Mission (im)possible? UN military peacekeeping operations in civil wars

Darya Pushkina, Markus B. Siewert, Stefan Wolff*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Under what conditions can UN military peacekeeping operations (PKOs) succeed in contexts of civil war? This is an important question given the prevalence and cost of civil wars and the high, yet not always fulfilled, expectations of very costly military PKOs as responses to them by the international community. Yet, the academic and policy debates on this question are as long-standing as they are unresolved. Our article contributes to existing scholarship in several ways. First, adopting a nuanced and multi-dimensional definition of success that considers violence, displacement, and contagion as its 3 essential components, we identified 19 cases of full or partial successes, and 13 full or partial failures, covering all 32 UN military PKOs deployed to civil war settings. Second, we develop an original dataset and analytical framework that identifies a wide range of plausible factors related to the dynamics of both the intervention and the underlying conflict it is meant to address. Third, applying qualitative comparative analysis to our dataset of these 32 military PKOs, our key finding is that what matters most and consistently across all of these missions is the presence or absence of domestic consent to, and cooperation with, deployed PKOs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-186
Number of pages29
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Issue number1
Early online date21 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Darya Pushkina and Markus Siewert received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Stefan Wolff acknowledges that his contribution to this article was partially funded by the United States Institute of Peace (under the project “Learning from failure: tackling war recurrence in protracted peace processes”, grant number: 1804-18431) and by the Economic and Social Research Council of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (under the project “Understanding and Managing Intra-State Territorial Contestation”, grant number: ES/M009211/1).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • civil wars
  • conflict management
  • international intervention
  • peace processes
  • qualitative comparative analysis
  • UN peacekeeping operations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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