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Engineering Peace: The Critical Role of Engineers in UN Peacekeeping

The UN Security Council mandates peacekeeping operations in some of the poorest, most conflictprone areas of the world. These locations are often also extremely remote and nearly inaccessible. In this context, engineering is one of the most critical elements to the functioning of a UN peace operation; yet, it may be the least critically analyzed aspect of peacekeeping. During the start-up phase of a mission, engineers design, prepare, and build the camps that allow the mission to exist. Very little can be achieved in peacekeeping without sanitary and secure camps with electricity and passable roads or functional air strips. When there are engineering gaps coupled with major logistical challenges (as in the UN Mission in South Sudan), key elements of the mandate, such as the protection of civilians or support to the extension of state authority, become much more difficult, and sometimes impossible, to fulfill. During the mission consolidation phase, engineers can play a central role in the peacebuilding support tasks of a mission, working with the host country, UN agencies, and others to build capacity and deliver peace dividends.


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ARTHUR BOUTELLIS is a Non-Resident Adviser at the
International Peace Institute.

ADAM C. SMITH is a Senior Fellow and Head of the Center
for Peace Operations at the International Peace Institute.