The United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has begun to face increasingly serious challenges to its missions in the form of withdrawn host state consent. As these situations bring to light the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the UN’s peacekeeping structure, it has become apparent that the Department must enact changes in its policies in order to prevent withdrawal of host state consent in future missions.Host state challenges to consent not only threaten the lives of UN peacekeepers and jeopardize the investment that Member States have chosen to make in the host state, but they also fundamentally endanger the legitimacy of United Nations peacekeeping as a security tool of the international community; without host state consent, UN missions would be engaging in peace enforcement rather than peacekeeping. This policy brief sets out the primary challenges faced in acquiring and maintaining host state consent. It is essential that the following issues be addressed by DPKO policies in order to avoid crises of consent in United Nations peacekeeping missions:
-The failure to translate states’ official agreements into action on the ground due to a disconnect between the UN’s operational and strategic levels of interaction with the host state government;
- A decrease in UN influence over the host country government as the peacekeeping operation (PKO) progresses in its mandate;
- The sacrifice of key aspects of UN PKOs in order to acquire consent in instances of humanitarian necessity; and
- The political nature of the mission’s interaction with the host state government and the subordinate position of the PKO to the host state in consent-based peacekeeping.
The above-stated obstacles are exhibited in three recent consent-based crises in the Sudan, Chad, and Eritrea. With these case studies in mind, this brief outlines the following policy recommendations that would strengthen DPKO’s capabilities for maintaining host state consent:
- Explicitly stated incentives for host states’ cooperation and consent;
- Supportive diplomatic structures to maintain the engagement and coordination of relevant actors and provide a unified front from which to demand continued consent; and
- Detailed, realistic contingency planning for situations where consent-based issues are likely to occur.
The United Nations and its Member States have an interest in ensuring that peacekeeping operations are not placed at the mercy of host state governments. As such DPKO must work towards ensuring that it has a range of strategies for situations where the withdrawal of host state consent is an obstacle to the successful continuation of a peacekeeping mission.