Regional Security Organizations: Factors Behind Peacekeeping Participation


This study is about which factors drive nations to contribute to regional peacekeeping operations. Using data from six databases, this study attempts to determine whether national and regional interests, capability of the donor nations’ armed forces and the number of threats to the donor nation matter when a nation decides whether to participate in peacekeeping operations. There is a strong negative trend towards a donor nation intervening with its neighbor and a weak indication that the capability of a nation's military does not determine whether or not it will intervene in a target nation. This study is divided into six sections: the introduction, literature review, theory, hypotheses, analysis and conclusion, which posits that if nations are willing to participate in regional peacekeeping operations, then expectations could be properly set so that a peace building process can begin.

Table of Contents: 


    Regional security organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union (EU), and the African Union (AU) are increasing their presence on the world stage. With the United Nations (UN) stretched thin, and with the current state of the world economy, hybrid missions, such as the UN-AU in Sudan and EU-sponsored piracy task force operating on the coast of the Horn of Africa are becoming more the norm than the exception. The AU has increased its operational tempo since its inception in 2003, and, as successor to the Organization of African Unity, by intervening (whether by peacekeeping or peace building) in fifty of the fifty-six nations on the African continent (Pevehouse, Nordstrom, & Warnke, 2004). Since regional security organizations are increasingly becoming a foreign policy option in places like the nations on the African Continent  and Afghanistan (NATO), a question that surfaces is what factors determine when a nation contributes troops to a regional peacekeeping operation. Direct threats, global reputation, and strength of the military come to mind first, but upon deeper analysis, the question becomes more complex. By determining which factors carry the most weight, when nations decide to contribute troops to regional peacekeeping operations, this paper provides information about which factors drive nations to intervene.

    By learning which factors are more relevant than others, perhaps genocides, like the one in Rwanda, can be better explained and an assessment of whether an intervention will take place or not could be made for future conflict zones. Year after year, the UN is being asked to do more with less money. Regional security organizations have realized that intervention, from sending troops to a zone of conflict with the intent to build peace (like supervised elections) to peacekeeping (separation of warring parties to prevention of violence methods), has its costs and benefits and members capabilities and geopolitical factors determine the course that the donor nation will take concerning the target state.

    Throughout this paper, the factors behind a nation’s contribution to its regional peacekeeping organization are divided into four categories. These four main factors (national, regional, capability, and the number of threats to the donor nation) are not all-inclusive but represent the most pressing factors that a contributing nation faces when deciding whether to send troops to the target state. There are always some member states  of  regional organizations that do not participate in peacekeeping operations; some prefer to “do it alone” with a coalition of the willing or are comfortable with participating in UN operations which have an indirect (or little direct) effect on the donor nation. The factors that determine whether a nation contributes to a regional security organization’s peacekeeping operation can help put current and future conflict zones into a perspective of not “if” they are going to receive aid but “when” a zone of conflict will be the target of peacekeeping operations by a regional security organization.

    By using past operations as a guide and information from six different databases, the study attempts to determine whether these four factors are relevant or not. One of the most striking findings of my analysis is that there is a very strong negative trend towards a donor nation intervening with its neighbor. There is a very weak indication that the capability of a nation’s military does not signal whether or not it will intervene in a target nation. This study is divided into seven sections: a literature review, a concisely stated theory, which is followed by the hypotheses. I then discuss the design of the research, analyze the data, and follow that with a brief and concise conclusion which identifies strengths and weaknesses of the study, suggestions for future research, and concluding thoughts.

    Literature Review

    Nations, when considering the advantages and disadvantages of a peacekeeping operation, take into account many factors, all of which relate (directly or indirectly) to how the operation affects the donor nation. Nations can extend their foreign policy influence, including regional and/or national interests, through the missions that they participate in. These nations, with their regional and national interests, have different priorities based upon their geographic location, economy, and the level of threats that directly affect the donor nation. When looking at these factors, regional organizations need to be analyzed to better understand how national and regional interests influence whether a nation contributes troops to a peacekeeping operation.

    National interests: the driving force behind interventions

    Regan (1998) introduces costs and benefits of interventions (which can be applied to peacekeeping operations) and argues that the cause for an international intervention in another country’s internal affairs is grave violation of human rights. Regan concludes that the assumption the more borders countries share “the less likely” there will be an intervention by outside powers does not hold true with regional peacekeeping operations (p. 754). Regan focused on the logistics of the operation by emphasizing the human costs, material costs, and “the decision makers’ subjective estimate of the likely outcome of the conflict” (p. 761). This is useful in weighing the contributions of an economically weaker donor nation compared to an economically stronger donor nation. Overall, Regan places an emphasis on the national side of the decision-making process of why nations would contribute to a peacekeeping mission and fails to acknowledge the regional aspect that could be a factor. Since regional organizations have an active involvement in many nations (to include a more semi-permanent presence in Sudan and Somalia) and the membership of certain regional organizations can be fairly large, a perspective of peacekeeping intervention must be applied to ascertain the factors that a nation may consider when intervening in a nation’s affairs with a peacekeeping mission.

    Foreign policy interests of nations can be broken down into two considerations: national and regional. Nations participate in peacekeeping operations as a means of exercising their foreign policy interests. Why do nations consider peacekeeping a foreign policy option when war or economic-based approaches could be a more direct way to achieve their interests? What is more important is the question of what a peacekeeping operation is. Is it like an intervention and can the term “intervention” apply to a peacekeeping operation? Morgenthau (1967) explains that intervention can be defined as giving aid, such as supporting or interrupting revolutions. He goes on to say that the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union shaped the way intervention and aid are executed around the world. Morgenthau also makes the point that newly independent nations “need and resent” aid at the same time from superpowers that wish to give it to them (p. 429). In fact, the national interests of a country’s foreign policy may still be influenced by what used to be the bipolar political climate of the Cold War. Nations, according to their political affiliation, may be more apt to contribute troops to peacekeeping operations to secure an area that has a government similar to their own. Nations that are fairly new to the world stage may decide to use the peacekeeping aid or reject it out of the fear that their sovereignty might be violated or questioned by their own citizens or even other nations. Therefore, a country’s foreign policies could be related to a donor nation’s government and the way in which it influences other nations around it.

    The reasons for nations to contribute to regional organizations are similar to the reasons they contribute to larger organizations like the United Nations. Gilligan and Stedman (2003) argue that in order for the United Nations to fulfill its global responsibilities it must project its influence globally. Applied to a regional peacekeeping organization, this approach can offer insight as to why a nation’s perceptions of how other nations view it may be a factor in the foreign policy options it considers. The bottom line is that a regional organization should participate in as many peacekeeping operations as it can, given operational realities, so that  regional problems are  seen as the domain of that particular regional organization. Nations, when considering whether to donate to regional peacekeeping operations, could ask if the goals and influence of the regional organization match their national interests. Gillian and Stedman point out that donor nations to peacekeeping operations may have a regional bias. They stress that there is a regional bias to United Nations peacekeeping and that “considerations of power are at least as important as considerations of sovereignty” when the UN decides whether or not to intervene with peacekeepers (p. 53). Gillian and Stedman argue that the UN will intervene in states with large militaries and where the conflicts have many fatalities, so it could be assumed that there will be more donors if the host nation has a large military or a conflict that has a significant number of casualties. For the regional organization then, the nations surrounding the zone of conflict (a regional bias) have a national interest (the consequences directly affect them) in the conflict and thus are more apt than not to contribute troops to an intervention mission. Gillian and Stedman help point out that national interests could be a more powerful motivator than regional interests in deciding whether to participate in peacekeeping operations due to the regional bias; the closer the zone of conflict is to the donor nation’s borders (especially if the zone of conflict is a neighbor), the more of a direct effect it has on that nation’s interests.

    Third party peacekeeping, or peacekeeping that is executed by an organization that is mutually agreed upon by both warring parties, is the focus of Mullenbach (2005) as he breaks down interventions according to whether they are state interventions or UN interventions. This is pertinent to figuring out what factors donor nations might take into account when a regional organization musters for a peacekeeping operation. Mullenbach discusses “factors influencing the likelihood of third-party peacekeeping missions” and breaks down various hypotheses in the literature that help explain different interests a nation has when donating troops to a regional organization. There is the military alliance hypothesis which “suggests that a third-party peacekeeping mission is less likely to be established in a target state if the government of the target state has a formal military alliance with the government of a major global or regional power,” and the major power status hypothesis, which holds that a peacekeeping mission will not operate in a major or regional power (p. 563). According to the military intervention hypothesis, which takes into account the military history of major powers in the area being considered for peacekeeping, says that a peacekeeping operation is “less likely” if the regional power was involved or supported any of the political entities in the target nation (p. 536). Mullenbach also identifies an intermediary intervention hypothesis which is similar to the military intervention hypothesis except that the major global/regional third-party has acted as an intermediary in the past; if a peacekeeping mission is more likely, the institutional involvement hypothesis can explain where a peacekeeping mission is more likely to be operating in a country where the United Nations or a regional organization “was previously involved as a conflict manager” (p. 537). Finally, there is the nonintervention norm hypothesis that concludes peacekeeping is less likely to occur in a state by a third-party if it is not a norm in the international system at the time. Mullenbach concludes that the level of support a nation has with major powers will affect the willingness of that state to engage in  third-party peacekeeping. By reducing Mullenbach’s hypotheses to a continental scale, we can evaluate the data gathered and classify whether a nation contributes peacekeepers to regional organization-sponsored missions due to regional interests, national interests, or both. Each of Mullenbach’s hypotheses can further explain factors behind a peacekeeping operation such as alliances to which the donor nation is held.

    Regional interests: how countries define the geographical scope of their own backyard

    Regional interests, with a nation’s foreign policy priorities regarding whether to send peacekeepers, can be effectively understood when one takes into account Doyle and Sambanis’ (2000) article International Peace building. Doyle and Sambanis discuss how the United Nations peacekeeping operations contribute to a sustainable peace. Since there is not much literature that takes into account  why nations contribute to peacekeeping missions sponsored by regional organizations, the best alternative would be to figure out why nations would contribute to peacekeeping operations at all. For that purpose,  literature on the United Nations could lead to some fruitful conclusions. For a regional organization, peacekeeping operations can occur more often due to the effect they have in democratizing a government. Therefore, a peacekeeping operation should include “muscular” third-party nations and a zone of occupation that has “low hostility levels” regardless of local capacities (p. 795). This is a direct contradiction of most of the present-day involvement with the African Union: it has been  involved in Somalia and the Sudan, both of which were extremely hostile and lasted a long time. Doyle and Sambanis introduce “a metaphor for peace building after a civil conflict” that is titled “The Peace building Triangle” which lists possible factors in which nations would participate in peacekeeping operations, especially in an organization that could have a flexible operational capability (p. 782). Their conclusive arguments are worthwhile: a peace-building operation is more likely to be successful after a long but low-intensity war, a mission that is adequately funded, and the conflict takes place in a nation with a high development level (infrastructure and economically). Violence would end more quickly if a mandate is in place (such as a cease-fire). Nations that are considering donating troops to a regional peacekeeping operation could then consider the nature of the conflict within the target state and the level of the  infrastructure before committing to a regional peacekeeping operation and exercising their regional influence.

    Thus, if a regional peacekeeping organization wishes to solicit the most troops from the most members, the first order of business would be to coax a treaty agreement from the warring parties in order for a local (or multiple “muscular” regional nations) peacekeeping force to enter and improve the lives of the population and begin the restoration of the cycle of economic activity associated with the war-affected region. Doyle and Sambanis (2000) would seem to favor a more international approach to peace building if the regional organization (local parties) did not have the strength to send a force that was adequately equipped to deal with the situation on the ground in most zones of conflict. Darfur, which has the UN and the AU hybrid peacekeeping force operating with the consent of the Sudanese government, seems to fit this model perfectly. When nations in a regional organization contemplate allocating troops to individual peacekeeping operations, the result of efforts to democratize the country will benefit the contributing nations only if they are democratic themselves or if the donor nations have a capitalistic economy. Regional considerations (a regional bias in peacekeeping operations) could explain why UN-assisted peace building legitimizes peacekeeping operations that regional powers wish to participate in to solidify their influence.

    Spillover effects such as the movement of refugees and the migration of violence from one area to another can have an impact on whether a potential donor nation contributes to a regional peacekeeping operation. Krain posits that interventions that challenge the instigator or give aid to “the target of the brutal policy are the only effective type” of military interventions that are sure to slow or stop the conflict (pg. 363). Krain also asserts that attempts by “external actors to intervene as impartial parties seem to be ineffective.” (p. 383). Therefore, if a country were to participate in a peacekeeping operation, a successful one would have to involve a significant  number of troops so that a confrontation is possible. If a nation chooses to intervene, these interventions (peacekeeping operations) must challenge (disrupt the actions of) the perpetrators in order for the genocidal acts to stop. Ill-equipped troops, inadequate troop numbers, or a dismal diplomatic response from outside nations (such as neighbors in the regional organization concerning the continent that it operates in) could then factor into if a nation intervenes in a zone of conflict. Krain discovered this by breaking down the data by “country-year,” using as the dependent variable  “genocide/politicide severity” and “international military intervention” as the independent variable, which were used by Pearson and Baumann (p. 375, 1993). Krain’s piece can help explain the depth of conviction  necessary to stop crimes against humanity that a nation takes when considering contributing troops to a peacekeeping operation with a regional organization. Therefore, according to Krain (concerning a regional organization), research reaffirms the notion that if a nation is contributing troops to a peacekeeping mission, it is of considerable regional or national importance and stresses the importance of factoring in occurrences of genocide and the movement of refugees.

    The African Union: a regional organization that encompasses a large continent

    Due to the lack of literature regarding why members of regional organizations participate in peacekeeping operations, a starting point for why these members send peacekeepers to a target country can be modeled after the United Nations. The United Nations is similar in structure to a regional organization concerning its peacekeeping missions (similar to the African Union-United Nations Mission in Sudan) and concerning the literature on the United Nations, there is enough literature to allow analysis of certain theories and application of the factors that would influence a member in a regional organization to donate troops to a peacekeeping operation. For a member nation of a regional organization, the benefit of contributing to a peacekeeping operation falls under a national (a direct interest or consequence to the nation) or a regional (an indirect benefit to the nation or a consequence to the surrounding nations) interest.

    The African Union (AU or Union) is a new organization on the world stage. Many articles address the history of the organization and its potential to pacify the African continent so that the nations comprising the Union can achieve their regional and global aspirations. When it comes to why AU members are inclined to participate in peacekeeping missions or not, the literature is not as adequate and, being such an active regional organization the past years, this could help in understanding why these nations decide to participate in peacekeeping operations. Kingah (2006) discusses the many ways the AU’s Constitutive Act provides members the necessary means to promote responsible government within the membership. The Organization of African Unity (OAU, the precursor to the AU) had many documents that preceded the Constitutive Act of the AU that provided a basis for the AU to exercise a robust intervention norm. The African Union has more than the Constitutive Act from which members can draw legality when send peacekeeping troops: The African Charter on the Rights of the Welfare of the Child, the African Protocol, and the overall agreement among members of the Union that regime takeovers are outside the scope of the constitution of the member nations is not prohibited. Kingah (2006), in describing where the AU originated and what legal documents give it the power to intervene in the affairs of a nation, provides the scope of capability that member states of the AU have when it comes to exercising their foreign policy in the form of a peacekeeping intervention in a target nation that could be breaking the various agreements that they are held accountable to as members. Thus, members of the African Union have a variety of legal reasons at their disposal and can use the Union as a means to project their influence around their borders, in their regional area, or even across the continent itself. Kingah’s elaboration on how the OAU became the AU and the expanded powers of the Constitutive Act bring to light the importance of assessing the military capability of a donor state, for even if the legal means of participating are available, it does not necessarily mean that a nation has the resources to deploy an intervention force.

    Rechner (March 2006) does not dwell on how the expanded legal means of the AU (when compared to the Organization of African States) helps it intervene more readily (in Burundi, for example) and also allows it a degree of flexibility when taking on complicated peacekeeping missions whose state contributions are criticized by the host government (such as the case of Sudan with Southern Sudan and the Darfur region). The factors that could influence a nation when it comes to contributions to a peacekeeping mission in the African Union are relegated to a reaffirmation of Kingah’s (2006) views on the capability of the AU to exercise its increased ability to intervene when the evidence clearly leads to a humanitarian crisis or a regime takeover. Rechner believes that the AU can be a force that participates in peacekeeping, thus the Constitutive act of the African Union helps identify the operational limits that the members within the organization have concerning peacekeeping options. The Constitutive Act then shows how such an organization could influence its members to follow international law, forcing its members to act more “inline” with the norms that are set by the European Union and the United States. When a nation wishes to contribute troops to the African Union, are these factors even considered? Rechner (March 2004) states that “Only in the execution can the AU become a truly effective organization.” (p. 576). This is another piece of literature that focuses specifically on the African Union but not on the reasons why the members of the Union contribute to peacekeeping operations.

    Feldman (2008) comes to the conclusion that the African Union cannot complete its mission of effectively intervening in African conflicts due to a shortage of troops, the high count of humanitarian missions, lack of funds, and the lack of motivation of the troops available. With these shortcomings, Feldman also points out that the African Union can intervene in missions that most peacekeepers cannot participate in due to the hostility of the environment or the possibility of a high attrition rate. Thus, unlike the United Nations peacekeeping forces, one can expect to see the African Union in places where the United Nations has a history of failing or that other nations (regionally, perhaps) regard as important but too dangerous to be involved in. Feldman then lists ten starting points where the African Union can improve upon funding, operational capability, missions, training, intelligence capabilities, and command capabilities. Feldman’s piece shows that African Union troops are not going to peacekeeping as an easier assignment than their domestic duties, as peacekeeping is a dangerous mission that may involve combat, inadequate training, and a command that is ill-informed of the situation in which they  are placed. Therefore, the factors that would be considered when it comes to peacekeeping in African nations by members of the AU must be weighed heavily, even when  a contribution is needed due to a regional or national interest of the donor nation. Feldman’s piece, as relevant as it is, fails to bring up the extent to which  nations in a regional organization such as the African Union participate in peacekeeping operations when facing a threat to their security that involves their armed forces.

    Nations, when donating troops for a peacekeeping operation, consider their interests (regional or national, indirect or direct), including how their foreign policy will be affected by the troop contribution. Due to the dearth of literature on which factors determine why nations contribute troops to a regional peacekeeping operation, a way to determine which factors are relevant or not is to understand why nations intervene, other regional organizations and how they operate, and certain theories of the effects  a zone of conflict has on surrounding nations. In doing so, one can gather that the higher the stake an intervening nation has in peace building and peacekeeping, the higher the probability the donor nation will contribute troops to a peacekeeping mission sponsored by the regional organization of which the donor nation is a member.

    Determinants of Peacekeeping among Members of a Regional Organization

    Regional organizations are increasingly used in place of United Nations peacekeepers in attempts to solve regional conflicts. As  post-Cold War ideological divides have disappeared, the interests of the state on the world stage and how the state furthers those interests became more prominent, overshadowing democracy or communism. This depolarization of the world since the collapse of the Soviet Union means that peacekeeping interventions can truly take on a more “multilateral” approach (Regan 1998). After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the United States as the sole economic, military, and cultural power, states around the world have found outlets (such as the United Nations) or regional organizations to exert their influence over their region or continent in a way to either contend with the United States or with other nations in conflicts that directly or indirectly affect them.

    Regional organizations bring many advantages to the table. As Diehl (1993) points out, a regional organization possesses more cohesive histories, ethnicities, polities, and  foreign policies that are common throughout the region. The African Union (which includes every nation in Africa except Morocco) is an example of a regional organization that has placed “unconstitutional takeovers” and adherence to governments that do not violate human rights as one of its founding pillars. Countries in the African Union have the political and legal means at their disposal to exercise their foreign policy, as far as the logistical supply chain of their armed forces allows them to go. Morgenthau (1967) states a reason why regional organizations may prefer to exercise their power to send peacekeepers to a target country – the resentment of outside powers intervening, especially if one of those outside powers is involved in a UN mission in the target country.

    Countries have either regional interests or national interests. These interests affect the nation directly (national) or better their reputation in a region (regional). If a nation has regional or national interests in a zone of conflict, then there is an intervention, or peacekeeping operation. Regional interests and national interests of a country that participates in a peacekeeping operation could be measured by the potential consequences of not participating. Thus, a country’s interests could be both regional and national if it has a history of contributing troops to different countries at different points in its intervention history. When South Africa sends peacekeeping troops to Sudan, it does so not because of  religious affiliations with  the southern Sudan region, but out of a national norm: South Africa wishes to become a continental power by establishing peace throughout the continent through its experience in peacekeeping operations.

    Regional and national interests are not confined just to exceptional powerhouses such as South Africa. Economically disadvantaged nations, such as Ethiopia and Rwanda have different priorities—border security, a way to control refugee spillover effects, employment of armed forces—than more powerful countries. The measures in this paper were chosen to reflect the most powerful motivators that a donor nation could have, whether that nation is economically and militarily advanced or not.

    National Interests

    Countries, such as those involved with a regional peacekeeping organization, weigh their options on whether or not to send peacekeepers by looking at the degree to which an outside organization could get involved in their sphere of influence. They also weigh whether factors associated with the conflict (refugees, insurgent group raids, conflicts migrating across national borders, etc.) affect the nation and if regional organization peacekeeping missions fill the national or regional needs of the donor nation. If the effects of a zone of conflict affect the potential donor nation, then peacekeeping operations are more than likely to occur. War, including limited conflicts, can disrupt the economy, disperse populations, and destroy critical infrastructure. Mass movement of refugees due to acts of violence can create a spillover effect that spreads the conflict across borders of the originating nation. Nations that border the zone of conflict are directly affected by refugees (including competition for jobs, habitable spaces, and resources) and may also experience the effects of cross-border tactics against their opposing force. No matter the size of the conflict zone, if a nation is directly affected by spillover effects, it is more than likely to lead the way when it comes to an intervention, like Australia providing the bulk of funding and troops for a coalition of the willing peacekeeping operation in the Solomon Islands. Ponzio (2005) comes to the conclusion that regional coalitions of the willing led by regional powers and given official approval by international governmental organizations, such as the UN, can be effective in rehabilitating zones of conflict into healthier states (governmentally and economically). Therefore, if a nation has national interests in a zone of conflict, it will intervene by contributing troops to a regional peacekeeping operation.

    Of the national interests that would determine whether a nation would contribute troops to a regional peacekeeping organization, the distance of the conflict zone to the contributing nation’s borders is a major factor due to the movement of refugees that inter/intra state conflicts generate. Dowty and Loescher (1996) claim that refugee movements “internationalize” a conflict, which is justification enough for the broad intervention mandate that the constitution of the African Union operates under. Presence of shared borders is considered when a donor nation weighs the policy implications of participating in a peacekeeping operation.

    From the Solomon Islands to Somalia, the majority of recent operations include nations that border the zone of conflict. International organizations are teaming up with regional organizations in areas like Congo and Sudan to stem the effects of refugees and to broker peace between warring parties. The African Union, for example, has the Constitutive Act, which gives nations the legal means to easily intervene, especially those that are directly affected by the zone of conflict on their borders. The important segment is principle “h” under Article 4 which justifies the right of states to intervene “concerning grave crimes against humanity” (Rechner, 2006, 561).

    Shared borders are a powerful motivator when it comes to contributing troops to a peacekeeping operation. Documents similar to the Constitutive Act of the African Union give member nations the means to tie the effects of violence to something more than a neighboring nation that is in turmoil. Thus, shared borders can be one of the factors that affect national interests. If the conflict is in a neighboring state, the donor nation may be affected by the spillover effects, especially if the neighbor cannot absorb most refugees (due to size of the nation), and the economy of the donor nation’s neighbor cannot adjust to the influx of population. A nation that neighbors with another nation that borders the conflict zone will likely contribute (if possible) to a regional organization’s peacekeeping operation. Therefore, shared borders, as it is defined in this paper, can be one of the national interests (Dowty & Loescher, 1996). Refugees and the potential spillover effect can also be a legitimate national interest and a premise to intervene through peacekeeping. Transnational kindred, the bond that similar ethnic groups feel for one another, is another avenue (in relation to refugees) that a nation can use to exercise its national interests via humanitarian peacekeeping.

    Ethnic conflicts are violent affairs (Rwanda, tribal warfare in Darfur, etc.) and if a regional power is affiliated with the parties of the conflict zone, it may have a greater impetus to donate to a peacekeeping mission. As Krain (2005) points out, the best way to stop a politicide is to challenge the executors of the destructive acts directly, so transnational kindred would make a nation act in the way that it wanted to guarantee an outcome favorable to the ethnic group it supports. Donor nations to a peacekeeping mission in an ethnic conflict are more likely to be associated with the group being victimized, and it would be hard to sell a peacekeeping operation if the donor nation was separating the different parties and policing the ethnic group that was initially attacked. If a nation has refugees fleeing from the conflict zone that directly affects it, then it will contribute to peacekeeping operations in that state.

    National interests, since they would directly affect a nation’s economy or security, can guarantee a nation’s involvement in a peacekeeping operation. Thus, a nation will act when it  perceives that its security is cheaper than doing nothing (Krain, 2005). National interests contribute to an increased chance of intervention due to the direct effect that these interests have on certain ways the nation is perceived on the global and/or regional stage and if the leaders of the donor nation feel threatened by the spillover effects of the zone of conflict. If a nation shares diplomatic ties (such as an alliance) with a state experiencing conflict then it will contribute to peacekeeping operations in that state.

    Regional Interests

    For regional powers, a stake in the peacekeeping operation is higher than it would be for powers outside of the spillover effects of conflict, for not only are they directly affected due to their proximity but also due to their stake in the conflict: a regional power has to do something to contain the spillover, lest they suffer a hit to their reputation. The effects of another country’s internal conflict can be wide-ranging depending on the dispersal rate of refugees and the amount of damage inflicted upon the infrastructure and commercial point of sale areas. Dowty (1996) expresses concern that refugees are more than just an issue that can be solved by individual nations: international intervention is needed to address the problems that stem from it. “Spillover effects” is a vague term that applies to very specific causal effects: refugees need water, food, and shelter (traditional relief efforts) and their movement across borders has  a negative effect on the availability of jobs, as they compete with the local population for scarce goods and require more assistance (like relocation and economic help) than traditional refugee camps can give. Of course, with spillover comes the potential for human rights violations that only get worse as the conflict goes on. Doyle and Sambanis (1996) point out that refugee “spillover” (the mass movement of refugees and the migration of conflict from their home nation) has an impact that has many historical examples. The key to interventions is not to react to the movement of refugees, when camps have already formed across borders and the immediate responses will only add to the cost, but to fix the problem at the source. This way, nations involved in regional peacekeeping organizations save valuable resources (money, troops, equipment) by reacting to an internal conflict early so that refugee spillover effects are minimized.

    In this paper, due to the effects of a sustained conflict, the regional interests of a country’s foreign policy are best indicated by the conflict’s duration. If a nation has regional interests in a conflict, this is indicated by the conflict’s persistence. The longer the duration of a conflict, the more likely a nation will donate troops to a peacekeeping operation in order for that conflict to reach a peaceful conclusion. Also, genocides occurring on the border or around the world must be considered as a regional factor for contributing troops to a regional peacekeeping operation. If the nation has the ability to intervene and does not, it could suffer a loss to its regional and global reputation. Transnational kindred could increase the chances for an intervention due to the occurrence of a genocide. Genocide is categorized as a regional interest due to the magnitude of the intervention needed for certain states that wish to intervene in zones of conflict that are experiencing genocide. Therefore, if a state is experiencing genocide, it will be a target state that will receive peacekeeping troops.

    Capabilities and Other Threats

    There are two other factors that may influence whether a nation contributes to peacekeeping operations. First is the number of military personnel available for that year sufficient for the nation to support or send a peacekeeping operation within a regional organization. Second is the number of threats currently occupying their armed forces. If a nation faces a shortage of personnel and multiple threats to its security, than donating troops to a regional organization’s peacekeeping operation will be a tough task, even if the factors mentioned above are met. The number of military personnel available and whether a nation is already engaged with threats to its security help determine the effect of contributing troops to a specific operation for that year and can help determine the contributions concerning the nation’s foreign policy in each year of the study. If a nation has many options available, then an intervention is probable, especially if that nation is not engaged in another war. If a nation has the manpower to donate troops to a regional organization’s peacekeeping operation, then it will intervene.

    To tie it all together, there are nations that could share the border with a zone of conflict, are directly affected by the zone of conflict (due to spillover effects), or are a regional power but do not participate in an intervention. One such example would be Iran during Operation Iraqi Freedom. It has a national and regional interest in making sure that a stable and secure Iraq exists at its borders. Refugees had been crossing into Iran since the fall of Saddam’s regime and Iran is not part of the coalition of the willing that is currently participating in anti-insurgent operations with coalition forces. Participating in an intervention is a costly measure that involves not only the resources to project force but the economy and logistics to support the units that an intervening nation would field. Lack of resources is one factor that could trump national and/or regional interest. Also, a nation could just have a different focus at that moment, on another type of threat that it deems more serious. Take Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) again as an example; Turkey did not participate due to its fixation on Kurdish separatist elements in the southeastern part of the country. Turkey has a national and regional stake in the integrity of Iraq but, due to its focus on a different set of threats, Turkey is not a participant in the OIF mission. Nations that behave like the examples given will not be considered part of the dataset due to their lack of resources, a focus on a different set of threats that they deem more pertinent, or an absence of the policies necessary to send an intervening force.


    Since there is a lack of information on why the African nations contribute troops to African Union peacekeeping missions, the past literature on the United Nations can be used as a substitute. Specifically, we can consider where and why the United Nations places its peacekeepers, and apply that information to why and where AU peacekeepers deploy. Gilligan and Stedman (2003) and Regan (1998) break down the reasoning behind those interests, which can be listed and  broken down as regional or national security interests. These national and regional interests can be thought of whether a nation cares about what directly affects it (national) and what it perceives as an event that can help boost its reputation within a certain region around the world. National interests can include any location to which the donor nation has the capability to project its armed force abroad, while the factors listed in regional  interests are mostly confined to just outside the borders of a donor nation depending on the robustness of its military.

    General Theory

    (C —> R v N) A country has regional, national interests or both.

    Intervention Hypothesis

    (R v N —> Int) If a country has regional or national interests in the target nation, a peacekeeping intervention will occur.

    (H1) National Hypothesis: If a nation has national interests then it will intervene.

    (See National breakdown)

    (H2) Regional Hypothesis: If a nation has regional interests then it will intervene.

    (See Regional breakdown)

    (H3) Capability Hypothesis: If a nation has the capability to intervene then it will intervene.

    (Cb —> Int)

    (H4) Number of Threats to the Donor Nation Hypothesis: Depending on the number of threats a nation is currently dealing with, if it is not dealing with too many threats at the same time, then it will contribute troops to a peacekeeping operation. (Th —> Int)

    National Hypothesis Breakdown

    If a nation shares its border with a zone of conflict, then it will contribute to peacekeeping operations in the state where the conflict occurs. (Sb —> N)

    If a nation has refugees fleeing from the conflict zone that directly affects it, then it will contribute to peacekeeping operations in that state. (Rf —> N)

    If a nation shares diplomatic ties (such as an alliance) with a state experiencing conflict, then it will contribute to peacekeeping operations in that state. (Ai —> N)

    Regional Hypothesis Breakdown

    If a nation has a foreign policy interest in a state experiencing conflict of  long duration, then it will contribute to peacekeeping operations in that state. (Ld —> R)

    If a nation has the ability to intervene in a zone of conflict experiencing genocide, then it will contribute to peacekeeping operations in that target state. (Gn —> R)

    Research Design

    In order to determine why nations contribute to peacekeeping missions, nations were first classified if they had membership within a regional organization by using the Pevehouse, Nordstrom, and Warnke (2004) definition in “The COW-2 International Organizations Dataset Version 2.0.” The data being considered for analysis is of all recorded peacekeeping operations from 1955 to 2005 (Mullenbach, 2005) which was then merged with a National Materials Capability Data (Singer, 1987) from the Correlates of War dataset. The operations being considered for the dependent variable are the ones that are sponsored by any regional security organization except the United Nations. One of the most important factors regarding the NMC dataset is a specific capability measurement titled the Composite Index of National Capability (CINC score) which contains the information of six different datasets (consumption of energy, iron and steel production, military spending, population of the armed forces, total population, and urban population). The CINC score is the prime measurement behind the third hypothesis of this study (Capability of Donor State’s Military). The merging of the peacekeeping contributors dataset with the NMC (w/CINC score) data will allow for a more precise definition of the four different hypotheses that exist when a country is considering whether to contribute to peacekeeping interventions or not. These two datasets were merged using the STATA software by country-year. The countries that were selected for logistical regression analysis were the ones that have participated in regional peacekeeping operations since 1955.

    These two datasets thus formed the “base” data in which several different datasets were merged using the STATA software. Other datasets that were merged with the base data include the Dyadic Militarized Interstate Disputes Dataset Version 2.0 (Maoz, 2005); Political Instability Task Force (Bates, Epstein, Goldstone, Gurr, Harff, Kahl, Knight, Levy, Lustik, Marshall, Parris, Ulfelder, and Woodward, 2003);  the UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflict Dataset (Gleditsch et al, 2002); and the Correlates of War Formal Alliance data (Gibler and Sarkees, 2004). Interstate war data was gathered from the University of California, Davis (Maoz, 2005) and is coded as a yes/no. Also, the data concerning the distance from a donor state to a target state was incorporated into the base data using the Expected Utility Generation (Bennett and Stam, 2000). Each dataset was selected to test each hypothesis. For extremely large independent variables the natural log was used so that analysis could be better interpreted.

    The dependent variable being researched is which countries participate in peacekeeping missions. This data is provided by Mullenbach and Dixon which ranges from the years 1946-2006.The dependent variable is coded as a “1” if a member is contributing peacekeepers and is coded “0” if not.

    The independent variable that this study will attempt to explain is how regional and national interests affect the decision to intervene in a target state by sending peacekeeping troops. The nine different independent variables that comprise the four different hypotheses  are broken down into national and regional interests, the capability of the donor state’s military, and number of threats. These four different hypotheses  have dictated which datasets are merged into the base data and the logistic regression analysis on each. The nine different independent variables are part of four different hypotheses: national interests, regional interests, capability of the donor state’s military, and the number of threats facing the donor state. Distance from the border and neighbor are two controls that form the shared border hypothesis (as part of the national interests hypothesis). Part of the refugee hypothesis is the target state’s number of refugees and the occurrence of a civil war in the target state (two controls of the refugee hypothesis that form a part of the national hypothesis). A final variable of the national hypothesis is the presence of an alliance between the target and donor nation (included in the national hypothesis due to the direct effect an alliance has on the foreign policy of a nation). As part of the regional hypothesis, the variables included were the duration of violence within the zone of conflict (a control for the regional hypothesis’ genocide variable) and the occurrence of genocide within the target state. The third hypothesis was capability of the donor state’s military (by the use of the CINC score), and the fourth hypothesis was measured by a war variable that assessed whether a state was engaged in another war or not. Each independent variable was then tested via a logit analysis as a whole against the dependent variable using the STATA software.

    The hypothesis is considered confirmed with a P>|z| that is less than .05. A hypothesis that is negated is still considered “confirmed” due to the scholarly implications that can be analyzed for future research. The relevance of each independent variable is tested against whether a state contributed peacekeepers (coded 1) or did not contribute peacekeepers (coded 0). Logit tests were selected as the primary means for analysis due to the dependent variable being of a yes/no nature (does this specific nation contribute to a regional security organization peacekeeping operation?).


    This study was conducted under the general theory that a country has regional interests, national interests, or both in foreign affairs. If a nation has either regional or national interests in a target nation, then a peacekeeping operation will occur. There are also two more main hypotheses which cover the capabilities of the donor nation’s armed forces and if the donor nation will contribute troops to a peacekeeping organization if its military is already engaged. For regional and national interests, these two hypotheses are then broken down into seven distinct hypotheses of which three are national and two are regional. The three national hypotheses (that directly affect the nation) are the distance of the zone of conflict from the donor nation’s border, if refugees are fleeing out of the target state, and whether the target state shares an alliance with the donor nation. Regional interests are divided into two distinct categories and represent what this study considers two of the most compelling factors for intervention: genocide and the duration of a conflict.

    The results suggest that nations sharing a border with a zone of conflict are less likely to send peacekeepers to a regional operation. The greater the distance from the conflict, the less likely peacekeepers will be sent. The negative coefficient observed for the neighbor hypothesis goes along with what Regan (1998) posited, that the more borders countries share, the less likely intervention by outside powers. The effect of the refugee variable was consistent (regarding the original hypothesis) and had a strong significance: as the number of refugees increases, the greater the likelihood members of a regional organization will send peacekeepers. The civil conflict variable (civil wars in the target states) on the other hand was not as significant as expected; having a civil war does not translate to an increased possibility that member nations will send troops to the zone of conflict. My results do not support the regional bias idea of Gilligan and Stedman (2003) that national interests would be pushed aside and member states would join a peacekeeping operation. The duration of the conflict also had a significant, negative coefficient that contradicted the original hypothesis and implies that the longer the conflict, the less likely the possibility of an intervention. Krain (2005) informs about  the effects of two factors: the presence of refugees and genocidal actions. The findings concerning refugees and genocide, that the former has a very strong significance and the latter has a slight significance, seem to confirm what Krain (along with the positive coefficients for both) said about “external actors” intervening when “parties seem to be ineffective” (p. 383).


    By understanding why nations contribute to regional peacekeeping operations, policy makers of regional security organizations can tailor specific requests to donor nations which could lead to an increased participation in peacekeeping operations. These regionally specific peacekeeping operations can lead to many positive trickle-down effects such as more robust economic activity and a better living environment for the inhabitants of the target area. This study breaks down into national and regional hypotheses the base reasons for participating in a national and regional organizations.  These two reasons allow the reader to realize that when a nation participates in a regional organization, not only does it gain a more positive reputation within its geographic area but it can use its troop contributions to further its own agenda by offering more incentives than threats of force. Each leader in a regional security organization, when knowing what prompts each of its member nations to contribute, can tailor its individual troop requests to not only ensure that adequate troop numbers are kept at an optimal strength but that each donor nation feels that it has a stake in the success of the operation, not only by the donor nation’s own view of the issues that come from a zone of conflict but from the official request of the regional security organization. By understanding the factors behind participation, a regional security organization can make a more effective request for troops, which could allow member donor nations to feel a part of something that it can use to further its own regional and/or continental aspirations. With this in mind, the study was broken down into a regional and national hypothesis with the nation’s armed forces capability and number of existing threats added due to the gaps of literature they filled and the ease of variable measurement.

    By understanding that there is a negative trend in the shared borders hypothesis combined with the negative trend found for participation if a zone of conflict is closer to a donor nation, policy makers within a regional security organization are presented with the difficulty of possibly selecting donor nations that do not border each other or are engaged in a short duration conflict. Since the significance concerning the shared border data was very strong, it can be used with confidence by policy makers. Also, the negative trend associated with a decrease in participation concerning the length of a conflict (the longer a conflict, the less nations are willing to participate in peacekeeping operations in the target state) and decreasing trend noticed for the number of states that participate in peacekeeping operations if the donor state is already engaged in threats implies that donor nations take into consideration if their armed forces are already engaged in threats if the zone of conflict has a foreseeable conclusion. Due to the negative trend and strong significance associated with the duration of conflict and the number of threats hypotheses, a debate can be pursued on which factors are important in donor nations participating in regional security organizations. These hypotheses regarding a zone of conflict on a nation’s borders, the length of conflict near the border of the potential donor state, and the number of threats that a donor nation is already facing not only do not matter, but allow policy makers to reevaluate why donor nations contribute to peacekeeping operations sponsored by regional organizations. The only significant positive trend noticed in the study (which confirmed the hypothesis associated with it) was that if there was a flow of refugees across borders into the donor nation’s territory, there will be an intervention in the zone of conflict. This confirmation of the refugee hypothesis is useful in that, in the future, perhaps data associated with refugee flows can be used to not only predict which nations contribute to peacekeeping operations but how many. This estimation of the number of donor nations can be easily combined with data concerning the sizes of their respective militaries and an average number of troops can be calculated that the potential donor nations have to deploy.

    In the future, certain missions involving the Commonwealth of Independent States needs to be incorporated into the dataset (especially concerning the Chechen and Georgian interventions) so that a fuller picture can be obtained and incorporated into the results which could lead to a more accurate analysis by incorporating more observations. Overall, the study revealed (through simple logistical regression analysis) that several factors (neighbor of the zone of conflict, distance from the zone of conflict, duration of the conflict, and the number of threats faced by the donor state) that would appear to affect the donor nation concerning whether troops are contributed, do not. As stated earlier, future research needs to consider the shared neighbor results and review each observation on a case-by-case basis instead of a general dataset when compared to all the observations (1955 to 2005).  Analyzing each donor nation on a case-by-case basis whether or not the target country shared a border with the target nation will allow testing of the  strong, negative trend associated with the shared borders hypothesis. In addressing these shortcomings, a more reliable conclusion can be reached and consideration can be given as to whether alliances are as insignificant as the data suggests. It will be interesting to see if the shared borders/neighbor results hold up on a case-by-case basis, in light of the earlier results.

    Regional security organizations, due to the inevitable overtaxing of UN peacekeeping resources, will have to pick up the slack when the UN cannot participate. By understanding which nations are willing to participate in certain regional peacekeeping operations, proper expectations can be put forth in order for the peace building process to begin. By having a grasp on which nations are willing to participate, a regional organization can have an idea on how many zones of conflict sustained troop numbers can participate in and can communicate this information to international organizations and aid organizations so a response can be properly coordinated. By knowing which factors historically matter and which ones do not, an effective foreign policy can be used to engage nations in a zone of conflict in order for it to reach a successful conclusion. Instead of throwing aid at a problem, nations can feel like they have a sense of purpose, troops can be better managed to specific zones, and leaders can feel that their influence is not compromised while the regional organization establishes its own sphere of influence over an area and can build peace, instead of trying to assuage the effects of war.


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    Table 1: Coefficient Estimates: Factors Determining Troop Contributions to Peacekeeping Missions Sponsored by Regional Security Organizations (n=1429)

    Factors Coefficient P>|z|
    (H1) Shared Borders Distance from the border
    (H1 Control)
    (H1 Control)
    (H1) Refugees Of Target State Civil Conflict
    (H1 Control)
    (H1 Control)
    (H1) Alliances
    (H2) Genocide
    Duration of Conflict
    (H2 Control)
    (H3) Capability of Donor
    State’s Military
    (H4) Number of Donor
    State’s Threats
    *p<.10   **p<.05   ***p<.01   ****p<.001