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UN Peacekeeping: Change and Continuity


Admission requirements

General knowledge of international organizations
General knowledge of theories in international relations
General knowledge of political science methods


In this seminar, we will be studying UN peacekeeping operations. Ever since their first use in the Middle East in 1948, UN peacekeeping operations have changed in many different ways. While they were at first responsible for monitoring ceasefires in interstate wars, they were increasingly deployed to keep the peace in intrastate conflict during the 1990s. After the traumatizing failures in Srebrenica and Rwanda, their role has greatly increased again after 2000. Currently, we are seeing large-scale military missions, which are mandated to protect civilians, mediate in ongoing conflict, build democracy, but also engage in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. How effective is this instrument? To which extent is it still capable of addressing the challenges of the 21st century? How do trends in international power politics and conflict affect the establishment and execution of UN peacekeeping operations? What does this tell us about broader trends in world politics, international conflict management and political developments in international orgnaizations?

We will approach these questions from various perspectives, deploying theories in international relations, conflict studies, sociology, and anthropology. While doing so, we will make use of different qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Course objectives

  • The student has a better understanding of the history of and current developments in UN peacekeeping operations.

  • The student has a better understanding of the politics of international organizations.

  • The student has a better understanding of broader trends in conflict and international interventions into those conflicts.

  • The student has a better understanding of the academic study of the abovementioned phenomena.

  • The student is capable of approaching an empirical phenomenon in a multidisciplinary and critical way.

  • The student is capable of looking critically at the use of different research methods.



Mode of instruction

  • Lectures (with one or more guest lectures) (50%)

  • Working groups: presentations and discussions (50%)

Assessment method

Study load (280 hours in total)

  • Lectures 16 hours

  • Working groups 16 hours

  • Literature 92 hours

  • Weekly reaction papers 32 hours

  • Group presentation 24 hours

  • Final paper 100 hours


  • Presence at working groups is obligatory, max 1 absence

  • Final paper (50%). This grade cannot be lower than 5.0.

  • Weekly reaction papers (30%)

  • Group presentation (20%)

A resit of the final paper is possible. A resit of the reaction papers and the presentation is not.

Reading list

These are the handbooks we will be using. Further reading assignments will be specified in the syllabus. I will communicate with registered students about the availability of the handbooks.

  • Oksamytna, Kseniya and John Karlsrud (eds.). 2020. UN Peace Operations and International Relations Theory. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

  • Williams, Paul D. and Alex J. Bellamy. 2020. Understanding Peacekeeping. Third edition. Cambridge: Polity Press.


See general information on tab 'Year 3'.


For questions, please contact the course instructor:
Tom Buitelaar,