Few things are more important to a peacekeeping mission than its ability to maintain a strong understanding of its operating environment and the threats that civilians face. Having a clear and comprehensive picture of threats enables peacekeeping missions to achieve their mandated goals, including the protection of civilians. It is therefore imperative that mission leaders use threat analysis in their strategic and operational planning systems and for personnel to take decisive and proactive action based on early warning information.
When the cycle of information collection, storage, analysis, planning, and decision-making functions well, peacekeepers can identify protection concerns, reposition assets to high-threat areas, and prevent or respond to violence against civilians. When the cycle fails, missions are caught off guard by attacks and fail to protect civilians. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), peacekeepers have sometimes failed to respond to attacks in close proximity to their bases despite alerts of imminent or ongoing attacks. In South Sudan, although there was strong internal analysis on likely and worst-case scenarios for violence in 2016, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) did not adequately prepare and was overwhelmed when violence erupted around the nation’s capital in July of that year. Such failures can lead to civilian deaths and injuries. For those who are physically unharmed many live with ongoing trauma from witnessing violent events. Inaction by peacekeepers breeds resentment and distrust among survivors, who often accuse peacekeepers of bias or indifference to their suffering.