This report provides an overview of the available analysis on UN peace support transitions. The term transitions refers to situations where peace support operations withdraw and hand over responsibility to national authorities, another UN body such as a UN country team, an alternative international presence, or other regional and local actors. The available literature is mostly focused on transitions from peacekeeping missions to peacebuilding missions. There is relatively little analysis of transitions from UN missions to UN country teams, although many of the general points raised in relation to peacebuilding missions are relevant to country teams. This report should be read in conjunction with three case study reports, which focus respectively on transitions of UN missions in Sierra Leone (M’Cormack 2012), Haiti (Fraser 2012) and Nepal (Walton 2012).
High levels of global peacekeeping deployment have led to growing pressure for UN peacekeeping missions to scale down (CIC 2011). At the same time, there have been parallel pressures for UN peace support missions to take on a wider range of roles (including support for statebuilding and improved governance) (CIC 2011). These twin pressures have led to growing analysis about transitions primarily in the official UN literature but also in the academic literature (expert comments). The majority of UN analysis is oriented towards improving current practice rather than reflecting deeply on experience.
It is important to note that UN missions are transitioning amid very different operating environments (CIC 2011). In some contexts, such as Liberia, UN missions drawdown in a relatively stable environment and in an orderly fashion, while in others UN missions are abruptly ended when local consent is withdrawn (as occurred in Chad and the Central African Republic) (CIC 2011). These varied dynamics present different organisational and political challenges.
The report provides an overview of the literature’s suggestions for improving peace support mission transitions, highlighting several key recommendations:
- Promote integrated missions
- Ensure a clear mandate from the start.
- Ensure clear and realistic benchmarks.
- Start planning early and coordinating with other actors.
- Promote national ownership.
- Focus on economic recovery and provide security guarantees.
The report also highlights several key problems facing transitions:
- Deployment issues
- Funding issues
- Growing political opposition.