What is the mandate and structure of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) of the UN? How has the nature of UN peacekeeping operations changed over the years? How can the operations be made more effective? (250 Words/ 15 Marks)

Mentor’s Comment:

Recently, the Indian Army contingent was awarded United Nations Medal for “selfless service”. The contingent is part of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in South Sudan. At the same time, in 2018, UN secretary general submitted an ambitious blueprint for the consideration of the UN general assembly to restructure the organization’s peace and security pillar. These events make the issue an important one.

The question had four parts which are large in terms of content required, therefore, try to be as discreet and miser with words, as possible! You can use flowcharts for better presentation.

  • No need for intro as the mandate of the question itself asks for the mandate and structure of DPKO. So the intro part will be covered on the mandate of DPKO and next subheading will be dealing with its structure. Because of the length of the answer, you can skip the role of its various offices of DPKO in the structure part. Its upto your convenience. Both these parts should not take more than 1/3rd of the space.
  • Next 1/3rd portion should go into the discussion on changing nature of UNPO in the changed scenarios.
  • Last portion will be your way forward because question has explicitly asked for it. Suggest how to improve the functioning of UNPO. You can take help of the pdf of 2018 UN reforms of UNPO for this discussion.

Model Answer:

DPKO provides political and executive direction to UN Peacekeeping operations around the world and maintains bridge with various stakeholders. It also provides guidance and support on military, police, mine action and other relevant issues to other UN political and peacebuilding missions. Peacekeeping an effective tool available to United Nations to assist the countries torn by conflict to navigate the path towards peace. It provides security, political and peace building support to countries to make a transition from conflict to peace. Therefore, Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) plays a vital role.

Structure of DPKO:

  • Office of Operations for political and strategic policy and operational guidance and support to the missions.
  • Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions to strengthen the links and coordinate the Department’s activities in the areas of police, justice and corrections, mine action and weapons/ammunition management, the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants and security sector reform
  • Office of Military Affairs to deploy the most appropriate military capability in support of United Nations objectives and to enhance performance and improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of military components in United Nations Peacekeeping missions.
  • Policy, Evaluation and Training Division to develop and disseminate the policy and doctrine guiding the work of Peacekeeping.
  • Department of Field Support-(DFS) for dedicated support to international peace operations, including to UN peacekeeping, special political and other field missions.
  • Currently there are 17 peacekeeping operations deployed on four continents

Changing scenarios for UN peacekeeping operation:

  • Peacekeeping was primarily limited to maintaining ceasefires and stabilizing situations on the ground, providing crucial support for political efforts to resolve conflict by peaceful means.
  • Those missions consisted of unarmed military observers and lightly armed troops with primarily monitoring, reporting and confidence-building roles.
  • Today, the UN Peacekeeping has adapted to meet the demands of different conflicts and a changing political landscape.
  • Today’s multidimensional peacekeeping operations are called upon not only to maintain peace and security but also to facilitate the political processes, protect civilians, disarm combatants, support elections, protect and promote human rights and restore the rule of law.
  • Women peacekeepers today play an increasingly prominent role and are crucial towards improving the performance of our missions. It was not a case earlier.
  • The conflicts of today, while fewer in number, are some of the most intractable.
  • Old models are not working fast enough to reduce or bring an end to conflict, fully protect civilians or alleviate immense suffering and displacement especially in protracted conflicts.
  • Some regions are confronting a second or third wave of conflict. And many of these formerly intrastate conflicts are becoming increasingly regionalized or even internationalized and, on average, more prolonged and deadly as a result.
  • These conflicts are driven by a complex mix of factors including failing or incapable states, flare-ups of ethnic strife, transnational criminal and terrorist threats, and serious humanitarian and public health crises.
  • Donald Trump’s “America First” policy, coupled with an aversion to multilateralism, indicates that US might yet cut its share of the UN budget which is a setback.
  • The political interests of some member states are served in maintaining the old structure in a modern world.
  • Several current peacekeeping operations are mandated to advance national reconciliation and dialogue in the absence of a peace agreement or even clear identification of the parties to the conflict.

How to make operations more effective:

  • Conflict prevention and mediation must be brought back to the fore
  • Clarity is needed on the use of force and in the role of United Nations peace operations and others in managing armed conflict
  • Political vigilance is needed to sustain peace
  • Improving the speed, capability and performance of uniformed personnel
  • Engaging with host countries and local communities
  • Addressing abuse and enhancing accountability
  • Supporting innovation and important resourcing requirements
  • People must be firmly put at the centre of the efforts of United Nations peace operations.
  • Align the peace and security pillar more closely with the development and human rights pillars to create greater coherence and cross-pillar coordination
  • Raising adequate financial resources to ensure the changes in the nature of operations.


United Nations peacekeeping is a collective effort. And, as the world around us changes, it is essential that the diverse stakeholders who authorize, finance and contribute personnel to peacekeeping operations collectively reflect on the role of peacekeeping in a changing global landscape. Hence, a major review of UN peacekeeping will be important and a timely process.


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