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Counterterrorism and Challenges to Peacekeeping Impartiality

A distinct characteristic of United Nations peacekeeping is its impartiality. It is also a reality that for UN peacekeeping to function properly, partnering with regional organizations and other groups is essential. Experiences in Mali and Somalia have, however, exposed the political and operational challenges that partnerships create in maintaining impartiality. The challenge at hand is the dynamic between peacekeeping and counterterrorism efforts, especially as partnerships have expanded—notably in Africa, where regional actors have deployed increasing numbers of counterterrorist forces in the Sahel, Somalia, and Lake Chad Basin. The 2015 report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO), the subsequent report of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the future of UN peace operations, and the 2018 report of the Special Committee on Peace Operations (C34) have all asserted that UN peacekeeping cannot and should not engage in counterterrorist operations. Despite this principled stance, it seems that the countering and preventing violent extremism (CVE/PVE) agenda has moved counterterrorism from the margins to center stage, ensuring that the UN will continue deploying peacekeepers in contexts where organizational partners do counterterrorism. At the same time, the Action for Peacekeeping Initiative (A4P) emphasizes partnerships. And so, the questions have become about how UN peacekeepers can operate in environments where counterterrorist forces are also deployed, how UN […]

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