|Bellamy, A.J., Williams, P. and Griffin, S.
Published by: Polity, Cambridge, 2004
ISBN: 10: 0745630588 13: 978-0745630588
Reviewed by: Cedric De Coning, Research Fellow at ACCORD and Advisor to the Training for Peace in Africa Programme
In Conflict Trends Issue 2 of 2005
Bellamy et al start their book with a quote by Alan James: “the fullest perspective on peacekeeping…is one which places it firmly in the context of international politics.” Understanding Peacekeeping provides a comprehensive introduction to the theory and practice of contemporary peacekeeping and attempts to contextualise peacekeeping in both the historical and contemporary international political systems. The authors argue that peacekeeping is “contemporary international society’s most sustained attempt to manage violent conflict” and that understanding the theory and practise of peace- keeping should therefore shed “significant light upon important trends and developments in global politics.” They argue that peacekeeping has always been an ad hoc response to particular problems, and that is why the concept defy simple categorisation based on the tasks peacekeepers fulfil in different historical periods. This is also why they feel an approach that focuses on the role that peacekeeping plays within wider processes of global politics is needed. The authors identify two key questions at the outset which they aim to answer in this book, namely: “what are the chief characteristics of the contemporary political environment in which peacekeepers operate, and how have peacekeepers come to understand their role within it?