United Nations peacekeeping operations in an age of uncertainty : evaluating peacekeeping-intelligence, the past, present and prospects for the future

  • Patrick Peprah Obuobi

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


In 2017, the United Nations (UN) published the ‘peacekeeping-intelligence’ (PKI) policy as a further evolution in peacekeeping theory and practice. The policy is to be applied at the mission level to develop the capacity of field missions to enhance situational awareness, ensure the safety and security of UN personnel and the conduct of operations to protect civilians. The thesis addresses two critical questions: (1) how has the UN integrated intelligence into peacekeeping operations through the implementation of the PKI policy and to what extent have the mechanisms been effective; and (2) what are the conditions for creating a strong, responsive, and an effective intelligence system for UN peacekeeping? The study examines the implementation the PKI policy underpinned by the framework of effectiveness as a composite of process (PKI systems integration and resourcing) and functions (capacity to warn of threats and opportunities through predictive analysis, situational awareness and decision support, and early action based on actionable intelligence). The analysis is done through the comparative case study of PKI implementation in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) within the first four years of implementation (2017-2021). Due to their specific mandates, geopolitical, and security threat environment, both missions have shown the need for PKI integration. The thesis advances the core argument that the PKI policy has been fully accepted and integrated by UNIFIL and MINUSMA (including three other missions at various levels of implementation: the Democratic Republic of Congo; South Sudan; and Central Africa Republic). However, the extent of application and the level of effectiveness vary across the missions. Overall, UNIFIL was more successful in implementing the PKI policy. The mission capitalised on its pre-existing structures and emerged strongly from events that tested the resilience of its PKI systems to develop a well-functioning intelligence framework. However, it is restricted from utilising critical intelligence enablers such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). MINUSMA on the other hand possesses arguably the ‘best’ intelligence assets ever deployed in a UN mission, yet its progress with the implementation of PKI has not been matched by the significant intelligence resources invested in the mission due to inherent challenges in keeping the PKI systems functioning. The thesis identifies that the interplay of geopolitical factors surrounding each mission, the level of permissiveness or restrictions imposed by the operating environment, and the organisational culture within the UN are necessary conditions for the successful implementation of PKI. The analysis, which is constructed normatively and empirically, leads to a further conclusion that PKI provides a good foundation for developing a ‘comprehensive’ intelligence framework within peacekeeping to achieve the outcomes of operational planning, the effective conduct of operations and to a greater extent, mandate implementation. The UN would need to strengthen the internal PKI mechanisms, processes, and institutional culture to optimise intelligence as a force multiplier.
Date of Award13 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorGurchathen Singh Sanghera (Supervisor) & Mateja Peter (Supervisor)


  • Peacekeeping-intelligence
  • United Nations
  • Intelligence
  • Peacekeeping operations

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 3rd April 2028

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