Academic journal article Global Governance

Participatory Intervention

Academic journal article Global Governance

Participatory Intervention

Article excerpt

The front line for international interventions that exercise any degree of political authority in transition has proved to be at the level of local administration. Here, the Western-style paradigm of state building, which is preoccupied with forming a national executive, legislature, and judiciary, confronts resilient traditional structures, socially legitimate powerholders, abusive warlords out to win, or coping mechanisms communities rely on under conflict conditions. Options for the establishment or reconstruction of governing institutions seem stark: either reinforce the status quo and build on it, further empowering the already strong; or replace altogether what exists with a new administrative order. But there may be a middle road.

In the past, in Somalia and Cambodia, and later in Kosovo and East Timor, interveners invariably followed the line of least resistance, rendering themselves irrelevant in terms of the impact they had where the overwhelming majority of the population lives. The result was a social and political reality that developed by itself, regardless of the size of the international presence or the scope of the mission's mandate. By contrast, the dimensions of the social engineering project to invent and to introduce an entirely new governance system are vast. Planners have never assessed the number of elements and the breadth of such an assignment, nor have implementers ever adequately prepared for the task, let alone effectively accomplished it. Appreciating the scale of the venture might have led to the conclusion that it was impossible, certainly in the relatively short time frame of most interventions.

Instead, what may be feasible is a longer-term transition in which space is provided for local voices to be expressed and for communities to get directly involved in the evolution of their own cultural or political foundations, as part of a gradual integration into the national state apparatus. This means giving time for an indigenous paradigm to coexist with, or to gradually transform during the creation of, modern institutions. Integral to the process is the design of mechanisms for genuine popular participation in administrative bodies at the local level, which can also guarantee representation upward throughout the government-building enterprise from the very beginning to ensure its social viability.

Asocial Interventions

Two particular factors drew the international community into the temporary exercise of political authority, whether minimally in the form of assistance to an interim government, as now in Afghanistan; or in a more intrusive escalation in partnership with the departing occupier, as in Namibia; control of divided factions, as in Cambodia; and ultimately governorship of territory and population, most completely in East Timor.

First, in the midst of complex emergencies, a wide range of inter-governmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations independently addressed security, humanitarian, developmental, human rights, judicial, policing, and economic concerns. To achieve unity of effort for greater effectiveness, civilian unity of command was formalized in multifunctional operations with multiple components or pillars. The aim was to improve harmonization across the various sectors, both horizontally and vertically within missions.

Second, it became clear that military forces alone, or massive humanitarian assistance, could stem some of the worst symptoms of violence but could not resolve the sources of conflict. (1) Doing so required direct involvement in the local political process, and because the national government was fragile, fragmented or altogether collapsed, international interventions began to assume increasing degrees of political authority over the territory and population. Transitional administrations finally exercised total executive, legislative, and judicial powers as interim governments.

Excluded from the equation, extraordinarily, were the people of the country. …

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