Academic journal article Global Governance

Keep Friends Close, but Colleagues Closer: Efficiency in the Establishment of Peace Operations

Academic journal article Global Governance

Keep Friends Close, but Colleagues Closer: Efficiency in the Establishment of Peace Operations

Article excerpt

The speed with which international organizations establish peace operations impacts prospects for sustainable peace. This article explains why some organizations take longer than others to answer calls for intervention. It identifies the role of informal relations in a literature that has long favored formality and challenges realist assumptions that intergovernmental decisionmaking depends strictly on national interests. Based on personal interviews with fifty ambassadors at four regional organizations, the article shows that differences in response rates largely depend on the strength of interpersonal relations among decisionmakers. Despite having superior funding, the European Union remains the slowest organization to react because of its highly formalistic culture. Informal bonds of trust help account for the speed with which organizations are able to respond to crises. KEYWORDS: international organization, peace operations, European Union, African Union, rapid reaction.

IN THE REALM OF MULTILATERAL CRISIS RESPONSE, DELAYS IN DECISIONMAKING can have deadly consequences. The longer that it takes for an international organization to agree on action can lead to the protraction of violence on the ground and damaged credibility for its member states. In this article, I offer an unconventional answer to the question of why some international organizations manage to respond to crises more quickly than others. The impact of speed constitutes one of several critical influences on the effectiveness of peace operations, but it has yet to be investigated. Empirical data in my study reveal that organizations with the means to rapidly respond, like the European Union (EU), do not do so when compared to others. I argue that this variation in speed is due in large part to differences among the overall interpersonal relations of decisionmakers within an organization. Those organizations where decisionmakers experience high degrees of positive social interaction and subscribe to informal social networks require less time to reach consensus. Closer informal relations facilitate trust and quicker information sharing. For example, an EU ambassador explains, "When you need to do business, it is much easier to talk to the person once you've talked about Formula 1 and football." (1) This increased interpersonal trust widens the bargaining range but weakens the influence of national interests, in turn limiting the sway of nations' capitals at the expense of intergovernmental consensus. My interviews with fifty ambassadors on peace and security decisionmaking committees and with staff at four regional organizations offer evidence demonstrating the impact of interpersonal relations and corresponding informal decisionmaking on efficiency in the establishment of peace operations. These organizations include the African Union (AU), EU, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and Organization of American States (OAS). Interviews took place in the embassies and organization headquarters in four cities: Addis Ababa (AU), Brussels (EU), Vienna (OSCE), and Washington, DC (OAS). In this article, I present original empirical evidence on speed, engage and challenge current explanations, and present the central argument. I then examine empirical cases for each of the four organizations and offer conclusions.

Efficiency in Crisis Response

Scholars of conflict management have yet to come to a consensus on a definition for efficiency, but this has not deterred them from making the case for its importance in influencing the success or failure of peace operations. I interpret efficiency in the strictest sense of the word, defining it as speed of decisionmaking toward a negotiated, unanimous agreement for action. Why does efficiency matter for interventions aimed at fostering, international peace and security? Chronic delays in responding to international crises threaten the legitimacy and feasibility of cultivating sustainable peace. …

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