Local Peace, International Builders
How the UN Builds Peace from the Bottom Up
My book manuscript investigates how United Nations peacekeepers prevent local-level disputes from destabilizing post-conflict settings. Most research on local-level conflict suggests that UN peacekeepers neglect to address local grievances driven by individual, family, or clan-based agendas. I focus instead on the UN’s efforts to limit the destabilizing impact of these disputes. I argue that UN peacekeepers succeed in containing disputes by enforcing intergroup cooperation.
Drawing on social psychological and behavioral economic models of cooperation, I develop a theory of local-level peacekeeping that illustrates how domestic perceptions of the UN as an unbiased actor shapes peacekeepers’ ability to prevent local disputes from escalating. Because civilians living in a post-conflict setting perceive the UN as unbiased, they find UN peacekeeper threats to punish any party that violently escalates a dispute credible. As a result of this deterrent effect, the presence of UN peacekeeping patrols encourages residents of post-conflict settings to cooperate rather than fight. By promoting a peaceful means to address grievances, UN peacekeepers reduce civilian demand for armed groups to intercede in local disputes.
The manuscript offers four sets of evidence in favor of this argument. First, I analyze an original cross-national dataset of UN peacekeeping deployments in thirteen Sub-Saharan African states between 2000 and 2017. Second, I examine UN peacekeeping operations in Mali using qualitative data from interviews, archival documents, and secondary sources as well as a difference-in-difference approach to identify the causal effect of UN peacekeeping efforts on local-level violence. Third, I use data from a lab-in-the-field experiment conducted with 512 residents of Bamako, Mali, to show that the UN increases intergroup cooperation between Malians of different ethnicities. Fourth, I present the results of a survey experiment implemented with 874 Malians in eight neighborhoods of Bamako and twelve villages of Central Mali. The results of the survey experiment demonstrate that UN peacekeeping patrols decrease the probability that a local-level dispute will become violent.
Together, this manuscript's theoretical contributions and empirical evidence point to the existence of a previously unacknowledged mechanism—localized peace enforcement—through which UN peacekeepers build peace and mitigate political violence in the aftermath of civil wars.
A chapter outline of this book project can be found here.