Table of Contents

Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States

Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States

Elgar original reference

Edited by Graham K. Brown and Arnim Langer

The Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States brings together contributions from a multidisciplinary group of internationally renowned scholars on such important issues as the causes of violent conflicts and state fragility, the challenges of conflict resolution and mediation, and the obstacles to post-conflict reconstruction and durable peace-building.

Chapter 21: Pitfalls and prospects in the peacekeeping literature

Virginia Page Fortna and Lise Morjé Howard

Subjects: development studies, development studies, politics and public policy, international politics, international relations, terrorism and security


Following closely the practice of peacekeeping, the literature on the subject has come in three waves–one small and two larger. Peacekeeping was invented during the Cold War, but its use exploded only after the rivalry between the superpowers ended. More missions were deployed from 1988 through 1993 than had been in the previous four decades. At the same time, peacekeeping evolved from a practice used primarily between warring states to a tool used to maintain peace after civil wars as well. A perceived crisis in peacekeeping, beginning in June 1993, was the result of well-publicized dysfunction, failure and paralysis, first in Somalia, and then in Rwanda, Angola and Bosnia, despite many successful missions elsewhere. A lull followed, with very few new, important missions launched until 1999. After attempts to reform the practice of peacekeeping (epitomized by the Brahimi Report, described below), peacekeeping rebounded; a number of major missions were initiated from 1999 to 2004. There are more peacekeepers deployed around the world currently than at any time in the past. The literature has followed these ups and downs. A few classic works on peacekeeping were written during the Cold War, but one could hardly call the body of work a ‘literature’ until the explosion of interest in the 1990s. Within this new wave of literature, brief optimism about the practice of peacekeeping in the first years of the post-Cold War era was followed by a period of soul-searching and pessimism about its limitations and faults. A third wave of peacekeeping studies emerged in the mid-2000s. Although the literature as a whole remains largely descriptive and prescriptive, the latest wave of works on peacekeeping has matured considerably, becoming more theoretical and, perhaps most significant, much more methodologically rigorous.

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