2021. Peacekeepers without helmets: How violence shapes local peacebuilding by civilian peacekeepers (with Allard Duursma)

Abstract:United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations are increasingly deployed during armed conflicts and, at the same time, increasingly staffed with civilian personnel and tasked with local peacebuilding. Do these trends work at cross-purposes? Does armed violence prevent local peacebuilding by civilian peacekeepers? Shifting the research focus from military to civilian components in peacekeeping, we argue that the latter’s peacebuilding efforts are concentrated in violence-affected areas where they are most needed. Civilian peacekeepers’ professional and personnel incentives drive this choice. We test our argument using novel, geo-referenced data on peacebuilding by “Civil Affairs” personnel of the peacekeeping operation in the Central African Republic. Fixed effects and instrumental variable models support the expected positive relationship between violence and local peacebuilding. Evidence further suggest that peacekeepers’ incentives explain this relationship rather than greater UN military capacity and protection in violence-affected areas, domestic demand for international support in these areas, or violent retaliation against peacebuilding.

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