Chapter 5 - Intervening in conflict-affected areas

Chapter 5 - Intervening in conflict-affected areas


International and regional peace and security architecture

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International peace and security architecture

Peace and security architecture refers to the collection of organisations, mechanisms, and relationships through which the international, regional and local communities manage conflict, conflict prevention and peacebuilding. 

This section focuses on the United Nations, which remains the key institution in charge of international peace and security; and international financial institutions.

United Nations

The United Nations has sought to implement a number of organisational reforms in recent years. Among them is the adoption of an integrated mission concept that aims to engage the various capabilities within the UN system in a coherent and mutually supportive manner. This is to be achieved through the establishment of a common strategic objective and comprehensive operational approach among the various agencies of the UN. The goal is to maximise UN contributions in countries emerging from conflict. Such reforms have been hindered, however, by the absence of adequate organisational change and accompanying incentives and mechanisms to encourage UN agencies to pool resources, consolidate rules and procedures, and invest in collaborative efforts.

The establishment of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, mandated in 2005, is an attempt to provide coherence to and coordination of peacebuilding missions. The mandate of the Commission is: to bring together all relevant actors, including international donors, the international financial institutions, national governments, and troop contributing countries; to marshal resources and predictable financing; to advise on and propose integrated strategies for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery; and where appropriate, to highlight any gaps that threaten to undermine peace. Recent evaluation of the Commission indicates that it has managed to create linkages between political, security, development and financial actors and to promote long-term attention to recovery and peacebuilding processes. Difficulties with coordination persist, however.

Hybrid operations are another possible mechanism for cooperation and coordination. Most have thus far consisted of either ad hoc short-term military support to a UN operation or the deployment of the UN in a long-term mission that takes over from a short-term regional intervention. The joint AU/UN peacekeeping operation in Darfur, launched in 2007, is the first time that a comprehensive hybrid operation has been adopted. The hybrid operation in this case was designed in large part because of the rejection by the Sudanese government of a UN presence. The way in which hybrid operations have been carried out has been critiqued, however, for attempting to match capacities from different organisations without providing the necessary mechanisms or political arrangements for coordination. There have been concerns about command and control mechanisms and methods of accountability.

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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Campbell, S. P. and Kaspersen, A. T., 2008, 'The UN's Reforms: Confronting Integration Barriers', International Peacekeeping, vol. 15, no. 4, pp 470-485
Have the UN integration reforms introduced between 1997 and 2007 increased efficiency and effectiveness in multidimensional peace operations? What are the barriers to better integration between UN agencies? This article argues that the reforms have largely ignored the barriers to their implementation - such as the fragmentation of the UN structure and the complexity of war-to-peace transitions. Reform impact has been greatly diminished by the absence of accompanying incentives or effective organisational change backed by long-term political engagement and support.

CIC/IPI, 2008, ‘Taking Stock, Looking Forward: A Strategic Review of the Peacebuilding Commission’ Centre on International Cooperation and the International Peace Institute, New York 
How successful is the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission (PBC)? This paper commissioned three years after the creation of the PBC assesses progress made and makes suggestions for enhanced impact. Continued focus on performance by all stakeholders will be necessary if the PBC is to (a) consolidate its positive impact on cases undertaken to date, and (b) extend its reach to new cases. In selecting new cases, the PBC should consider the potential to solidify its role as the central international meeting ground of political/security and financial/development actors.

Andersen, L., 2007, ‘UN Peace Operations in the 21st Century: State-building and Hybridity’, Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen
How have global peace operations evolved in the past decade? What challenges do these trends create? This paper maps recent United Nations led and delegated peace operations. It identifies two major trends in policy and practice: State-building interventions and hybrid operations. While these may be seen as pragmatic solutions to political problems, they also raise serious questions about accountability.

For further discussion and resources on the United Nations architecture, see the peacekeeping section of this guide. For resources on the UN Peacebuilding Commission in particular, see the peacebuilding sections of this guide.

International Financial Institutions

The international trend toward greater inter-agency cooperation and harmonisation in conflict prevention, peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction has extended to the international financial institutions (IFIs).  The World Bank has traditionally distanced itself from matters related to conflict due to its non-political mandate. The increasing calls for World Bank participation and a growing recognition of the linkages between security and development have resulted in greater engagement by the World Bank in conflict contexts. The Bank has since emerged as a key player in coordinating and administering international support for post-conflict recovery.

The IFIs have also increasingly recognised that their policies must be adapted in conflict-affected countries and that conventional economic goals and activities will not automatically result in peacebuilding, and in some cases may be contrary to securing the peace. Instead new innovations may be required, for example, incorporating horizontal equity impact assessments into policy formulation and project appraisal; and rethinking the push for macroeconomic stabilisation, in particular cuts in government spending and potential tradeoffs with political stabilisation.

Boyce, J.K., 2004, ‘The International Financial Institutions: Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Peacebuilding Capacities’, Paper prepared for the Centre on International  Cooperation, Seminar on ‘Strengthening the UN’s Capacity on Civilian Crisis Management’, 8-9 June, Copenhagen
Do the international financial institutions (IFIs) have the capacity to respond effectively in the planning and implementation of the civilian components of post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding? This study suggests that the World Bank has gone further than other IFIs in addressing the distinctive challenges posed by engagement in post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding. However, there are areas where capacity building could enhance the effectiveness of their contributions. To respond effectively, the IFIs cannot stick to the same policies they would follow if a country has never had a civil war.

Lie, J. H. S., 2008, ‘The World Bank and Conflicts: From Narrow Rules to Broader Principles’, NUPI Report, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, Oslo
What is the relevance of the World Bank (WB) to conflicts, peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction? This study argues that the WB’s new operational policies promote a stronger inclination for the Bank to engage in conflict situations. Full participation in a Comprehensive Approach involving civil and military actors is still difficult. However, the WB is important to such an approach and it should be consulted and listened to on matters of reconstruction and development.

Bell, E., 2008, ‘The World Bank in Fragile and Conflict-affected Countries: “How”, Not “How Much”’, International Alert, London
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Regional peace and security architecture

Violent conflicts often involve regional causes, dynamics and impacts, such as insecurity and poor governance in neighbouring countries, the presence of cross-border rebel groups, regional illicit trading networks in arms and high-value resources, refugee flows, destruction of cross-border infrastructure and other humanitarian and development spill-over effects.

Regional organisations have increasingly begun to work to promote peace and security. They may be considered more effective and legitimate external actors for conflict prevention, conflict management and peacebuilding than the United Nations and other international actors. They are also more likely to have an interest in preventing, containing or resolving conflicts in their region. Their approaches range from diplomacy, to peacekeeping, to regional cooperation over infrastructure and regional public goods.

The level of engagement and effectiveness varies, however, across regions and among regional and sub-regional organisations. The literature on regional organisations indicates that the rise in assertiveness, self-assurance and capacity of the leading regional peace and security bodies in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia has not been paralleled in the rest of Asia or in the Middle East. In addition, effectiveness is often not determinable by official organisational mandates. Economic organisations, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for example, have developed effective peacemaking capacities.

Despite the rise in prominence of regional bodies, research highlights that in practice, they can, similar to the UN, suffer from internal divisions, a lack of common values (with the exception of the European Union) and inflexibility. In addition, many lack adequate institutions, procedures and capacity and can serve purely to legitimate regional policies of their member states or to lock out or lock in selected states during the negotiation processes.

The rise of strong regional actors has also resulted in innovative coalitions in the South, with the inauguration of the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Dialogue Forum in 2003. IBSA could play a crucial role – within the framework of South-South cooperation – in addressing conventional non-traditional security threats in the contemporary global order, such as terrorism, drugs and drug-related crimes, transnational organised crime, illegal weapons traffic, and threats to public health, in particular HIV/AIDS.

Wulf, H., 2009, ‘The Role of Regional Organisations in Conflict Prevention and Resolution’ in Still Under Construction: Regional Organisations' Capacities for Conflict Prevention’, ed. H. Wulf, INEF Report, no. 97, Institute for Development and Peace, University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, pp. 5-19
What role do regional organisations have in conflict prevention and resolution? Due to an overburdened UN system, the international community has increasingly tasked regional organisations with conflict prevention and peacekeeping. This chapter outlines why regional organisations have played such a marginal role in the past. There are still weaknesses in regional organisations’ conflict prevention and management functions which will limit their future role.

Soko, M., 2007, ‘IBSA Regional Security Dimensions: The South African Perspective’, Policy: Issues and Actors, vol, 20, no. 6, Centre for Policy Studies, Johannesburg
In response to the high level of conflict and insecurity across the continent, African countries now seek to broaden the security issue by emphasising non-military security threats. However, this new paradigm poses the challenge of reconciling national sovereignty and non-interference with the more assertive security agenda championed by regional and sub-regional formations.

For further resources on regional peace and security architecture, see responsibility to protect in the peacekeeping section of this guide.


The transformation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) into the African Union (AU) in 2002 was an important step in developing a new African peace and security architecture. In comparison to its predecessor, which was hamstrung by the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in the affairs of its member states, the AU is more proactive and has adopted principles and norms that relate to the responsibility to protect.

In addition, there is an increasing recognition and codification of a broader notion of security that encompasses non-military aspects. The NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) initiative has been instrumental in emphasising the links between development, peace and security. Regional Economic Communities (e.g. ECOWAS, Southern African Development Community, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Eastern Africa) have also been incorporated into the African peace and security architecture – and have varied experience and efficacy in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts, hampered by a lack of effective crisis response structures.

The AU has recently suffered from very public divisions over interventions in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya. Failure of progress by regional and sub-regional organisations has been attributed by some to an entrenched political culture that endorses the use of force and mutual intervention by states in each other’s conflicts and domestic affairs.

The new peace and security architecture in Africa under the direction of the AU includes the Peace and Security Council (PSC), the African Stand-By Force (ASF), the Continental Early Warning System (CEWS), a Panel of the Wise and the African Peace Facility (APF).

The PSC has had a mixed record since its launch in 2004. The PSC has played significant roles in conflict management in Burundi and Comoros and was quick to expel Mauritania and Togo following their coups d’états. However the 2006 Ethiopian intervention in Somalia was ignored despite this intervention lacking a mandate and Sudan has successfully obstructed several deliberations on Darfur.

Future objectives are to strengthen the mediation and conflict prevention aspects of PSC; institutionalise this mediation expertise and experience in the PSC and AU; and to form a unit within the PSC to monitor and evaluate the evolving dynamics of a conflict.

The ASF, which was originally scheduled to be operational by 2010, and now has a target of 2015, seeks to act as a rapid response force. It will be available for activities ranging from preventative deployments and observer missions to peacekeeping or peace-enforcement operations and post-conflict activities. The ASF when ready could be adopted for hybrid operations, in which the AU deploys first followed by the UN. There are concerns, however that the ASF has focused too much on the military components and that more attention is required to develop the civilian dimension, including child protection, gender issues, human rights, civil affairs, economic recovery and HIV/AIDS issues.

Together with regional early warning systems, the CEWS is set to anticipate and prevent conflicts in Africa through collecting data and information. This is to support PSC decision-making and to guide ASF deployment. The Panel of the Wise acts as a consultative body to the PSC on peace and security issues and is deployed in preventative diplomacy. The aim of the APF is to cover conflict prevention and post-conflict stabilisation as well as to accelerate decision-making and coordination processes.

The literature on Africa’s peace and security architecture finds that progress has been made in creating a sound architecture that can act effectively to protect regional peace and security. This is evident for example in the AU’s ability to act at the political level to mandate peacekeeping missions and the steps it has taken to establish the ASF. Key challenges remain, however – for example, the lack of political will to intervene in the affairs of sovereign countries; as well as the lack of adequate financial resources to meet demands, and the inability displayed thus far by African organisations to mobilise such resources. External support is essential – and donors have become increasingly involved in helping to develop the regional architecture. Donor involvement has centred on capacity-building for the political and administrative structures; support for early warning systems; and enhancing military capacities.

Vines, A., 2013, ‘A decade of African Peace and Security Architecture’, International Affairs, vol. 89, no. 1
In 2012, the AU gained a new chairperson whose role is to reform the AU and make it more effective at enhancing peace and security in Africa. The AU has recently suffered from very public divisions over interventions in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya. There is a lack of clarity on mandates and roles and this has often led to mixed messages and at times to institutional rivalries. The African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) offers the prospect of more African solutions to African challenges. APSA is a holistic approach to peace and security that recognizes the importance of prevention and mediation as much as peacekeeping.
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Klingebiel, S. et al., 2008, ‘Donor Contributions to the Strengthening of the African Peace and Security Architecture’, German Development Institute, Bonn
How can the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) be strengthened? What is the role of external support? This study analyses how external support for the new APSA is changing. African reform dynamics, the emerging international security agenda and the complex relationship between security approaches and development policy have led external actors to search for new approaches across foreign, security and development policy areas.

Williams, P., 2009, ‘The Peace and Security Council of the African Union: Evaluating an Embryonic International Institution’ The Journal of Modern African Studies, vol. 47, no. 4, pp. 603-626
How has the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union helped promote peace, security and stability on the African continent? This paper evaluates the PSC in terms of the significance of PSC deliberations and official statements; its political relevance; its efficiency and productivity; and the extent to which it should be considered the best placed institution to deal with Africa’s security challenges. It concludes that the PSC has had mixed results and its future will hinge on whether more AU members will devote it greater resources.

Aning, K. and Atuobi, S., 2009, ‘Responsibility to Protect in Africa: An Analysis of the African Union's Peace and Security Architecture’, Global Responsibility to Protect, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 90-113
What is the best way to develop 'Responsibility to Protect' (R2P) norms in Africa? This article from argues that collaborative ventures between the African Union (AU) at the continental level, the regional economic communities (RECs) at the sub-regional level and the UN at the global level are the best options for deepening R2P norms. The AU’s attempt to solve the continent’s problems will continue to be thwarted by its lack of political will and the weakening of its norms and principles by some member states.

Dersso, S. A., 2010, 'The Role and Place of the African Standby Force within the African Peace and Security Architecture', ISS Paper, no. 209, Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria
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El Abdellaoui, J., 2009, ‘The Panel of the Wise. A Comprehensive Introduction to a Critical Pillar of the African Peace and Security Architecture,’ ISS Paper 193, Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria/Tshwane 
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Healy, S., 2009, ‘Peacemaking in the Midst of War: An Assessment of IGAD's Contribution to Regional Security’, Paper no. 59 (series 2), Crisis States Research Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science, London
The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is the regional organisation of seven East African countries, aiming to achieve regional peace, prosperity and integration. When member states fuel military action even while participating in peace talks, however, what can IGAD achieve? This paper assesses IGAD’s development and contribution to two major peace processes, in Sudan and Somalia. Despite a significant influence on the outcomes, IGAD is undermined by weak institutional systems and an entrenched political culture of military aggression across the region.

van Jaarsveld, S. and Mottiar, S., 2009, ‘Mediating Peace in Africa: Securing Conflict Prevention - Strengthening the Mediation and Conflict Prevention Aspects of the African Peace and Security Architecture’ African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland
How can the African Union’s mediation and conflict prevention mechanisms be strengthened? This seminar report assesses the evolving African peace and security architecture and presents five key recommendations for its future development. It argues that the AU’s partnerships should be strengthened, early warning systems established, mediation work and lesson-learning institutionalised, and that civil society should become more involved in mediation processes.

For additional discussion and resources on the African peace and security architecture, see the peacekeeping and third party mediation sections of this guide.


As noted in the outset, apart from Southeast Asia – and its Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), there are few prominent regional organisations in the rest of Asia involved in peace and security.

In contrast to most regions, the peace and security architecture in Asia has primarily involved informal mechanisms. The ASEAN approach has focused on ‘softer’ aspects, such as regional understanding, trust and long term relationships, as methods of conflict prevention and conflict management.

The absence of comprehensive Charter provisions addressing conflict prevention and management has not hindered ASEAN’s recent movement into conflict prevention and management, in particular its ceasefire monitoring in Aceh and conflict prevention efforts in Cambodia and Burma. ASEAN continues, however, to place primacy on sovereignty and non-interference. 

Freidrichs, J., 2012, ‘East Asian Regional Security: What the ASEAN Family Can (Not) Do’, Asian Survey, vol. 52, no. 4
What can, or cannot, the ASEAN regional security toolbox accomplish? The ‘ASEAN family’ of regional security institutions has a mixed record: it has proved very helpful in improving interstate trust, fairly helpful in managing peaceful change, and somewhat helpful in enhancing regime stability, but virtually useless in resolving interstate conflict. ASEAN-centered regionalism is a supplement to and an expression of, but not a substitute for, more conventional forms of international relations.
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Swanström, N., 2005, ‘Regional Cooperation and Conflict Prevention’, Chapter 4 in Conflict Prevention and Conflict Management in Northeast Asia, ed. N. Swanström, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program, Washington, DC and Nacka, Sweden, pp. 71-101
What is the future of regional cooperation and conflict prevention? This chapter discusses the links between regional cooperation and conflict prevention. Conflicts often have regional implications, dimensions and connections that necessitate a multilateral approach to conflict prevention. Effective regional cultures of prevention are needed, and these require agreement on core values and increased trust between member states. Regional, national and international actors need to engage in a process to redirect norms and values towards prevention and long term strategies.


Although the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are structured very differently, there are functional crossovers in the fields of diplomacy, civilian crisis management, and more generally in areas such as the promotion of democracy and human rights. The two organisations have cooperated in the past, for example, in efforts to promote conflict prevention and political and economic stability in Southeast Europe. Joint efforts could also be beneficial for conflict prevention activities in the South Caucasus and Central Asia.

Cooperation in the field may not always contribute to long-term conflict prevention, however. The EU’s acceptance of Estonia and Latvia as EU candidates and later as members, for example, undermined the OSCE’s efforts to persuade governments of the two countries to protect minority rights.

Stewart, E., 2008, ‘Restoring EU-OSCE Cooperation for Pan-European Conflict Prevention’, Contemporary Security Policy, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 266-284
Is cooperation with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) important to the European Union (EU)? Could an EU-OSCE partnership end OSCE’s current crisis? This paper examines EU-OSCE relations, outlining modes of co-operation and overlap in objectives. The OSCE, with its inclusive membership and consensus-based approach, remains a relevant and essential actor in European security. Its current political crisis should not jeopardise EU commitment to cooperation.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Latin America and the Caribbean are considered to be among the more peaceful regions in the world. With the exception of Columbia, there are no ongoing violent conflicts or imminent threats of violent conflict. There are concerns, however, that weak states and unresolved structural tensions have the possibility to eventually evolve into violent confrontations. The region’s security agenda focuses mainly on non-traditional security threats, such as illegal drug trafficking and money laundering, the illicit trafficking of firearms, corruption, transnational organised crime, the consequences of global warning as well as HIV/AIDS.

The Organisation of American States (OAS) is the region’s primary peace and security organisation. The focus of the OAS agen¬da has historically been on peaceful resolution of inter-state conflicts, but the OAS has in the 1980s and 1990s also engaged in conflict prevention. Successful cases include interventions in Central America, where special peace programmes were set up with the participation of the political leadership and grassroots civil society organisations. Similar to other regional organisations, key challenges faced by the OAS include strongly embedded principles of sovereignty and non-intervention, and a lack of political will and difficulties in building consensus among its member states. Efforts to increase civil society involvement in the activities of the OAS, has been blocked in large part by a lack of political will among several member states.

Jácome, F.,  2009, ‘Violent Conflict Prevention in Latin America and the Caribbean’ in Still Under Construction: Regional Organisations' Capacities for Conflict Prevention’, ed. H. Wulf, INEF Report, no. 97, Institute for Development and Peace, University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, pp. 20-39
This case study analyses the main conflicts in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and examines the mechanisms that have been developed to prevent or resolve them. The paradigms that guide debates on the prevention of violent conflict in the region need to be changed. The causes of conflict are cumulative and so prevention should take into account the three interrelated aspects of development, governance and the promotion of a culture of peace.