Making peace operations work: The importance of local legitimacy

UN Photo/Albert González Fardan. UNAMID hosts cultural and sports event.

Jeni Whalan presented the findings from her recent book How Peace Operations Work at Chatham House on 31 January. Dr. Whalan addressed the issue of local support for peacekeeping operations and the overriding importance of local legitimacy – the perception among local actors that a peace operation, its personnel, and its objectives are right, fair, and appropriate. The roundtable discussion considered a number of practical policy recommendations to make peace operations both more legitimate and more effective.

The event was chaired by Lord Michael Williams of Baglan, Distinguished Visiting Fellow and Acting Head, Asia Programme, Chatham House, and discussant Ian Martin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (2011-2012).

The event was presented by the International Security department and the Asia programme.

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Book launch of ‘How peace operations work: power, legitimacy, and effectiveness’

Jeni bookTomorrow, Jeni Whalan will launch her book ‘How Peace Operations Work: Power, Legitimacy, and Effectiveness’. Panelists will Dr Christine Cheng, King’s College London, Dr Jolyon Ford, former Senior Analyst at Oxford Analytica and Dr Lee Jones, Queen Mary University.

The book proposes a new approach to studying the effectiveness of peace operations. It asks not whether peace operations work or why, but how: when a peace operation achieves its goals, what causal processes are at work?

By discovering how peace operations work, this new approach offers five distinctive contributions. First, it studies peace operations through a local lens, examining their interactions with actors in host societies rather than their genesis in the politics and institutions of the international realm. In doing so, it highlights the centrality of local compliance and cooperation to a peace operation’s effectiveness. Second, the book structures a framework for explaining how peace operations can shape the behaviour of local actors in order to obtain greater cooperation. That framework distinguishes three dimensions of a peace operation’s power-coercion, inducement, and legitimacy—and illuminates their effects. The third contribution is to highlight the contribution of local legitimacy to a peace operation’s effectiveness and identify the means by which an operation can be locally legitimized. Fourth, the new power-legitimacy framework is applied to study two peace operations in depth: the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), and the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). Finally, the book concludes by examining the implications of this new approach for practice and identifying a set of policy reforms to help peace operations work better.

The book argues that peace operations work by influencing the decisions and behaviour of diverse local actors in host societies. Peace operations work better—that is, achieve more of their objectives at lower cost—when they receive high quality local cooperation. It concludes that peace operations are more likely to attain such cooperation when they are perceived locally to be legitimate.

Where: King’s College London, Strand campus, War Studies Meeting Room (K6.07)

When: 04/02/2014 (14:30-16:00)