ACUNS President Lise Morjé Howard presents Three Essentials of Power in Peacekeeping (03/06/2021)

 The extensive literature on UN peace operations has provided practitioners and academics with a breadth of explanations and answers to the fundamental question of whether or not UN peacekeeping works. In her book, Power in Peacekeeping, Lise Morjé Howard presents an empirically grounded theory of how peacekeepers actually exercise power. She offers a new typology that explains how peacekeeping differs from other forms of intervention and identifies three essentials of power in peacekeeping: persuasion, inducement, and coercion.

 Prof. Lise Howard started her presentation with two main questions; “How do peacekeepers keep the peace?” and “How do peacekeepers achieve their goals?”

 First, she introduced existing quantitative findings on the effectiveness of peacekeeping during civil wars.

I. Protection of Civilians
There are two quantitative findings related to protection of civilians, one of the most important mandates of peacekeeping. First one is the relationship between peacekeeping and civilian deaths. Fourteen peer-reviewed studies find that there is a striking correlation between the presence of peacekeepers and the lower fatality rates of civilians. Second one is the that a larger number of peacekeepers, and more diversity among them, correlate with fewer civilians dying. This is not only interesting but also strange finding, because it is usually believed that conformity is effective in war fighting, and therefore probably also in peacekeeping missions. However, when it comes to peacekeeping, diversity of expertise, culture, and skills contribute to protecting civilian lives.

II. Sexual Abuse and Exploitation
 Peacekeeping has a clear problem of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) committed by peacekeepers. At the same time, two robust peer-reviewed studies demonstrate that there is less sexual and gender-based violence during conflicts where a larger number of peacekeepers were deployed. From this study, it seems clear that peacekeepers are protecting civilians from being abused as well as from dying. On the other hand, at least two other well-regarded, peer-reviewed quantitative studies show that in countries where peacekeepers are deployed, there is an increased risk of transactional sex and human trafficking. There is also a finding that we could see less SEA with more women deployed in peacekeeping, although the burden of decreasing SEA in peacekeeping should not be shouldered only by women.

III. Other findings in the quantitative literature
 In civil wars, violence tends to spread within and across the borders in a similar way as infectious diseases spread. However, with the presence of peacekeepers, violence is less likely to spread. Thus, we can argue that peacekeepers prevent violence from spreading. Additionally, civil wars tend to repeat, but they recur less frequently with the presence of peacekeepers. Peacekeepers also reduce the duration of civil wars. Furthermore, several recent studies demonstrate that peacekeepers contribute to building better post-conflict institutions, especially in the security and legal sectora. We should note, however, that there is still a question of whether peacekeepers’ presence is more likely to bring about democracy and more democratic institutions. Although peacekeepers do not necessarily help create democracy, recent studies, have found that the presence of peacekeepers increases civil society activities, which is one of the fundamental building blocks for transitions to democracy. Out of the sixteen peacekeeping missions have been completed since the end of the Cold War, there were eleven large, complex missions that were fairly successful as measured in mandate implementation, including the ones in Cambodia and East Timor. On the other hand, five complex missions failed, including the operations in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda.

 Howard then introduced the Robert Dahl’s classic definition of power, which is the ability to make someone do something they would not have done otherwise. She argued that peacekeepers exercise three essential means of power: persuasion, inducement, and coercion. She illustrated the argument about these three means of power using pictures from her own field research. She has conducted field research since the 1990s in several countries, including in Namibia, Lebanon and the Central African Republic. All peacekeeping missions employed all these three powers, and in missions in these three countries, peacekeepers employed one of the forms of power as primary power.

 In Namibia, the power of persuasion was the main means employed. Peacekeepers mediated disputes, shamed leaders who weren’t going along with the program, reached out to the public with information about what the peacekeepers were trying to accomplish, and engaging in learning from Namibians about how to help build new institutions. These methods appealed to people’s good will to move on from violence.

 In Lebanon, inducement has proven the main means of power. Peacekeepers provide development aid, veterinary assistance and medical assistance, and have set up trust funds. In addition, the Security Council issued negative inducements in the form of sanctions to restrict markets, in order to change people’s behaviors. Peacekeepers have also helped to build institutions. We see in some cases, however, the development of peacekeeping economy. UNIFIL in southern Lebanon is currently the largest formal-sector employer.

 In the Central African Republic, peacekeepers have tried employing coercion. Peacekeepers are designed neither to compel nor to wage offensive military force to achieve their ends, but they do exercise other forms of coercion. They can defend themselves in order to protect civilians and can counterattack when they’re attacked. Also, they surveil during patrols, observing and collecting information. In the case of East Timor and the Central African Republic, the coercive power of arrest was exercised for both punishment and law enforcement mechanisms. Prof. Howard argued that peacekeepers engage in certain types of coercion such as defense, arrest, and surveillance, but not compellence or the offensive use of military force.

 In conclusion, peacekeeping has been proven effective in many ways. Peacekeepers exercise power through persuasion, inducement, and some forms of coercion. Single states tend to be more effective at exercising offensive military force. Prof. Howard submitted that a better scholarly understanding of the essential means of power could improve the practice of peacekeeping where peacekeepers could be acknowledged, work more concertedly, and get trained for the activities that they are designed to perform.

Report by Mihoko Iijima, edited by Lise Howard and Ai Kihara-Hunt

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This article has 2 Comments

  1. I would like to register for the upcoming event:

    “Three Essentials of Power in Peacekeeping”
    Lise Morjé Howard
    June 3, 2021
    8:00 p.m. Tokyo, 1:00 p.m. Paris, 7:00 a.m. New York

    The link provided does not work.

    Thank you,

    1. Sorry it seems there may be a problem on the link on this website. Can you try from this link to register (, or send me an e-mail so that I can send you the link to the seminar?
      secretary [at]

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