Since the creation of liberalpeacebuilding paradigm, it has attracted academic scrutiny regarding its lackof success and negative side effects. Yet this paradigm is still the mostwidely used paradigm in the field (Autesserre, 2014). The basis of the paradigm is on the pacifyingeffects of neoliberal theory, which was a popular consensus in the period ofThatcherism (BBC, 2013).
Today the paradigm is still used for what is thought tobe a lack of a better option (Mac Ginty, 2013). This is an argument this essayfinds to be incorrect. The continued use of the liberal peacebuilding paradigmis based on economic interests (Paris, 2010), Western bias (Donais, 2009), andthe lack of contextual knowledge integrated into the framework (Tadjbakhsh,2011). I will explore the various ways this has affected the paradigm inpractice, and how the alternative view of peacebuilding rose from theparadigm’s criticism.The liberal peacebuilding paradigmdominated peacebuilding in the early 1990s. The paradigm was based onneoliberal ideas of free market economies and the rolling back of the state(Paris, 2010). The neoliberal discourse was omnipresent in internationalpolicymaking in the 1980s.
During this period, The World Bank and the IMFfunded projects using conditionalities they believed promoted neoliberal idealsand good governance (Koeberle et al., 2005). Good governance was encouragedbased upon the neoliberal belief that economic growth occurred when a freemarket is in place. Free markets are most successful when the government isstrong and stable, synonymous with the accountability found in democraticgovernments (Paris, 2010).The application of an economic-basedargument to the field of peacebuilding may not seem logical beyond the means tofund peacebuilding efforts.
However, in researching the causes of war,development economists Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler (2004) found that warcommences when the economic incentive for the warring group in the long termoutweighs the short-term cost. After further research, Collier, Hoeffler andRohner (2008) found war depends more on the feasibility of action over theinitial or actual motive of war, such as inequalities or political gain.Feasibility depends on whether the financial gains of possible war economiesoutweigh the opportunity costs of participation.An alternative approach on the causeof war was proposed by political scientists Barbara Harff and Ted Robert Gurr(2003) who found ethnic civil war commences following a realisation by eithersingle or multiple ethnic minorities that they are experiencing injustice bytheir state or a dominant group. The shared injustice is generally emphasisedby a lack of political power.
The oppressed group revolt against the state togain power and end the inequalities (Harff and Gurr, 2003). This can beobserved in the case of the Rwanda Genocide, where both the Hutus and theTutsis were fighting over state power following a twenty-year ethnic conflict,caused by colonial definitions of ethnic identity, identities defining socialstatus and intelligence (Beswick and Jackson, 2014).Alongside the research into thecauses of war, Webel and Galtung (2010) developed two ways of defining peace:negative peace, a lack of physical violence, and positive peace, the absence ofany structural or cultural violence. The liberal peacebuilding paradigm in itsprime was understood as a framework to develop positive peace in all war-tornsocieties, through reduction of structural and social inequalities (Paris,2010). The paradigm aimed to do so by creating a public space whereinequalities can be overcome peacefully, through democratic government. Thiswas to minimise the grievance-based argument for relapse into war (Harff andGurr, 2003).
Once a democracy was established, a free market could be put intoplace and reduce the greed-based arguments for war (Collier and Hoeffler,2004). This, in theory, should create positive peace. However, in application,a large majority of countries who underwent the paradigm reverted to violentconflict (Mac Ginty and Richmond, 2013).Peacebuilding is expensive(Autesserre, 2010) and difficult to implement, especially in the case of civilwars.
Civil war requires rebuilding a country’s institutions from rubble, aswell as the creation of trust between groups (Autesserre, 2010). Despite thecost and difficulties, it is understood to be in global interest to havedemocracies in all countries. According to the democratic peace theory,countries with a democratic government are less likely to go to war with oneanother (Webel and Galtung, 2010).Yet, the expense and internationallives lost from peacebuilding missions attract attention from donors and mediaoutlets. Thus, slow results in the target country receive negative press in theshort term, and possible reduction in donations (Anderson and Olson, 2003).
Forthis reason, many humanitarian aid missions have strict deadlines to achievetheir goals by (Clarke and Herbst, 1996). As a result, pressure is put on theorganisations to cut corners that look good in the short-term but have negativeeffects in the long-term (Mac Ginty and Richmond, 2013). In the case of Afghanistan, warlordswere integrated into the peacebuilding process as a means for the State to gainthe monopoly of violence (Mac Ginty, 2010). The State did not hold thismonopoly in the post-Taliban era when the US military left. Involving warlordswas more time efficient than removing the threat to democracy lying within thewarlords’ power, which would have involved the training of new state militia(Mac Ginty, 2010). This lead to the democratic institutions established beingflawed from their foundation, a weakness that cannot be afforded as it willcause the democratic institution to fail in the long term (Donais, 2009). To build strong foundations fordemocracy, an understanding of a country’s socio-political climate is needed.
In turn, this enables an elimination of potential ‘spoilers’ involved in thepeacebuilding process. These spoilers are defined as individuals that benefitfrom war, and therefore wish to benefit from the peacebuilding process to avoidlosing their livelihood or power (Stedman, 1997). The means of removing spoilersdepends on what they wish to gain from the process. Some spoilers, if ignored,could manipulate, refute or monopolise the peacebuilding process, as in thecase of warlords in Afghanistan (Mac Ginty, 2010).
The liberal peacebuilding framework hasa fundamentally universalist nature that neglects local context. ShahrbanouTadjbakhsh (2011) believes the assumptions that built the framework – that freemarket and democracy are the key to a peaceful society – are the key to itsinability to achieve long term peace. This discourse is replicated throughoutthe academic field of peacebuilding with very few academics advocating for theparadigm (Paris, 2010).
Liberal peacebuilding creates negative peace ratherthan positive peace as it “disempowers local communities and in practice hasdelivered poor-quality outcomes characterised by superficial democratisation,entrenched corruption and worsening socio-economic inequalities” (Selby, 2014).This criticism is demonstrated inthe peacebuilding efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In2003, a peace agreement was achieved using the liberal peacebuilding narrative(Autesserre, 2014). Since the official end of the conflict, deemed the largestsince the second world war, two million Congolese died (Herbst and Mills,2009). Severine Autesserre (2014) found, the deaths after the peace agreementcorrelated to the misperception of where the Congolese conflict initiallystemmed from. The tensions driving the conflict were not coming from above, butstarted at local levels with disputes around land distribution (Autesserre,2014). This was an issue not addressed in the paradigm, and therefore did notstop the fighting at the ground level (Autesserre, 2014). Herbst and Mills(2009) also link the DRC’s continual conflict to the division of naturalresources, but believe that it is not only at the local level.
They found theneighbouring countries benefited from the DCR’s weak state, which created lowopportunity costs for outsiders (Herbst and Mills, 2009). Liberal peacebuildingin this case achieved neither negative, nor positive peace. It achieved anelection, which only gave the impression of a democracy (Selby, 2014) and adependency on international aid (Autesserre, 2010). The Gulf war in the early 1990s ledthe US, along with others in the international community to a victory, withoutintervening in domestic politics (Cornwell, 2016).
Therefore, a consensus arosethat countries could direct their help to humanitarian disasters and aid givingwithout committing to the long process of peacebuilding (Clarke and Herbst,1996). Somalia’s famine in the early 1990sfell into the category of a humanitarian disaster. However, the famine was man-made,caused by food theft and lack of social institutions to help those living belowthe poverty line (Binet, 2013). The United States’ intention was to insert atask force preventing further theft of food, but to play no part in politics orstatebuilding (Clarke and Herbst, 1996). When the latter became inevitable, theUnited Nations took over the peacebuilding efforts, implementing methods ofstatebuilding to rebuild institutions and create order (Binet, 2013).
Thetop-down nature of this method neglected the local militias that had created aneconomy from the food theft. They had “amassed wealth for purchasing weaponsand keeping followers loyal” (Clarke and Herbst, 1996). Underestimating theinfluence of local militia and failure to disarm them early in the processresulted in the mission’s failure, and the UN’s departure in 1995 – returningpower to a corrupt government backed by the warlords (Clarke and Herbst, 1996).
The lack of contextual knowledge on the situation in Somalia is now understoodto be the major pitfall in the UN and US’ mission; in aiming to act quickly andefficiently, they woefully underestimated the local situation (Binet, 2013). The narrative within peacebuildingis that despite the paradigm’s failures: “the settlements produced by Americandriven interventions are often … equal or superior in quality to theprevious social circumstances” (Mac Ginty, 2010). The continuation of apeacebuilding system that has proven inefficient has been deemed ethnocentric(Mac Ginty and Richmond, 2013) as, despite the flaws that have been found, theyare deemed better than the result a host country could achieve. This is a pointthat has been proven wrong time and time again.
A recent example is theintervention and removal of Saddam Hussein as president of Iraq in 2003, the butterflyeffect of which is still present in modern Middle Eastern politics (Cornwell,2016).The narrative of “equal or superior”interventions by the US is perceived as a milder form of colonialism (Donais,2009) and a means in which to steamroll western ideals on a society in afragile state (Goldfinch and DeRouen, 2014), under the false pretences of longterm peacebuilding and conditional aid (Goldfinch and DeRouen, 2014). Thewestern power intervening also benefits from the host country’s naturalresources as well as a new alliance with them (Paris, 2010). Conditionalities leavespace for individual gain, as the aid supplied is entrusted to the governmentto distribute. The World Bank and the IMF have since found that conditional aidrarely goes where it is promised, and falls instead into the pockets of theelite (Koeberle et al., 2005).
The political climate of the country,as well as aid, can be manipulated by the elite. The United Nations is a madeup of delegates; delegates are selected by their country’s government, and soan autocratic government’s delegates will advocate for autocracy. In the caseof war, they have a greater ability to manipulate the UN in their favour, aswell as the flow of aid, arms and international support, unlike theiropposition, who have no voice in the international arena (Kiernan, 2002). Cambodia is an example of how the UN’sdelegate nomination system is flawed. Following the removal of Pol Pot by theVietnamese-backed government (People’s Republic of Kampuchea or PRK) in 1979(Kiernan, 2002) the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) led by Pol Pot wasrecognised as the official government of Cambodia (BBC, 2017). The UNrepresentative of Cambodia belonged to the CPK, and remained in the seat forthe ten years of Vietnamese occupation (Selby, 2014). The CPK was influentialin the peacebuilding program in Cambodia (Selby, 2014), despite the mass murderof around 1.5 million Cambodians between 1975-1979 (Kiernan, 2008).
The UN is by nature diverse and thepower structures within it lead to various allies and adversaries playingunilateral roles in politics (Selby, 2014). For example, the United States’complex history with Vietnam and Vietnam’s primary aid giver, the Soviet Union,lead to sanctions against the newly formed Vietnamese backed government inCambodia, the PRK (Vickery, 1994). Aid was therefore directed to itsopposition, the Khmer Rouge, who were painted as refugees that’d been drivenout of the country (Kiernan, 2002). Internationally, the consensus was that a US-Chinesebacked government was preferable to a Soviet-Vietnamese government (Selby,2014). The UN’s persistence to use the liberalpeacebuilding paradigm lead to a ‘successful’ election, which ousted theVietnamese-backed government for a three-party coalition government whose onlycommon interest was the removal of the PRK (Vickey, 1994).
This lead tointernational complacency (Selby, 2014), as the war was over, and the illusionof positive peace was there, but not truly achieved – demonstrated by thecurrent leader, Hun Sen, who has been prime minister of the country since 1985(BBC, 2017).The liberalpeacebuilding paradigm influences the way in which NGOs and governments trainaid workers and practitioners in the field (Anderson and Olson, 2003). Theparadigm is perceived as a means of problem solving, opposed to academia thatsimply critiques the paradigm without solutions (Paris, 2010). Employees’ priorities reflect those of theorganisation, as well as how they try to implement positive change in theconflict setting (Anderson and Olson, 2003).
The analysis of a country’sbackground is difficult due to the amount of information available, and it isdifficult to establish what is important within the context, as well as how itmay have evolved or will change (Goldfinch and DeRouen Jr, 2014). In mostcontexts individuals involved in peacebuilding are trained elsewhere, by NGOs,the UN or individual country’s development offices (Anderson and Olson, 2003). Outsiders’peacebuilding efforts can only go so far, as the framework they are given as atool is ethnocentric. (Pouligny, 2005).The liberal peacebuilding paradigmunderestimates the importance of local involvement in the peacebuildingprocess. The wider population needs to adapt liberal peacebuilding methods intotheir context for them to last (Donais, 2009) instead of the task being givento elites, warlords and militias who can manipulate, or wait out thepeacebuilding process, by creating superficial democracy (Selby, 2014) untiloutside influence retreats (Donais, 2009).Autesserre’sfieldwork in the Congo, Sudan and Burundi found that change needs to be ledfrom within the country (Autesserre, 2014). Thus, outside organisations should belimited to a support network, aiding inside professionals to generate options basedon skills and resources available (Autesserre, 2014).
In this case, thegrassroots operations will therefore adapt the peacebuilding to be moreefficient without undermining current institutions in place. Instead, they willbe building upon them (Autesserre, 2014). Local empowerment is based on thecreation of a workforce to promote production, enabling exchange of goods andservices (Webel and Galtung, 2010). In the aftermath of war, this needs to beachieved to a level that meets basic human needs and can be divided equally(Webel and Galtung, 2010). Sustainability in the practices put in place willalso provide long term solutions to greed-based arguments for violent conflict,as well investment into the state, instead of outsourcing to make up the debtcreated by the conflict (Paris, 2010). In conclusion, the liberal peacebuildingparadigm has failed to achieve positive peace, only achieving the absence ofviolence (Cooper, Turner and Pugh, 2011). It is the position of this essay thatit should be abandoned in its current format.
The aim to remove inequalities inthe target country does not occur. The paradigm simply transforms them, in somecases making the social divide larger, as was the case in Afghanistan (MacGinty, 2010). Organisations’ power and resources should facilitate internaltransformation, using trained professionals in the short-term and transferringof skills in the long-term (Anderson and Olson, 2003). This is finer use ofresources currently used to implement a universal political structure that doesnot facilitate local context. There is not one solution to every country’sconflicts, but it is possible for knowledge to be translated contextually intopractice to create positive peace (Autesserre, 2014). The new predominantdiscourse is one in which positive peace is achieved when it is driven fromwithin the country, rather than the culturally unspecific peacebuildingstructure known as the liberal peacebuilding paradigm (Cooper, Turner and Pugh,2011).