures of Intervention

New Patterns in UN Peace Missions

Poor Countries
New Patterns in UN Peace Missions: Why are Poor Countries at the Forefront of Peacekeeping?

Research project / 2010-2013 / UN Missions worldwide
Contact: Urs Schrade


New Patterns in UN Peace Missions: Why are Poor Countries at the Forefront of Peacekeeping?

Looking at states that participated in United Nations peace operations by contributing military and police personnel, one finds an astonishing pattern that evolved within the last ten years. In this regard, a major part of recent UN peace missions is borne by poor countries from Africa and South Asia. This is a surprising and puzzling finding. If one takes into account, that participating in UN peace missions is a voluntary act undertaken by the states themselves and that poor states have already very little resources to devote to their own security, it seems puzzling prima facie that exactly those states take the burden and contribute additional capabilities to international peace missions. The puzzle is reinforced, if one considers that many poor states also have linked peacekeeping to colonialism and that many policy makers within poor states are frustrated by the Eurocentric attitude UN peacekeeping operations adopt. Moreover, the pattern of poor states as major peacekeeping contributors proofs wrong most of the existing theoretical models that aim to predict the composition of countries contributing to peace missions. Thus, the question arises:

What reasons do poor states have, to become the UN’s main personnel peacekeeping contributors?

Using quantitative and qualitative methods three explanatory hypothesis are tested:

  1. Deploying personnel to UN Peacekeeping Operations is a profit making venture for poor states.
  2. Deploying personnel to UN Peacekeeping Operations is a poor state’s strategy to gain international prestige.
  3. Deploying personnel to UN Peacekeeping Operations is a poor state’s strategy to divert international attention from bad governance at home, particularly with regard to human rights.

One objective of this project is to fill a gap in literature as poor states’ large-scale contribution to UN peace missions has gained only little scholarly attention so far. More general recent studies recognize that poor countries from developing regions contribute the lion’s share to UN peace missions but there is still a lack of explanations for this. Far from it, most existing theoretical models on peacekeeping deployment predict strong western democracies as main personnel peacekeeping contributors. Thus, the project seeks to contribute to an overdue revision of theory.

The second objective of this project is to pave the way for further research. Knowing the motivation of contributors allows to look at this motivation’s influence on the peacebuilding process. Such influence may be significant e.g a contributor only interested in making money might exploit UN’s notoriously weak command and control capabilities to needlessly prolong a mission.

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