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«Part I Post-Conflict Security Arrangements - the Role of the International Community Chapter 1 The International Community and State Reconstruction ...»

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Part I

Post-Conflict Security Arrangements

- the Role of the International


Chapter 1

The International Community and State

Reconstruction in War-Torn Societies

Robin Luckham 1

There is some hubris in the idea that the international community (and in

particular the major donors and international bodies) can assist the

reconstruction of entire states and national societies after war and state

collapse. Yet in recent years this is precisely what it has been attempting in country after country, including Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia and (even more problematically) in Iraq. 2 War and political violence in the developing world have been endemic since World War II. There has been a gradual long-term increase in the number of conflicts in progress at any one time, but largely because more conflicts have been started than have ended. Many of the most virulent conflicts - notably those in Afghanistan, Angola, Burma, Colombia, the DRC, Indonesia, Kashmir, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, and Sudan

- have roots that extend back two to five decades. An immediate upsurge in conflicts after the end of the Cold War was followed by a decline starting in the mid-1990s (Fearon and Laitin 2003), reflecting the success of conflict resolution efforts, for instance in Central America.

Senior Research Associate, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK.

Sometimes reconstruction has occurred under a UN umbrella, as with the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia and subsequent UN post-conflict administrations in other countries.

Sometimes the lead roles have been assumed by major alliance systems and regional organisations, like NATO, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the European Union in the Balkans. Sometimes, as in Iraq, it has been ‘coalitions of the willing’, in particular the United States and other Western powers. Regional organisations like the Economic Community of West African States or Southern African Development Community in Southern and Central Africa have stepped in to support peacekeeping operations, peace negotiations, and sometimes national reconstruction, as in the DRC.

Even so, the tendency for conflicts to become self-perpetuating or to reignite over the long term underscores the priority of peace-building and reconstruction.

Even if the number of wars has not dramatically increased, their nature and impact has. ‘New’, ‘post-modern’ or ‘network’ wars have challenged political authority, governance, and the entire social fabric of conflict-torn states more directly than did earlier wars (Kaldor 1999;

Kaldor and Luckham 2001; Duffield 2001). These wars have also been extremely destructive in terms of civilian casualties, the displacement of populations, the destruction of livelihoods, physical and social capital, and their negative impact on development (Nafziger and Auvinen 2002;

Luckham, et al. 2001; Stewart in this volume).

All this is enough reason for the official development community to be seriously concerned. But it does not explain why that community, and notably bilateral donor agencies and international financial institutions, have shed previous inhibitions about interceding in conflicts and security issues. During the Cold War these issues were seen as too ‘political’ and risky for them to handle. World Bank reports eschewed any analysis of authoritarian rule or of conflict until the early 1990s, when the introduction of the concept of ‘good governance’ permitted the Bank and other development assistance agencies to address such issues through a seemingly neutral and technocratic discourse. The Bank’s post-conflict unit, like the UK Department for International Development (DFID)’s Conflict and Humanitarian Affairs Department and similar units in other donor agencies, was established during the 1990s.

A gradual but decisive shift took place toward more interventionist theories and practices of development assistance: from simply funding development policies and programmes; to influencing aid recipient countries’ policy frameworks under stabilisation and structural adjustment programmes; to directly transforming political and administrative institutions under the rubric of good governance, so as to ensure a supportive institutional framework for market-based development. From this it has been a fairly short and logical step to the idea that the development community could and should concern itself

with reconstructing governance in war-torn states and societies afterconflict. 3

The political stabilisation of the developing world is prioritised because of the fears of Western governments, international firms, and multilateral agencies that political turmoil and violent conflict threaten global security and the expansion of global markets. Humanitarian principles have been twisted to legitimise interventions that serve great power politics and corporate interests, as in Iraq. These interventions in turn generate what Chalmers Johnson (2000) terms ‘blowback’: anti-Western protests, including the emergence of armed networks such as Al-Qaeda, able to strike at targets in the West itself. The current preoccupations with the ‘war on terror’ and with weapons of mass destruction are the most obvious markers of such concerns.

The dramatic and horrifying events of 9/11 brought these issues to the centre of the international stage. Yet as Halliday (2002) and others have argued, the train of events following 9/11 simply accelerated changes already underway in the security policies and development agendas of the United States and other Western countries. Section 1 of this paper examines these policies and agendas, and their effects on the scale and nature of the major powers’ interventions in the developing world.

Section 2 analyses some common causes of conflict and state failure, emphasizing that the particularity of causes, and legacies, means that there can be no ‘one-size fits all’ approach to peace-building and reconstruction. Section 3 looks at how dialogue with a wider range of stakeholders can be fostered, so as to ensure that the reconstruction of states and societies is inclusive and legitimate. Section 4 concludes by identifying some generic policy dilemmas of post-conflict reconstruction. 4 Duffield (2001) argues powerfully that the ‘securitisation of development’ and the rise of a ‘new humanitarianism’ - the belief that the traumas and suffering associated with conflict are a global responsibility - constitute a new form of global hegemony and interventionism.

Duffield argues that these trends have led increasingly to the uncritical imposition of Western liberal values, political institutions, and capitalist markets on a subordinated but diverse and multi-cultural developing world.

Useful discussions of state collapse and the role of the international community in putting states together again are Doornbos (2002), Ottaway (2002) and, with specific reference to What Motivates International Intervention?

International involvement in the reconstruction of war-torn states is Janus-faced. 5 It reflects not only a drive to achieve new forms of hegemony but also normative conceptions of an interdependent liberal global order and of the role of the United Nations in preventing violent conflict and peace-building (Annan 2002).

These conceptions can be traced back to many earlier initiatives, notably the Brandt Commission Report on international development, NorthSouth: a Programme for Survival, and the Palme Commission Report on Common Security: a Programme for Disarmament, both published in the early 1980s, and indeed to the UN Charter itself. They have gradually introduced many valuable new elements into the theory and practice of international relations and of global development: greater recognition of the importance of international humanitarian law; the withdrawal of legitimacy from military and authoritarian regimes; support for democratisation; greater emphasis on human rights; the idea that state security should be based on human security; and greater international involvement in conflict resolution, peace-building, and post-conflict reconstruction.

A major misperception about this liberal and democratic world view which critics like Duffield (2001) may have encouraged - is that it has simply been foisted on the world as part of the apparatus of international hegemony. To be sure, the democratic and developmental principles behind international humanitarianism have all too often been hijacked by Western leaders to lend respectability to their interventions. Yet they are nevertheless important and deserving of support in their own right.

Moreover, they enjoy wider legitimacy in the international system and in developing countries themselves, where they have been taken forward through regional initiatives.

Afghanistan, Cramer and Goodhand (2002). All are published in an excellent issue of Development and Change on state collapse.

This argument is more fully spelt out in Luckham (2003).

The Brandt/Palme vision of global interdependence was the product of an alliance between European social democrats and Third World statespersons, and for a long time it was ignored or opposed by the major world powers. The notion of ‘human security’ was the product of a powerful critique of traditional state-centred thinking about security, and it became a central feature of the UNDP’s Human Development Reports in the early 1990s. Demands for democracy originally arose from struggles against military and authoritarian rule in the developing world, and were only later taken up by aid donors, many of which indeed had earlier lent support to dictatorships. Campaigns for human rights and international humanitarian law drew strength from campaigns against rights violations in countries like Pinochet’s Chile, apartheid South Africa, Nigeria, or Chile, as well as from international advocacy groups such as Amnesty International. Many of the most respected UN peacekeeping forces have been recruited from developing countries, including Ghana and Fiji. Even recent additions to the donor peacebuilding armoury, such as security sector reform, have emerged from the theory and practice of democratic transition in countries like South Africa, which have had much to teach the West itself about democratic civil-military relations. In Africa, initiatives for the promotion of humanitarian values include the African Charter of Human Rights and the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, together with the conflict-prevention and peacekeeping mechanisms of the African Union, the Economic Commission for West Africa, Southern African Development Community, and other regional and sub-regional bodies.

A less remarked on feature of the new interventionism is a certain ‘developmentalisation’ of security. 6 National security planners, defence ministries, military staffs, staff colleges, and defence academies have begun to involve themselves in development issues, the theory and practice of peacekeeping, humanitarian law, human rights, human security, peace-building, and post-conflict reconstruction. To a large extent this is because they are having to undertake a much wider range Recent events in Iraq, including the torture and humiliation of prisoners, might seem to suggest the contrary, and that crude realpolitik after all prevails in Western security establishments. Pentagon and White House policies have encouraged flagrant disregard for human rights and international human law, including the Geneva Convention.

of roles, including ‘out of area operations’, counter-terrorism, peace support operations, and security sector reform.

One of the most controversial aspects of international intervention has been the erosion of national sovereignty. Processes of globalisation already severely restrict the capacity of national governments to manage their economies and to deliver security unaided. The erosion of sovereignty opens the gates for interventions driven by the geopolitical interests of major powers, as well as by humanitarian concern for people who suffer state repression or conflict.

The view that the international community has the right, indeed the responsibility, to intervene to prevent gross human rights abuses or end conflicts raises the hackles of many governments in the South (though not necessarily of their citizens). But the force of such objections is diminished when sovereignty has already been dissipated by a government’s failure to fulfil its core responsibilities, including provision of basic physical security and protection of citizens’ rights. As the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty insists, states that fail to deliver security to their citizens and massively violate their rights are not exercising their sovereign responsibility to protect (ICISS 2001). Hence state sovereignty needs to be supplemented by a more robust and genuinely equitable multilateralism, based on common norms and principles accepted by all the major international actors.

What has diminished the legitimacy of US and British intervention in Iraq, and made it so deeply offensive to most in the Middle East, has been the arrogant assumption that there is one law for the major powers and another for the developing world. A superpower that refused to sign up to or be bound by international agreements on global questions such as the International Criminal Court, or biological and chemical weapons, was already less likely to have its bona fides accepted when it intervened to restore democracy and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq - even before its own aggressive peace-enforcement and disregard for human rights destroyed its remaining shreds of authority. There is now a real danger that the legitimacy of the United Nations and of the entire peace-building agenda may be fatally compromised if it is seen as subservient to America’s hegemonic agenda in the Middle East.

Yet the cooptation of the United Nations’ and other international agencies’ humanitarian, peace-building, human rights, and democratisation agendas is not a good enough reason to reject the agendas themselves. Whatever one’s reservations about the hubris and blundering in Iraq, the paradoxes of donor-driven democratisation in Bosnia, or the biases and fragility of peace-building in Afghanistan, international intervention in violent conflicts is here to stay, simply because the problems it was designed to address are still with us.

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