International Review of the Red Cross

Evolving international environment and evolution of multinational operations

Peace operations by proxy: implications for humanitarian action of UN peacekeeping partnerships with non-UN security forces

Jérémie Labbé and Arthur Boutellis


Mandates of United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions increasingly include stabilisation and peace enforcement components, which imply a proactive use of force often carried out by national, regional or multinational non-UN partners, operating either in support of or with the support of the UN, acting as ‘proxies’. This article analyses the legal, policy and perception/security implications of different types of ‘peace operations by proxy’ and the additional challenges that such operations create for humanitarian action. It suggests some mitigating measures, including opportunities offered by the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, for a more coherent approach to the protection of civilians, but also acknowledges some of the limitations to an independent UN-led humanitarian action.


  • United Nations;
  • peacekeeping;
  • peace enforcement;
  • stabilisation;
  • humanitarian action;
  • humanitarian principles;
  • Human Rights Due Diligence Policy for UN support to non-UN security forces;
  • protection of civilians

Jérémie Labbé is a Research Fellow at the International Peace Institute in New York and previously worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Arthur Boutellis is a non-resident adviser at the International Peace Institute in New York and has worked in several UN peacekeeping missions in various positions.