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ORG Explains #4: The UK and UN Peacekeeping

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Richard Reeve
31 May 2018


This primer explains the United Kingdom’s human, financial and other commitments to UN Peacekeeping operations, how these compare to other states, and how they have changed over time.


After nearly twenty years of neglect by Western powers, since 2015 UN Peacekeeping operations have seen a revival of commitments from several European states, including the UK. This reflects the greater availability of European troops since the drawdown of most forces from NATO-led operations in Afghanistan in 2014 as well as a growing awareness (outside the United States) that UN Peacekeeping is both effective and cost-effective in managing violent conflict. The British government also sees UN Peacekeeping as an attractive means to bolster its international image and defence relationships as it leaves the European Union. As such, it has significantly increased its contribution of personnel to UN Peacekeeping operations since 2016 and plays a very active diplomatic role in defining peacekeeping mandates.

Key points:

  • The UK has exceeded its commitment to double its 2015 contribution of personnel to UN Peacekeeping operations, increasing their number from 291 to 740 by May 2018.
  • This is the largest UK commitment to UN operations since 1995 but far below the 3,000+ troops committed in the earlier 1990s and representing just 0.5% of active personnel.
  • The current UK commitment of personnel is broadly comparable to major European peers Italy, Germany, France and Spain, although still only 34th in global terms.
  • The UK contributed $392 million in 2017-2018 in direct funding of UN Peacekeeping operations, as well as training and transporting foreign peacekeepers.
  • No significant change to the UK’s support for UN Peacekeeping is likely in the current parliament and there is a growing cross-party consensus on its importance.
  • Pressure on UK peacekeeper training resources may come from recent British commitments to run major counter-insurgency training programmes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Nigeria.


Read the primer


For a more extended and eloquent analysis of the issues raised and updated in this primer, please see David Curran and Paul D. Williams, The UK and UN Peace Operations: A Case for Greater Engagement (ORG, May 2016).

Image credit: UNMISS/Flickr

About the Author

Richard Reeve is the Director of the Sustainable Security Programme at ORG. He was formerly Head of Research at International Alert and worked as a Research Fellow with King’s College London, Chatham House and, as a Country Risk Editor, at Jane’s Information Group.



Copyright Oxford Research Group 2017.

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