Peacekeeping Contributor Profile: Chile

Dr. Kristina Mani, Oberlin College (
Alejandro Amigo, Masters in Security Studies, Georgetown University (
Last updated February 2017


Active Armed Forces[1] Helicopters[2] Defense Budget[3] Uniformed UN Peacekeepers[4] UN Contribution Breakdown[5] Other Significant Deployments[6]
Total: 64,750

Army: 37,850

Navy: 19,100

Air Force: 7,800

World Ranking by size (2017): 55th

Multi-role: 20

Surveillance: 9 (armed)

Transport: 47

Anti-Submarine Warfare: 5

2016: $3.31 bn

(1.41% of GDP)

2015: $3.45 bn

(1.44 % of GDP)

2014: $3.78 bn

(1.47 % of GDP)

2013: $4.44 bn

(1.61 % of GDP)
World Ranking (2017): 43rd   

Total: 458

Ranking: 44th

(Dec 2016)


(390 troops, 7 police)

UNMC: 35 experts

UNFICYP: 14 troops


(4 experts, 4 troops)

UNTSO: 3 experts

UNMOGIP: 1 expert

(Dec 2016)

EUFOR (Bosnia-Herzegovina): 14

(Dec 2016)

Defense Spending/troop:[7] US$51,046 (compared to global average of approx. US$77,070; and Latin America and the Caribbean average of: US$36,286)


Part 1: Recent Trends

Chile’s participation in international peacekeeping has grown significantly since the 1990s (see figure 1). In earlier decades Chile participated modestly in international peacekeeping missions, providing military observers to a handful of missions under Chapter VI of the United Nations (UN) Charter. Examples of these cases are the Officers deployed to UNMOGIP since 1949 and to UNTSO since 1967.

Chile 2017 Graph

Beginning in the 1990s, Chile participated in a variety of UN and OAS missions (Cambodia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ecuador-Peru, and Iraq) but in limited numbers (never more than 50 troops per mission). In 1999, Chile issued the Supreme Decree No. 68, and extended its national policy on peace operations in recognition of the complexity of contemporary UN peacekeeping. This decree referred to the participation of Chilean troops in operations set out in Chapter VII of the UN Charter. This momentous change gave the legal framework for sending in 2000 an Army helicopters platoon to join the United Nations Mission for the transitional administration in East Timor. The same year and till 2006, the Chilean Army contributed with a Staff Officer in the UNMIK HQ. Afterwards, in 2002 was created a peacekeeping training center (CECOPAC), which enabled specialized and integrated training of military, police and civilian personnel for complex, multidimensional missions. Then, in 2003 Chile sent a joint contingent to UNFICYP as part of an Argentinian Task Force, which was there since 1993. This combined deployment was one of the facts that led to the creation in 2006 of a bi-national peacekeeping force with Argentina (Cruz del Sur), which qualify for deployment under UN stand-by arrangements. Additionally, in 2003 the Chilean Army sent a medical team (2 Combat Medics and 4 Specialists) to MONUSCO to a six months tour.

Chile’s most politically significant commitment to date is in Haiti, where since 2004 it has regularly fielded around 400 uniformed peacekeepers (over 10,000 military, police and civilian personnel in total), as well as, on three occasions, the deputy military force commander. Chilean forces in MINUSTAH currently comprise two units: a helicopter unit in Cap Haïtien and a battalion (comprised of army infantry, marines, and service companies) in Port au Prince. With the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in its thirteenth year, Chile’s main objective is to move the mission toward post-conflict, civilian-led reconstruction. The first step of this process was the decision to withdraw the Chilean Army troops that composed an Engineers Military Unit in 2015. The final phase will begin in April 2017 when Chilean troops (the battalion and the helicopters unit) will depart from Haiti, ending more than a decade of deployment in the area. However, the minister of defense has said that one of the purposes of the withdrawal is to send Chilean contingents to other world regions.

During 2016 Chile begun its participation in two new missions under the UN framework. First, it sent military experts to MINUSCA HQ to join the multinational force in that African country. According to the ministry of defense, this should be understood as the first step of Chile participation in that African mission. The next deployments in CAR will be an Engineers company and an helicopter unit. In addition, last year Chile sent the first part of the military experts (11 men from the three branches of armed forces), who will join the DDR mission in Colombia. In January 2017, the total amount of Chilean experts reached 66 men and women.

Since 1990, Chile’s governments have consistently supported multilateral responses to international conflicts and to regional crises. With remarkable consistency, Chile’s political leaders emphasize the importance of multilateralism over unilateral acts, as Chile acts in a globalized world that can only be governed by international concert (see the 2010 National Defense Book). The country’s commitment to MINUSTAH embodies Chile’s commitment to promote human security internationally by reducing violence and constructing democratic state institutions and economic opportunity. Even so, Chile remains one of Latin America’s most cautious and contemplative peacekeeping contributors; carefully assessing whether each mission is appropriate for its capabilities and interests. As a result, Chile commits to a handful of missions where it can do well and that can contribute notably to its constructive international agenda. The Haiti mission is particularly important as a test for Latin America’s ability to address human security crises within its own region and Chile’s political and military elites recognize that it is a test of their political commitment to this end.

A determined diplomatic effort underscores Chile’s commitments to UN-based multilateralism in general and peacekeeping in particular. Most notably, in 2009, Heraldo Muñoz (former Chilean ambassador to the UN and current Minister of Foreign Affairs) became the first Latin American president of the UN’s Peacebuilding Commission, which serves to follow peacekeeping efforts with reconstruction and reconciliation initiatives. Chile has twice fielded MINUSTAH’s Special Representative and Head of Mission with seasoned and respected diplomats, Juan Gabriel Valdés (2004-2006) and Mariano Fernandez Amunategui (2011-2013), demonstrating high-level dedication to the mission.

Military officers with specialization in peacekeeping are routinely assigned to advisory positions for diplomats representing Chile at the UN. Within the last decade, the view has gained ground within the Chilean military that participation in complex peacekeeping theaters can contribute to their professional development. Chile’s participation in missions like the European Union’s Operation ALTHEA in Bosnia & Herzegovina, alongside troops from advanced industrial democracies, should be understood in this light. Chile is one of five non-EU member countries, and the only country from the Americas, that contribute to ALTHEA. Over 480 Chilean army personnel have served in ALTHEA since its creation. Chile’s current contingent of 15 (as of October 2015) participates in both Liaison Observer Teams doing patrol and outreach fieldwork (Chilean troops have operated since 2003 in Banja Luka, giving them solid situational experience and familiarity to local leaders and NGOs), and in the EUFOR headquarters contributing to doctrine formation and logistic issues of Bosnia & Herzegovina Army. Currently, Chile is considering the possibility of deepening its association with the EU to incorporate Chilean peacekeepers into other EU-led missions.

In September 2015, the United Nations Secretary-General and nine Member States co-hosted the Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping with the aim of enlarging and diversifying the base of military and police capabilities, and in so doing, strengthening the foundation of UN Peacekeeping for the future. As part of the Summit, Chile pledged an Engineers Company for horizontal construction, a medium-sized Helicopters Unit, and a Level II Field Hospital, as a way to fill current critical gaps. Besides, it offered to support technical operations and to train military and police forces.

In 2015, Chile issued its second National Action Plan for implementing Resolution 1325, becoming the tenth country in the world in elaborating a second-generation document on “Women, Peace and Security.” This document is focused on prevention, participation, protection, relief, and recovery. An inter-ministerial committee is responsible for fulfilling the plan, which is composed by representatives of the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the National Women’s Service.


Part 2: Decision-Making

Chile’s decision-making process for deploying military peacekeepers has become institutionalized and formalized, the culmination of a long process that began in the mid-1990s. At that point, no institutional mechanism existed for guiding national policy on participation in peacekeeping operations. Decree laws issued in the late 1990s determined that the defense and foreign ministries would jointly assess peacekeeping requests (DS No. 94/1996) and that Chapter VII operations could be authorized (DS No. 68/1999). Yet it was not until 2008 that a comprehensive law (20.297) incorporated these advances and further specified that the president was required to seek senate approval for troop deployments and extensions of missions outside of national territory. Parliamentary approval became an issue in 2004, when the president authorized Chile’s deployment of a 331-strong army unit for the UN Multinational Interim Force-Haiti (MIFH) without a need for legislators to concur. Under the national constitution, the president may request expedited senate consideration, so a deployment request can be authorized within 48 hours. The defense and foreign ministries are now organized to advise the government on peacekeeping requests and ongoing missions through an inter-ministerial committee created to define mission goals, assess overall progress, and identify exit plans, all of which enhance reporting to congress.

The institutionalization of decision-making is intended to create a national peacekeeping policy that is not government-bound but rather “state policy,” guided both by national strategic interests (e.g., building peace and international security both regionally and globally) and by Chile’s commitment to multilateralism. A clear example of this is that during the last two governments the national contribution did not have any substantial change.

The parliamentary process to define the 2008 law had broad-based legitimation across the political spectrum. Additionally, this legislation served to clarify lines of political authority regarding the use of military and police forces internationally: they now enshrine civilian initiative and approval of troop deployments. In 2010, Chile buttressed historically weak “jointness” in its armed forces through reform of the ministry of defense system. As a result, Chile’s peacekeeping troops are under the command of the Chief of the Joint Staff, which also operates the CECOPAC peacekeeping training center. The new ministry of defense system diminishes the autonomy of the individual services particularly in times of crisis or war, and in peacekeeping. With respect to MINUSTAH, the planning mechanisms established in the 9×2 model (nine countries, 2 ministers – defense and foreign – from each) further contribute to enhancing the authority of relevant ministries.


Part 3:  Rationales for Contributing

Political and security rationales: Peacekeeping in Chile is viewed as a way to enhance its stature as a contributor to decision-making in multilateral organizations, particularly in the eyes of two significant international cohorts; (1) the advanced industrial democracies with which Chile sees a close affinity (Chile is one of only two LAC countries that qualify for membership in the OECD), and (2) the countries within the LAC region. Chile’s contributions to peacekeeping represents a careful logic, of which its political elites are keenly aware: while the country is relatively small, with a population of about 17 million, it is frequently hailed as a model in the LAC region because of its political and economic stability. Therefore, Chile is able to make contributions to international peacekeeping that are modest in size but significant in terms of effectiveness, professionalism, and reliable political commitment.


Economic rationales: Chile is a classic small trading state, open to a globalized world and vulnerable to global market shifts. Chilean elites across the political spectrum see a strategic need for Chile to further peace and prosperity in the global arena, in order to keep trade routes open and access to world markets unfettered by conflict or regional political crises. This grand strategic outlook predominates in place of interest over any financial remuneration to the military from participating in UN-funded missions, particularly as Chile’s military has one of the region’s largest budgets in terms of percentage of annual GDP.


Institutional rationales: For Chile, the period since the 1990s represents an era in which historical conflicts with neighbors have diminished and regional security cooperation mechanisms (e.g., combined exercises, academic and unit-level military exchanges) and institutions (e.g., Organization of American States (OAS) and Union of South American Nations (UNASUR)) abound. These developments have opened a space for peacekeeping, which the military recognizes as a way to enhance its professional experience and prestige [8]. The military is proud of its record of deploying 331 personnel to MIFH within 72 hours, and it is able to operate in challenging conflict theaters that enable institutional learning, including formation of new doctrines appropriate for humanitarian intervention, integrated tasks with civilian and police agencies, and with forces from other countries.

Because the Chilean armed forces remain among the best funded and equipped in the region, they are able to balance both traditional defense obligations with long-term commitments to international security. There is a strong appeal for the military to work alongside other technologically advanced, highly professional forces; hence participation in the EU’s Operation ALTHEA and in observer capacity in the UN’s SHIRBRIG high-readiness standby force. Chile clearly sees its interests residing in both the LAC region and beyond: it is in Chile’s national interest for the LAC region to be stable and prosperous, and it is in the military’s interest to seek the frontier of its own professionalism through real-world engagement in multidimensional peacekeeping missions. As the director of CECOPAC noted recently, “it’s been a way to reach a professionalism that would be difficult to find in here in Chile.”


Normative Rationales: Chile is an insistent advocate of human security efforts through the UN and regional organizations. The support to international protection of human rights and democratic norms has become an established creed from which no government stray. At Chile’s foreign ministry one of the main directorates is for “international and human security” under which operates a division for peacekeeping missions. Chile is also a founding member of the Human Security Network of the UN, requiring it to support implementation of the UN’s human security objectives both nationally and internationally. In addition, Chile has gained UN recognition for its dedication to the inclusion of women in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and reconstruction under UN Security Council resolution 1325.


Part 4:  Barriers to Contributing

At the outset of the Haiti mission in 2004, both elites and civil society advocates expressed concern about the Chilean military potentially needing to use force against Haitian civilians to curb social and political violence. However, because the main contingent of its forces is located in Cap Haïtien, Haiti’s second largest city and a political rather than criminal hotbed, Chile has played a different role (patrol and reconstruction, rather than pacification) than other MINUSTAH contributors. Though this experience is relatively unique, Chilean military leaders nonetheless drew vital lessons, about the importance of building trust with the population in “pro-people” activities, such as medical care and water delivery [9]. These were tasks the Chilean armed forces did not entertain abroad prior to the Haiti mission.


Alternative institutional preferences for crisis management: Chile has invested heavily in personnel and diplomatic commitments to the UN, as well as to regional organizations like the OAS and UNASUR. Chile’s association with the EU (via trade agreements and participation in EUFOR) does not trump these commitments.


Alternative political or strategic priorities: While the Chilean armed forces recognize that Chile cannot be secure if others feel insecure, national defense remains the priority and primary role of the armed forces. Therefore, Chile will provide forces for the UN when there are a clear operational rationale, structure, and timeline for its participation in multilateral operations.


Financial costs: Since 1999, Chile budgets annually for peacekeeping through the national budget, under allocation to the ministry of defense, which has not been a problem.


Discomfort with the expanding UN peacekeeping agenda: In general, this is not a major concern of political elites, but mission-specific concerns exist. Chilean elites have since 2010 debated the continued utility of contributing military forces to MINUSTAH, as the mission has come to focus less on violence reduction and more on political and humanitarian efforts. Both sides in the debate advocate clarity over an exit strategy, and foreign and defense ministry officials were charged with defining it. So in 2012 Chile promoted a plan to reduce the military footprint of MINUSTAH in UNASUR, which studied and forwarded the initiative to the UN, where it was incorporated into the renewal of the mission mandate in October 2012.


Absence of pressure to contribute: Any national issue prevails those of national defense in Chilean public discourse, and “peacekeeping debates” generally take place in political circles at the senate. Government policy on this issue is strongly norm-bound to support human security promotion, and all recent governments have maintained support of Chile’s peacekeeping commitments.


Difficult domestic politics: The political system is based on multi-party coalitions (either center-left or center-right), and prominent legislators from both political camps have established reputations for expertise in foreign affairs. As a result, while parliamentary debate of defense and international security occurs, commitments made to international engagement tend to be consensual outcomes.


Damage to national reputation: Not applicable. In fact, to date the professionalism of Chilean forces is notable. There is no record of scandal or abuses in Chile’s peacekeeping contingents.


Resistance in the military: Chilean armed forces see cooperative security as essential to national security [10]; they consider participation in international operations, peacekeeping missions, as part of the core missions defined in their respective doctrines.


Legal obstacles: Up to date, there has been no formal legal challenge to the 2008 law that establishes procedures and criteria for Chile’s participation in peacekeeping.


Part 5: Current Challenges and Issues

A high-level conference held in late 2012 at the foreign ministry summarized current concerns that emerge from Chile’s MINUSTAH experience. A major concern was the need to establish clear exit strategies for the military and police components of Chile’s peacekeeping commitments, in order to shift the task from security to development in ways that do not destabilize the mission. Other issues of concern were (1) the experience that the UN system itself provides little guidance either for civilian mission leaders in relations with local political leaders and institutions, or for on-the-ground forces that must engage with local populations; (2) the need to incorporate more women and more non-military (e.g., NGO and private sector) participants to better engage with local populations; and (3) the quest to diffuse the professional lessons learned (by both civilians and uniformed personnel) in order to leverage the expertise Chile is developing as a result of the mission. The breadth of these issues reflects the seriousness with which defense and diplomacy officials take Chile’s peacekeeping commitments, which governing leaders clearly expect to continue.

Regarding the current Chile’s position on Haiti, it is based on supporting the Consolidation Plan of MINUSTAH by promoting the conditions that can accelerate the gradual reduction of troops, in a responsible and cooperative manner. The past debates in the senate for renovating the Chilean presence in the island has to be understood as the first signals of a substantive retreat of military forces and a strengthening of the civilian tasks of the mission, as it happened since 2015.

Another relevant issue is that Chile and the EU signed a Framework Participation Agreement for Chile’s inclusion in EU crisis management operations. The covenant provides a structural framework and a legal basis to govern and facilitate the participation of Chilean personnel in EU-led civilian and military crisis management operations. This agreement is the first ever with a partner country in Latin America and it is a step forward from the Association Agreement signed in 2002.

Finally, the Chilean government will have to balance the achievements and goodwill it wants to be recognized for, with concerns about not overextending the country in major nation-building projects. This test accounts in part for the appeal of participating in standby brigades, in which forces have a finite period to lay the groundwork for full-fledged peacekeeping efforts.


Part 6:  Key Champions and Opponents

Numerous politicians have served in high-level UN offices (including current president Michelle Bachelet), building a record of experience that gives them advantageous insight into the coordinating mechanisms of UN structures. Also key is CECOPAC, a significant champion through the training it has provided to both uniformed and civilian personnel for the last 15 years. Finally, the armed forces should be considered champions of peacekeeping, because it enhances their continued relevance to the state – so long as the mission remains clearly within their capacity and they are not overstretched.


Part 7:  Capabilities and Caveats

Chile has one of Latin America’s most modernized and capable military. Rapid deployment capabilities are a major strength, whether independently or in the combined force with Argentina. Dedicated and advanced peacekeeping training programs are another major resource, with emphasis on not only joint but also combined and integrated operations that arguably set Chile apart from many other contributors that are relatively new to peacekeeping. For instance, the joint and combined Argentine-Chilean peacekeeping force, Cruz del Sur, comprise fully equipped and self-sustaining land, naval and air forces; land forces of two mechanized infantry companies, integrated with a Chilean engineering company and an Argentine mobile hospital; two surface navy units for patrol and surveillance, and transport; and 8 transport helicopters (4 medium size and 4 light). The Joint Staff of Cruz del Sur works together all year long in each country for one-year periods. This force trains with SIMUPAZ, a computer simulation program designed to prepare troops for combined work in complex missions.

In line with efforts to promote integrated (military and civilian) responses to peacekeeping challenges, the respected Chilean national police, Carabineros, has gained prominence for its program training foreign police. To date, Carabineros have trained over 200 new Haitian police cadets at the national police academy in Chile.

Chile is also a leading advocate of enabling more efficient and effective preparation of peacekeeping forces from other Latin American countries, hence its membership in the Latin American Association of Peacekeeping Operations Training Centers (ALCOPAZ) created in 2008, as part of a larger political effort to standardize peacekeeping practices within the region.


Part 8: Other data

In the past, Chile has also participated in several other non-UN peace operations (see box 1).


Box 1: Chile’s Participation in non-UN Peace Operations


Neutral Commission of the Chaco Boreal (1935-1939): Chile was first involved in international peacekeeping before the founding of the UN, when under a League of Nations mandate it joined other South American countries and the United States in providing military observers to oversee the separation and demobilization of Bolivian and Paraguayan forces at the end of the Chaco War in 1935.


OAS Military Observer Mission to El Salvador and Honduras (1975): Chile provided military observers to supervise the OAS-brokered peace process following the 1969 conflict known as the Soccer War.


OAS Demining Assistance Program (1993): Chile contributed several experts in demining for the OAS’s post-war demining project in Nicaragua.


Military Observer Mission Ecuador-Peru (MOMEP) (1995-1999): As one of the four guarantor states to the Rio Treaty that ended the 1942 war between Ecuador and Peru, Chile (along with Argentina, Brazil and the United States) brokered a ceasefire that ended the 1995 War between Ecuador and Peru. This created the MOMEP guarantors’ peacekeeping force to oversee troop withdrawals, demobilization, and creation of a demilitarized zone, pending a final peace settlement and border demarcation in 1999. Chile contributed what at the time was for it, an unprecedented number of observers – over 100 military and civilian officials – to the mission.


EU Military Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Operation EUFOR Althea) (2004-): Upon termination of the UN-mandated and NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the UN authorized a Chapter VII follow-on force deployed under EU leadership to oversee implementation of the Dayton/Paris peace agreement. Chile participated in SFOR and continues to contribute military observers to EUFOR Althea. The 600-strong mission draws personnel from 18 EU states and five non-EU states, of which Chile and Turkey are the only non-EU contributors.

Part 9: Further Reading

Di Nocera García, Enzo & Ricardo Benavente Cresta, “Chile: Responding to a Regional Crisis” in John T. Fishel & Andrés Sáenz (eds.) Capacity building for peacekeeping: The Case of Haiti (Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, National Defense University Press, 2007).

Feldmann, Andreas E. & Juan Esteban Montes, “Learning to be Likeminded:  Chile’s Involvement in Global Security and Peace Operations since the End of the Cold War” in Kai Michael Kenkel (ed.), South America and Peace Operations (Routledge, 2013).

Valdés, Juan Gabriel, “La Minustah y la reconstrucción del Estado hatiano,” Estudios Internacionales 159 (2008) (Universidad de Chile): 129-142.



[1] IISS The Military Balance 2017 (London: IISS/Routledge, 2017).

[2] IISS The Military Balance 2017 (London: IISS/Routledge, 2017).

[3] IISS The Military Balance 2017 (London: IISS/Routledge, 2017).

[4] Data drawn from UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

[5] Data drawn from UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

[6] Data drawn from press releases at EUFOR Althea website.

[7] Armed Forces Spending is a country’s annual total defense budget (in US dollars) divided by the total number of active armed forces. Figures from The Military Balance 2017.

[8] Juan Emilio Cheyre, “UNPKO and the Latin American forces” in Jorge Heine & Andrew S. Thompson, (eds.), Fixing Haiti: MINUSTAH and Beyond (United Nations University Press, 2011), pp.165-167. Cheyre was Commander in Chief of the Chilean Army, 2002-2006.

[9] Eduardo Aldunate, “Peace Operations: On the importance of perceiving versus just seeing” in Heine & Thompson (eds.), Fixing Haiti. Aldunate was deputy commander of the military forces of MINUSTAH, 2005-2006, and briefly interim commander in 2006.

[10] Kristina Mani, Democratization and Military Transformation in Argentina and Chile: Rethinking Rivalry (Boulder, CO:  First Forum Press/Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2011), ch. 6.