UN Statebuilding at a Turning Point:
What’s new about the intervention brigade and peacekeeping drones?
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs
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Last March the UN Security Council authorised the so-called
Intervention Brigade to undertake ‘targeted offensive operations’ against
illegal armed groups operating in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic
of the Congo (DRC). The Brigade, which undertook its first operations in
August, differs from traditional UN peacekeeping in terms of its robust mandate
The UN has simultaneously adopted a new technology, unmanned
aerial vehicles (UAVs), in the DRC, which represents the first-ever use of UAVs
as a part of UN peacekeeping. UAVs will be deployed in the DRC at the end of
November, and start operating in early December.
The Intervention Brigade and UAVs have been hailed as a
turning point in UN peacekeeping. However, they should not be perceived as
completely new or standalone instruments of UN conflict management. They could
instead be best understood as a continuum and extension of the long-held
statebuilding doctrine applied by the UN. These new instruments enable the UN
to perform one of its key functions of statebuilding and protection of
civilians, namely controlling and policing the whole territory of a state where
an intervention has been undertaken more effectively than before.
The lessons learned from the UN peace operation in the DRC
indicate that the UN statebuilding doctrine remains self-contradictory on
account of the tendency of UN statebuilding missions to spill over into wars
and the mismatch between the ambitious goals set for statebuilding and the chronic
lack of resources.
The Intervention Brigade and UAVs can potentially help the
UN to resolve that mismatch by enhancing the UN’s statebuilding and protection
capacities. However, they cannot resolve the other major disadvantage of
statebuilding, namely collateral damage inflicted in statebuilding wars, and
may even aggravate that problem.