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The Use and Impact of mis-and disinformation on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations

A new EPON report highlights the escalating challenge posed by misinformation, disinformation, malinformation and hate speech (MDMH) in the environments where United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (UN PKO) are deployed.

The escalation in the use of misinformation, disinformation, malinformation and hate speech continues to have negative effects in political, social and conflict dynamics across the globe and pose a serious challenge for the UN PKO. Misinformation, disinformation, malinformation and hate speech has been referred to as weapons of war by the UN Secretary General with aim “to dehumanise the so-called other, threaten vulnerable communities – as well as peacekeepers”.

 While the concept of MDMH as specific methods to gain power and influence and smear opposing sides or actors continues to progress the nature of this use has evolved and intensified by the use of digital channels. The utilisation of modern technology amplifies the threat posed by MDMH, especially on social media platforms.

This trend continues to intervene and exacerbates tensions and divisions during crises, armed conflicts, and key political moments, directly obstructing the effectiveness of UN PKO. Misinformation campaigns targeting UN PKO efforts undermine stability, exacerbate conflicts, and endanger human rights.

 In contemporary mission contexts, the proliferation of misinformation contaminates the information environment, presenting significant hurdles for the UN. This not only jeopardizes the safety of civilians, whom the UN aims to protect, but also endangers the security of peacekeepers.

The report examines the use of MDMH campaigns facing MONUSCO which was the first UN PKO to contain language on mis- and disinformation since 2019. Examples of mis-and disinformation targeting MONUSCO include widespread rhetoric around MONUSCO’s supposed investment in maintaining conflict dynamics and blaming security shortcomings on MONUSCO. This rhetoric has been particularly rampant during election cycles and utilised by politicians and the public alike. Other missions such as MINUSCA has since 2021 had language on mis- and disinformation in its mandate and have faced false accusations of trafficking weapons and exploiting natural resource with the aim to undermine the mission’s effort to maintain peace and security.

 While acknowledging the importance of freedom of expression, the report calls for increased support from member states to address this growing challenge. It emphasises the need for enhanced training, resources, and preventative measures to safeguard mission integrity and effectiveness.

UN PKO are urged to adopt proactive approaches, including reshaping narratives and supporting local journalists to foster healthier information environments. Strengthening the UN Department of Peace Operations’ information Integrity Unit and implementing whole-of-mission communication strategies are highlighted as essential steps in mitigating the impact of MDMH on peacekeeping efforts. Failure to address these issues could further erode trust and legitimacy in UN field missions, hindering their ability to fulfil protection mandates and contribute to long-term peace and development efforts.

The report was by Dr. Lotte Vermeij (NORCAP), Dr. Andrew E. Yaw Tchie (NUPI), Charlotte Gisler (NORCAP), Angus Lambkin (NORCAP) and Angela Schweizer (NORCAP).

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Research project
Research project
Effectiveness of Peace Operations Network