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United Nations Peace Operations Year in Review 2012

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Evolving to meet new challenges

Peace operations, both peacekeeping and political, remain one of the most cost effective and critical United Nations activities. With over 110,000 personnel serving in around 30 peacekeeping and political missions in 2012, they were also one of the most visible undertakings of this global organization. As peace operations continued to evolve encompassing larger and more complex mandates, the United Nations, working in close partnerships with Member States, regional organizations, national authorities and other stakeholders, strived to adapt its peacekeeping and peacemaking tools to address new, ever-growing challenges and additional demands.

The past year will go down in UN peacekeeping history with an eventful record featuring it all, from hope to accomplishment to setback. On the one hand, the UN mission in Timor-Leste successfully completed its mandate in December following two rounds of successful presidential and parliamentary elections and the inauguration of the new Government, thus bringing an end to more than a decade-long United Nations peacekeeping engagement in that country. On the other hand, however, in August, the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), which had been called upon to monitor a cessation of armed violence there and support the full implementation of Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan, had to be terminated only four months after its deployment due to the unabated conflict and unwillingness of the opposing parties to engage in meaningful dialogue to stop the bloodshed.

Elsewhere, while UN missions in Africa were challenged, sometimes to the limits, by their host country specific crises and developments, field operations in the Middle East had to adapt, to a varying degree, to the regional ramifications of the continuing conflict in Syria.

The United Nations also continued to hone its range of tools in peacemaking. Conflict prevention, preventive diplomacy and mediation, some of the key priorities established by the Secretary-General in his second term were important markers for UN peace operations in 2012. A good example of this was in Somalia, where heightened diplomatic efforts, facilitated by the UN Political Office (UNPOS), helped to complete an eight-year political transition with the adoption of a provisional Constitution and the election of a President by a newly established Parliament, the first democratic process of its kind in more than two decades. In Mali, the UN special political mission was established by the Security Council in December to provide coordinated and coherent support to the ongoing political and security processes in that country.

The Year in Review looks at these and other issues and attempts to show how, in practical terms, UN peacekeeping and political missions were supporting in 2012 a range of critical activities vital to maintaining international peace and security, including monitoring ceasefires; stabilizing post-conflict environment; disarming and reintegrating ex-combatants into civilian life; strengthening governance, rule of law, dialogue and reconciliation; protecting civilians and helping build democratic institutions.