The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Peace and Conflict Studies

Living Edition
| Editors: Oliver Richmond (Editor-in-Chief), Gëzim Visoka (Editor-in-Chief)

Stabilization Operations and Their Relationship to Liberal Peacebuilding Missions

Living reference work entry


Since the early 2010s, the popularity of the term “stabilization” has grown exponentially within the United Nations (UN). Yet, despite being a widely used term, stabilization has not been defined. This chapter begins with a discussion of the different usages of stabilization by the United States, United Kingdom, and France which, more than any other state, have contributed to “upload” their understanding of the term in UN Security Council resolutions. Second, the chapter examines conceptual aspects. Stabilization is often associated to, or used as a synonymous of, other terms like peacekeeping, peace enforcement, counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and peacebuilding. Indeed, stabilization involves all of these aspects but does not coincide with any of them. Finally, key empirical examples of UN-led stabilization operations are briefly reviewed. They reveal the importance of a “robust posture” in stabilization operations, as well as of a number of contradictions and antinomies emerging in the process of implementation of stabilization’s activities. As a whole, stabilization reflects the disappointment with earlier large-scale, transformative peacebuilding interventions and the related downgrading among the list of international priorities of normative issues such as the promotion of democracy and the protection of human rights.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Attree, L., Street, J., & Venchiarutti, L. (2018). United Nations peace operations in a complex environment. London: Saferworld.Google Scholar
  2. Bellamy, A. J., & Hunt, C. T. (2015). Twenty-first century UN peace operations: Protection, force and the changing security environment. International Affairs, 91(6), 1277–1298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Belloni, R., & Costantini, I. (2019). From liberal state building to counterinsurgency and stabilization: The international intervention in Iraq. Ethnopolitics, 18(4), 509–525. (in press).Google Scholar
  4. Belloni, R., & Moro, F. N. (2019). Stabilization and stability operations: Definitions, drivers, approaches. Ethnopolitics, 18(4). 445–461. (in press).Google Scholar
  5. Berdal, M., & Ucko, D. H. (2014). The United Nations and the use of force: Between promise and peril. Journal of Strategic Studies, 37(5), 665–673.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boyle, M. J. (2010). Do counterterrorism and counterinsurgency go together? International Affairs, 86(2), 333–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bush, G. W. (2003). Remarks by president George W. Bush at the 20th anniversary of the national endowment for democracy. Washington, DC: United States Chamber of Commerce. 6 Nov 2003.Google Scholar
  8. Centre FrancoPaix. (2018). Stabilizing Mali: The challenges to conflict resolution. Montreal: Centre FrancoPaix.Google Scholar
  9. Chandler, D. (2012). Rethinking the conflict-poverty nexus: From securitising intervention to resilience. Stability: International Journal of Security and Development, 4(1), 1–14.Google Scholar
  10. Curran, D., & Holtom, P. (2015). Resonating, rejecting, and reinterpreting: Mapping the stabilization discourse in the United Nations Security Council, 2000–2012. Stability: International Journal of Security and Development, 4(1), 1–18.Google Scholar
  11. De Coning, C. (2017). Peace enforcement in Africa: Doctrinal distinctions between the African Union and United Nations. Contemporary Security Policy, 38(1), 145–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. De Coning, C. (2018). Is stabilization the new normal? Implications of stabilization mandates for the use of force in UN peacekeeping operations. In P. Nadin (Ed.), The use of force in UN peacekeeping (pp. 85–99). London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. De Coning, C., & Peter, M. (Eds.). (2019). United Nations peace operations in a changing global order. Houndmills: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  14. De Coning, C., Aoi, C., & Karlsrud, J. (Eds.). (2017). UN peacekeeping doctrine in a new era: Adapting to stabilisation, protection and new threats. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. De Vries, H. (2015). Going around in circles: The challenges of peacekeeping and stabilization in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Clingendael: The Hague.Google Scholar
  16. Friis, K. (2010). Peacekeeping and Counter-insurgency – Two of a Kind? International Peacekeeping, 17(1), 49–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gilder, A. (2019). The effect of ‘stabilization’ in the mandates and practice of UN peace operations. Netherlands International Law Review, 66, 47–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gordon, S. (2010). The United Kingdom’s stabilisation model and Afghanistan: The impact on humanitarian actors. Disasters, 34(3), 368–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gorur, A. (2016). Defining the boundaries of UN stabilization missions. Washington, DC: Stimson Center.Google Scholar
  20. Grindle, M. S. (2004). Good enough governance: Poverty reduction and reform in developing countries. Governance, 17(4), 525–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. HIPPO (High Level Independent Panel on United Nations Peace Operations). (2015). Uniting our strengths for peace – Politics, partnership and peace. 16 June. New York: High Level Independent Panel on United Nations Peace Operations.Google Scholar
  22. Hunt, C. T. (2017). All necessary means to what ends? The unintended consequences of the ‘robust turn’ in UN peace operations. International Peacekeeping, 24(1), 108–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Karlsrud, J. (2018). The UN at war: Peace operations in a new era. Abingdon: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Karlsrud, J. (2019a). United Nations stabilization operations: Chapter seven and a half. Ethnopolitics, 18(3), 494. (in press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Karlsrud, J. (2019b). From liberal peacebuilding to stabilization and counter-terrorism. International Peacekeeping, 26(1), 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Levitsky, S., & Way, L. A. (2005). International linkage and democratization. Journal of Democracy, 16(3), 20–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mathias, S. (2017). UN peacekeeping today: Legal challenges and uncertainties. Melbourne Journal of International Law, 18(2), 138–153.Google Scholar
  28. McGinty, R. (2012). Against stabilization. Stability: International Journal of Security and Development, 1(1), 20–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Muggah, R. (Ed.). (2014). Stabilization operations, security and development. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  30. Peter, M. (2015). Between doctrine and practice: The UN peacekeeping dilemma. Global Governance, 21(3), 351–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rhoads, E. P. (2016). Taking sides in peacekeeping: Impartiality and the future of the United Nations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Rudolf, P. (2017). UN peace operations and the use of military force. Survival, 59(3), 161–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Stabilisation Unit. (2014). UK principles for stabilisation organisations and programmes. London: Stabilisation Unit.Google Scholar
  34. Tardy, T. (2014). The reluctant peacekeeper: France and the use of force in peace operations. Journal of Strategic Studies, 37(5), 770–792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Tull, D. M. (2018). The limits and unintended consequences of UN peace enforcement: The force intervention brigade in the DR Congo. International Peacekeeping, 25(2), 167–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. UN (United Nations). (2008). United Nations peacekeeping: Principles and guidelines. New York: Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Department of Field Support.Google Scholar
  37. UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). (2017). Journey to extremism in Africa. Drivers, incentives and the tipping point for recruitment. New York: UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa.Google Scholar
  38. United States Department of the Army and United States Marine Corps. (2007). The US Army/Marine Corps counterinsurgency field manual: US Army field manual no. 3-24: Marine Corps warfighting publication no. 3-33.5. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  39. US Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2016). Stability. Joint Publication 3-07, 3 August.Google Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Social ResearchUniversity of TrentoTrentoItaly

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kai Michael Kenkel
  • Oliver Richmond
    • 1
  • Gëzim Visoka
    • 2
  1. 1.The University of ManchesterManchesterUK
  2. 2.Dublin City UniversityDublinIreland