'Peace babies' - the unintended consequences of United Nations peacekeeping (HN)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: History and Cultures


As of March 2016, a total of 104,773 uniformed personnel from 123 countries were serving in 16 peacekeeping operations around the world. Where foreign soldiers - during war, occupation or peacekeeping operations - are on foreign soil, military-civilian relations develop, including those between soldiers and local women. Peacekeepers have increasingly been associated with sexual exploitation and abuse of the vulnerable populations they had been mandated to protect. Many of the intimate relations between peacekeeping personnel and local women, of both voluntary and exploitative nature, have led to pregnancies and to children being born. These so-called 'peace babies' and their mothers face particular challenges in volatile post-conflict communities, reportedly including childhood adversities as well as stigmatization, discrimination and disproportionate economic and social hardships.
The network connects two strands of inquiry around 'peace babies' - from the academic world and from within the development sector - in a spirit of conversation and collaboration, to examine challenges of humanitarian intervention in a transnational historical context. Building on the firm belief that history's focus on causality and long-term processes of change is indispensable for appreciating the complex dynamics of socio-cultural change, the network contributes a deeper understanding of development and aims to affect practice. It provides an historical complement to the wealth of available analyses - internal and external - of the contemporary humanitarian environment.
Specifically, the network proposes an in-depth-study of the situation of 'peace babies' by exploring the children conceived by personnel from or associated with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). MINUSTAH is among the missions that have been associated with allegations of a range of abuses, not least related to sexual and gender-based violence and consequently the unintended legacy of children fathered by UN personnel. The UN has recently acknowledged that 'peacekeeper babies' exist. Yet, an evidence base relating to the welfare of children fathered by UN peacekeepers (globally or in Haiti) is virtually non-existent, and it is clear that the existing UN policies and support programs are inadequate.
This multidisciplinary collaboration between scholars from Queen's University, the University of Birmingham, the Centre of International and Defence Policy, and Haitian-based Enstiti Travay Sosyal ak Syans Sosyal (ETS), along with civil society organisations, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and Haitian-based Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, will address this knowledge gap and enhance our historically-informed understanding of the challenges faced by peace babies and their families as well as the obstacles to accessing support. Beyond the core UK-Canada-Haiti partnership, the network will include a further four ODA-recipient countries (Cambodia, Bosnia, Liberia and the DRC) and will apply insights from Haiti to PSOs more generally in discourse with academic and non-academic participants from those countries with extensive PSO experience.
The network is structured around three network meetings (two workshops and a network conference, the latter supplemented by an early-career research workshop) which will create a sustainable partnership that focuses on co-creation of knowledge as well as a collaborative mobilisation of this knowledge to inform academic and non-academic stakeholders interested in peacekeepers' children.
The findings of the workshops and the final conference will inform both academic outputs and - going forward - the development of an intersectoral research agenda; furthermore they will frame a special journal edition on 'Peace Babies' and will be at the core of the network's activities beyond the funding period, both as a platform for continued transnational and intersectoral conversation and of collaborative research

Planned Impact

The network's particular strength lies in drawing together previously separate disciplinary work and debating this with key stakeholders interested in the areas of UN peacekeeping and life-courses of those affected by peace support operations (PSOs). A particular concern of this network is the collaboration of academic and third-sector partners in the lessons to be learnt from the comparative historical contextualisation of questions of accountability in post-conflict and post-PSO situations globally. These lessons are of particular significance to hosts of PSO missions globally, all of which except Cyprus are ODA-recipient countries.

Who will benefit?

Immediate beneficiaries are thus BAI and the IJDH as the main partners, MINUSTAH, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office of Internal Oversight Services, as well as human rights, women's rights and child rights organisations whose capacity to understand and deal with the complexities of the issue of 'peace babies' will be enhanced through the specific third-sector and public engagement activities during one of the workshops and the network conference.

How will stakeholders benefit?

The network will influence policy debate and making as well as public discourse. New knowledge created through this network and the insights generated through collaborative multi-disciplinary cross-sectoral dialogue will inform policy makers with the goal of improving existent policies and creating new policies surrounding children fathered by UN peacekeepers. It will also be useful to NGOs, informing their programs and helping to make their services more relevant for affected women and children. Furthermore, findings will be of direct interest to international security organizations such as the UN and the European Union.
Contacts at the UN are informed about this project and we anticipate that there will be opportunities to share results directly with UN leaders. Results will also be useful for developing training materials for national militaries of Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) and for pre-deployment training of peacekeeping personnel. Conversations are ongoing with instructors at the Peace Support Training Centre of the Canadian Armed Forces, who have expressed interest in learning about the best practices involved in gender and peacekeeping, as well as building awareness of abuse by peacekeepers and discussing mechanisms for preventing such abuse. ZEBIS, the Centre of Ethical Education of the German Armed Forces, has expressed interest in the joint development of an online curriculum based on output from this project.


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Lemay-Hebert N (2017) Normal Peace: A New Strategic Narrative of Intervention in Politics and Governance

Description Initial findings only at this stage suggest a diverse range of consequences of children being fathered by peacekeepers. The detailed analysis will take place this year and key findings will be updated next year.
Exploitation Route Findings will be clarified further in detailed data analysis before the outcomes will be taken to other audiences for further research and impact development.
Sectors Education,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy

Description Findings are currently informaing a Channel 4 documentary on peacekeeper-fathered children.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

Description Insight Grant
Amount $316,743 (CAD)
Organisation Government of Canada 
Department SSHRC - Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Sector Public
Country Canada
Start 03/2017 
End 03/2021
Description Exploring the Borderlands: Academic-artistic collaborations 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact 40 academic participatns performance artists, producers and fil-makers met for a two-day impact-focussed exchange, around the planned performance of In the Name of the Father - a codumentary dance theatre about Children born of War.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019