Resonating, rejecting, reinterpreting: Mapping the stabilization discourse in the United Nations Security Council, 2000–14

David Curran and Paul Holtom


The 2015 Report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations examined a vast array of issues connected with peacekeeping operations. The Panel noted the strong link between peacekeeping and stabilization within the UN debates, stressing that the term has a ‘wide range of interpretations’, and that the ‘usage of this term by the United Nations requires clarification’. This article represents the first attempt to respond to this request. It seeks to identify the level to which stabilization has permeated United Nations (UN) activities, through the examination of data from open meetings of the UN Security Council (UNSC).

This article addresses two objectives. Firstly, it provides an account of the use of stabilization in open UNSC meetings at the beginning of the twenty-first century (2000–2014); and secondly, it determines the extent to which western conceptualization(s) of stabilization resonate with UN member states from other regional groups, or if they reinterpret or reject such conceptualization(s).

This article offers an exploratory approach to understanding the diffusion of norms in the UN, as well as seeking to understand national approaches. It does not claim to offer solid ‘answers’ to the acceptance of western conceptualizations of stabilization in the UN. Rather, it raises questions about the use and interpretation of language in the UNSC, especially when the term in use – stabilization – is in itself critiqued for being a vague concept.

The article consists of four sections. The first section offers an overview of stabilization, and how, even without a formal policy shift, concepts of stabilization have impacted UN peacekeeping operations. This also provides the rationale for focusing attention on the UNSC. Second, it offers a brief introduction to the method of data collection. Third, the article provides an overview of the frequency of the use of stabilization in UNSC meetings during 2000–2014, charting the number of meetings in which stabilization featured and how often it was used. The final section looks in greater depth at the use of stabilization in the UNSC, and seeks to determine whether the conceptualization resonated or was reinterpreted, or rejected by UN member states.


Curran, D., & Holtom, P. (2015). Resonating, rejecting, reinterpreting: Mapping the stabilization discourse in the United Nations Security Council, 2000–14. Stability: International Journal of Security & Development, 4(1).