Is the Liberal Paradigm of Peacebuilding Intervention Appropriate as a Post-Cold War Conflict Resolution Model?

Benjamin White |

International Relations, Peace and Conflict Studies – BA (Hons)

London Metropolitan University, UK


The practice of peacebuilding has been distorted, entwined with liberal interventionism. Over the 1990’s, it became a standardized policy whereby a specific set of measures became a paradigm, and statebuilding became its synonym (Hirst, 2012, p.15). This has led to the deviation of the liberal peace model. The liberal ideals are not universal and the transmission of them as such is misguided. The analysis taken here is that the trend for peace created from recent, western-led interventions is negative, and subject to falling apart. The implications of this still resonate today and with it in mind, the appropriateness of the paradigm must be questioned. This dissertation sets out to argue the dangers of the peacebuilding as statebuilding convention, to untangle the theory of peacebuilding and to add to the discourse of what the future of the principle and its implementation should be. The finding is that ownership is the most important factor in peace processes, and the current trend fails to produce it. Unexpectedly, the peacebuilding efforts of other international players has gone against this paradigm and their interpretation has offered new light to the field of conflict resolution.


Introduction: Outlining the Convention

  1. Peacebuilding as Statebuilding
  1. Peacemaking and Frozen Conflict  
  1. The Nested Paradigm: Towards a Sustainable Process
  1. Alternative Peacebuilding



Introduction: Outlining the Convention

One of the most contested and significant debates within the fields of International Relations and Peace Studies revolves around the question of whether or not externally aided economic, political and ideological liberalisation is the best method of ensuring long-term peace. While this notion has been critically contended in theory, it has become common practice for states and institutions that are intervening in a given state to either promote, compel or even coerce the liberalisation of that state and liberalism currently forms the dominant framework for any given intervention, reconstruction and withdrawal operation. 

The crux of the case for the Liberal Peace is that liberal societies have a handful of features that make them superior to others: capitalism, democracy, the rule of law, freedom and individual rights. Such qualities are essentially transplanted in contemporary interventions with the goal of promoting peace in post-conflict societies and these features, also referred to as liberal pillars, are argued by various state actors to be the best method of securing long-term social, political and economic development. These actors range from the United Nations and Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush and Tony Blair, however, it is hard to find examples of non-liberal state actors who support this perspective. It is crucial to note that many of these advocates for the liberal model will be prioritising the stability of the state in question whereas the contending argument puts more emphasis on the removal of the structural causes of conflict within the society. This difference in opinion and agenda can largely be put down to the fact that it is habitually the strong western states that intervene in the weak and underdeveloped, and greater liberalisation may benefit the strong state actor’s liberal order, economic and security agendas. That is not to say that liberal intervention is necessarily a bad policy, however, it does raise significant ethical questions that must be addressed. 

Peace is a complex state of nature that is much more ambivalent than the mere absence of violence. There are varying types of peace and it is not an end in itself, rather a process: “A solution in the sense of a steady-state, durable formation is at best a temporary goal. A far more significant goal is transformative capacity, the ability to handle transformations in an acceptable and sustainable way” (Galtung, 1996, p.90). For a conflict to be resolved, violence must not only have decreased but normalised to an equilibrium state of being and for that the structural causes must be addressed. Just stabilising a conflict prone region is not enough and longer-term solutions must be found. Galtung’s hypothesis that peace in any given context is an ever-changing progression has been highly influential to Peace Studies and the extent to which liberalisation influences this process is still unsettled as outcomes have been highly variable in application: “We can recognize the lineaments of the ‘liberal peace’ that became the norm for UN-led interventions to prevent and end civil wars after the Cold War and that has since become both severely tested in practice and criticised in principle” (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse and Miall, 2016, p.331). 

Despite the paradigm’s current controversy, the issues associated with liberal intervention have not always been so apparent. After the Second World War had concluded, the Axis powers were disarmed and their authoritarian regimes were replaced by constitutional democratic governments. This was the first instance of post-war statebuilding and largely formed the blueprint for modern liberal interventionism. Moreover, the case in point is still valued by many as a great success as these previously authoritarian regimes were transformed into liberal bastions. There is a stark contrast between these early cases and the trend of contemporary interventions, and such disparity could be down to how the context of contemporary conflicts differs to that of the post-World War 2 cases.

Evident from the later stages of the Cold War period and particularly since the events of 9:11, globalisation has transformed the way in which wars are fought. The ever-increasing interconnectedness of societies, politics, economics as well as the shift in political authority and the denationalization of power has significant implications for the future of territorial based sovereignty (Kaldor 2012). The trend of contemporary armed conflicts is that they are relatively small in their nature – they occur at more of a regional or sub-state level – and this is attributable to the breakdown of state structures. “The new wars arise in the context of the erosion of the autonomy of the state and, in some extreme cases, the disintegration of the state” (Kaldor, 2012, p.5). This collapse of the monopoly of violence that has typically been held by states connotates that new wars are far more brutal, characterised by extreme poverty, organised crime, warlordism and, at their most severe, genocide and ethnic cleansing. This is a sharp contrast to the old war / pre-Cold War paradigm where wars were typically fought between states and such a change requires a new way of thinking about conflict resolution. Yet despite the need for a reform in the way the peace process is initiated, in contemporary intervention policies, statebuilding is still seen as a synonym for peacebuilding.

While Paris (2009, p. 97) defines peacebuilding more generally as: “multilateral deployments of military and civilian personnel to countries that are emerging from civil wars”; the notion of peacebuilding is to promote reconciliation. Peacebuilding aims at the structural issues and grievances that fuel war, attempting to amend the root causes of conflict. Used in conjunction with peacekeeping and peacemaking, it focuses on post-conflict restoration meaning it typically occurs later in the peace process. However, due to the resurgent nature of many contemporary conflicts, peacebuilding can encompass many stages of the peace process, from conflict escalation to de-escalation as Snodderly explains:

Originally conceived in the context of post-conflict recovery efforts to promote reconciliation and reconstruction, the term peacebuilding has more recently taken on a broader meaning. It may include providing humanitarian relief, protecting human rights, ensuring security, establishing nonviolent modes of resolving conflict, fostering reconciliation, providing trauma-healing services, repatriating refugees and resettling internally displaced persons, supporting broad-based education, and aiding in economic reconstruction. As such, it also includes conflict prevention in the sense of preventing the resurgence of violence, as well as conflict management and post-conflict recovery. In a larger sense, peacebuilding involves a transformation towards more manageable, peaceful relationships and governance structures the long-term process of addressing root causes and effects, reconciling differences, normalizing relations, and building institutions that can manage conflict without resorting to violence.

(Snodderly, 2018, p. 67)

Snodderly’s analysis of peacebuilding is an important reference as it informs us as to how these methods are designed to end the cycle of violence manifested in many cases of internal conflict. The broadness of this particular interpretation reflects the theoretical basis of peacebuilding and, in this regard, it diverges with peacebuilding-as-statebuilding paradigm. A highly important distinction included in the definition is that these methods are non-violent. As military responses typically implicate ambiguous political factors and bias, such methods are likely to lead to a victor’s peace whereby one side is forced to submit without the structural cause being appropriately confronted. The victor’s peace will inevitably not be the end of a conflict, more a frozen state. 

The argument goes that the liberal pillars could overcome a frozen conflict through socio-economic development and although one can make a link between the peacebuilding characteristics provided and the liberal peace thesis, the definition above does not display the deep-rooted tie peacebuilding has to liberal interventionism. For example, some of its key features such as the cosmopolitan protection of human rights are acutely liberal, however, what is less apparent is how these agendas are usually designed to initiate varying levels of liberalisation. This is because, although peacebuilding is a western concept, in itself, it has no ties to the Liberal Peace Thesis. However, most often it is liberal institutions and states acting from above that initiate peacebuilding missions and this is reflected in many outcomes. Ergo, it is the intervener’s intentions that make the difference in this respect. 

While the specific aims and goals of interventions vary between cases, the principle remains the same as the intervening actor is motivated by the desire to bring about a change and resolve an issue (Gelot and Söderbaun, 2011). This defining characteristic of intervention implies that the people with the issue are objects, subject to the benevolence of the intervener. But interventions are prone to be rooted with a certain trusteeship that can have a highly negative effect on states emerging from conflict. Even in an era where aid is supposedly non-conditional, the IMF and World Bank reform programs generally require recipient governments to slash spending, shrink bureaucracies, reduce regulation, and embrace globalization by progressively removing barriers to cross-border flows of goods, services, finance, and ideas (Jenkins, 2013, p.5). Such reforms can have a severe effect on stability and development in crucial transitional periods, leading to dire repercussions such as conflict relapse. With the potential negative side effects of the Liberal paradigm in mind, this work sets out to evaluate if the intervention model of the global north is appropriate for conflict resolution in new wars (Kaldor, 2012). 


This theoretical critique of the liberal paradigm of peacebuilding will focus on abstract and empirical analyses of the results of a diverse range of international intervention in deadly armed conflicts since the end of the Cold War. Such research is relevant because of the proliferation of regional and intra-state conflict today and the fact that despite the variety of cases studied, there is indeed a negative trend of intervention from the global north.

The abstract approach taken is necessary because of the conflicted concept of peacebuilding. The stance held throughout this work is that the theoretical benchmark for peacebuilding should be non-violent conflict transformation, based on structural reconciliation. While this standard is incredibly hard to quantify in practical terms, it is clear that the overarching results of post-Cold War interventions have not met transformative goals by any measure. There is a disparity between the norm of peacebuilding in its real-world application and the conceptual version upheld. For this gap to be closed, the peacebuilding discourse must align in a way that facilitates actors to convene and decide on the correct methods of resolving conflict in a given situation or region. In other words, there should be a clear guide to the practice, based on the ideals and principles common to the broadest version of the term, emancipatory peacebuilding.

Objectives and Chapter Outline

The objective of this dissertation is to examine the effectiveness of the post-Cold War paradigm of intervention with specific focus on peacebuilding and state-building. It takes this exploration further by questioning why the liberal paradigm has had such weak outcomes and how these outcomes can be improved. Chapter 1 will explore the statebuilding agenda that constitutes the Liberal paradigm of peacebuilding in more depth, observing how a top-heavy approach can have a highly negative impact on local ownership and why this paradigm often fails to escape the victor’s peace reality, whereby the intervener dictates the nature of the peace. In doing so, it seeks to dissect the theory of the peacebuilding as statebuilding trend. Chapter 2 finds that peacemaking has proven to be a large factor of the paradigm. Although peace agreements can be a great medium of change, too often do they fail to address the root causes of conflict, thereby ingraining a failed system. Much like what we observe in the first chapter, very little attention is paid to the appropriateness of these liberal features, while not enough given to other governance and development models. Chapter 3 asserts that a new paradigm is needed. It investigates how different actors, methods and time-frames must be included in the process. However, what is also found is that there are tensions between these different goals and actors. In Chapter 4, we look at some non-liberal states’ recent efforts to contribute to peacebuilding. Interestingly, these states’ largely do not take a whole new perspective but adapt the liberal model to suit their own ideology, never breaking the mould, but altering the paradigm.

1. Peacebuilding as Statebuilding

The intention with this chapter is to outline the reasons as to why it is the western model of intervention that predominates in international conflict resolution and what implications this reality has on the nature of the outcome of the given intervention. This analysis also seeks to offer some insight into how the undestandandings of peacebuilding differ. This will be shown by laying out the intended trajectory of intervention according to Galtung’s hourglass model and comparing it to the narrower peacebuilding as statebuilding convention. With that noted, as Fjelde and Höglund (2011, p.13) observe that there is no clear and unambiguous definition of peacebuilding, what constitutes the term or what should constitute is uncertain. This fuzziness creates critical issues for those who wish to raise the study and practice of conflict resolution as it makes coherently quantifying and evaluating it highly troublesome. The theory must be resolved for a progression to occur in the practice. 

While peacebuilding is not necessarily a liberal endeavour, the liberal model is the most common framework for peacebuilding, and overbearingly so. The consensus among the West that liberal political and economic mechanisms are exportable is well rooted and has formed the core of Western-led, post-Cold War interventions. 

What seems to have developed is an understanding of a certain version of peace – the liberal peace – as being universal and also as being attainable, if the correct methods are concertedly and consistently applied by a plethora of different actors working on the basis of an agreed peacebuilding consensus, and focusing on the regimes, structures, and institutions required at multiple levels of analysis and in multiple issue areas by liberal governance.

(Richmond, 2016, p.183).

This consensus that Liberal features and governance are a necessity for sustainable peace in any given situation stems from Immanuel Kant’s philosophical ideas of perpetual peace which argue that liberal pillars, or specifically republicanism, could lead to an everlasting peace (Kant, 1795). However, the underlying issue propagated by such a notion is that it focuses on a certain vision of peace, largely ignoring the case sensitive factors and legitimising hegemonic domination with idyllic notions of a panacea for peace. 

The end of the Cold War and the fall of communism seemed to consolidate liberalism as the supreme ideology, and this brought about a new paradigm of intervention where the Global North believed liberal governance was exportable to new states and would lead to the end of history as we knew it (Fukuyama, 1992). “The triumph of liberal democracy over communism made Western leaders optimistic that they could solve the world’s problems as never before.” (Western and Goldstein, 2011, p.49). However, international relations are ever shifting, that moment of supremacy has passed and there are new suspicions about the return of western imperialism in a humanitarian guise. As Bellamy and Wheeler (2014, p.480) assert, there is a growing unease in the international community, particularly in the global south, humanitarian intervention is a ‘Trojan horse’: rhetoric designed to permit the forcible interference of the strong in the affairs of the weak. There is some truth in this attitude. In practice, the assumption has been for institutions that resemble the Western secular notion of the state – based upon liberal values – to be promoted in conflict affected regions. This belief is not something that is unquestionably accepted in all contexts as legitimate or appropriate. Indeed, the perception of many critical observers is that peacebuilding is a hegemonic realist agenda aimed at containing conflicts, which are seen as systemic deficiencies, and statebuilding is at the core of this (Newman, 2009, p.30).

The so-called “War on Terror” propelled the criticisms of liberal peacebuilding as the invasions were justified partially on liberal grounds. The stabilization efforts made in Iraq after the invasion had a considerable resemblance to peacebuilding missions made by the UN and other organisations in conflicts such as Bosnia. Given the catastrophic aftermath, numerous critical thinkers were condemning the practice. Wolfram Lacher, for example stated that: “Statebuilding and reconstruction practices in Iraq are in continuity with international operations during the post-Cold War era and beyond because they have all involved the reproduction and expansion of hegemonic international order” (Paris et al, 2009, p.105). 

Realists argue that the state of nature is cruel and unfair. It is very much a Thucydidean observation and due to the fact that the United States was close to hegemonic at the time (and backed up by the UK), while Iraq was merely a small fry in comparison, the second conflict personified the asymmetric injustices inherent in international politics. Cases such as this example are present throughout history, and it is highly relatable to the Religious Crusades, or, as Thucydides himself commented on, the (416 B.C.) Peloponnesian War. When citing the conflict, he made the observation: “Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” (Thucydides, 1947). In addition, a proposition might be added here: If Thucydides and the school of realism he inspired was correct that the entirety of the human race of individuals is morally wicked and only seek dominance, what happens when the collection of liberal states that is based on a hierarchical collective security runs out of non-liberal states to dominate? One of Tacitus’s (2009, p.34) most famous quotes comes to mind: “this they falsely name Empire, and where they make a wasteland, they call it peace.”

Whether by good will or vested interests the Western-led international community has taken on the role of building peace in the states affected by armed conflict, but with a low success rate. The most common and most accepted reasoning for the unsatisfactory outcomes produced by Liberal Peacebuilding lies within how states typically go about utilizing it. They attempt to essentially transplant the western style of liberal systems into conflict affected states, focusing only on building institutions oriented around values that are unconditionally taken to be universal by liberal states, but not necessarily upheld by the non-liberal world. This notion is defined by Richmond (2005, p.211) as peace-as-governance. In contemporary conflict resolution, the recurrent result of such governmentalism and institutionalisation is the formation of a virtual peace (Richmond, 2008), where there is a disconnection between the state and citizens. This can essentially freeze the conflict, leaving the underlying issues unresolved and the situation deadlocked (Aggestam and Björkdahl, 2011). Violence may have decreased in such situations, but tensions can easily build, and conflict may resurge.

The approach taken by the global north is a narrow approach to peacebuilding: stabilising the conflict with peacekeepers and mediation, followed by a push for democracy and free-markets, concluded with a withdrawal. Timeframes are a key factor as external interveners, no matter how genuine their agenda, are not willing to devote endless resources to developing states. With this fact in mind it is easy to see why the stabilization of conflicts is the favoured option as opposed to the transformation of the root causes. However, when one looks at some outcomes of some particularly troublesome peacebuilding intervention efforts, such as the intervention, reconstruction and withdrawal operation in Iraq, one might question whether a different approach is necessary. Of course, the success of a peacebuilding mission depends entirely on what criteria you are evaluating against. A narrow approach would lead you to the conclusion that there have been multiple successes in peacebuilding while a broad approach would indicate very few successes. The stance taken here is that more should be done. As noted early in this work, Galtung’s notion of transformative peace is the main inspiration and by this measure, reconciliation between factions would be the benchmark. This attitude comes down to the likelihood of resurgent violence and the fact that ceasefires, mediation and even agreements can do good in the short run, but these measures are very ad hoc in that sense and act more as a sticking plaster. There needs to be more long-run resolution, and while western actors and institutions may claim development and democracy will overcome deep-rooted post-conflict tensions, there is very little supporting evidence to this argument. 

The liberal intervention model typically consists of strong, western / northern actors intervening in a weak, conflict affected state by providing military aid for peacekeeping operations, mediating negotiations, constructing / reconstructing state institutions with liberal features and then consolidating the peace with peacebuilding. In this sense, the consolidation of peace is envisaged as incorporating socio-economic recovery and developing an economy of peace (Fjelde and Höglund, 2011). This would, in theory, be the process of conflict resolution as shown by the hourglass diagram labelled below as Figure 1. The diagram illustrates the corresponding response to the stages of conflict. The argument behind it asserts that when the conflict is at its most acute phase, it must be contained to minimise casualties, once both parties are burnt out an agreement can be made and reconciliation then can follow. This figure also shows how peacebuilding can be used as a precursor, that can not only resolve conflict after war, but prevent deadly armed conflict before it escalates to violence. 

Figure 1: (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse and Miall, 2016, p.16).

Despite the well-constructed theory behind the spectrum of conflict resolution methods and how they should correlate with each other corresponding to the phase of the conflict, peacebuilding in its current state is unsatisfactory. While peacebuilding should be a broader and more emancipatory form of intervention than the narrower statebuilding initiatives where hard power forms the leading vehicle of change, western peacebuilding also manifests a negative epistemology of a victor’s conceptualisation of peace where liberation from violence can be achieved through violence (Richmond, 2003). 

The tendency of both responses is to create a non-representative and centralised government or shell state through a top-down, state-led approach. The prevailing goal of contemporary conflict resolution is for a progression from a conservative intervention based on containment, peacekeeping and mediation to more integrative and justice-oriented peacebuilding objectives as shown in Figure: 1 where the hourglass shape is at its wider points. As the prior Gulf War study shows, however, conservative interventions can often lose steam and political willpower wanes as the intervention becomes more prolonged. The progression towards emancipatory peacebuilding initiatives generally never comes. And so, not only does the current paradigm fail to uphold liberal values, it does not enfranchise the indigenous populations of the states in question, creating what Richmond (2009, p.63) calls empty states where institutions and top-level actors create policies without any real regard for the needs of the state’s conflict affected citizens. 

This form of neo-liberal peacebuilding, entailing the installation of highly centralised institutions and governments, leaves the indigenous population of the conflicted state out of the peace process. It constitutes an external actor’s vision of peace being imposed on an indigenous population that largely view the new peace as an infringement of their interests. The paradigm of post-Cold War intervention is to create liberal state institutions around the indigenous population of conflict affected society in the hope that the population will accept these new institutions as legitimate. Instead, the internationals should aid the conflict affected state at the necessary levels in the construction of the state according to the needs and wishes of the indigenous population. But this does not bode well with the international rules-based order. Inequality is ingrained in the system and top-down conflict resolution is conditioned to preserve the status-quo. Intervention is rooted with conditionalities such as the promotion of liberal governance and institutions which leads to issues of ownership and gaps between the indigenous population and the elites. Although one cannot be sure what the motivations of the Global North are, the overall paradigm is not in the best interests of the conflict affected individuals in the long run. Chapter 2 will explore this further, paying specific attention to the zero-sum nature of the politics of intervention, in parallel with the nature of war.

2. Peacemaking and Frozen Conflict

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a significant increase in the use of peace agreements as conflict resolution methods. Especially prevalent during the 1990’s, the proliferation of internationally sponsored accords and mediation efforts highlights the international community’s desire to resolve deadly armed conflicts and prevent further violence. However, the paradigm of intervention in post-Cold War conflicts centres around the promotion of Liberal features across each phase of intervention. This chapter will focus on the stages of intervention that typically occur prior to peacebuilding missions, highlighting what is perhaps the main flaw of contemporary liberal intervention: overlooking the structural causes of conflict. Using this framework, it may then be observed that an agreement can entrench and exacerbate the issues associated with such oversights, freezing conflicts in a negative peace. The chapter will conclude with an evaluation of the Bosnia-Herzegovina and Israel-Palestine peace processes, showing how the protracted, western-led interventions in these conflicts have become counterproductive, and have deviated far from the Kantian liberal thesis.   

The end to post-Cold War conflicts are far less often fixed points in time so much as they are a process. The tendency is for conflicts to slowly lose steam as the parties become weaker and less able to fight. This is largely down to the zero-sum nature of conflict where, supposedly there can only be one victor, and combatants will fight until they cannot go on. However, the mostly likely outcome is that every faction loses in war. Recurrently, each side suffers such considerable losses that even the combatant that comes out on top is worse off than when they started. Compromise is imperative for resolution, and the point at which the parties are no longer able to sustain the fighting is often the turning point where a settlement can be agreed upon. This turning point is defined by Zartman (2000, p.225) as a mutually hurting stalemate whereby the conflict is ripe for negotiations to take place. Once the conflict is ripe, achieving a mutually acceptable peace agreement is the goal (Figure 2).

Figure 2: (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse and Miall, 2016, p.15).

But while finding a somewhat acceptable outcome for all parties engaged in conflict is a crucial factor, it is by no means a panacea. Rarely do peace agreements terminate conflict (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse and Miall, 2016, p.200), agreement and ceasefires are easily broken, largely due to the fact that the issues underlying the conflict remain unresolved. Tensions often continue long after the deal has been struck in a frozen state (Aggestam and Björkdahl, 2011), leaving the peace process prone to relapses of violence initiated by spoilers. Spoilers are actors that perceive that they stand to gain from disrupting the peace process. They feel the peace process threatens their interests, and use violence to sabotage it (Stedman, 2000, p.178). The risk from such actors means that resurgent conflict can be even more dangerous in terms of casualties than war that occurs before an initiated peace process. The post-Arusha Accords (1993) conflict in Rwanda was one such case as the disastrous consequence of the failed accords was a genocide that claimed the lives of over 800,000 people, dramatically outweighing the number of civil war casualties which was only 10,000 (Stedman, 2000, p.191). 

Such vulnerability is often a consequence of the top-down approach taken in many negotiations. Negotiations that exclude key players will neglect certain factions and leave them outside of the peace process (Zartman, 2000, p.180), and can cause these actors to sabotage the peace mission. Furthermore, elitist negotiations can leave the peace process disassociated, resulting in a peace gap between the will of the negotiating parties and the needs of the indigenous population (Aggestam and Björkdahl, 2011, p.35). Negotiations must be inclusive and representative to evade these issues, and this must be reflected in the resulting accord. 

The US-led arbitration of the 1995 Dayton Accord talks is a good exemplifier of how elite-negotiated agreements can lead to a frozen conflict whereby the root causes remain unresolved yet direct violence has reduced. In Bosnia, the presence of outside mediators was a large factor for the reduced violence, however, in terms of structural resolution, little has been done. While the short-term factors were discussed over the negotiation period and the accords were laid out with the intention of structural resolution, the long-term issues were never properly address (Aggestam and Björkdahl, 2011). There is a trade-off between efficiency and legitimacy when it comes to negotiations, and this was highly apparent during the Dayton talks as too much pressure was put on the faction leaders to reach a compromise. The Serbian and Croat presidents were absent during the negotiations, and with Milošević and Tudjman in their place, there was a dire lack of representation. By involving fewer parties, civil society was sacrificed for a speedy outcome (Belloni, 2001). The deadlocked politics we see today in Bosnia-Herzegovina are a result of spoiling as the federation’s factions pursue ethno-nationalist agendas in order to counterbalance the opposing parties, as Belloni (2009, p.360) establishes: “politics in Bosnia are the continuation of war by other means.”

The quality of the agreement’s contents is the most important feature as the structural causes must be addressed if continued conflict is to be averted. This means negotiations must be less centred around zero-sum bargaining where parties seek to maximise position gains, and oriented more towards integrative, positive-sum approaches (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse and Miall, 2016, p.223). This shift would entail the parties realising that they must envisage a shared future where military power is not the answer and can, therefore, work on resolving the underlying issues of conflict. While agreements of the Cold War era largely centred around restoration of the state and the preservation of the pre-war status quo, post-Cold War accords generally set out to introduce novelty (Kastner, 2015), addressing structural issues such as constitutions and hence attempt to make use of agreements as a transitional utility for building positive peace. The distinctions between agreements and peacebuilding in this respect are highly blurred, but going back to Galtung’s argument, peace is a never-ending process (Galtung, 1996, p.90). Therefore, peacebuilding aspects should be present to some extent in all stages of the peace-process. Agreements should be laid out and implemented in a way that enables integration and reconciliation. 

However, as discussed in chapter 1, while agreements and the pre-planning of peace processes are often laid out with the intention of integrating these emancipatory peacebuilding and structural resolution objectives at later stages, there is a tendency for the liberal model to fall short, remaining on the conservative and narrow side of the spectrum. The Oslo peace process fits into this category as although the agreement was to be implemented in three stages that gradually set the foundations for peace in the liberal framework for Israel and Palestine, the Oslo peace settlement never escaped the negative peace paradigm. The three junctures (detailed below) were laid out with the intention of ending the protracted Israel-Palestine conflict by dealing with the practical issues first and moving to the more profound topics at a later stage. 

Oslo I (1993), comprising initial diplomacy tools to establish principles and strategies as well as a timetable for implementation; Oslo II or the Interim Agreement (1995),17 which was to lay the foundations for the Palestinian National Authority and the establishment of self-rule through functioning institutional and territorial power; and Oslo III, which was intended as the final stage of conflict termination and was to deal with the ‘real issues’ such as the permanent status of the Occupied Territories, Jerusalem and refugees.

(Richmond and Franks, 2009, p.153).

Yet the third stage was never reached. The structural causes of the conflict between the two ethnic factions were never addressed and peacebuilding initiatives never transcended the state-centric approach held by the political elites and international community. Conflict management and security remained the focus of the intervention, while the primary aspects of liberal society that were supposed to be developed following the Oslo Accords have taken a back seat. It is a flimsy, superficial version of peace where the only conflict mitigation mechanisms in place are boundaries and walls between the two sides, and this seems to be the bleak end-point of the Israel-Palestine peace process. The lack of peacebuilding agency is a crucial reason for the bleak outcome of the settlement and resolutions prior, however, it also comes down to the fact that the liberal project is biased. Aggestam and Björkdahl (2011, p.45) discern that status-quo diplomacy had been the guiding force of mediation in peace negotiations like the Dayton and Oslo agreements. In both cases, this has caused significant incompatibilities between the liberal democratic model advocated by the ambitious internationals, and the mismatching ideals held by the conflicting factions. In other words, the root causes of the conflicts have not been resolved, instead they have merely been frozen. As with the case of Cold War conflicts, the norm of liberal intervention is still to preserve the status quo and thereby reinforce the social system within which the violence and inequalities are manifested (Daley, 2013), despite the new-found emphasis on structural issues. And so, the Israel-Palestine peace project favoured the occupiers over the occupied, preserving the existing sovereign entity of Israel at the expense of the irredentist Palestinians. Much like in Bosnia-Herzegovina and other cases that have been touched by the liberal project, the Israel-Palestine peace process is monopolised by the political elites who continuously pursue political and zero-sum goals (Franks, 2009, p.277). The winner-loser cannundrum is prevalent at all levels of international relations and, with regard to it, the next chapter will explore a peacebuilding model that could negate it. However, as shown by this dissertation so far, the zero-sum nature of politics is the main contributing factor to the failures of intervention and the only genuine countermeasure to it is cooperation.

3. The Nested Paradigm: Towards a Sustainable Process

The liberal paradigm of intervention in its current state is insufficient for sustainable peacebuilding. While post-Cold War conflict resolution initiatives have moved beyond the somewhat limited peacekeeping operations of the Cold War era, post-Cold War peacebuilding still falls short. Above all, in the cases explored there is very little in the way of a trend towards emancipatory peacebuilding as the paradigm is to remain on the conservative state-building side of the spectrum. We have seen from cases like Iraq, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Israel-Palestine that the liberal norm of intervention is to construct peace centred around liberal politics, economics and societies, but not around creating spaces for negotiated conflict resolution (Bellamy and Williams, 2009). Therefore, it is clear that the Liberal peacebuilding model needs reform. What is required is more than mere stability-order-statebuilding. This chapter seeks to offer insight into to how this trend could be revised and what a more suited model would look like.  

The conviction of emancipatory peacebuilding rests on the reconciliation of grievances caused by conflict. For this, intervention needs to utilize the resources of the people within the conflict.  “Ideally, the ‘building’ must be part of a consent-based, locally relevant and resilient engagement by both the intervening parties and the intervened” (Fraser, 2018, p.248). An inclusive model that encompasses all levels of actor is needed. Figure 3 shows how the three different levels of actor can fit into the peace process. That notion that the model must engage all levels of the affected population is not to say that top-level leadership such as state actors, INGOs and NGOs are not valid for peacebuilding, far from it. The upper-level actors have significantly more power and influence and so they are indeed extremely important in aiding the peace-process, especially when it comes to negotiating a settlement for instance. However, their power also comes with some potential downfalls, for instance their increased visibility can hinder their ability to make the crucial decisions as it may damage their image in one way or another. Factors like these show that the lower level actors are needed to fill the void where the big-fish cannot act. 

Figure 3: (Lederach, 1997, p.39).

The concept that the inside actors and the people affected by conflict should be seen as a greater part of the solution has been identified by Lederach, a key theorist when it comes to the study of emancipatory conflict resolution. He (1995, p.212), maintains: For a transformation from conflict to peace to occur, indigenous populations must be empowered. We understand the long-term goal of transformation as validating and building on people and resources within the setting. His work also communicates the importance of Máire Dugan’s (1996, p.6) concept of the “Nested Theory of Conflict”, which puts emphasis on the timeframes of the different responses and how each one must relay to the next to ensure a successful peace progression (figure 4). 

Figure 4: (Dugan, 1996, cited in Lederach, 1997, p.56).

He expands on Dugan’s work, combining their theories and creating an Integrated Framework for Peacebuilding. Figure 5 illustrates the integrated framework, showing the time frame for the different responses and how they are linked. In sum, Lederach’s work asserts that short-term goals and quick fixes do not lead to sustainable development or peace. His point is that for peacebuilding to be successful at supporting and catalysing reconciliation between divided factions, a model that consolidates all levels of actors and integrates short-term crisis management with the long term goals of transformation must be put into practice. “The overall process of conflict transformation is related to our broader theme of reconciliation inasmuch as it is oriented toward changing the nature of relationships at every level of human interaction and experience.” (Lederach, 1997, p.84). 

Figure 5: (Lederach, 1997, p.80).

However, the attractiveness of getting out of a conflict can cause external peacebuilders to neglect the indigenous approaches more generally. “The technocratic basis of western approaches to peacebuilding means that storytelling and grievance-airing dimensions of peacebuilding often found in indigenous and traditional approaches may be side-lined. Very often actors focus on striking a deal and moving on.” (Mac Ginty, 2014, pp.55-6). The peacebuilder’s supposed need for short-term solutions raises questions of sustainability as an overemphasis on short-term goals and external actors can essentially provide a life-support-system for a weak state instead of giving it the basis for a long-lasting positive peace. In short, we must think strategically about the time frames and goals of peacebuilding. 

This conviction is a recurring theme in the field of conflict resolution. When referring to how the subject must go further than the concept of Kantian Liberalism (yet still engage with the traditionalist aspects), Ramsbotham, Woodhouse and Miall (2016, p. 316) express the need for conflict resolution to further open up to the critical ideas and concerns for human diversity and local participation. However, they go further than that: “Above all, this is driven by the deep logic within cosmopolitan conflict resolution that only full engagement with emerging non-western and non-northern practices and norms can deliver what is needed and fulfil the original aspirations of the founders of the field.” Relating this back to Lederach’s work, we can see here that short-term goals must be connected to the long-term perspective in that the initial crisis management be able to be built on and not disassociated from the transformative objectives. In Lederach’s view this means greater attention must be given to the middle range of both actors and objectives. The middle-grounds importance is emphasised because the middle range actors i.e. local elites or humanitarian leaders, provide the link between high level actors and the grass roots as, ideally, they have the trust of both groups. The mid-range actors also do not suffer from the critical issues of the other two extremes so they aren’t nearly as restricted in their actions as the top and aren’t nearly as threatened by any residual conflict as the grass roots. Nevertheless, they will be more aware of their struggle than the top actors would be. It is important to clarify that these actors cannot have any formal ties to the conflicting groups or authorities and, admittedly, this does narrow the group down.  Respected community members, such as business owners or religious leaders are the most common mid-range actors, however, the group can extend to institutions such as indigenous non-governmental organizations. Far too often these actors are overlooked as they are not official actors, even though they can have great value as peacemakers (1997, p.94).

However, societies that centre around the grassroot and middle range are often extremely patriarchal, and criticisms of indigenous peacebuilding arise about how bottom up models that focus on mid-level leadership tend to be highly male centric. This patriarchalism within local populations has a direct effect on the success of peacebuilding as it creates the very prominent issue where women and young people are overlooked and largely left out of the process due to the fact that they have no representation. Joanne Wallis observed in Papua New Guinea that indigenous peacebuilding may merely give the illusion of local ownership, focusing only on conjectural issues while passing over the practical factors of conflict such as human security and societal omission. “Local practices and institutions can obscure issues of injustice and differential power relationships, based on factors such as gender and class.” (Wallis, 2018, p. 88). Wallis’s point here also shows the darker sides of local peacebuilding as exclusive and oppressive local systems can become imbedded and legitimized by the interveners.  

The adversity these actors have faced and the fact that they have typically been less included in certain aspects of society can actually make them much better suited as peacebuilders. Women in particular often have more awareness of the dangers of exclusion as they are repeatedly and universally more disadvantaged in daily life and within society than men. Their lack of representation is not only apparent at the local level but throughout all levels of actors within the decision-making process. Furthermore, women can often be more successful mediators and rehabilitators in more informal ways because they are invariably the prime nurturers in family relationships and societies, providing the support that is often lacking in these male dominated scenarios (Porter, 2007). Another reason women can be particularly important to building peace is, as much like the mid-range actors, they too can bridge the gaps in the peace-process. In this instance not so much between levels of actor but between different groups and factions. Porter explains how women are often less inhibited in terms of their ability to move between geographical areas in times of conflict and can therefore initiate dialogue between groups in some instances. She provides the example of the Wajir Women in Somalia who were able to trade across territorial borders and used their networks to overcome these boundaries: “Given the women’s ability to slide from clan of marriage to clan of origin, they were well situated to foster social change among strategic groups, helping to create the space for clan elders to meet.” (Porter, 2007, p.76). 

The peacebuilding literature clearly expresses the need for greater inclusiveness and consolidation. Going back to Richmond’s arguments (2016, p.206), he maintains that there is no substitutability in either direction; non-state actors cannot fully take on the roles of the state and state-actors cannot replace the uses of the non-state actors. For example, the local leadership cannot police their subject residents as they have little means for coercive enforcement. Correspondingly, the state justice system cannot provide the level of reconciliation that the local leadership can as in many cases local elites such as tribal chiefs will have more trust and respect than the state police. There is therefore a need for cooperation. Both types of actor are mutually dependent to set a culture of peace in place and, evidently, the obscurity of effective coordination and collaboration between different levels of actor and time frames is one of the main obstacles to progressing peacebuilding. 

Although underdeveloped and under emphasised in the field, methods of bottom up peacebuilding do exist and the need for longer term solutions is a recurrent theme, but perhaps the most prominent reason they are underused is because the international community has had such trouble integrating them. A light hand would be necessary if such a task was to be undergone in order to not create issues of ownership and political economy, as with all bottom-up peacebuilding intervention. However, that is not to say that the international community cannot help to aid the processes from the bottom up by investing in cultures of peace that can exist in small pockets of even the most terrible conflicts (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse and Miall, 2016, p.275). This mirrors Porter’s point about the Wajir women and Elise Boulding’s argument that typically marginalised individuals can transcend the patriarchism of societies to initiate and develop a dialog between different levels of actor. “So here we have a network now of women who, wherever there is violence, implement a practice of sitting in a healing circle with the perpetrators and the victims and talking, listening, talking and dialoguing with the chiefs and going through the different levels of authority and decision making within these countries” (Boulding, 2001, p.56). Such aid could be given in the form of fostering locally led initiatives such as indigenous truth commissions and justice seeking, but again, the light hand aspect must be emphasised. 

As noted throughout this piece, there are a tremendous number and range of actors and agendas at work when it comes to Peacebuilding and these actors sometimes have conflicting interests and goals. There is an explicit need for a combination of top-down and bottom-up peacebuilding. While peace must be built from below, in the overwhelming majority of cases it must be aided from above, and, doubtlessly from external actors. This probability arises from the fact that, on the whole, post-Cold War conflicts stem from state failure. Without effective governance, insecurity is inevitable and this breeds conflict. The prime functions of the Liberal Peacebuilding Paradigm – building effective state institutions – is therefore imperative to post-Cold War conflict resolution. But the notion of peace and conflict is, without question, far deeper than that. Conflict cycles of hatred and insecurity leave a legacy that is extremely hard to reconcile. Bottom-up peacebuilding initiatives such as transitional justice seeking or truth commissions must be used in conjunction to confront the issues that are much harder to pin down and less quantifiable. But at the same time as being mutually dependent, the relationships between the different actors and different goals involved in intervention are very often conflictual themselves.

Tensions between peacebuilding options exist in a plethora of different entities. Above all, a dilemma between the goals of different actors is inherent in the very nature of intervention and in the difficult relationship between statebuilding and peacebuilding. While in this context of state failure external and internal actors are mutually dependent, the role of the outside actors of ending conflict and stabilizing the state is in friction with the goals of the inside actor who wishes to build an independent local capacity for peace (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse and Miall, 2016, p.248). As the inside actor wants the peace to be positive, sustainable and transformative, they are at odds with the external interveners who have the narrower tasks of ending direct violence and preventing relapse. This tension arises because the outsider clearly has a much more limited time frame, perhaps being more concerned with peacekeeping than building, whereas the insider is more likely to be concerned with reconciliation, a much more long-term goal. In this case the outsider might strive stability over justice for instance. Yet both angles must be taken. “Peacebuilding must start from a narrower mission: the requirement to end a conflict so that the foundations of justice can be established.” (Brata Das, 2004, p.269). Despite the largely conflictual agendas of actors and the misgivings of the academic world about the different types of intervention, there can be no doubt that different interventions must be nested together. The long-term peace support tasks are dependent on short-term peacekeeping and stabilization missions to be sustainable while at the same time the narrower goal actors will be obsolete without a wider long-term mission. While tensions in this regard will always be present and deadlocks will arise, they must be overcome. In order to integrate all actors while minimising enmities, the proposition this author is to prioritise the insider, as it is them and their futures in question. 

This section has determined that although an emancipatory model model of peacebuilding would be complicated, the reconciliatory aim of peacebuilding connotates that all levels of actor, from grassroots to leadership, have a part to play in the peace process. Implicitly, a nested model would be of great benefit to civil society across all levels as it would foster ownership. A more sustainable peacebuilding trend is not just desirable for the global condition, but it is a necessity of international relations. 

4. Alternative Peacebuilding

In light of the findings of the underwhelming outcomes of the liberal paradigm, it is now appropriate to question whether a different perspective of peacebuilding intervention is necessary. While western / northern liberal peacebuilding is increasingly criticised, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), and a number of other states are becoming more active as regional players. These rising powers have a stake in the international order, yet they also have their own experiences of instability, poverty and inequality (Richmond and Tellidis, 2013), and are seen as having the potential counteragent to the Liberal model that dominates the field (Coning and Call, 2017). The increasing prominence of the BRICS group has allowed such states to project their influence to other developing countries emerging from conflict, disregarding certain aspects of Liberal Peace but still working within its architecture. Therefore, they act as both status-quo reinforcers and critical actors (Richmond and Tellidis, 2013), operating both from within and outside the Liberal framework and neither disregarding or upholding the model completely. Although the rising powers largely concur with a number of liberal peace aspects, they typically denounce forcible intervention. 

With respect to democracy, the rule of law, human rights and civil society, these are mainly supported by India, Brazil and South Africa (known as the IBSA grouping, who are most in favour of the liberal peace). None support these factors as possible justifications for intervention without international broad consensus and local consent. (Richmond and Tellidis, 2013, p.2).

An alternative model is, perhaps, the wrong expression as while the liberal pillars adopted by individual rising powers changes between cases, there is no complete diversion. The liberal framework is more moulded to suit their ideals. When compared with the rest, however, Liberalism as an ideology is difficult to fault. It might be the case that all that is needed is an alternative paradigm of intervention. This chapter seeks to evaluate what the rising powers can offer the peacebuilding discourse with regard to how they interpret the liberal paradigm. To avoid generalisations, case studies of peacebuilding missions facilitated or aided by different rising powers will be looked at separately. 

While the BRICS may not have a completely unique approach to conflict resolution, they largely uphold that their individual values and histories offer a more egalitarian partnership between donors and receivers (Abdenur and Call, 2017). Such a notion is particularly relevant to IBSA grouping’s peacebuilding and peacekeeping programs as they characterise their creed of intervention as promoting South-South cooperation, focusing on multilateral initiatives from within group (Sidhu, 2011). India in particular has aided states emerging from colonialism since before the formation of the United Nations, emphasising the understanding of a partnership of development rather than a typical donor-recipient relationship. India’s peacebuilding strategy revolves around promoting ownership and local capacity, rather than top-down approaches rooted with conditionalities that impinge state sovereignty (Singh, 2017, p.73). The IBSA group, therefore, sees its aid schemes more as cooperative development programmes. Brazil and South Africa share India’s notion and emphasise the same principle of participatory intervention, although Brazil has become a less active player since former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silvaleft office. South Africa’s approach is based on its own experiences of apartheid and post-conflict reconstruction, stressing the importance of socio-economic factors specifically aimed at poverty reduction and strengthening social services (Nyuykonge and Zondi, 2017). The IBSA states take a more critical view of the traditional intervention norms, particularly concerning themselves with issues of inequality, justice and development. 

None of the rising power donors seem to have a specific peacebuilding agenda, however, they all engage in such practices. Rising power peacebuilding, therefore, represents a broader term than traditional notions of the phrase. Where the UN and Western donors tend to focus on institution building via a top-down and state centric approach, the peacebuilding of BRICS is more holistic, involving a much broader range of actors and processes. Needless to say, each state differs and their understanding and use of the term varies across the spectrum, but the BRICS group focuses less on post-war reconstruction and more on sustaining peace. As Call and Coning (2017, p.249) observe: “the rising powers’ approach tends to be quite comprehensive, that is, inclusive of political, security, peace, justice, development and economic elements.”

India’s peacebuilding demonstrates this thoroughness vividly, as for her, almost any development program in a conflict-prone society qualifies as peacebuilding (Singh 2017). India is the fifth highest donor to Afghanistan, and, despite being itself a developing country, India’s total commitment to the state is around 2 billion USD. Sinha (2017, p.138) notes some of India’s specific assistance projects in Afghanistan:

Food assistance to primary school children and construction and rehabilitation of schools ($321 million disbursed), Supply of 250,000 tonnes of wheat, Construction of a power line from Pul-i-Khumri to Kabul ($120million), Annual scholarships to study in India—higher education (initially 500 per year, increased to 675 and then to 1000), Construction of Delaram-Zaranj road ($150 million), Construction of the Salma Dam Power Project (US$200 million), Construction of the parliament building ($27 million disbursed; budget $178 million), and Small Development Projects, initially in the South East, and then extended all over the country.

A large proportion of India’s aid was given in the form of education-based schemes, which are very sparse in a country ravaged by war like Afghanistan. The way India dispersed food to primary school children in its largest project had a great impact as students enrolled would be given a midday meal, which in turn has had a great effect on the number of students attending. Further, India sponsored higher education schemes for Afghan students, initially offering 500 scholarships in 2001, but this figure had increased to 1000 by 2014, with 20 additional PhD opportunities. According with India’s non-conditionality principle, the selection process is sorted by the Afghanistan Government (Sinha, 2017). Additionally, Indian degrees have a great reputation in Afghanistan which has led more Afghan students to seek Indian higher education without scholarships (AlJazeera, 2013). Aid through education seems to fit well with the south-south cooperation conviction. As past grievances may not be so entrenched in the younger generations it can be a good starting point for peacebuilding, even more generally speaking. Education is extremely important for conflict prevention because it leads the youth away from taking up arms and towards seeking a better future for themselves, mitigating the attraction of terrorism and other criminal activity, especially if it is combined with development progress. 

Although India’s aid has been focused more in economic and development areas, its peacebuilding efforts have been well received by Afghanistan. It was provided on a need-driven basis according to the requirements of the Afghan government and local populace. India’s donorship embodies value for money peacebuilding as, despite only committing a miniscule proportion of funds towards rebuilding Afghanistan when compared with traditional donors such as the US, India’s aid has significantly benefited the state’s local development capacity. India has achieved its good reputation as development partner by respecting the state’s sovereignty and by having a clear concern for political variations at the local level (Richmond and Tellidis, 2013, p.3).

The growth of the BRICS as regional influencers has largely been facilitated by the multi-polarisation of the world order and the weakening of liberal order over the past decade (Sazak and Woods, 2017). We have seen India’s role as non-traditional donor gain more presence over the post-Cold War years and how its intervention efforts have remained largely true to the Liberal principles. However, the emancipatory benefits of this shift are not exclusive to the BRICS group. This work will now examine how a non-BRICS state can aid conflict affected countries. Turkey has elevated itself as a new actor on the global stage in recent decades and the fracturing of the world order as well as the Arab Spring developments has enabled the state to grow its soft power which it has utilized to commit itself to peace and stability in bordering states and further afield (Sazak and Woods, 2017). This responsibility has largely been driven by the state’s own security concerns originating from the civil wars in Iraq and Syria, and growth of the Islamic State in turn, which has all directly affected Turkey’s own stability. But Turkey’s peace projects are not limited to the Middle East.

Turkey’s peacebuilding largely centres around economic means and the construction of infrastructure rather than other forms of aid because economic development is seen to be the base for conflict recovery. Much like India’s peacebuilding through education, Turkey’s infrastructure development offers alternative opportunities to war. This is apparent in Turkey’s approach to Somalia as it focused its initiatives at rebuilding the state’s capacities to operate, and again, like India’s peace strategy towards Afghanistan, this was done with Somalia’s consent and aid was offered in response to the Somali recipient’s needs (Sazak and Woods, 2017). “The tactic chosen by Turkey has been to put forward local Somali actors and strengthen them while supporting various projects relating to emergency aid and developmental assistance.” (Özkan, 2014, p.24). Turkey sponsored orphanages and schools as well as providing security initiatives in the form of financial and training assistance to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), demonstrating their ambitions of aiding the reconstruction of Somalia as a strong state in conjunction with improving local capacity. Further, priority was given to local ownership and sustainability. In 2015, there was a shift in Turkey’s Somalia agenda whereby Somalia would take up the responsibility for a number of Turkey’s programs. For instance, the previously Turkish-run Shifa Hospital in Mogadishu is now being co-led by the Somali Ministry of Health (Sazak and Woods, 2017, p.180). Similarly, the waste collection in Somalia was handled and initiated by the Turkish Red Crescent, but is now being passed on to Somalian command, promoting a transition in the long-term. Despite Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian style and the fact that Turkey is seemingly drifting away from the west, the state’s peacebuilding efforts are inspiring. 

The notion of a peace partnership resonates with me when thinking about peacebuilding. It overrides the benevolence component imbedded in typical interventions with which I take particular issue. Although the cases examined in this chapter were not definitively specified as peacebuilding and the rising powers did not focus on reconciliatory peacebuilding, their aid is enabling local reconciliation by focusing their efforts on development areas that have great structural potential. In that sense their efforts focused more on what peacebuilding should be. That is, targeted assistance to the socio-economic areas that can make a profound difference to the affected population of the conflict, for example, healthcare or education. While western-led interventions do not necessarily overlook these factors, as argued throughout this work, ownership is imperative and the liberal project overbearingly focuses on the state, rather than the people. Too often do the interveners become the occupiers and the non-conditional aspect of India’s peacebuilding efforts especially seems to have broken with the paradigm. With more work like this, conflict transformation will come in turn. The international community should take note that resolution cannot be forced, only facilitated. 


This work has sought to explore the causes of the inadequate outcomes of the liberal post-Cold War intervention paradigm, drawing upon a variety of diverse cases where a range of different factors are at play. Despite the complexity of each case, the trend remains largely static with the liberal norm of intervention, transferring democracy and free markets to vulnerable, post-conflict states left as its core. It entails a strong and centralised authority attempting to boost the domestic capacity of the conflict affected state through top-down external intervention.

While the five liberal pillars are not necessarily adverse to societal and economic development, the notion that the liberal pillars can be transmitted to the developing world with the belief that such values will promote peace is misconceived. Western / northern societies have had centuries to develop the means to sustain these institutional values. States emerging from conflict lack these means, making the paradigm in its most conservative state inappropriate. Although a trend towards more transformative and emancipatory peacebuilding missions that would succeed the early stages of interventions might add weight to the liberal model of intervention, there is little in the way of such a trend. These early conflict management stages have a much narrower goal and time frame than the version of peacebuilding Galtung envisaged and while security is necessary for peacebuilding, it is not nearly sufficient to produce an effective state. At best the current paradigm can produce a negative peace with little legitimacy or ownership. Above all, the paradigm manifests a model that is centred around conformity. Powerful victor states construct what are viewed as malleable societies to a global political norm because liberal democracies and institutionally aligned states are seen by them to be more prone to stability and compliance. 

Over the past few decades, statebuilding has been used as a synonym for peacebuilding. However, such conflation has obstructed numerous missions from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Iraq. The paradigm represents the victor’s peace, with civil / regional conflict used as justification for hard military-led interventions from the liberal community. Largely a product of its time, post-Cold War hubris, combined with post-9/11 fear provided the US-led international community with the belief and will to combat the dangers of failed states and heavy-handed interventions formed the paradigm through the early 21st century. Peacekeeper enforced consociational agreements were the go-to conflict resolution response to armed conflict over the period analysed, and the tendency to entrench divisions between factions was typical to examined cases. Although agreements were not universally used, they formed an integral part of the paradigm by providing the medium to contain conflicts so that the specified state could be rebuilt. But the failed state building missions in the middle east and elsewhere throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s, some of which are still ongoing, means there is now little political willpower for more. 

With this realization in mind, there is a clear need for a more productive interventional paradigm, one which places peacebuilding in its most virtuous form as a lead component. A top-down approach must be conjoined with bottom-up models; a much longer timeframe is needed alongside short-term responses; and hard power components should give way to soft power initiatives. The proper use of the nested peacebuilding approach noted above would mean a more effective and integrated paradigm that would act as a catalyst for peace, rather than a roadblock. A fruitful peacebuilding model would increase the international community’s aptitude for the practice of conflict resolution, leading to a less conflicted global condition. Such a model would have to be case sensitive, not necessarily liberal yet definitively liberationist. The rising power peacebuilding efforts offer some insight as to how a more appropriate paradigm could be achieved. Their interpretation of the current liberal model is to promote recipient state capacity without infringing on state affairs, specifically focusing on development as a means to mitigate the attraction of criminal activity, which in turn can liberate the affected population from the plague of violence. Over and above this notion, their perspective breaks the typical donor-recipient format of intervention. While traditional intervention insinuates an asymmetrical power relationship that can have a dire effect on the legitimacy and ownership of a peace process, the IBSA group’s peacebuilding in particular revolves around partnership, striving for equitable development and liberation from conflict. 

Central to the notion of peacebuilding, is the conciliation of the structural causes of conflict, not the liberal peace. Generally speaking, the dynamics that led to a conflict may be geographical, developmental or ideological, however, it is unlikely that the conflict occurred or is ongoing for the lack of a particular state being liberal. Despite the rising power peacebuilding efforts, liberal statebuilding remains the paradigm of intervention and peacebuilding. If there are to be advances in conflict resolution trends, above all more attention must be paid to case specific conflict dynamics and less the centralised, peace-as-governance model that has been believed to be universalistic by so many. Perhaps it is now time for the global north to take a step back from intervention and encourage other powers to rise to the challenge of global development and peacebuilding. 

Alternatively, the international community could continue to support conflict ridden settings, however, a new way of thinking about conflict resolution is required. Sustainability is paramount and, therefore, the paradigm must shift to enable community led initiatives set within local contexts to grow and prosper. Consequentially, the current ethos of intervention is in reverse. Rather than engineering a conflict affected state to fit a development model that can only ever work from the top down, the world’s institutions must realize that political, social and economic growth proliferate from the inside out. For that reason, states and international organisations such as the UN must promote and invest in peace at the local level where the short-term impact may be low, however, the broader impact can be great. Resolution strategies must be tailored around the capacity of the subjected state with a focus on using resources from within the area. This way, wider regional development can occur sustainably without all the dangers that are tied to sudden phases of political transition. Such strategies should be employed by individually selecting and then promoting organisations that act through local systems to aid the peace process and empower marginalised groups. In turn, this would help to boost indigenous aptitude, allowing the ordinary citizens of the region in question to make their own conclusions about how or why their circumstances are poor and how to resolve their own issues.


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