Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Where is the West in UN Peacekeeping? An examination of the decline in Western troop contributions to UN peacekeeping

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posted on 2021-11-15, 08:25 authored by Maarleveld, Sophie

This thesis explores an important aspect of the changing composition of United Nations peacekeeping troop contributions by examining the causes of the decline in troop contributions from the West. It does so by creating a theoretical framework within which the widespread decline in troop contributions from the West can be contextualized and reviewing a variety of possible arguments in secondary literature for the decline that can be considered within this theoretical framework. I assert that the constructivist concept of security communities, although originally focused on interactions between states in the community, can also be used to understand the ways in which these states respond to peace and security threats outside of the community, and that this is the reason there has been a systemic decline in troop contributions from the West.  The past, current and future peacekeeping engagements of Canada and New Zealand will be explored in detail in this thesis. These countries have historically had a strong commitment to the UN, and been champions of its ultimate authority to sanction international responses to conflict. Both countries have a history of significant troops contributions to UN peacekeeping, but have decreased these contributions in the last 10-15 years. Understanding why these two internationalists all but abandoned UN peacekeeping can provide clues as to why other Western militaries have done the same, and concentrated their resources in other peace support operations. These cases also exemplify how the security community concept can be applied to understanding troop contributions to peace operations.  This thesis is divided into four main sections. In the introduction I present the research question and discuss its relevance and importance, as well as the salience of the two case studies, followed by the explanation of my theoretical framework, a review of secondary literature on the topic, and the details of my research methodology. In chapter one I explore a variety of arguments that have been made by academics and practitioners regarding the decline in troop contributions from the West. Chapter two covers my first case study – Canada – and chapter three covers New Zealand.  I argue that although the factors that determine countries’ troop contributions are unique and shaped by domestic as much as international circumstances, the wider trend in the West of decreasing troop contributions to UN peacekeeping missions, while increasing troop contributions to non-UN peacekeeping operations can be explained by building on the security community concept. As such, any return to UN peacekeeping is likely to occur throughout the West or not at all. I also argue that in order for the West to re-engage with UN peacekeeping, both Western governments and the UN must take steps towards redefining the parameters of troop participation in UN peace operations.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

International Relations

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of International Relations

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Ayson, Robert