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International Politics on the World Stage, Brief 4/e
World Politics: International Politics on the World Stage, Brief, 4/e
John T. Rourke, University of Connecticut - Storrs
Mark A. Boyer, University of Connecticut - Storrs

The Evolution of World Politics

You are the Policy Maker: Who Should be in Charge of Peacekeeping? The UN or NATO?

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of peace-keeping operations implemented world-wide. Most of these operations have been under the auspices of the United Nations, but other organizations like NATO in Europe and ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) in Western Africa. Although it is logical to assume that the UN would have the broadest, and perhaps least biased, perspective on conflict resolution, there are many who argue that the UN does not have the operational resources to pursue successful peacekeeping operations. This argument is particularly compelling when the region under scrutiny is Europe and the regional organizational that could take the UN's place as a peacekeeper is NATO. There are several reasons for this tension between NATO and UN peacekeeping roles.

  • The UN has perennial budgetary problems, with its largest contributor, the United States still in massive arrears on its budget contribution.
  • The UN is at the mercy of member states for personnel contributions.
  • UN peacekeeping operations are governed by the Security Council, which still confronts the difficulties of the great power veto system.

Your job in this exercise is to make up your own mind about who is better able to conduct peacekeeping operations in Europe. You should start by examining the Web sites of the two organizations in question:

In making up your mind, you should try to find answers to the following questions:

  • what are the basic missions or goals of each peacekeeping organization?
  • what are the operational capabilities (number of troops, budgets, geographical scope) of each organization?
  • who or what governs each organization? Who makes the decisions to intervene? Who commands the forces when they are in the field?

Lastly, discuss this issue with your friends or in small group discussions among your classmates before you make your final decision. When you've done all that, submit your vote via the web-site and it will be tabulated with those of your peers (in your class and among all readers of World Politics) to see what the aggregate sentiment is about who should run peacekeeping operations.


Who should be in charge of peacekeeping operations in Europe?
A)The UN
C)Another Group
D)Don't Know