Academic journal article Global Governance

Beyond the "Liberal Peace"

Academic journal article Global Governance

Beyond the "Liberal Peace"

Article excerpt

Peacebuilding, famously defined in Boutros Boutros-Ghali's 1992 An Agenda for Peace as "actions to identify and support structures which will tend to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict," (1) has become one of the major preoccupations of international and regional organizations engaged in the promotion and maintenance of international peace and security as well as governments (mostly, but not exclusively, Western) and a wide range of nongovernmental organizations. Over the past decade it has resulted in the development of an elaborate institutional architecture at the global and regional level, in particular with the establishment of the UN Peacebuilding Commission and Peacebuilding Support Office in 2006, the creation of the African Union's African Peace and Security Architecture, the Peace-building Partnership of the European Union (EU), and the creation of institutions in donor governments dedicated to postconflicl stabilization and peacebuilding such as the US Office of the Coordinator for Stabilization and Reconstruction and the UK's Stabilisation Unit. For the past two decades, donor governments and international organizations have dedicated substantial resources toward peacebuilding.

While much of the literature on peacebuilding (in particular, key donor documents) has often been rather technical, focusing on issues of effective delivery, on donor coordination, and on sequencing, one of the most controversial debates has concerned the merits and pathologies of what has become known as liberal peacebuilding. Across the literature, liberal peacebuilding has been used to describe external peacebuilding interventions that share several characteristics: first, they are conducted by liberal, Western states; second, they are motivated by liberal objectives such as responding to large-scale human rights violations or being conducted under an international responsibility to protect; and third, these interventions promote liberal-democratic political institutions, human rights, effective and good governance, and economic liberalization as a means to bring peace and prosperity to war-lorn countries. Since the end of the Cold War. most peacebuilding operations have been characterized by a commitment to the promotion of these liberal values and institutions. (2)

These peacebuiding practices have been criticized from various perspectives, two of which stand out. First, as a range of observers of peacebuilding have argued, the outcomes of these efforts have been decidedly mixed. Some conflicts have been successfully terminated. But even after extensive peace-building interventions in countries such as Timor-Leste and Cote divoire, order collapsed and violence recommenced in 2006 and 2010. respectively. Political and economic life in many societies subjected to transformative, liberal peacebuilding interventions has continued to be dominated by wartime leaders. (3) Violence, though transformed and often associated with criminality, frequently remains a prominent feaan e of the postwar political landscape. (4) This has fueled calls for a closer analysis of how (if at all) external actors can affect sustained change in conflict-strewn states and how their interventions actually affect the character of postwar orders (both for better and worse) as well as a better understanding of the relationship between political and economic developments in the aftermath of conflict. (5)

Second, critics have highlighted the illiberal practices associated with liberal peacebuilding, in particular the top-down promotion (or imposition) of internationally designed institutional remedies for the social and political ills presumed to have been the drivers of conflicts and violence, and the orientation of policies toward the values and interests of intervenors rather than those of the local populations. (6) They criticize the universalizing liberalism that they see as fueling a growing and increasingly intrusive interveniionism into conflict-strewn societies, and the lack of space for and attention to local voices and alternatives. …

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