International peace-keeping operations

Peace-keeping operations in Kosovo. Copyright: DDPS

International peace-keeping operations are an important mechanism of the international community for resolving conflicts and dealing with crises. They may have both civil and military components. Since the end of the Cold War they have undergone further development, and today they often cover a more extensive range of duties and a more robust mandate than they used to. There has also been a sharp increase in the number of peace-keeping operations.

Switzerland contributes both civil and military personnel to peace-keeping operations organized by the United Nations (UN), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the European Union (EU). Its military involvement is subject to various statutory conditions.


International peace-keeping operations are intended to create stable, peaceful relations by civil and military means. They are generally based on a UN mandate, and are as a rule guided by the following principles:

  • Impartiality
  • The consent of the conflicting parties to the deployment of the peace-keeping troops
  • Minimal use of force

The involvement of Switzerland

Swiss ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, Head of the UN Peace mission in Georgia from 2002 to 2006, delivers an address Copyright FDFA

Switzerland contributes both civil and military personnel to a number of international peace-keeping operations. Its military involvement is subject to various statutory conditions. Peace-keeping operations require a mandate from the UN or the OSCE, participation in hostilities in order to make peace is excluded. The deployment of armed forces lasting longer than three weeks or involving more than 100 servicemen requires the approval of the Federal Assembly.

On 11 May 2005 the Federal Council resolved to increase the army’s peace-building capacities to 500 troops by 2008. On 5 July 2006 the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports (DDPS) submitted a strategy paper on Switzerland’s military participation in peace-keeping operations to the Federal Council.

The framework for Switzerland’s civil involvement was outlined in the 2002 announcement of a global credit for measures in the field of peace promotion and strengthening human rights. The Swiss Expert Pool is the primary source of personnel for civil peace-promotion deployments.

The development of peace-keeping operations

International peace-keeping operations have become a frequently-employed mechanism for resolving international conflicts and dealing with crises. Since the 1990s they have been further refined in a number of particular respects.

  • More extensive range of duties:
    peace-keeping operations now often involve more tasks than they used to. They are no longer only responsible for keeping the conflicting parties apart: they also have other tasks such as: disarming fighters and reintegrating them into civil society, restoring state structures, holding elections and promoting human rights.
  • A more robust mandate:
    peace-keeping operations today often have a more robust mandate, authorizing them to use limited force (in the sense of coercive military action) in order to defend and enforce their mandate.
  • Increasing need:
    the number of peace-keeping operations has risen sharply since the end of the Cold War. This has also increased the need for personnel for this sort of operation.
  • New international players:
    as well as the UN, other international organizations are now active in international peace-keeping operations – such as NATO, the EU, the OSCE and the African Union (AU). In many cases the UN Security Council approves a mandate for a peace mission, then transfers its execution to one of these organizations.