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Ethical Exit: When Should Peacekeepers Depart?

Aloyo, E. & Swenson, G. (2022). Ethical Exit: When Should Peacekeepers Depart?. European Journal of International Security, 8(3), pp. 299-318. doi: 10.1017/eis.2022.31


When is it morally permissible or required for peacekeepers partially or fully withdraw from a country or region in which they are operating? This important question has received little scholarly attention. However, it has profound implications. If peacekeepers withdraw prematurely, as happened in Rwanda in 1994, the consequences can be disastrous with the potential to lead to widespread preventable deaths and human suffering. If they overstay, peacekeepers risk alienating the population they are seeking to protect and undercutting popular sovereignty at significant economic costs. Striking a balance, we propose a framework for just withdrawal that is both normatively compelling and empirically sound. It focuses on three aspects that are vital for understanding when peacekeepers can depart in an ethically justified manner: just cause, effectiveness, and legitimacy. We illustrate our argument with theoretical and empirical examples and a discussion of UN peacekeeping in East Timor. Finally, by considering a number of objections, we address critics who challenge the overarching premise of peacekeeping or might prefer different standards by which to suggest peacekeepers should stay or depart.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: peacekeeping; just war theory; United Nations; legitimacy
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > International Politics
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