Peace operations are among the most important international mechanisms for contemporary conflict management. However, their effectiveness remains the subject of debate in both the policy and academic communities. In order to contribute to external, independent research about the effectiveness of specific peace operations, the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) together with 16 core partners from across the globe established an international research network in 2018 to undertake research into the effectiveness of peace operations (EPON). EPON has been developed in close coordination and consultation with the UN Department of Peace Operations and the African Union Peace Support Operations Division. The overall aim of EPON is to enhance the effectiveness of international peace operations, by enabling and supporting collaborative research. The network has increased its additional member base to over 60 partners who participate in the network and the different research studies on a self-financed basis. The overall network is coordinated by the EPON Secretariat, hosted by NUPI. The primary objective of the EPON research network is to enable the governance, planning, evaluation, data management, and dissemination of the Effectiveness of Peace Operations Research Network. While the research studies undertaken by EPON has been completed on a self-financing basis, research network funding from the Norwegian Research Council under NORGLOBAL2 has made it possible for NUPI to plan and coordinate the different research studies, present, and disseminate the findings in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America, and to manage and coordinate the whole network.
Thus far, the EPON Secretariat has published seven studies into the effectiveness of specific peace operations, namely the AU's mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and the UN peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), in South Sudan (UNMISS), in Mali (MINUSMA) and in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), the UN hybrid mission in Darfur (UNAMID) and an updated mandate renewal study on MINUSMA. In October 2021, a study on the UN mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP) will be published. The network is currently undertaking studies into the EU and OSCE missions in Ukraine, the UN mission in Colombia, and mandate renewal studies on MONUSCO and UNMISS. EPON is also undertaking two thematic studies, one looking at women, peace and security and another on protection, across three peace operations. The researchers have been forced to adapt to the Covid-19 situation, and they are collecting empirical material through remote interviews and other methods.
The completed studies have been published on the EPON website (https://effectivepeaceops.net/) and serve as a growing publicly available data-set of knowledge on the effectiveness of specific peace operations. The studies have been presented and discussed at seminars or conferences in Geneva, Stockholm, Oslo, Beijing, New Delhi, Tokyo, New York (United Nations), Washington D.C. and Addis Ababa (African Union), including at the Challenges Forum, the Geneva Peace Week, the Stockholm Peace Forum, the Academic Council of the United Nations (ACUNS), the International Leadership Association (ILA) and the International Studies Association (ISA) and in cooperation with the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies . The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also received several briefings on the EPON studies and have organized a meeting of Security Council experts to discuss the MINUSMA Mandate Renewal study in May 2021.
In conclusion, the EPON research network project enables the network to stimulate dialogue between research, policy, and practitioner stakeholder communities from the Global North and South, and the Secretariat assists with publishing, sharing, and promotion of the research undertaken by the network. The promotion of the network is mainly done via the EPON website, but also through NUPI´s website, newsletters and social media like Twitter. Despite Covid-19, the Network has functioned effectively over the past year and is making good progress towards achieving its overall aim of enhancing the effectiveness of international peace operations
In order to contribute to making peace operations more effective, NUPI together with 15 partners from across the globe have established an international research network in 2017. The network operates on a self-financing basis. A shortcoming of this funding model is that the network lacks funding that will enable the partners to meet to govern the network; plan the research; assess progress; as well as the means to manage the data and disseminate the research findings. Peace operations is a global undertaking, however the research on peace operations is dominated by researchers from the Global North. In order for research into the effectiveness of peace operations to be globally relevant and credible, it needs to also reflect the knowledge, understandings and perspectives of researchers from the Global South. In order to ensure that such a large and diverse number of research institutes have a common understanding of the aim of the research and the shared methodological approach that the network will employ, the members of the network have to meet to discuss the merits of various approaches and arrive at a common understanding and an agreed aim and methodological approach. The network subsequently need to meet regularly, at least annually, to assess progress, and to adapt its approach and refine its methodology. This is why this EPON network project is critically important for the co-ownership and overall effectiveness and efficiency of the research network. The EPON network project will also be important for the dissemination of the research, and for creating opportunities for convening the research, policy and practitioner communities to stimulate dialogue around what effectiveness of peace operations mean, and what can to be done to further enhance the effectiveness of AU, EU and UN peace operations. In this way, the EPON network project will play a catalytical role in the dissemination of the research outputs and in facilitating its implementation.