C I V I L - M I L I TA R YW O R K I N G PA P E R S11/ 2 0 1 0UNDERSTANDING WHAT WE’RE SAYING:DILEMMAS OF THE UN’S PEACEBUI...
Disclaimer:The views expressed in this Civil-Military Commentary/Civil Military Working Paper/Civil-Military Occasional Pa...
ABSTRACT          Since the end of the Cold War, the UN has steadily increased the ambition and scope of its peace        ...
INTRODUCTIONThe most recent output by the UN Secretariat on the relationship between peacekeeping and peacebuildingdescrib...
Clarity, however, is crucial. Confusion over language and meaning continue to complicate discussionsover important subject...
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?When coined in 1992, ‘post-conflict peace-building’ was defined by the UN as “action to identify an...
IMPLICATIONS AND DILEMMAS OF THEPEACEBUILDING PARADIGMThe landmark shift away from traditional peacekeeping and toward mul...
Furthermore, given the broad definition of peacebuilding that has emerged, the UN Secretariat’s variousdepartments now do ...
CONCLUSIONMoving forward, the UN Secretariat continues to work toward better coordination, integration and morethoughtful ...
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11/2010 Understanding what we're saying: Dilemma's of the UN's peacebuilding program

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11/2010 Understanding what we're saying: Dilemma's of the UN's peacebuilding program

  1. 1. C I V I L - M I L I TA R YW O R K I N G PA P E R S11/ 2 0 1 0UNDERSTANDING WHAT WE’RE SAYING:DILEMMAS OF THE UN’S PEACEBUILDING PARADIGMAdam C. Smith w w w.c i v m i l co e . gov. au
  2. 2. Disclaimer:The views expressed in this Civil-Military Commentary/Civil Military Working Paper/Civil-Military Occasional Paper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflectthe position of APCMCOE or of any government agency. Authors enjoy the academicfreedom to offer new and sometimes controversial perspectives in the interest offurthering debate on key issues.The content is published under a Creative Commons by Attribution 3.0 Australia(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/au/) licence. All parts of this publicationmay be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, and transmitted by any means withoutthe written permission of the publisher.ISBN: 978-1-921933-11-0Published 2011.CIVIL-MILLITARY WORKING PAPERS ii
  3. 3. ABSTRACT Since the end of the Cold War, the UN has steadily increased the ambition and scope of its peace and security activities in conflict-affected countries. Over that time, peacekeeping evolved in concept and practice from what was called traditional peacekeeping to what is now described as multi-dimensional peace operations. One could argue that the UN was engaged in non-traditional peacekeeping in the Congo back in 1960 (ONUC). However, ONUC was an aberration for the UN during the cold war period, and neither its aspirations nor operational requirements were comparable to, say, the UN’s current multi-dimensional operation in the DRC. During that same period, the concept of peacebuilding emerged and eventually came to provide a conceptual framework for this ambitious work. Peacekeeping, and particularly peacebuilding, however, still suffer from a lack of conceptual clarity among observers, scholars, and even practitioners. The common assumption that post-conflict interventions proceed sequentially from mediation to peacekeeping and then to peacebuilding are indicative of this confusion. Key Words: UN, multi-dimensional operations, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, conceptual confusion Adam Smith Adam Smith is a Research Fellow heading the peace operations program the International Peace Institute (IPI). His work focuses on multidimensional peacekeeping, the management of UN field operations, peacekeeping partnerships, and the role of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG). Before joining IPI, Adam consulted for the MacArthur Foundation’s Program on Global Security and Sustainability, the Foreign Policy Leadership Council and Security Council Report. He holds a BS in Foreign Service from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and an MIA with a concentration in International Security Policy from Columbia University. His recent publications include: Adam Smith and Vanessa Wyeth, “Security Council Istanbul Retreat: At the Crossroads of Peacemaking, Peacekeeping, and Peacebuilding,” (New York: International Peace Institute, October 2010); Cathy Clement and Adam C. Smith, “Managing Complexity: Political and Managerial Challenges in UN Peace Operations,” (New York: International Peace Institute, June 2009); and International Peace Institute, “Peace Operations,” IPI Blue Paper No. 9, Task Forces on Strengthening Multilateral Security Capacity, New York, 2009.Understanding What We’re Saying: Dilemmas of the UN’s Peacebuilding Paradigm 1
  4. 4. INTRODUCTIONThe most recent output by the UN Secretariat on the relationship between peacekeeping and peacebuildingdescribes peacekeeping, in its contemporary, multi-dimensional form, as an instrument applied in supportof a larger peacebuilding process. Through the paradigm envisioned by the Secretariat, peacebuilding canarguably be understood as the organising principle that guides UN intervention – at all stages of the conflictcycle – in countries in crisis. The UN’s shift towards this peacebuilding paradigm, however, has operational andinstitutional implications for how the UN mandates, organizes and implements its peace and security effortsin the field. Some of these implications remain unacknowledged by the international community. As a result,the architecture supporting the UN’s peace and security activities stays wedded to an outdated Cold War-erapeacekeeping logic.The first section of this paper underlines the importance of conceptual and linguistic clarity to forge resilientagreements and develop effective strategy. Section two describes the evolution of the concept of peacebuildingin the UN and how peacebuilding relates to peacekeeping. The final section outlines some important but under-acknowledged implications of (and contradictions in) the UN’s present understanding of peacebuilding.CONCEPTUAL CLARITY IS IMPORTANTCertain definitions can be notoriously difficult to agree on; peacebuilding is one of them. A concept that isrelatively new or one that changes over time and place as the understanding of it evolves can pose an evengreater challenge. So we should not be surprised that peacebuilding, a relatively young concept, and one thatis evolving, still creates confusion. Is peacebuilding a tool at the disposal of the UN Security Council or thePeacebuilding Commission – something the UN does? Or do others, such as local institutions, do it? Is it a stagein the conflict cycle during which a certain type of intervention is warranted? If so, is that stage before a conflict,during a conflict or after a conflict? How does peacebuilding differ from state-building or nation-building?Peacekeeping, of course, can be similarly confounding. When we say ‘peacekeeping,’ do we mean traditionalpeacekeeping, multi-dimensional peacekeeping, peace support operations, peace enforcement, counter-insurgency, or all of the above? Despite their obvious differences in mandate, resources, scope, methods, andgoals, ISAF in Afghanistan, UNPROFOR in the former Yugoslavia, UNFICYP in Cyprus, and MONUC in theDemocratic Republic of Congo were all called peacekeeping operations.CIVIL-MILLITARY WORKING PAPERS 2
  5. 5. Clarity, however, is crucial. Confusion over language and meaning continue to complicate discussionsover important subjects inside the UN (e.g. terrorism, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), and robustpeacekeeping). Often, disagreements in the General Assembly’s Special Committee on Peacekeeping orthe Security Council are papered over with imprecise language, rather than faced head on. Lack of clarity oragreement on language can set off a chain of events that makes the enormous challenge of helping to build ajust and sustainable peace even more difficult.Since the end of the Cold War, the Security Council has often managed to come to agreement on a resolutionby one of two methods: a) using ambiguous or vague language, or b) including everyone’s wishes into onelengthy mandate – the so-called ‘Christmas tree’ resolution. The latter method has been most common oflate; from 2002 to 2009 the average word count in Security Council resolutions rose from 586 to 1,675.1Similarly, it is often pointed out that resolutions renewing the mandate for MONUC and now MONUSCOinclude more than 40 mandated tasks for the resourced-stretched and politically-compromised UN mission.Overly descriptive mandates and their flip side, ambiguous mandates (seen throughout the 1990s), reduce thelikelihood of clear and strategic direction given to the Secretariat. Poorly-crafted mandates of course createtheir own challenges for the SRSG, the Force Commander, and the rank-and-file in the field. This says nothingabout outside observers, the media, and host populations, who rarely understand what the United Nations isdoing, wants to do, or is able to do in post-conflict settings.2The UN Secretariat has made repeated efforts to explain peacebuilding. However, each document it hasproduced on the subject since its first mention in Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali’s “Agenda for Peace” of1992 paints a slightly different picture of an evolving concept.3 The latest effort, and perhaps the most explicitin its goal of clarity, was a four-page non-paper circulated to all UN Member States in October 2010, entitled“Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding: Clarifying the Nexus.”4 In it, the Secretariat rightly notes that “differentconstituencies continue to use the term ‘peacebuilding’ in ways that may diverge from each other and from theconcept as articulated in reports of the Secretary-General.” This divergence results partly from the concepthaving evolved over the last two decades, but also from unresolved differences among actors and institutionsregarding the exact nature of peacebuilding and the roles of peacebuilders. 5Understanding What We’re Saying: Dilemmas of the UN’s Peacebuilding Paradigm 3
  6. 6. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?When coined in 1992, ‘post-conflict peace-building’ was defined by the UN as “action to identify and supportstructures which will tend to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict.”6 Sincethen, three significant modifications have been made to that definition: a) the temporal scope of peacebuildinghas broadened to encompass all stages of the conflict cycle (thus peacebuilding can also be conflictprevention); b) an emphasis has been put on national ownership of and responsibility for the peacebuildingprocess; and c) the goal has become a peace that is described as self-sustaining.One can deduce the UN’s conception of self-sustaining peace from the description of peacebuilding prioritiesin the September 2010 DPKO non-paper.7 The document explains that peacebuilding priorities typicallyinclude supporting “(i) basic safety and security including protection of civilians and rule of law, (ii) inclusivepolitical processes, (iii) delivery of basic services, (iv) restoring (sic) core government functions, and (v)economic revitalisation.” Although the UN’s actual priorities are said to differ from place to place, in reality,the UN often tries to address all of these areas when it has an integrated peacekeeping mission on the ground.As such, this paradigm becomes rather comprehensive and ambitious in its scope. This may be unsurprising,given the inherent tendency of a bureaucracy to expand its mission over time; the UN is certainly no strangerto this phenomenon. However, and importantly, it is also an acknowledgement of the intrinsic complexity andenormous difficulty of preventing conflict (or its resurgence): because we don’t know what exact combinationof factors prevents a return to violence in a given context, we tend to work on all of them. The broader thescope of potential action is, however, the more difficult it becomes to set priorities, adjust methods to localcontext, and determine achievable objectives. 8If peacebuilding is a process, led by national actors and supported by the United Nations, with the goalof creating the conditions for a self-sustaining peace, what then is peacekeeping? In the new peacebuildingparadigm at least, peacekeeping is an instrument that aids in this process of peacebuilding. Given the broaddefinition of peacebuilding adopted by the UN Secretariat, literally no task of today’s peacekeepers fallsoutside of peacebuilding’s scope. Unlike the days of traditional peacekeeping, peacekeepers are now ‘earlypeacebuilders’ that ‘enable,’ ‘articulate,’ or ‘implement’ peacebuilding activities. The 2010 ‘Nexus’ non-paperdescribes in detail the role peacekeepers play to support each peacebuilding priority.CIVIL-MILLITARY WORKING PAPERS 4
  7. 7. IMPLICATIONS AND DILEMMAS OF THEPEACEBUILDING PARADIGMThe landmark shift away from traditional peacekeeping and toward multidimensional peacekeeping operationswith a focus on peacebuilding began in the early 1990s. The shift reflected both a growing appreciation of thecomplex, underlying causes of conflict, as well as an acknowledgement of the high rate of recidivism amongconflict-affected states. However, the embrace of the peacebuilding paradigm continues to expose a numberof conceptual and operational dilemmas for the international community as it struggles to build lasting peaceunder difficult circumstances around the globe. Despite many years of evolving peacebuilding practice inpeacekeeping operations, many of these dilemmas still go unacknowledged.The first dilemma related to the use of peacekeepers as peacebuilders is whether the goals and methods ofpeacebuilding and the goals and methods of peacekeeping are even compatible. Peacekeeping was inventedas a tool for ensuring a so-called ‘negative peace’ (absence of war) among parties to a conflict, which requiresstabilisation and ensuring the status quo. (Presumably, although they are now called ‘early peacebuilders,’a goal of peacekeepers is still to provide safety and stability.) Peacebuilding seeks to create the conditionsfor a ‘positive peace’ in a society at large by addressing and transforming underlying circumstances that led(or may again lead) to conflict. Unfortunately, progress toward stabilization (peacekeeping) can jeopardisetransformative (peacebuilding) goals. At the same time, any transformation of underlying structures orcircumstances also runs the risk of helping de-stabilize. This is partly why peacekeepers in Lebanon, forexample, are not given peacebuilding tasks.9Tension can occur between the various objectives of a UN peace operation for a number of reasons, oftenbecause the UN is mandated to do more than it can actually do. As discussed above, the UN Security Councilhas had the tendency in recent years to create long, overly-descriptive mandates. Such mandates can includegoals that are seemingly contradictory, and can lead to incoherent strategies implemented in the field. This isperhaps best-known in the case of the DRC, where a UN mandate to protect civilians is contradicted by itsother mandate to work closely with and support the DRC government (and its armed forces, who are oftenthe perpetrators of violence against civilians). It is not difficult to see how each of these two goals of the UN inthe DRC could compromise the other. It also begs the question of whether there needs to be a ‘peacebuildingspace,’ similar to the concept of ‘humanitarian space.’Second, the increasing use of such a broad peacebuilding paradigm must have implications for how the UNunderstands its role in the world, and consequently, how it organizes its peace and security related interventionefforts. Although many UN member states would never admit to it as such, peacebuilding is now the organisingprinciple of UN peace and security intervention. The purpose of the UN as framed by its Charter has notchanged (to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war), but the post-WWII mindset that pennedthose words has, of course, been altered. Traditional peacekeeping was, during the Cold War, in part justified asa tool to stabilise conflict among proxy armies of the two major world powers. Today, however, few observerscould claim that the goal of the UN Security Council’s interventions in post-conflict countries is the prevention ofWorld War III. Rather, as can be concluded from the most recent Secretariat non-paper, much of the agenda ofthe Security Council now revolves around, and is guided by, this concept of peacebuilding.Understanding What We’re Saying: Dilemmas of the UN’s Peacebuilding Paradigm 5
  8. 8. Furthermore, given the broad definition of peacebuilding that has emerged, the UN Secretariat’s variousdepartments now do peacebuilding. If peacebuilding is indeed prevention and is indeed political, the workof the Department of Political Affairs is peacebuilding; likewise for DPKO and DFS, whose peacekeepersare described as early peacebuilders. Given both the UN Security Council and the Secretariat’s orientationtoward peacebuilding, peacebuilding is therefore not only a process of building peace in conflict-affectedcountries, but can also be seen as a de facto organising principle of UN peace and security intervention efforts.The dilemma here, of course, is that in practice, the UN’s mechanisms, procedures and organisation are notconsistent with the UN’s definition of peacebuilding, but rather are relics of the peacekeeping logic of thepast. A small, but obvious example is that its new peacebuilding logic does not extend to how it labels itspeace operations. During ongoing conflict (e.g. UNAMID) or immediately after the cessation of a conflict(e.g. UNMIS), the UN names its missions ‘peacekeeping.’ Directly following the end of a peacekeepingmandate, the UN will typically call an operation a ‘peacebuilding mission’ (e.g. UNIOSIL).10 Such terminologyhints at – and likely fuels confusion over – the nature and relation of peacekeeping and peacebuilding. Itwould perhaps be more appropriate to use terms like ‘preventive peacebuilding missions,’ ‘early post-conflictpeacebuilding missions’ and ’long-horizon peacebuilding missions.’A much more critical example of this organisational confusion and the dilemma it creates relates to the factthat to be effective, peacebuilding support requires integrated action. Out in the field, much progress hasbeen made toward the goal of integration, primarily through the adoption of the integrated mission structure,including the multi-hatting of the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General. Yet while the UNis integrating its field presence, it is seemingly uninterested in a similarly integrated headquarters structure.Although processes for coordination have been initiated in New York (e.g. the Integrated Mission PlanningProcess and the Integrated Operational Teams, etc.), an incoherent and outdated headquarters structurecontinues to preserve stovepipes in all departments, funds, agencies, and programmes of the United Nations.11This lack of integration is felt acutely out in the field as different funding mechanisms, personnel policies,and lines of accountability prevent swift and integrated action where and when it is needed. The persistentchallenge of implementing effective disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) programs – inwhich different parts of the UN have to work together in a synchronized and highly coordinated manner – isevidence of this phenomenon. Reliable and flexible funding of peacebuilding activities is consistently cited asanother victim of UN bureaucratic dysfunction. It is the hope; at least, that the creation and increasing use ofthe Peacebuilding Support Office and the Peacebuilding Fund might help fill gaps in coordination and flexiblefunding, respectively.Finally, in addition to the dilemmas regarding the Secretariat’s organisation and its implementation ofpeacebuilding mandates, a further dilemma regards who defines what is to be implemented and how thosemandates are decided. We are told that the peacebuilding process should be locally-led, that it varies greatlydepending on the local context, and that success is highly dependent upon local actors. Given that the UNSecurity Council is composed of member state governments (a third of which come and go each year, some ofwhich are non-democratic, and all of which may have self-interest in a specific peacebuilding process), both theCouncil’s legitimacy and its ability to develop effective peacebuilding support mandates has been questioned.Indicative of this problem is the tendency of the Council to draft long and complicated mandates with scoresof un-prioritised tasks for the UN mission to carry out. Critics also point out that effective peacebuildingrequires a long-term commitment and a strategy of decades, not years. Due to procedural and funding issues,the Council is forced to do its strategizing in six-month to one-year intervals. Some have thus suggestedan increased role for the Peacebuilding Commission, in partnership with mission leadership and the hostgovernment, in developing peacebuilding support strategies.CIVIL-MILLITARY WORKING PAPERS 6
  9. 9. CONCLUSIONMoving forward, the UN Secretariat continues to work toward better coordination, integration and morethoughtful peacebuilding strategies. For its part, the Security Council has committed to drafting smartermandates through better consultation with relevant stakeholders, troop- and police-contributing countries,and the Peacebuilding Commission. Along with this important work, however, UN Member States shouldnot forget about the broader conceptual and institutional questions raised by the UN’s stated peacebuildingparadigm. Honest discussions should continue inside and outside the UN regarding: the structure andmechanisms of the UN Secretariat, the engagement and role of the Peacebuilding Commission vis-à-vis theSecurity Council, the proper use of military as participants in and alongside peacebuilding activities, as well asthe innate contradictions between the goals of peacekeeping and peacebuilding.Endnotes1 Numbers generated from IPI research included in the background paper for the 2009 “Hitting the Ground Running” workshop held for the members of the UN Security Council.2 This lack of understanding is particularly harmful in the context of peacekeeping operations with protection of civilians (PoC) mandates. Host populations seeking protection are often tragically unaware of the low or inconsistent level of protection the deployment of a peacekeeping force with a PoC mandate actually offers.3 Call and Cousens note that the word ‘peacebuilding’ actually dates back to Johan Galtung’s 1975 essay, “Three Approaches to Peace: Peacekeeping, Peacemaking and Peacebuilding.” See, Charles Call and Elizabeth Cousens, “Ending Wars and Building Peace,” IPA Coping with Crisis Working Paper Series, March 2007,4 “Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding: Clarifying the Nexus,” UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and UN Department of Field Support non-paper, September 2010.5 For a discussion of different interpretations of peacebuilding by different actors and institutions see “Peacebuilding: what is in a name?,” Michael, Barnett, Hunjoon Kim, Madalene O’Donnell, and Laura Sitea, Global Governance, Vol. 13, No. 1, January, 2007.6 Report of the Secretary-General, Agenda for Peace: Preventive Diplomacy, Peacemaking, and Peace-keeping, A/47/277, June 17, 1992, para 21, p. 6.7 This was earlier stated in the Report of the Secretary-General on Peacebuilding in the Immediate Aftermath of Conflict, (A/63/881–S/2009/304), June 2009.8 See Mats Berdal, Building Peace after War, Routledge, NY, 2009.9 One alternative critique of the peacebuilding paradigm is that peacebuilding, as conceived by the UN, the IFIs, and Western aid agencies, is not, in fact, transformative, but rather it tends to stabilize and reinforce the pre-existing socio-economic power structures that led to conflict. If this is the case, one might assume that using peacekeepers as peacebuilders will make the transformation of social, economic and power structures even less likely. For more on this critique, see “Peacebuilding does not build peace,” Tobias Denskus, Development in Practice, Volume 17, Numbers 4-5, August 2007.10 There are, of course, exceptions to this pattern (e.g. the preventive deployment of peacekeepers in Macedonia, the preventive peacebuilding office in Guinea-Bissau, and the open-ended duration of a peacekeeping mission in Cyprus), which only create further confusion.11 Former head of the UN mission in Nepal, Ian Martin, recommends the merger of DPKO, DPA, and the Peacebuilding Support Office in his article, “All Peace Operations are Political: a Case for Designer Missions and the Next UN Reform,” Review of Political Missions, NYU Center on International Cooperation, 2010.Understanding What We’re Saying: Dilemmas of the UN’s Peacebuilding Paradigm 7

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