Road to a Better UN? Peace Operations and the Reform Agenda

United Nations Peace Operations Reform Scorecard 2017 (Click for full graphic)

Timeline of Review Processes and Outcomes (Click for full graphic)

UN peace operations are confronting crises from all sides: they face ever more complex operating environments in the field, while in New York they face divisions among member states over the very nature of peace operations, a “peacekeeping fatigue” aggravated by scandals, and cuts to the peacekeeping budget. These are some of the reasons why, two years after the release of the report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO), progress on peace operations reform has been slow.

In this challenging context, this report asks whether the reform agenda put forward by Secretary-General Guterres would—or would not—help realize the four strategic shifts called for by HIPPO—recognizing the primacy of politics, viewing peace operations as a continuum, strengthening partnerships, and focusing on the field and on people—and under what circumstances. It also provides preliminary analysis of the five streams of reform presented to date: (1) the renewed focus on prevention and sustaining peace; (2) the creation of a new UN Office of Counter-Terrorism; (3) the reform of the UN development system; (4) the restructuring of the peace and security architecture; and (5) organization-wide management reform.

It concludes that the challenge for the secretary-general will be to translate these parallel tracks of reform into a concrete and coherent approach that will be true to his overarching vision for the organization and have a real impact in headquarters and, most importantly, in the field. While the temptation inevitably will be to focus on short-term structural reorganization, change will also need to come from improvements in working culture, methods, and processes over time.