You are currently viewing From Optimism to Pragmatism: the changing landscape of peace operations and the EU response

From Optimism to Pragmatism: the changing landscape of peace operations and the EU response

Written by: Caterina Toti

Edited by: Rosário Frada

Supervised by: Riccardo Angelo Grassi

In recent days, articles have started to circulate regarding the end of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). It has been reported that the Somali Minister of Foreign Affairs Aimed Moa Fiji has formally requested the United Nations (UN) to end the mission in a letter to the Security Council and to the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (Ross & Paravicini 2024; Africanews 2024). This event would reflect a broader trend of growing scepticism and distrust towards peacekeeping missions, as well as a shift towards “pragmatic peacekeeping”, characterized by smaller mandates focused on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency and by the prioritization of conflict containment(Karlsrud, 2023). Other examples of this tendency are the conclusion of the peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUSCO) in 2024 and the expulsion of peacekeepers from Mali (MINUSMA) in December 2023.

While these missions are concluding, the UN has not launched a new multidimensional peace operation since 2014. What was once defined by US President Barack Obama as “one of the world’s most important tools to address armed conflict” (Autesserre, 2019), has experienced increased criticism regarding its effectiveness and seems to be approaching its end. Amidst these developments, regional organisations and states’ alliances have increased their participation and their role in peacekeeping, taking a more active stance in the past two decades (Bara & Hultman, 2020). These changes have prompted repercussions for the peacekeeping landscape and for its major players, such as the EU, which has increasingly solidified its presence in peacekeeping since 2003 (Tardy, 2019). The EU seems to be progressively aligning with the principles of pragmatic peacekeeping, emphasizing efficiency, local ownership and sustainable principles, also evident in its activity of supporting and establishing partnerships with regional coalitions such as the G5 Sahel Countries (Duursma, et al., 2023). This analysis explores the significant transformations that took place in the peacekeeping landscape due to the crisis of the traditional peacekeeping approach and the complexities posed by contemporary conflicts. It underlines the increased relevance of ad-hoc coalitions and regional partners taking more active roles, also supported by the EU which has recognized this change in peacekeeping dynamics and the consequent shift towards deploying more flexible, short-term missions.