Local Peace, International Builders
How the UN Builds Peace from the Bottom Up
In post-conflict settings with peacekeeping operations why do some disputes between civilian communities escalate while others do not? In March 2016, a group of farmers living in north-eastern Cote d’Ivoire accused cattle herders of grazing cows on their land and destroying crops in the process. Although the dispute briefly threatened to unravel a hard-earned peace, the swift deployment of UN peacekeepers defused tensions, kept the area stable, and facilitated a return to peace. By contrast, sporadic clashes between farmers and cattle herders in Mali, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic have escalated into civil wars involving violent extremists and armed rebels. What explains the local-level success of UN peacekeepers in cases like Cote d’Ivoire but not in other countries?
Although scholars have thoroughly examined the relationship between UN peacekeeping and armed group violence, how peacekeeper interactions with civilians shape the prospects of peace in post-conflict settings remains under-explored.Local Peace, International Builders engages this question directly by drawing on interdisciplinary research findings from social psychology and behavioral economics to investigate the microfoundations of peacekeeping. It challenges research suggesting that peacekeepers entirely overlook communal disputes between civilians in favor of national peace agreements and elections. As this book shows, the containment of communal disputes has emerged as an essential component of modern peace operations.
Local Peace, International Builders argues that domestic perceptions of individual peacekeepers as more or less biased shape the ability of those peacekeepers to contain communal disputes. Combining an in-depth case study of peacekeeping in Mali with a statistical analysis of an original dataset of multidimensional UN peacekeeping operations from 1999 to 2019, I show how colonialism, multilateralism, and exposure to violence help explain how communities perceive peacekeepers and weigh the costs and benefits of using violence to resolve a dispute.
Offering a novel investigation into how international actors keep the peace in conflict settings, Local Peace, International Builders has critical implications for understanding international interventions, political violence, civil wars, and international security. The book highlights a critical pathway through which the United Nations maintains order in the international system. Facing increasing pressure from violent insurgencies, circumspect member states, and disillusioned humanitarians, peacekeeping operations are in crisis. Yet, my findings suggest that member state governments should continue to devote substantial resources to UN peacekeeping and that these investments produce important gains for the stability of the international system.
A chapter outline of this book project can be found here.