Peacekeepers monitor and observe peace processes in post-conflict areas and assist ex-combatants in implementing the peace agreements they may have signed. Such assistance comes in many forms, including confidence-building measures, power-sharing arrangements, electoral support, strengthening the rule of law, and economic and social development. Accordingly, UN peacekeepers (often referred to as Blue Berets or Blue Helmets because of their light blue berets or helmets) can include soldiers, police officers, and civilian personnel.
The United Nations Charter gives the United Nations Security Council the power and responsibility to take collective action to maintain international peace and security. For this reason, the international community usually looks to the Security Council to authorize peacekeeping operations through Chapter VII authorizations.
Most of these operations are established and implemented by the United Nations itself, with troops serving under UN operational control. In these cases, peacekeepers remain members of their respective armed forces, and do not constitute an independent "UN army," as the UN does not have such a force. In cases where direct UN involvement is not considered appropriate or feasible, the Council authorizes regional organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Economic Community of West African States, or coalitions of willing countries to undertake peacekeeping or peace-enforcement tasks.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix is the Head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. He took over from the former Under-Secretary-General Mr. Hérve Ladsous on 1 April 2017. DPKO's highest level doctrine document, entitled "United Nations Peacekeeping Operations: Principles and Guidelines" was issued in 2008.
In 2007, a peacekeeper volunteer was required to be over the age of 25 with no maximum age limit. Peacekeeping forces are contributed by member states on a voluntary basis. As of 31 December 2013, the total size of the peacekeeping force is 98,200 police, troops, and military experts. European nations contribute nearly 6,000 units to this total. Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh are among the largest individual contributors with around 8,000 units each. African nations contributed nearly half the total, almost 44,000 units.