Norms and Practices in UN Peacekeeping: Evolution and Contestation

Published: 3 May 2019

The four articles in this special section focus on norms in UN peacekeeping (gender, impartiality, human rights, and environmentalism) and how they are implemented in practice. They look at the evolution of these norms over time; take an explicit theoretical perspective (feminist institutionalism, norm contestation, and securitization); and report the results of original field research in Rwanda, South Sudan, and New York UN headquarters. The articles present a coherent narrative because they all look at practices either explicitly or implicitly, often at the mundane everyday level among troops or UN staff. But the focus on everyday experiences should not betray their theoretical importance: each of the articles uses this empirical material to better understand and theorize international relations. Georgina Holmes provides us with micro-study of norm implementation on the individual level with her bottom-up study of training of female military peacekeepers. Marion Laurence reveals how legitimating practices are changing in tandem with the changing understanding of the impartiality norm. Emily Paddon Rhoads analyzes impartiality as a composite norm and unpacks its procedural and substantive dimensions to reveal how human rights and protection are being privileged to the detriment of a more political understanding of impartiality. Lucile Maertens is forcing us to examine the causal chain of securitization theory by showing how security is shaped by environmentalization.