Networks of Cooperation and Contestation in Conflict
Even though the majority of peace operations are multidimensional (including both military and civilian components), existing analyses of these missions largely ignores the civilian aspects of peace operations and the breadth of actors that work with and alongside UN peace operations. The omission of civilian actors is substantiated by the theory that underpins much of the peacekeeping literature: that the presence of peacekeepers increases the costs of war and reduces the costs of cooperation, enabling domestic and international actors to work concertedly toward peace (Fortna 2008; Fortna and Howard 2008). The focus of the scholarship on the number of peacekeepers overlooks the UN peace operations that occur most frequently – Special Political Missions – and the broader networks of United Nations, International Non-Governmental (INGO), National Non-Governmental Organizations (NNGOs), and states that operate with and alongside peace operations. By concentrating primarily or wholly on one type of peace actor, existing scholarship fails to capture the ways in which these different actors support or contest one another, particularly in a time of increasing geopolitical competition. Using an original dataset of these diverse networks across 22 countries (2005-2021), this paper develops and tests a theory of network-based cooperation and contestation among international and domestic actors in conflict-affected countries. The findings not only shed light on who actually builds peace, they also challenge the literature’s assumption that cooperation among peace actors fosters peace.