Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 02/2014

Engineering Peace: The Critical Role of Engineers in UN Peacekeeping

Arthur Boutellis, Adam Smith

February 2014

International Peace Institute


Although engineering may be the least critically analyzed aspect of peacekeeping, it is one of the most crucial elements to the functioning of a UN peace operation. This report details the various roles that engineers play in UN peace operations and examines the type of engineering capacities available to a mission. Without sanitary and secure camps, electricity, and passable roads or air strips, the mission is unable to function. Engineers design, prepare, and build these components for a peacekeeping operation. They also play a central role in the mission’s and host-state’s peacebuilding efforts—constructing roads and bridges, for example, and delivering tangible dividends for citizens. Informed by field research with the UN missions in Haiti and South Sudan, the report outlines challenges to the effective use of engineering during a mission’s various stages. The authors make a number of suggestions for improving the UN’s use of engineers and conclude with five overarching recommendations for UN peace operations: 1. Develop rapid start-up or surge engineering capacities. 2. Better integrate engineering requirements into mission planning. 3. Adapt to changing needs in the mission consolidation phase. 4. Create win-win partnerships to address engineering needs beyond the mission. 5. Build local engineering and private-sector capacity for additional peace dividends.