Previous sub-national research has shown that the presence and size of armed peacekeepers reduces the number of civilian and battle-related deaths, however little is known about the effects of peacekeeping deployments on forced displacement. This paper explores whether UN peacekeeping deployments reduce the number of people forcibly displaced by violence in South Sudan. The author argues that the deployment of peacekeepers may affect both push and pull factors for forced displacement. A peacekeeping presence may decrease actual levels of violence as well as the perceived threat of violence. A larger peacekeeping force has a higher deterrence capacity. At the same time, they may act as a pull factor by attracting conflict-affected people to areas with better security and opportunities.
The analysis is based on Geo-PKO data, which tracks the sub-national location and size of UN deployments, and an original dataset on events of displacement in South Sudan’s 74 counties between 2011 and 2017. The statistical analysis yields two main results: (1) No robust evidence is found for peacekeeping reducing the occurrence or magnitude of forced displacement; and (2) peacekeepers might act also as pull factors, as those displaced tend to seek shelter in protected sites around peacekeeping bases. The author argues that the theoretical argument may still be valid, but that an effect was not feasible to identify in South Sudan where the peacekeeping mission—despite its comparatively large numbers—lacks credible deterrent capacity.