Becoming a Peacekeeper

Working as a UN Peacekeeper is a rewarding experience. There are essentially four paths you can take to become a UN Peacekeeper. You can be a UN Peacekeeper as a:

  • UN civilian employee
  • UN police officer
  • UN soldier
  • UN volunteer

All options come with very specific requirements and have their downsides and benefits.

As a Civilian (Internationally)

The UN employs approximately 8500 civilians to support Peacekeeping Operations. Civilian opportunities in the UN are vast and come with unparalleled benefits. Not only do you get to live and experience new countries and their cultures but the UN will usually subsidize your rent, provide you with an allowance to cover the costs of your dependents and pay for your children’s schooling. All of this while you clock in every day to a job that is making a difference in people’s lives and the world as a whole. However, there is a price to “pay” – but many at the UN will call this a benefit! – and that is that you will need to be open to being reassigned to a new mission at what feels like a moment’s notice. And be willing to live in different countries for relatively short periods of time (up to a few years at a time). You may even get reassigned to a more dangerous place where you will need to leave your family behind at a safer location while you travel back and forth. But if you are adventurous, enjoy working in an international, multi-cultural environment and are all about making a difference then it doesn’t get more right for you than this.

As a Civilian (Locally)

UN missions often hire from the local population for mission-specific posts. This can range from cashiers for a UN convenience store to interpreters who can assist Peacekeepers in communicating with the local population. The salaries generally match the local market, however, some of the UN benefits may apply, such as all-inclusive healthcare. If you reside in a country where there is a UN mission you may be able to find openings by reaching out to a local recruitment agency or by searching the UN careers website. Some have even landed themselves jobs at the UN as local staff by attending UN-sponsored events. Eventually, you could be recruited from within for an international position once you prove yourself to be invaluable.

As a Police Officer

If you are a police officer you would be loaned or seconded by your government to the United Nations for a period of six months to four years. You can reach out to your own police service to find out more about the requirements and available opportunities. Alternatively, you can search the United Nations Careers portal for opportunities requiring police officers. International professional experience as a police officer is looked up upon by many police services and has the possibility of increasing your future career opportunities considerably. As a UN police officer, you may be training local police in improving service quality or you may be involved in providing policing services to populations that have not had the protection of the law owing to military conflict. You will be the main contributor to restoring law and order for these peoples.

As a Soldier

A soldier serving in the UN is loaned by his or her government for a limited period of time. Usually for up to one year. Even though you will be wearing the blue beret you will always be first serving your own country. Since the UN does not have its own army it depends solely on member states to contribute its soldiers in order to effectively support its missions. Today there are over 100,000 soldiers wearing the blue beret. A soldier has many skills but one skill that the UN seeks is the unique ability to actually save lives in places where nobody else is able to or willing to. If you are looking to use your hard-earned skills to make a difference in the world by improving and saving the lives of people who need your protection – who need heroes – then UN peacekeeping is for you. You can reach out to your superiors for more information on eligibility and requirements.

As a Women 

The UN is putting an emphasis on recruiting more women for all of the above roles and other senior positions in an attempt to meet its own guidelines regarding a balanced workforce. The UN has found that women can perform the same duties as their male counterparts just as effectively and sees it as imperative that its peacekeeping missions have a balanced representation of both sexes. Currently, women in the UN are still a minority, but a growing one. Women peacekeepers can be an important role model for women in conflict zones by empowering them to stand up for their own rights. Often women in need of assistance will feel more comfortable interacting with a female peacekeeper, especially when victims of sexual crimes or other abuse by male perpetrators. As a woman in the UN, you can change the world to become a better place while inspiring women with limited freedoms and rights to not only hope for a better future but to know that it is achievable.

As a Volunteer

The United Nations seeks two types of volunteers. National UN Volunteers who are individuals who volunteer within their own country of citizenship or residence and International UN volunteers, who volunteer abroad in a country other than their own. Volunteers mostly enter a contract of three to 12 months but can extend their contract for up to four years. The UN also needs volunteers for short term projects up to three months long. You will need to be at least 22 years old (unless you join as a UN Youth Volunteer where the minimum age requirement is 18). Where a lot of volunteers are needed you will find postings in your local newspaper, job sites, and recruitment services. Otherwise, you can visit the UNV website and join the candidate pool where you will receive notifications on opportunities. Some opportunities allow couples to volunteer together so there is a lot of flexibility. While these are not paid positions, volunteers receive much-needed support from the mission they volunteer at. If you are looking to do something great for the betterment of the world you live in, then volunteering for the UN could be just what you are looking for.

Interesting Facts

The UN has over 11,000 vehicles, over 270 medical clinics, over 132 helicopters, over 58 aircraft, over 18 UAVs, and over six ships. With a budget of over $6.69 billion dollars it still only makes up less than 0.5% of global military expenditure. Peacekeeping does come with its dangers. Since 1948 there have been over 3,300 fatalities. In 2018-2019 alone at least 40 peacekeepers have been killed and over 219 have been injured. The most dangerous UN missions being in Mali, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There have been 71 peacekeeping operations since 1948 and there are currently 14 active ones. As of this moment,, there are 71,830 soldiers, 9,261 police officers, 12,932 civilians, and 1,230 volunteers calling the United Nations their home. The two biggest active missions are The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or MONUSCO with 15,100 peacekeepers and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan or UNMISS with 14,275 peacekeepers.

The work that the United Nations does is important and can be hard physically and emotionally. Often you are not liked or welcomed by local authorities or even the local population. You will have opportunities to make a difference but you won’t always be allowed to act as your role is many times that of an observer. There are a lot of benefits provided to make this work easier for you and those who depend on you and many opportunities for professional advancement. Individuals who have worked for the UN as civilians, served as police officers or soldiers look back fondly on their experience even though they at times had to deal with heartbreaking situations. The world as you know it will change for you but you will go to sleep knowing that you are one of the people making the biggest difference to the quality of life for people all over the world.