Peacekeeping, as defined by the United Nations, is a way to help countries torn by conflict create conditions for sustainable peace. It is distinguished from both peacebuilding and peacemaking.
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.
Peacekeeping has changed greatly since the end of the Cold War. It has become a more complex, comprehensive and dangerous task. Today, rather than the classical task of acting as a "neutral" buffer between consenting parties, most peacekeeping operations are responses to intra-state conflicts. As a result, peace-support operations now focus on creating the environment of security needed for political, economic and social change. In short, these operations are helping to build a new society, often under difficult circumstances. Only a careful, well-planned and coordinated combination of civilian and military measures can create the conditions for long-term, self-sustaining stability and peace.