Peacekeeping, and Sustaining Peace, through the lens of Urban Planning and Development

On April 30, 2018, FAST hosted together with the NYU Center on International Cooperation a brainstorming event to discuss the impact and legacy of peace operations on cities with a focus on Liberia.

Today, United Nations peace operations unfold at a large scale across hundreds of cities in conflict-affected regions. Their bases, camps, super-camps, headquarters, logistic hubs, and airfields are designed and built by military engineers to support peacekeepers during the conduct of UN missions, providing them not only with safety but with direct access to resources such as water, electricity, food, and medical services.

Surrounded by fences and walls, these spaces can operate as islands. Yet they inevitably impact their surroundings, at times in long-lasting, unintended, and even harmful ways. At the same time, they open up new opportunities not only for security but for infrastructure development, technology transfer, and more.

Growing recognition of the interplay between peace and development, coupled with mounting calls within the UN for inclusive, cross-pillar approaches, has created space for new thinking when it comes to the physical and technological footprint of peace operations. As the UN draws down or closes a series of missions from Haiti to Liberia and develops transition strategies for operations in Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the question of imaginative uses for this infrastructure takes on new salience.

The event aimed to discuss our ongoing research as well as to consider more generally the peace-development nexus. The meeting brought together a group of academics, practitioners, and UN officials, with two main objectives:

  • Take stock of where different actors and fields stand in terms of knowledge and capacity to address the issue of sustaining peace in urban contexts;
  • Identify a set of concrete, policy-relevant areas for further investigation.

The event was made possible by the generous support of the Australian Mission to the UN and the UK Mission to the UN.

Images and urban analysis credit: FAST, 2017-8