Friday, January 22, 2016

The 'Host and Guests' Debate in Peacebuilding

Research notes
International organisations, multilateral and bilateral agencies, diplomatic missions and donors all have vital roles in justice and reconciliation, and socio-economic development in the aftermath of conflict. But a question to consider here is what factors shape their policies and priorities in a host country, and how and why they involve in such processes? Several critics (Duffield, 2001; J. Heathershaw, 2008; Paris, 1997) argue that embedded in international peacebuilding assistance is the Western-promoted imposition of 'liberal peace'—a set of measures designed to liberalise economy, modernise society, introduce democracy and induce political stability. Such assistance may also include biases for they see post-war countries through an outsider's perspective. Yet, such assistance is unavoidable given the interconnected political and economic concerns, and security interdependence of many countries. However, this subtle relations are overlooked when critiquing the role of external actors. This is why Richards (2005) claims that the issue of post-conflict space for the international actors is either under-theorised or over-generalised.

Source: UN Logistics Base
A UN report on 'A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility' (The United Nations, 2004: 83) states, "We are in an era where dozens of states are under stress or recovering from conflict, there is a clear international obligation to assist states in developing their capacity to perform their sovereign functions effectively and responsibly". But involvement of international actors in post-conflict reconstruction is not always neutral and benevolent. Because international relations itself is a relations made out of diverse and conflicting national interests, international peacebuilding assistance is most of the times teemed with political interests. Seconding this argument, Rubin (2006: 184) contends that existing literature bodies identify post-conflict reconstruction as one of the 'the best practices' without asking for whom it is 'the best'.

On the other hand, there are many merits of engagement of international actors for post-conflict reconstruction. International agencies involved in such works around the globe do have skill sets for meaningful reconstruction initiatives (Policy Advisory Group, 2010). They do have adequate human and financial resources, the latter being the most important because most of the countries in conflict suffer from economic downturns and insufficient budget to afford reconstruction activities (Coyne, 2005). Many international actors working on conflict transformation are praised for third party mediation and facilitation in negotiations. Similarly, allowing the engagement of international actors provides a host country with international legitimacy while overcoming a transition from war to peace. Digging out motivating and impeding factors of international actors' involvement in post-conflict reconstruction, therefore, helps unearth underlying puzzles in the relations between the 'guests' and 'host' countries in peacebuilding.

Coyne, Christopher J. 2005. “The Institutional Prerequisites for Post-Conflict.” The Review of Austrian Economics 18 (3/4): 325–42.
Duffield, M. 2001. Global Governance and the New Wars: The Merging of Development and Security. London: Zed.
Heathershaw, J. 2008. “Unpacking the Liberal Peace: The Merging and Dividing of Peacebuilding Discourse.” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 36 (3): 597–622. doi:10.1177/03058298080360031101.
Paris, R. 1997. “Peacebuilding and the Limits of Liberal Internationalism.” International Security 22 (2): 54–89.
Policy Advisory Group. 2010. “Post-Conflict Reconstruction in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).” In Policy Advisory Group Seminar Report, edited by Gwinyayi Dzinesa and Joyce Laker. Cape Town: University of Cape Town.
Richards, P. 2005. No Peace, No War: An Anthropology of Contemporary Armed Conflict. Oxford: James Currey.
Rubin, B.R. 2006. “Peace Building and State-Building in Afghanistan: Constructing Sovereignty for Whose Security?” Third World Quarterly 27 (1): 175–85.
The United Nations. 2004. A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility. New York.

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