Meeting the Moment: The U.S. and the UN in 2023

UN Peacekeeping: A Force for Global Stability

For more than seven decades, UN peacekeeping has been one of the most important tools the UN has at its disposal for conflict mitigation and stabilization. Helping countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace, peacekeeping has unique strengths, including high levels of international legitimacy and an ability to deploy and sustain troops and police from around the globe, integrating them with civilian peacekeepers to advance multidimensional mandates. Today’s peacekeeping operations are called upon not only to stabilize conflict zones and separate warring parties but also to protect civilians from violence; assist in the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants; support the organization of elections; protect and promote human rights; and help restore the rule of law.

The region of Menaka, located 1500 km from Bamako in the northeast of Mali, has been experiencing increasing insecurity as a result of attacks by terrorist groups and other armed groups. United Nations Police serving with United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) carry out daily patrols in order to secure the civilian population.
Photo Credit: Gema Cortes / United Nations Photo

UN peacekeeping operations are authorized by the UN Security Council, and the U.S. has long used its position as a permanent member of that body to advocate for broadening the size and scope of peacekeeping mandates to more effectively meet the world’s evolving security and civilian protection challenges. Both Republican and Democratic presidents have recognized the value of UN peacekeeping, because:

Peacekeepers save lives and reduce conflict

As a November 2021 article in Foreign Affairs explains, “Decades of academic research has demonstrated that peacekeeping not only works at stopping conflicts but works better than anything else experts know. Peacekeeping is effective at resolving civil wars, reducing violence during wars, preventing wars from recurring, and rebuilding state institutions. It succeeds at protecting civilian lives and reducing sexual and gender-based violence. And it does all this at a very low cost.” The article also notes that, “to convince other countries to contribute financially, the United States needs to set a better example by paying its own assessed dues.

Peacekeeping missions are cost-effective

The U.S. Government Accountability Office found in separate reports issued in 2006 and 2018 that UN operations are one-eighth the cost to American taxpayers of deploying comparable U.S. missions. Overall, at a total yearly cost of just over $6 billion, UN peacekeeping operations as a whole are less than half the annual budget of Rhode Island.

Peacekeeping promotes multilateral burden-sharing

Because the UN has no standing army, UN Member States voluntarily contribute troops and police to its peacekeeping operations. As a permanent member of the Security Council, the U.S. plays a central role in decisions to authorize and deploy peacekeeping missions. The U.S., however, provides just several dozen of the 73,000 total uniformed personnel. A number of countries — including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Nepal, Rwanda, and Tanzania — provides most of the rest.

Key UN Peacekeeping Missions Currently in the Field

There are currently more than 85,000 peacekeepers (soldiers, police, and civilians) serving in 12 missions across Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and South Asia.

These include operations in:

South Sudan

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was first deployed in 2011, when South Sudan gained independence, tasked with helping to stabilize the world’s newest country and support state-building efforts. Two years later, when civil war erupted between military factions supporting the President and Vice President, UNMISS was forced to quickly pivot to civilian protection. Opening the gates of its bases to fleeing civilians saved the lives of more than 200,000 people who otherwise could have been targeted or killed for their ethnicity or perceived political affiliations. In 2018, the main parties to the conflict concluded a peace agreement, and while implementation has been haltingly slow, threats facing civilians have diminished considerably in some areas. As a result, UNMISS is currently focused on protecting civilians from more localized subnational violence in the country, supporting efforts to promote implementation of the peace agreement, and facilitating humanitarian assistance to the population, nearly two-thirds of whom are facing food insecurity.



The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has long worked to reduce tensions along the Blue Line separating Israel and Lebanon. UNIFIL’s Tripartite Forum, which features monthly meetings between the UNIFIL Force Commander and senior officials of the Israeli and Lebanese militaries, is the only formal mechanism where representatives of the two countries meet at any level. This is an important tool for facilitating communication and information-sharing and formulating peaceful solutions to disagreements, reducing the risk of flare-ups and providing an off-ramp when tensions escalate. UNIFIL also monitors the border through regular patrols to detect ceasefire violations, deploys troops to locations where incidents occur to ensure that the situation is contained, and undertakes demining activities in areas near the Blue Line, which is heavily contaminated by unexploded ordnance that pose a threat to civilians. Such activities are vital to ensuring stability in a volatile and strategically important region.



The UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) was created to help stem fighting between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, most notably maintaining a buffer zone separating Turkish forces in the north and Greek Cypriot forces in the south. While the conflict remains frozen, UNFICYP’s presence has been critical to preventing a resumption of fighting between the forces, which almost certainly would draw in other global powers on each side. In addition to helping maintain the ceasefire, the UN has worked to support ongoing peace talks between the two sides.