Peacebuilding, as defined by the United Nations, involves “a range of measures targeted to reduce the risk of lapsing or relapsing into conflict, to strengthen national capacities at all levels for conflict management, and to lay the foundations for sustainable peace and development. Peacebuilding strategies must be coherent and tailored to the specific needs of the country concerned, based on national ownership, and should comprise a carefully prioritised, sequenced, and therefore relatively narrow set of activities aimed at achieving the above objectives”.
This understanding of peacebuilding reflects the growing consensus that peace requires more than the absence of direct or physical violence (‘negative peace’ as defined by Johan Galtung). Instead, it is a long-term process that should aim to achieve the absence of indirect or structural violence (‘positive peace’ as defined by Galtung). Positive peace incorporates notions of social justice and social cohesion.
Peacebuilding has come to be seen as the collective, strategic framework under which security, humanitarian, governance, development, social cohesion and social capital, and reconciliation dimensions can be brought together to address the causes and impact of conflict and build mechanisms for non-violent conflict management. Recognition of the importance of local context and capacities, and the participation of a wide range of local actors in peacebuilding is essential.
United Nations, 2009, ‘Report of the Secretary-General on Peacebuilding in the Immediate Aftermath of Conflict’, Report, no. A/63/881-S/2009/304, United Nations, General Assembly, Security Council, New York
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Barnett, M., Kim, H., O'Donnell, M., and Sitea, L., 2007, 'Peacebuilding: What is in a Name?', Global Governance, 13, pp. 35-38
How is peacebuilding interpreted in meaning and practice? To what extent has it been institutionalised? Peacebuilding is generically defined as external interventions designed to prevent armed conflict. This article surveys twenty-four governmental and intergovernmental bodies that are active in peacebuilding. It analyses how they conceptualise and operationalise their peacebuilding mandate, along with mapping areas of potential concern. It finds that most programmes have focused on the immediate or underlying causes of conflict, to the relative neglect of state institutions.
For resources on coherence and coordination of peacebuilding missions, see the section on section on coherence, coordination, sequencing and funding mechanisms in this guide.
The liberal peace model, which emerged at the end of the 1980s, is premised on the belief that the promotion of a liberal democracy and market-oriented economy in post-conflict countries will create the conditions for lasting peace. Democratisation, under this model, is considered essential for creating the space for non-violent conflict management and resolution, and market economics is seen as the best method of promoting economic growth.
While still perceived as the dominant model, the liberal peace model has been subject to much criticism. Some theorists and practitioners portray it as top-down, formulaic and ethnocentric. They argue that the imposition of an external model that is disconnected from societies will undermine the legitimacy of institutions and participation in such institutions. The liberal peace project is not equally foreign to all countries, however. Post-conflict societies in which some form of democratic institutions may have already existed, for example, may fare better under this model.
The liberal peace model has also been criticised for failing to address societal tensions, fear and distrust that persist from the conflict, resulting in an unstable peace. In some cases, political and economic liberalisation processes may even exacerbate tensions. High levels of societal competition, sparked by liberalisation, and the absence of a state that can peacefully manage disputes, may increase the risk of renewed violence. Economic stabilisation processes can also intensify social exclusion, inequality and marginalisation. A more gradual approach has been proposed, which delays democratic and market reforms until a basic network of domestic institutions are in place. These institutions include social-safety nets, moderate media channels and cross-cutting associations that can build social capital.
The liberal peace model has been not been applied consistently. A range of actors are involved in these interventions, and they pursue multiple objectives using a variety of approaches. The model is often mediated by complex negotiations with local actors, leading to outcomes that often diverge sharply from intervening parties’ stated objectives.
Paris, R., 2004, 'Introduction', in At War's End: Building Peace After Civil Conflict, Cambridge University Press, pp.1-10
What is the relationship between liberalisation, institution building and peace in countries that are just emerging from civil conflict? This book examines post-conflict operations between 1989 and 1999. This introductory chapter outlines the author's argument that while peacebuilders should preserve the broad goal of converting war-shattered states into liberal market democracies, peacebuilding strategies need to build effective institutions before liberalisation takes place.
See also Paris, R., 2010, ‘Saving Liberal Peacebuilding’, Review of International Studies, Vol. 36, pp. 337-365.
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Kurtenbach, S., 2007, ‘Why Is Liberal Peace-building So Difficult? Some Lessons from Central America’ GIGA Working Paper, no. 59, German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Institute of Latin American Studies
Has the liberal peace-building model been successful in addressing the challenges faced by post-war societies? This paper examines peace processes in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. It finds that outside of the historical example of Western Europe, the termination of war does not necessarily represent a critical juncture for pacification, democracy and market liberalisation. Central American post-war societies do not provide proof for a self-enforcing cycle of peace, democracy and development assumed by liberal peace-building, but demonstrate instead a negative cycle of social exclusion, criminality and weak governance and development.
Suhrke, A., 2007, 'Reconstruction as Modernisation: The Post-conflict Project in Afghanistan?, Third World Quarterly, 28:7, pp. 1291-1308
How successful has the recent post-war reconstruction of Afghanistan been in the light of historical experiences of similar reforms? This article argues that the conflation of post war reconstruction with a broader agenda for development and modernisation has brought out a wide range of tensions associated with social change. The entire project shows signs of severe contradictions that are adding to the problems caused by the growing insurgency.
Goodhand, J. and Walton, O., 2009, ‘The Limits of Liberal Peacebuilding? International Engagement in the Sri Lankan Peace Process’, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 303-323
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Despite criticisms of the liberal peace model, a viable full-fledged alternative model has arguably yet to emerge. There are many types of hybridity along the continuum between an ideal type liberal state and illiberal institutions, norms, and practices. There have been different adaptations of and approaches to the liberal peace model.
In the Middle East, both the Gulf States and Jihad Al Bina (the reconstruction wing of Hezbollah) adopted a model in Lebanon that had aspects that were similar and different to the Western model. A key divergence was the reliance by Jihad Al Bina and Gulf States on unconditional cash transfers to affected families. These were considered to be beneficial as they were instantaneous and unencumbered by bureaucracy and gave recipients choice and a sense of autonomy.
In Africa, the African Union and NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) have identified the dismantling of exploitative war economies as a priority for promoting peace. This has resulted in the articulation of a ‘developmental peacekeeping’ model that seeks to achieve sustainable political and economic development that will promote the advancement of democracy and the dismantling of war economies and conflict systems.
These locally-grounded approaches have been led some authors to present a ‘popular’ peacebuilding model as an alternative to liberal peacebuilding. This approach is deemed more locally legitimate because it is based on local, everyday realities. A variant of this ‘popular peacebuilding’ model is ‘republican peacebuilding’. This approach emphasises representation and the fostering of legitimacy and stability in post-conflict settings. It is less concerned with the liberal principles of preserving the autonomy of the individual from the state and the promotion of civil society.
Jarstad, A. K. and Belloni, R., 2012, ‘Introducing Hybrid Peace Governance: Impact and Prospects of Liberal Peacebuilding’, Global Governance, no. 18
How can liberal and illiberal norms coexist in post-conflict countries? In the aftermath of conflict competing interests shape the future of the state. This results in a condition of hybrid peace governance. There are many types of hybridity along the continuum between an ideal type liberal state and illiberal institutions, norms, and practices. This special issue of Global Governance demonstrates the different these may take. International interventions can reinforce hybridity. Hybrid peace governance may reinforce patriarchal, feudal, sexist, and violent political and social systems. Yet it may also contain significant opportunities to make peace processes more stable and locally legitimate.
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MacGinty, R., 2007, ‘Reconstructing Post-war Lebanon: A Challenge to the Liberal Peace?’, Conflict, Security and Development, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 457-482
In the aftermath of the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah War in Lebanon, the Gulf States and Jihad Al Bina, Hezbollah’s reconstruction wing, undertook significant post-war reconstruction activities. This article examines the extent to which these reconstruction activities constitute an alternative to the liberal peace. While they do not have the critical mass or ambition to constitute a fully-fledged alternative, they reveal limitations in the liberal peace approach to reconstruction.
Neethling, T., 2005, ‘The Security-Development Nexus and the Imperative of Peacebuilding with Special Reference to the African Context’, African Journal on Conflict Resolution, vol. 5, no. 1, pp.33-60
How is the link between security and development influencing peacebuilding activities in post-conflict countries? This article reviews case studies from Kosovo, Sierra Leone, and Angola and finds that international actors are already adapting their post-conflict strategies to integrate issues of human security and welfare. It contends that further efforts should be made to embrace the link between security and development, including the implementation of ‘developmental peacekeeping'.
NEPAD, 2005, ‘African Post-conflict Reconstruction Policy Framework’, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Secretariat, Governance, Peace and Security Programme, South Africa
What constitutes an African framework for post-conflict reconstruction? This policy framework aims to provide a common frame of reference and conceptual base for the assessment, planning, coordination and monitoring of post-conflict reconstruction systems across Africa.
Barnett, M., 2006, ‘Building a Republican Peace: Stabilising States after War’ International Security, Vol. 30, no 4, pp. 87-112
How can liberal peacebuilding be improved upon? This article examines the core principles of republicanism – deliberation, representation and constitutionalism – and highlights the differences between liberal and 'republican peacebuilding'. It argues that liberal peacebuilding may be doing more harm than good, and that republican peacebuilding is better suited to promoting stability and legitimacy in post-conflict environments. Republican peacebuilding emphasises the necessity of institutional mechanisms of representation, constitutional arrangements that distribute political power, and deliberative processes that encourage groups to generalise their views. It helps to slow the peacebuilding process and ensures that those with the knowledge have the ability to shape their lives.
Roberts, D., 2011, 'Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, Liberal Irrelevance and the Locus of Legitimacy', International Peacekeeping, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 410-424
This article advances the idea of a 'popular peace' to address the lack of legitimacy that undermines orthodox peacebuilding projects. This concept would refocus liberal institution-building on local, democratically determined priorities, in addition to internationally favoured preferences (such as metropolitan courts and bureaucratic government). A popular peace approach could help to create social institutions around which a contract could evolve as a foundation for durable peacebuilding.
A broader understanding of peacebuilding that incorporates the need to address structural causes of violence and to engage in deeper social transformation has not necessarily resulted in a new way of doing things. Recent research advocates for an evolution from the technical peacebuilding approach that has dominated thus far to a ‘transformative peacebuilding’ approach. This latter approach seeks to mainstream transformative elements into project designs, in particular a deliberate focus on building relationships as an adjunct to addressing other content and tasks.
Other research calls for a move away from a debate focused on whether international actors or local actors are best placed to engage in peacebuilding. What is considered more useful is developing a nuanced understanding of how international and domestic forces interact in post-conflict situations, and what relationship between the two is most likely to be conducive to the goals of sustainable peace.
Fisher, S. and Zimina, L., 2009, ‘Just Wasting Our Time? Provocative Thoughts for Peacebuilders’ Berghof Research Centre for Constructive Conflict Management, Berlin
Whose peace are peacebuilders working for? Should peacebuilders be working to transform or reinforce the status quo? This paper argues that the impact of the peacebuilding community has been stunted by factors including lack of clarity about values, deference towards political leaders, organisational rivalry and lack of competent practitioners. The authors argue for and outline an approach to transformative peacebuilding.
Bozicevic, G., 2009, Reflections on Peacebuilding from Croatia, Berghof Research Centre for Constructive Conflict Management, Berlin
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Donais, T., 2009, ‘Empowerment or Imposition? Dilemmas of Local Ownership in Post-Conflict Peacebuilding Processes’, Peace & Change, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 3-26
Local ownership is accepted in theory but rarely practised in post-conflict peacebuilding. This paper explores understandings of 'local ownership' in contemporary peacebuilding and considers the challenges of operationalising it. New efforts are needed to bridge the international-local divide in the name of sustainable peacebuilding.
For further resources and discussion on transformative peacebuilding, see ‘social renewal processes and coexistence programming’ in the reconciliation, social renewal and inclusiveness section, as well as ‘economic recovery’ in the socioeconomic recovery section of this guide.
Recent literature has challenged the predominantly state-centric approaches to peacebuilding that have been practised by international agencies. These approaches are often ill-equipped to deal with cross-border conflict or violence that occurs in borderland regions. Another emerging criticism is that international peacebuilding efforts have failed to understand and tackle local violence, which in some contexts is the primary cause of continued conflict. Donors need to think beyond the state, through regional engagement and below it, through cross-border community or trade networks.
Ramsbotham, A., and Zartman, W., 2011, 'Promoting 'Trickle-up': Linking Sub- and Supra-state Peacebuilding', in Paix Sans Frontieres: Building Peace Across Borders, Accord, Issue 22, Conciliation Resources, London
This article reviews peacebuilding strategies in Asia, Europe, the Caucasus, Africa, Central America and the Middle East. It shows that country-based analysis can produce flawed conflict responses. Instead, policy based on conflict systems can shape more flexible and comprehensive responses. It can identify actors and dynamics that exist outside state borders, such as narcotic networks that support insurgent groups, and incorporate these into peacebuilding interventions. Thus, cross-border peacebuliding needs to 'think outside the state' – both beyond it, through regional engagement, and below it, through sub-state cross-border community or trade networks. To work effectively, supra- and sub-state initiatives need to be strategically linked.
Autesserre, S., 2010, ‘The Peacebuilding World’ in ‘The Trouble With The Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding’,Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-40
Why did international peacebuilding in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) fail? How does international peacebuilding culture hinder the establishment of sustainable peace? This book finds that the causes of ongoing conflict in the DRC were local as well as national and regional. As a result, they could only be successfully addressed by combining bottom-up and top-down peacebuilding. However, the dominant international peacebuilding culture – embedded in social routines, practices, discourses, technologies and institutions – precluded action on local violence.
Statebuilding and peacebuilding are conceptually distinct, with complementarities, trade-offs and tensions between the two. The need for international agencies to adopt an integrated approach to statebuilding and peacebuilding in fragile, conflict-affected states is increasingly recognised in academic and policy circles. The following two supplements explore this development: