Charles T. Hunt and Shannon Zimmerman

Counter-Terrorism & Peace Operations: The Impacts of UN Security Council Approaches to Tackling Terror on the Pursuit of Peace

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United Nations peace operations are generally considered a poor vehicle for counter-terrorism. Yet, UN peace operations are regularly deployed by the Security Council to settings affected by terrorism and violent extremism. The confluence of terrorism and conflict make this co-existence inevitable, but some missions have also engaged more directly in countering these elements. For example, the UNSC continues to support the mission in Somalia, which actively faces terrorist threats, and has also deployed a peacekeeping mission to Mali amid a jihadist insurgency. At the same time, in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, peace operations have engaged in offensive military operations that target groups labelled as “terrorists” by their host government partners.

Academics and peacekeeping experts have raised concerns and noted the initial impacts of counter-terrorism efforts on UN peace operations. Building on this work, this brief draws on illustrative examples from the field to examine how the UNSC’s counter-terrorism framework has impacted the mandates and practice of the UN’s peace operations, particularly the large stabilization operations deployed in Africa. It shows that counter-terrorism efforts at the level of the UNSC have blurred the normative distinctions between peace operations and counter-terrorism to the detriment of the former. This brief concludes by providing recommendations to ensure that UNSC responses to terrorism and violent extremism do not unintentionally undermine the effectiveness of UN peace operations.

This research brief is the second in a series commissioned by the Securing the Future Initiative (SFI) and published by the RESOLVE Network. SFI is co-led by the Fourth Freedom Forum and The Soufan Center, with funding provided by generous support from the European Union, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Launched in September 2021, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, SFI is conducting the first-ever independent review and assessment of the United Nations Security Council’s counterterrorism activities.

Suggested citation: 
Hunt, Charles T. and Shannon Zimmerman. Counter-Terrorism & Peace Operations: The Impacts of UN Security Council Approaches to Tackling Terror on the Pursuit of Peace. Washington, D.C.: RESOLVE Network, 2022.