Monday, December 21, 2009

Peace building and State building missions

Modern Civil Wars are the most common form of human conflict. These conflicts have accrued in a large number of countries and have caused an enormous amount of death and suffering. This kind of conflict separates different groups from each other trough excluding identity politics and new kind of economy that finance the conflicts actors emerge. The government institutions are often destroyed and functions like police, military and healthcare often collapses. Other basic functions such as electricity, water and communication often become damaged during a conflict and become unreliable or seize to function. With no police or military to provide security groups are forced to bond together in order to get some security.

Traditional Peacekeeping
The traditional peacekeeping mission focuses on that a neutral group monitors a seize fire between different party and acts like a security to prevent that the fighting reemerge. This can be done by patrolling border, creating demobilized zones and monitoring troop movements. His can help the parties to trust each other and create a balance needed for future efforts. This kind of missions is easier to implement if the parties of the conflicts are forces from different nations.

State building Missions
The response the new kind of civil wars that have emerged have been a much more complex response than the traditional peacekeeping missions seen before. The new wars basically mean that nations collapse. In these scenarios there is very little security for the population, no military and no working government. Under these conditions the peace building force is often sent in to the conflict zone without the consent of the parties. Additional tasks to the traditional aspects of peace building additional tasks is undertaken such as
* Policing
* Delivery of humanitarian assistance
* Disarmament and demobilization
* Rebuilding infrastructure

The most complicated aspects of these missions is the reconstruction of government and the institutions of the countries such as police, military, juridical system and other basic government functions that’s taken for granted in most countries. In order to create a stabile new institutions democratic institutions and elections is often a central part of the process. One aspect of state building missions that have gotten a lot of attention the last years is the making of constitutions. The idea is that by creating a constitution as the foundation for how a country should be governed a lot of the problems that civil wars present can be bridged. One of the leading experts in this field is Arend Lijphart. Some of the central ascpects that Lijphart identifies is:
• Cross community executive power sharing
• Proportionality rules throughout the government and public sectors
• Community self-government – or autonomy – and equality in cultural life
• Veto right for minorities

State building missions have taken place in Iraq since 2003, Afghanistan since 2001, Bosnia since the 1990:s and in East Timor to name a few examples. In none of these cases has the UN or the peace building forces been able to make complete withdrawal.

There isn’t much literature on how peace building should be managed in the field, however the book “Peace building a field guide” by Luc Reychler and Thania Paffenholz contains some practical advice on various subject for those how are interested.

Problems with state building missions
In modern civil wars the actors have to finance their own activities, this is often done through harvesting natural resources, trafficking with women and drugs, kidnapping and other activates. In order to get anything done in these areas the peace keeping forces and other actors like humanitarian Non Governmental Organizations have to make deals with the groups controlling the country in order to get help to the people that they are trying to reach. The actors in the civil war can also gain money by providing prostitutes to soldiers and aid workers in the area. This means that the actors that trying to build peace can end up contributing to the finances of militias, rebel groups and criminal networks.

The interaction with Private Military Companies and Private Security Companies
These kinds of conflicts present an extreme challenge for the peacekeeping forces. In order to have some protection NGO:s often contract PMC and PSC to provide security for their personnel within the area. These are also often the case for other corporation that’s active within these areas. Other tasks involve training police and military forces, providing logistics for the peacekeeping force etc. How many contractors that operates in these areas is very hard to estimate, in Iraq the figures vary between 30.000 up to 180.000, in other words more contractors than US regular troops. The later number is mentioned by Peter W Singer in the article “Can’t Win With ‘Em, Can’t Go To War Without ‘Em: Private Military Contractors and Counterinsurgency” from 2007. My personal guess is that the real number lies somewhere in between. The central aspect is that this type of missions has become a major market for these companies.

Freedom in the World
The American organization Freedomhouse follows the development around the world and rates all countries depending on how free they are. They release reports every year that can be accessed through their homepage. This is a good resource if you want to get a picture of how the situation is in a country before you leave and how the situation has changed from the previous years. You can find the site at

The civil wars of today’s world can be described as the collapse of societies. The response from the international community in some of these cases has been an attempt to recreate these states or build new ones: state building missions. This has proven to be extremely costly projects that haven’t been successful enough for the state building parties to leave Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia or East Timor. This doesn’t mean that these kinds of projects are all doomed to fail, but there is no universal concept that can fix these problems in a short period of time. When the international troops are present in Iraq or Afghanistan they can hold the hostile parties at bay. But the parties adjust their tactics to ambushes, improvised explosive devices, mines, bombing, suicide bombings and other tactics that is very difficult to handle. These missions is extremely complex and the task to build a new nation is extremely difficult both when it comes to cost of money but also when it comes to the suffering of the people working and living within these areas. So when you hear experts talk about this subject know that it’s never easy and real progress will take a very long time to accomplish.

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