It is often claimed that contemporary United Nations peace operations perform their functions in increasingly dangerous environments and are therefore more likely to suffer casualties than in previous years. Yet the data on deaths among UN peacekeepers between 1990 and 2015 indicates that fatalities have not become more frequent, neither in absolute terms nor, especially, in relative terms. In fact, the rate of fatalities among uniformed personnel in UN peace operations has steadily decreased in relative terms since the early 1990s. While the number of hostile deaths (i.e. fatalities due to malicious acts) has increased somewhat in recent years, this is mainly due to the high number of fatalities in MINUSMA, which is one of the most deadly UN peacekeeping operations ever. All other ongoing UN peacekeeping operations have suffered relatively few fatalities and hostile deaths, and fewer than many UN operations that were active in the 1990s.
Dr. Jair van der Lijn(Netherlands) is a Senior Researcher at SIPRI’s Armed Conflict and Conflict Management Programme. He leads SIPRI’s research on peace operations, and focuses, in particular, on the geopolitics and future of peace operations.
Timo Smit (Netherlands/Sweden) is a Research Assistant at SIPRI’s Armed Conflict and Conflict Management Programme. He is responsible for maintaining SIPRI’s Multilateral Peace Operations database and conducts research on trends in peace operations.