Defining the Boundaries of UN Stabilization Missions

Stimson Spotlight

Defining the Boundaries of UN Stabilization Missions

In 2004, the United Nations Security Council authorized the first stabilization mission in Haiti. Since then, it has authorized three more in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and the Central African Republic. Yet the Security Council has never defined the term “stabilization,” explained how stabilization missions differ from other U.N. peace operations, or elaborated on the outcomes it expects stabilization missions to achieve.

The term “stabilization” has in recent years become a source of concern among some peacekeeping stakeholders. Some member states are concerned that stabilization entails a new breed of missions that takes peacekeeping into uncharted territory and potentially violates the core principles that define peacekeeping.

Drawing on understandings of stabilization in concept and in practice, this report proposes a new definition of stabilization in the context of U.N. peacekeeping. By adopting this definition, the U.N. can address member states’ concerns about stabilization missions and bring clarity to a term that has been left unexplained for too long.