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  "Rebuilding Societies in Crisis: Before and After War", Speech by Gareth Evans

Lecture by Gareth Evans, President of International Crisis Group and former Australian Foreign Minister, Canadian Institute of International Affairs, 75th Anniversary Lecture Series, Toronto, 8 October 2003

It is a pleasure to be back in Canada, for a number of reasons. One is that I have been in the United States for two weeks, and the cultural change is always refreshing: it's rather charming to be in a country where (according to an Australian colleague of mine who's been living here several years, and whose word I would never doubt) the culture of public politeness is so strong that you'll see at least every third person in an ATM queue saying 'thank you' to the machine.

A second reason is that, although I know you have been having lively debates about the shape and direction of foreign and defence policy in recent years, not least here at the CIIA, Canada's wholehearted and continuing commitment to multilateralism in international relations, and to maintaining an independent voice whatever the geopolitical pressures upon it may be, is always very refreshing indeed to this rather nostalgic Australian, whose own country seems to have forgotten in recent years what middle power diplomacy is all about.

Another reason for being pleased to be here is that it gives me an opportunity to again thank Canada for asking me, three years ago, to co-chair the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), to try and find some basis for a new international consensus on the principles which should govern so-called 'humanitarian intervention' after all the traumas swirling around this issue in the 1990s. The idea was timely; the support excellent; I had a fine team of fellow commissioners; and although our report - The Responsibility to Protect - was rather swamped when it came out in late 2001 by the new issues generated by 9/11, I am pleased to say that it is proving to have the shelf-life we all hoped for.

Yet another reason for my pleasure in this visit is that it gives me an opportunity to thank Canada for your support - now amounting to more than $150 000 a year - for my own organisation, the International Crisis Group (ICG), which is dedicated to preventing and resolving deadly conflict around the world, and which now has more than 90 staff members across five continents producing field-based analysis and practical policy recommendations, and engaging in high-level advocacy, in relation to over 40 different situations of actual or potential conflict.

We may not always succeed in getting governments to listen to things they don't want to hear, or do things they don't want to do, but to the extent that ICG is becoming probably the most visible and influential international organisation of its kind - maybe not all that hard when we are the only organisation of our kind! - we have much to thank Canadians for.

A particular reason for being pleased to be invited here to deliver this lecture is that it gives me an opportunity to congratulate the CIIA on its 75th Anniversary. Given the fickleness of public and private support for endeavours of this kind - designed simply to generate discussion, analysis and debate, and with nothing more to hand out than ideas - it's a remarkable achievement to have reached, in such fine shape, the grande dame status that you have, and I wish the Institute every possible success as it now sets forth for its century.

And last but by no means least, it's a particular pleasure to be back in Canada meeting up with the grand dame's own grand dame, your President and CEO Barbara McDougall. Barbara cut a formidable figure round the Foreign Ministerial circuit in the days when we worked it together, with her sharpness of mind well and truly matched by her tartness of tongue and, I recall with some nostalgia, her capacity to mix what remain undoubtedly the finest martinis ever mixed on that circuit. The early 90s were days of great optimism in international relations as we thought, with the end of the Cold War and the resurgent role of the United Nations, that maybe, just maybe, the world was about to become a better place. She was a fine colleague with whom to share that optimism.


The topic of this series, Rebuilding Societies in Crisis, is unfortunately not one that lends itself to much optimism today. And the aspect of it on which I have chosen to concentrate this evening - the rebuilding of societies in crisis before and after war - is not one that lends itself to much self-congratulation at all. As an international community, we have not done nearly as well as we could have in building the conditions for sustainable peace in societies that are falling apart. And while we have become much better at peacemaking - achieving negotiated settlements to longstanding conflicts - and have become very much better at concluding wars by military means (leaving aside for present purposes whether we should have been fighting them in the first place), winning the war but losing the subsequent peace has become rather a bad habit in recent times.

In focusing as I will in this lecture on conflict issues - on peacebuilding in societies before and after war - of course I am well aware that societies can be in crisis for reasons other than war or threats of security breakdown. The ravages of AIDS for a start, of drought, of man-made environmental catastrophes, of rich countries' trade policies - have by themselves, irrespective of any contribution made by conflict, created havoc and devastation in all too many parts of sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere. Those societies cry out for our attention and our help - for our emotional engagement, our policy engagement and our material support.

But almost everyone acknowledges that the biggest catastrophe of all comes when a society is torn apart by war, and that without peace being achieved and sustained such other problems are either hugely difficult to tackle or remain totally insoluble. So it's on how we rebuild societies in distress, to stop war occurring or recurring, that I want to concentrate this evening.

This theme could hardly be more central to the current preoccupations of policy makers. The problem of how to rebuild societies shattered by war is centre front in Iraq and Afghanistan: while most of the world's attention is now focused on the Iraq, Canadians - with 2,000 soldiers on the ground, and two of them tragically killed last week, for which I offer my sincere condolences - are more acutely aware than most of how many problems remain in Afghanistan.

More generally, policymakers' attention has been captured, particularly since 9/11, by the continuing existence and emergence of too many fragile, collapsed and internally warring states, where as a result of government action, inaction, incapacity or huge internal division there is a major threat to the country's own people - or a threat to others through the export from these countries of terrorism, drugs, other crime, fleeing refugees, health pandemics or environmental catastrophe.

This combination of problems and issues has led U.S. policy makers in the current administration to overcome what seemed for many of them to be an instinctive aversion to 'nation building'. In Canada, Australia and Europe we don't seem to have had, on either side of politics, any general reluctance at all about trying to create, or recreate, societies able and willing to maintain peace internally and to be better citizens externally in the global community. But that is not to say that any of us have been very good at it.

The results of peacebuilding efforts, country by country, have been very mixed; there is no clear consensus about whose responsibility it is to do what; not much consensus about the strategies that should be pursued, whoever is pursuing them; and not much confidence in the capacity of the various relevant institutions, national and international, to deliver effective implementation.

Doing better means learning at least ten lessons from our collective experience, quite extensive in the post-Cold War years, in trying to rebuild societies in crisis. We have to better understand the overall task; recognise that there are limits to what outsiders can and should do; allocate functions appropriately; learn how to pursue multiple objectives simultaneously; coordinate the process effectively; commit the necessary resources; understand the local political dynamics; make security the first priority; make justice and the rule of law a higher priority; and know when to get out.

1. Understand the Overall Task

The basic point of peacebuilding, both before and after war, is to create, or recreate, structures and capacities that will enable internal conflict to be resolved before violence breaks out. Every society has conflict between individuals and groups - political, economic, legal, social: the point is not to eliminate but to contain and channel it, by developing institutional structures and processes capable of relieving each of these pressure points as they arise. Peacebuilding, as has been well said,1 is the front line of conflict prevention.

It is helpful to think of crisis response, of the kind that challenged the international community over and again in the 1990s, as involving a cyclical rather than linear sequence. The cycle begins, in societies evidently heading for crisis, with longer-term structural measures of the kind just outlined ('pre-conflict peacebuilding'); as a situation deteriorates the emphasis turns to shorter-term conflict prevention or peace maintenance measures (preventive diplomacy, preventive deployment); then if violence breaks out the task becomes one of restoring peace through diplomatic means (peacemaking) or, if that fails, military means (peace enforcement).

With peace restored, at least superficially, the task is to maintain it (perhaps with the help of peacekeeping operations - monitoring ceasefires and the like) while the structural measures involved in post-conflict peacebuilding are put in place. At this point we have come full circle: those structural measures are essentially exactly the same kind of measures that are, or should have been, involved in pre-conflict peacebuilding.

The object, of course, is to get out of the cycle at this point, and not go round it again. Sustainable peace cannot be guaranteed just because a diplomatic peacemaking initiative has apparently been successful - think of the horror still to come after the Angola Agreement of 1991 or the Rwanda Accords in 1993. Nor can it be ensured because a clear-cut military victory has apparently been won - think of Afghanistan and Iraq right now. The focus must again be on structural prevention, and post conflict peacebuilding is a hugely complex and often hugely costly enterprise, which has all too often been neglected. And when peacebuilding is neglected or mismanaged it's only a matter of time before the boil erupts again.

There is another point to emphasising the cyclical character of crisis response, and that the conflict containment structures and capacities that need to be applied in a post-conflict environment, to prevent violence recurring, are essentially exactly the same as those that need to be applied in failed or failing states to prevent violent conflict breaking out in the first place. The point worth making here is not just conceptual but institutional: since the strategies and resources required are essentially the same, the same kinds of people, in national and intergovernmental agencies, should be working on post-conflict peacebuilding as work on pre-war structural conflict prevention.

In the particular case of Iraq 2003 maybe conflict prevention was never part of the U.S. repertoire, and maybe not many resources were committed to thinking about long term conflict prevention before the war. But to the extent there are those resources in the U.S. system, it is not self-evident that they are concentrated in the Pentagon - or that, as good as the military might have been at winning the war, it was the most appropriate lead agency to manage the country's reconstruction. This seems at last to have been recognised in Washington with the announcement this week that the Iraq occupation is now to be coordinated out of the White House by Condoleezza Rice's National Security Council.

2. Recognise Outsiders' Limits

We know that outsiders have a critical role in peacebuilding, just how critical depending on the local capacity for recovery and the local legacy of war-related hostility: the lower the local capacity and the higher the residual war-related hostility, the greater the commitment required from the international community.2 But what matters is that outside peacebuilders recognise not only what they can do but what they cannot.

There may be many troubling things about the way this year's war against Iraq was conceived and followed through - this is not the occasion to debate them - but the most disconcerting single statement that I heard was one that came privately from a senior US official, who told me before hostilities began, 'When this war is won we will own Iraq." Maybe he wasn't meaning to challenge the international law constraints on what occupying powers can do; maybe he was just thinking of the capacity the US thought it would have to dismantle any perceived threat to it; maybe it was just over-graphic imagery.

But in this day and age no country can own another's land and people, even temporarily. And so long as that mindset persists, any attempt at building peace-sustaining institutions in that country is destined to fail. It's not our country, it's theirs.

This is why the current argument in Iraq about who should be vested with sovereignty, and when, is so important. The U.S. is currently insisting that sovereignty stay firmly vested in the occupying authority, and only be transferred to the Iraqis after a process of constitution making and the election of a new government is complete. France, embracing with enthusiasm the idea of local ownership of the process, is arguing for the opposite sequence - sovereignty being turned over immediately, to be followed by constitution drafting and national elections

There is virtue in the U.S. position that time must be taken to get the constitution making and election processes right. My own organisation, ICG, has argued that not only does the security situation have to stabilise, and all the technical issues be worked through, but that it would be desirable to wait until at least the beginnings of a pluralistic political culture have emerged. The other problem with an immediate vesting of full sovereignty in the existing Interim Governing Council is that this Council simply does not have much inherent legitimacy, by virtue of its direct appointment by the occupying coalition (without even the trappings of the kind of Loya Jirga process which gave Afghanistan's President Karzai at least some local mandate).

But the problem with the U.S. view is that unless and until a non-American face is put on a significant part of the occupation process - and in particular on the part related to political transition - trouble is bound to go on escalating.

The only way to give the whole political transition process any kind of legitimacy is to bring a third player - the United Nations (UN) - into the equation, and vest it with the explicit authority to manage that process. At the moment the U.S. wants the UN to play only a support role - meaningful and high profile yes, but with the Coalition Provisional Authority remaining unquestionably in the saddle. Secretary General Kofi Annan has responded by making clear that, in the aftermath of the Baghdad bombing, it is just not acceptable for the UN to bear that risk without having any commensurate responsibility.

In the Cambodian peace process over a decade ago the issue was managed by creating, as the formal repository of Cambodian sovereignty while the political and other reconstruction of the country was conducted by the UN, a Supreme National Council, consisting of representatives of the four warring local parties. The Iraqi Interim Governing Council is already beginning to acquire some of the trappings of sovereignty - with its representatives being at least tacitly accepted as Iraqi placeholders in the UN General Assembly, Arab League and OIC. While that sovereignty must necessarily remain incomplete and conditional for the time being, there is no reason why the Council should not now assume responsibility for most matters of day to day governance, nor why its governing functions and authority should not steadily expand. If the legitimacy of the Council could be enhanced by adding to its membership elected representatives of functional constituencies - e.g. the professions and trade unions - and the various regions, so much the better.

Local ownership is a matter of both symbols and substance - getting right both the high ground of sovereignty, on which I've been concentrating here, and the more mundane ground of day to day operational responsibility. Peacebuilders, whoever they are, are always outsiders in these situations: unless they understand the inherent limits of their role as outsiders, and are closely attentive to both the optics and the reality of local responsibility, they are bound to fail.

3. Allocate Functions Appropriately

The present situation in Iraq is a graphic demonstration of just how little consensus there presently is in the international community about who should do what when it comes to peacebuilding functions. Generalisation is difficult here, because there are at least three different kinds of situation that need to be addressed, but there are some things we should have learned in each case from the experience of the last decade and a half.

The first situation is pre-conflict peacebuilding - strengthening institutions and processes in failed or failing states to try to prevent, among other things, a descent into catastrophic conflict. The responsibility here has been assumed, in an almost completely ad hoc fashion, by bilateral aid donors, a constellation of international organisations including the World Bank, UNDP and many specialised agencies, and a multitude of humanitarian and other NGOs, with all of them largely dependent for their effectiveness on the degree of local support and cooperation they receive. There is no mechanism available for systematically determining priorities, or for allocating roles as between these various players, and maybe in the nature of things there never will be.

What is worth revisiting, however - and maybe the Secretary-General's shortly to be established high level panel on UN reform will be the occasion for doing so - is the idea which has long been mooted of vesting in the Trusteeship Council a central role in the reconstruction of failed states. Originally established to administer colonial trust territories, the Council is now expressly excluded by Article 78 of the UN Charter from playing a role in relation to actual member states of the UN. While there are many sensitivities which would need to be overcome, the possibility of removing that constraint is certainly one worth considering.

The second kind of situation which needs to be addressed is post-conflict peacebuilding, following the successful resolution of an internal conflict by either diplomatic means (which has been happening more often since the early 1990s - eg. in Cambodia, Namibia, Mozambique and Central America, and hopefully more recently in Sri Lanka, Congo and Sudan) or by military intervention of one kind or another (as in Bosnia and Kosovo and East Timor).

A pattern has developed in many of these cases of a de facto protectorate or trusteeship arrangement being established, more often than not UN-led (as with UNMIK in Kosovo and UNTAET in East Timor) but sometimes not (as with the Office of High Representative established in Bosnia & Herzegovina under the U.S.-led 1995 Dayton Peace Accords). Again the notion of a reconstituted Trusteeship Council being formally vested with protectorate responsibilities in at least some of these situations is worth considering.

It has been common for civilian administrations in these post conflict situations to work alongside parallel international military operations - whether blue-helmeted UN peacekeeping troops as in Cambodia and East Timor, or NATO troops in the case of the Bosnian Stabilisation Force (SFOR, to be taken over by the EU next year) and the Kosovo Force (KFOR) - and by and large these arrangements have worked reasonably well.

The third situation, different again, is the one now playing out in Afghanistan and Iraq - post-conflict peacebuilding following military operations conducted across borders for self-defence or other reasons, and with or without UN approval. In Afghanistan, where authority was formally vested in an Afghan government, supported by both the UN (with a self-consciously 'light footprint') and the U.S., and with the military component now being provided by NATO, the argument has not so much been with the formal allocation of functions as the way they have been carried out.

In Iraq, by contrast, there continues to be a fundamental argument as to the respective roles of the U.S. and its coalition allies, the UN and the Iraqis themselves. ICG has argued, in a widely discussed recent report,3 for a three way functional division of responsibility in which the Coalition Provisional Authority would continue to have primary authority and responsibility for military security, civil law and order and restoring basic infrastructure; the UN would, as I have already suggested, be given (in addition to its traditional support functions) explicit authority over all aspects of the transition process; and the Iraqi Interim Governing Council would, through its appointed interim cabinet, assume primary responsibility for all other matters of day to day governance.

It was part of that proposal, on the military side, that the coalition occupying force be reconstituted as an explicitly UN-mandated Multinational Force, under U.S. command, and this now seems to be broadly accepted by the U.S. and the wider international community. Where it has so far been impossible to win consensus has been on vesting any actual executive responsibilities in the UN.

The negative attitudes that persist toward the UN in the United States are largely unjustified. While there are limitations to its capacity to act as a fully functioning government across the whole spectrum of public sector activity, it is better equipped than most others to perform key civil administration functions, particularly if the key developed states remain engaged and supportive, politically and operationally.

It has to be remembered that the UN in this respect is much more than just the Security Council and the General Assembly: "It is also a loosely structured, increasingly well-coordinated system of operating agencies that protect refugees, distribute emergency food, immunise children, promote human rights and organise peacekeepers as well as political and electoral advisers for states in distress or in transition from war to peace. The UN is uniquely equipped with the legitimacy, experience, coordinating ability and logistics mechanisms to work in postconflict settings, potentially as a partner with regional organisations as their operational capacities evolve."4

The tragedy in Iraq that the individual with the most experience in the whole UN system in building or rebuilding governments is no longer with us to take on the task. Sergio Vieria de Mello had initiated the UN's first full fledged governance mission in Kosovo, and was the UN administrator in East Timor, learning how to run a country - admittedly a small one - while helping local political leaders with no experience in the democratic process learn at the same time. He had started to work his way through the enormously complex dynamics of the Iraqi scene quietly and constructively and, as always, in a way that won rather than alienated support. His death in the Baghdad UN compound bombing is one that the whole international community will, and should, be mourning for a long time to come.

4. Pursue Multiple Objectives Simultaneously

If conflict or mass violence is ever to be stopped from occurring in the first place, there are a myriad of structural and governance-improving measures that can usefully be applied. And if, after war, conflict and mass violence are to be stopped from recurring - with the whole cycle beginning over again - there are a myriad of such measures that must be so applied. In both kinds of situation the needs are multidimensional, and need multiple objectives to be pursued simultaneously.

The need to effectively address not only immediate security needs, but economic and social needs, governance and participation needs, and justice and reconciliation needs as well has certainly been the central conclusion of every peacekeeping mission, successful and unsuccessful, of the last decade. It has been a major theme of every major independent report on the subject, including that of the ICISS commission, which spelt out a number of examples of the kind of structural conflict prevention strategies that may be required both before and after war:5

  • addressing political needs and deficiencies might involve democratic institution and capacity building; constitutional power sharing, power-alternating and redistribution arrangements; confidence building measures between different communities or groups; support for press freedom and the rule of law; and the promotion of civil society.

  • tackling economic deprivation and the lack of economic opportunities might involve development assistance and cooperation to address inequities in the distribution of resources or opportunities; promotion of economic growth and opportunity; permitting greater access to external markets for developing economies; encouraging necessary economic and structural reform; and technical assistance for strengthening regulatory instruments and institutions.

  • strengthening legal protections and institutions might involve supporting efforts to strengthen the rule of law; protecting the integrity and independence of the judiciary; promoting honesty and accountability in law enforcement; enhancing protections for vulnerable groups, especially minorities; and providing support to local institutions and organisations working to advance human rights.

  • embarking upon security sector reform might involve enhanced education and training for military forces; reintegration of ex-combatants; strengthening civilian control mechanisms, including budget control; encouraging efforts to ensure that security services are accountable for their actions and operate within the law; and promoting adherence to arms control and disarmament and non-proliferation regimes, including control over the transfer of light weapons and small arms, and the prohibition of landmines.

5. Coordinate Effectively

Coordination is something for which everyone acknowledges the necessity in principle but drags their feet in practice. The UN system is getting much better at it, not least with the role played by the Deputy Secretary General, Canada's Louise Frechette, but there is still some distance to go. Too much planning is still unsystematic and ad hoc, partly a function - as is so much else in the UN system - of the acute neuralgia of many states to any contingency planning being done on the assumption that state breakdowns, or conflict, or post-conflict intervention will actually occur. And there are still acute difficulties in the biggest coordination task of all when it comes to peace operations generally, namely getting an appropriate mix and match of mission, mandate and resources.

That said, one useful idea that has been around for some time and which might be dusted off again in the context of the forthcoming high level review of the UN's security functions, is the creation of a Department of Peacebuilding - sitting alongside the present Departments of Political Affairs (responsible for peacemaking) and Peacekeeping Operations - whose task would be to coordinate, to the extent possible both centrally and in the field, the peacebuilding activities of multilateral agencies, regional organisations, bilateral donors and non-governmental organisations.

Coordination seems to be difficult to achieve even when just one country is for all practical purposes running the operation, with Iraq becoming increasingly obviously a case in point. There are familiar problems in finding common ground between the State Department and the Pentagon, perhaps resolvable under the just announced vesting of coordinating authority in Condoleezza Rice's National Security Council. And there are certainly continuing acute problems on the ground, with the former USAID Administrator J Brian Attwood testifying to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations just two weeks ago, on 23 September, that "there is no clearly understood plan that is embraced by the Iraqi people and the organisations working there. The constant shifts in position by the Coalition Provisional Authority are confusing to Iraqis. No one knows whether we are building the nation from the top down or from the bottom up." These views are certainly shared by ICG's own field analysts.

6. Commit the Necessary Resources

Peacebuilding is never cheap, and the resources to support it are rarely available on anything remotely like the $20 billion scale that the U.S. Administration is now seeking from Congress for Iraq. Certainly they are not equally available for what is the almost equally pressing problem of rebuilding post-war Afghanistan: of the $87 billion proposed by President Bush for the military protection and reconstruction of both Iraq and Afghanistan, it appears that only $1.2 billion is for Afghanistan, and only $800 million of this is new money not previously appropriated.6

If reasonable resources are ever to be obtained for what is necessary, the perennial problem of finding plausible political reasons for spending taxpayers' money has to be addressed. One helpful argument in the present context is that that inaction may be more costly than intervention in the long term. Mass killings that are not stopped, peace agreements that are not negotiated, and peace settlements that are not supported all mean higher bills later in terms of humanitarian relief and all the other costs of instability, squandered resources and wasted lives. In a 1999 study7 for the Carnegie Commission on Deadly Conflict, of which I was a member, it was estimated that the costs to the international community of not intervening to prevent genocide ended up at some $ 4.5 billion, whereas the cost of an effective early intervention would have been around $1.3 billion.

7. Understand the Local Political Dynamics

One size of peacebuilding certainly does not fit all, and it crucial to recognise that every peacebuilding task - not least every post-conflict peacebuilding situation - is likely to require a quite different approach, adjusting to local circumstances. In East Timor, with a new state being created, there was effectively no human infrastructure with which to work; in Afghanistan, by contrast, although the country was physically destroyed, there was a highly educated diaspora available to be recruited; in Bosnia and Kosovo there was plenty of human potential, but in environments where there had been no previous state; in Iraq there was again plenty of sophisticated human potential, and a well established state, but a more hostile environment than had been anticipated.

It is critical to have a close understanding of both the cultural norms and the internal political dynamics of the society that one is trying to rebuild. Every situation has what has been described8 as its own 'peacebuilding ecology', with the main variables - at least those affecting the construction or reconstruction of a political system - being the number of existing factions, the coherence or incoherence of each, and the extent of hostility or reconciliation between them. As ICG first warned in Bosnia in 1996, while the urge to get legitimate local leadership in place is wholly understandable, early elections can be disastrously counterproductive if they only consolidate existing ethnic or other divisions: concentrating on first building civil society institutions can often make much more sense.

In Iraq we are now warning, similarly, of the huge downside risks involved in what looks at first sight the very clever arithmetical weighting of the appointed Iraqi Interim Governing Council, and the new cabinet it has just selected, to precisely reflect Shiite and Sunni, and Arab and non-Arab proportions of the population. The trouble with this is that for the first time in the country's modern history, sectarian and ethnic identity has been elevated to the rank of primary organizing political principle. People are now more likely to join political parties built on these lines, secular Iraqis are feeling weakened, and the danger that the country will disintegrate on ethnic and religious lines, previously much exaggerated, is now becoming real. The irony is that the U.S., which for so long has feared Shiite activism in Iran and Lebanon, is now effectively promoting it in Iraq.

8. Make Security the First Priority

While the point has already been made that security cannot be the only priority of peacebuilders, there can be little argument for it being the first priority. Without law and order - imposed through an effective military or police presence or both - there won't be much chance of securing higher order objectives like embrace of the rule of law, participatory government and more participatory economic and social institutions.

It is never easy, as even the US is realising in Iraq, to find the necessary resources to calm down a volatile and fragile situation, and to deal with the various 'spoilers' who may emerge to put at risk the stability of a negotiated or enforced peace. But there is little excuse for the continual foot-dragging on the employment of necessary security resources in Afghanistan outside the capital, Kabul: the situation is deteriorating in that country and putting very much at risk what little else has been achieved.

Of all the security tasks likely to confront peacebuilders in post conflict situations, the disarmament and reintegration of former combatants, and the transformation of warring factions into contesting political parties, is probably the most important to get right. 'Without demobilisation, civil wars cannot be brought to an end, and other goals such as democratisation, accountability or justice have little chance for success.'9

9. Make Justice and the Rule of Law a Higher Priority

Just as too much attention tends to be focused on democratic elections as the primary target for peacebuilders - being treated as the critical exit signpost - not enough has been focused on the establishment of a viable justice system and something approximating the rule of law. It's not just a matter of consolidating a sense of personal security; it's a matter of creating the minimum conditions for serious economic activity and foreign investment, for which the most generous aid in the world is no substitute if a broken country is ever to get back on its feet.

Of all the wheels that seem constantly to have to be reinvented in post conflict peacebuilding operations, at least since the time of the UNTAC operation in Cambodia in the early 90s, none has been more important than the need to create an effective justice system. 'Justice packages', which can be adapted to the specific conditions of a wide variety of operations, should be considered an integral part of any post-intervention peace building strategy, pending the re-establishment of local institutions: included in the package, as well as strategies for policing, trial and punishment, would be a standard model penal code, able to be used in any situation where there is no appropriate existing body of law to apply.

Getting the balance right, in post-conflict societies highly traumatised by the internal mass violence, between justice and reconciliation - between the operation of the criminal law in all its awful majesty, and truth and reconciliation commissions with wideranging accompanying amnesties - is one of the most difficult of all peacebuilding tasks. The only rule of thumb is that there is no rule of thumb, and that outsiders must listen very carefully indeed to what local people are telling them: sometimes most people just want to draw a line under the past and move on.

10. Know When to Get Out

As has often been remarked, what all intrusive on the ground peace operations need is, if not an exit timetable, certainly an exit strategy. The vesting , as soon as humanly responsible, of real authority, responsibility and sovereignty in the people of the country being rebuilt must remain, as I suggested at the outset, the overriding objective of those outsiders engaged in peacebuilding.

That said, the point has been made10  that 'many of the mistakes of the past 10 years in peacekeeping and nation building had to do with leaving too soon or doing too little rather than with staying too long or doing too much': cases in point involving doing too little are the failure of the international occupiers in Bosnia to round up war criminals, and the extended period during which the High Representative there did little to enforce the basic principles of the Dayton Accords. A paradox of nation building in contemporary Bosnia, as ICG has described it, is that non-democratic, paternalistic and subjective decisions by international bureaucrats may have been exactly what was required to knock together sustainable democratic institutions and deflate the spoiling tactics of those determined to resist the creation of a viable multi- ethnic state.

But even the most benevolent peacebuilder has to know when to leave if the rebuilding of a society in crisis is not to turn itself into a permanent occupation. So let this be my last word. "The art of peacebuilding consists in intervening well, in a manner that makes intervention self-liquidating and peace self-sustaining.'11 The primary role of peacebuilders, as for all of us in the conflict prevention and resolution business, is to do ourselves out of a job.



1 Michael Doyle & Nicholas Sambanis, ‘Building Peace: Challenges and Strategies After Civil War’, , in World Bank Policy Report on the Causes and Consequences of Conflict in Developing Countries, 27 December 1999. p 5

2 Stephen John Stedman, ‘Evaluating Peace Operations 1989-2003’ in Human Security Report, OUP, NY, 2004, citing Doyle and Sambanis.

3 Governing Iraq, ICG Middle East Report No 17, 25 August 2003

William J. Durch, ‘Picking up the Peaces:The UN’s Evolving Postconflict Roles, The Washington Quarterly, Autumn 2003, p. 196

5 See The Responsibility to Protect, Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, 2001, paras 3.21-24.

6 Joseph R Biden Jr, ‘Don’t Forget Afghanistan’, New York Times, 1 October 2003

7 Brown E.M, & Rosencrance N. R (eds.), 1999, The Cost of Conflict, Prevention and Cure in the Global Arena, Carnegie Commission on Deadly Conflict, Table 11.1, p 225.

8 Doyle and Sambanis, op.cit.

9 Stedman op.cit.

10 Durch, op.cit., p 206

11 Doyle and Sambanis, op.cit.


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