Civil conflict fragmentation and the effectiveness of UN peacekeeping operations

Barış Arı, Theodora-Ismene Gizelis

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While the extant literature has highlighted the importance of UN peacekeeping operations (PKOs) in addressing commitment problems in civil wars, actor fragmentation presents additional challenges for conflict resolution. A higher number of competing actors not only worsens coordination problems but also aggravates the risk of opposition to a peace process, generating an environment prone to spoiler violence. This article argues that UN interventions matter more when commitment and coordination problems are worse, which corresponds to known traits of fragmented conflicts. Using data on civil conflict duration and intensity, we present evidence that UN PKOs are effective at mitigating adverse impacts of fragmentation. Fragmented conflicts are both longer and deadlier when the UN is not involved to support a peace process, while UN peacekeeping mitigates the effects of fragmentation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-644
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Peacekeeping
Issue number4
Early online date13 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2020


  • UN peacekeeping
  • civil war
  • conflict fragmentation
  • peace process

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