Nation-Building Unraveled? Aid, Peace and Justice in Afghanistan

Nation-Building Unraveled? Aid, Peace and Justice in Afghanistan

Nation-Building Unraveled? Aid, Peace and Justice in Afghanistan

Nation-Building Unraveled? Aid, Peace and Justice in Afghanistan


• Uses Afghanistan as a case-study that can be applied internationally

• Contributors have direct political and human rights experience in the field

The prevailing wisdom about post-conflict reconstruction is centered on the notion of nation-building. In the globalized post-September 11th world, can military might and technological solutions foster stability by enforcing democracy from the outside?

Written by key practitioners and analysts involved in the Afghan crisis, Nation-Building Unraveled? explains how emerging international ordering practices affect the role and policy of international actors, such as United Nations agencies and international NGOs, their interaction with national authorities and local communities, and their ability to generate just and social outcomes.


It is difficult to imagine a time in which there could have been a greater gap between the norms that, formally at least, govern the conduct of international relations and the realities of the world. Read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, or the Geneva Conventions, and realize that most nations in the world have agreed to be bound by them, and you might be forgiven for imagining that the world was already a comparatively decent place and was likely to become still better. But look at the facts of the world, at least the vast majority of it outside a few relatively privileged corners of East Asia, Europe, and North America, and it is hard to believe in the promise of progress, let alone in its reality. Misery is a constant, and in many places it is growing worse, whether because of the rigged game favoring the global North that is the essence of the international trading system, of aids, or the debt overhang. and from the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Aceh, to Afghanistan, the crises that seem to dwarf even the “everyday” horrors of the poor world appear to be increasing almost exponentially.

Whether this is an accurate perception or not is of course doubtful. Anyone with enough historical memory and imagination to understand what really occurred during the Middle Passage, the colonization of Africa, or, for that matter, the Wars of Religion in Europe in the seventeenth century, rightly will be unpersuaded by the claim. But equally, there can be no question that a growing consensus has arisen both within the rich countries of the West and the United Nations system which, window-dressing aside, does their bidding, that these crises cannot be ignored, as, arguably, they might once have been. To this extent at least, the new normative universe of individual rights, and the conviction that nations do not have the right to treat their subjects in any way they see fit as long as they do not menace their neighbors (the old “Westphalian” consensus), has prevailed.

But to what end? Before decolonization, management of crises on the periphery was viewed by imperial powers as their mandated responsibility. in the immediate aftermath of decolonization, the hope burned brightly that colonial domination would be replaced by a just world of effective, law-abiding nation-states. in some places, that has happened. But in many others neocolonialism replaced colonialism, as morose discontent replaced revolutionary unrest, while in still others . . .

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