Commentary

Reflections on War and Peacebuilding

in Program

By William Durch – Peace
operations most often fail when an unsustainable, rushed peace
agreement, election, or constitution locks new governments into
structures that may not be appropriate to their culture or
circumstances. This “original sin,” as Lakhdar Brahimi calls it, can
doom even the most well-intentioned effort.

 

Brahimi spoke at the launch of Twenty-First Century Peace Operations, a new book of case studies jointly sponsored by US Institute of Peace and the Stimson Center.

 

To
illustrate his points, he drew on personal experience with post-9/11
Afghanistan and its peace process. Representatives of some of that
country’s many factions were brought together in Bonn, in late 2001,
for what proved to be a marathon negotiating session, chaired by
Brahimi. He found it “impossible,” in the three weeks available for the
talks, to construct an optimal peace process,
let alone a peace agreement. Peace needs more time but the
“circumstances” then did not allow it. The veteran negotiator, who
subsequently headed the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA),
also cautioned that, before setting out to draw up a new constitution
for a war-torn state, the international community should see if the
country has a decent earlier document-like Afghanistan’s 1964
constitution-that can be taken from retirement and put back to work.
Doing so is much less risky than trying to cut a new political deal in
unsettled and potentially violent circumstances.

 

Brahimi
defended the concept of the “light footprint” around which he
structured UNAMA. The point, he said, was to send out only as many
international staff as you had real jobs for them to do, and then to
work them out of those jobs as soon as possible as you focused on
rebuilding the government of the host state. Although given
coordinating authority over all UN work in Afghanistan, Brahimi found
that he still lacked sufficient leverage over other UN agencies, which
continued to “throw people at problems,” and underqualified or
inappropriate people, at that. The international community, he argued,
needs a cadre of qualified and available personnel willing to work in
war-torn states to help them build institutions, promote good
governance, and establish the rule of law.

 

For more on
the release event, chaired by USIP vice president Paul Stares and
featuring presentations by Stimson Center senior associate William
Durch (editor of the volume); Ambassador Brahimi; and Ambassador Carlos
Pascual, the head of foreign policy studies at the Brookings
Institution see the event page.

 

To purchase the book, click here.

For more on the Future of Peace Operations Program, click here.


Dr.
William Durch is a Senior Associate at the Stimson Center. 
The  companion study to Twenty-First Century Peace Operations, Who Should Keep the Peace? Providing Security for Twenty-First Century Peace Operations  was released in Otober 2006 by the Stimson Center. 

 

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