Tag Archives: peacebuilding

Jus Post Bellum

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There is, as we know, a huge literature on what is commonly called the international peacebuilding regime. Most of this work is produced by political scientists, and much of it is in the criticism-of- the- liberal-peace genre. But now legal scholars have entered this field in a serious way to examine and develop the concept of jus post bellum. To what extent is the international peacebuilding regime resting on a coherent body of norms or law, the post-war equivalent to jus ad bellum and jus in bello? What is the nature and function of law in the transition from war to peace? What should be the role of law in the war-to-peace transitions – ‘black letter’ law, a set of moral norms that provide standards for policy or, more modestly, a ‘site of discourse’ that could increase coherence in peacebuilding initiatives?

These are the initial questions discussed in a new (and huge – 600 pages) volume. Entitled simply Jus Post Bellum, the book is the result of an ongoing project at Leiden University led by Carsten Stahn, who heads the University’s Grotius Center.

As a hard-core political scientist who was invited to participate in a conference organized by the jus post bellum project and contribute to the book of same name, and I need a little time to refocus. Once refocused, I found the project an exciting endeavour to systematically explore an aspect of peacebuilding that until now has been little studied.

The point of departure is the recent work by Larry May, whose After War Ends (2012), examines the principles for a just post-conflict peace in the tradition of just war theory. May proposes six moral norms as the basis for a body law to frame the transition from war to peace: rebuilding, retribution, reconciliation, restitution, reparation and proportionality.

The book Jus Post Bellum critically investigates to what extent these and related principles could give rise to a body of law for post-conflict situations, and whether such efforts are indeed justified. Could efforts to develop law in this field be counter-productive, given the variety of post-war situations, the political hegemony of Western powers in the bodies that  define law, the difficulties of defining both the beginning and the end of  the ‘post-conflict’ period, and the uncertain boundaries between ‘war’ and ‘peace’? As political anthropologist David Keen entitled an article he wrote for International Peacekeeping several years ago (vol.7, no.4), ‘War and Peace, What is the Difference?’

As an edited volume with contributions from political scientists as well as legal scholars, Jus Post Bellum speaks with many voices. It provides no equivocal answers to the questions above. The diversity of approaches and conclusions is indeed a major strength of the book. Legal scholars have the last word as they  seek in the concluding section of the volume to ‘distil a set of principles that inform the creation and sustainability of resilient and peaceful post-conflict societies,’ as Jennifer Easterday, Jens Iverson and Carsten Stahn write. To the (legal) untrained eye, these principles seem not so different from the norms identified by Larry May, and which appear to have framed the historical development of the international peacebuilding regime during the past almost two decades.

The book Jus Post Bellum, edited by Carsten Stahn, Jennifer Easterday and Jens Iverson will be published by Oxford University Press in February 2014 in hardback and as an e-book.

Mali: Humanitarian Challenges and Fragile Security, What Role for the UN?

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Despite heavy August rain, Gunhilde Utsogn (Special Assistant to the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mali) and John Karlsrud’s (NUPI) discussion on the humanitarian challenges facing Mail drew a large audience of academics, NGO workers, representatives from international organizations, embassies and the Norwegian armed forces to PRIO. Co-hosted by PRIO and NCHS, the seminar aimed to take stock of current developments in Mali and their ramifications for humanitarian action, as the war-torn country holds elections and welcomes the UN MINUSMA peacekeeping mission.

The events occurring in Mali are often presented as a fall-out from the Libya conflict: Northern Malians, who had for decades resided in Libya, returned to Mali well-trained and well-armed after the fall of Qadhafi. Northern Mali has a long history of Tuareg-rebellion against the Southern elite located in the capital Bamako, and has over the years seen a smuggler economy develop in the region, as it serves as a transit route for drug trafficking from South America to Europe as well as for weapons trafficking. Frustrated by the presidents’ handling of the rebellion, and by the rebels’ easy defeat of the Malian army; a faction of young officers seized power in a coup in March 2012. The Tuaregs took over control over the North of Mali in the power vacuum that followed, only to lose this control to the well-armed Islamists shortly after. The transitional president subsequently invited France to come to the rescue. In January 2013, French troops intervened militarily to stop the advance of the Islamists, following their capture of key towns in the North. Yet despite the military successes of the French troops breaking the Islamists’ control of this part of the country, the security situation remains volatile. In April, the UN Security Council agreed to send troops to take over from the French and African forces. This peacekeeping force, to which Norway has committed to contribute, began arriving last month. Meanwhile, an accord was signed between the Malian government and the Tuareg rebellion at the end of June in Ouagadougou. Despite some irregularities, the first round of presidential elections on July 28 saw a record turn-out of voters and the second round was conducted successfully on 11 August, leading to the victory of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

However, the humanitarian situation in the region remains highly precarious. For many observers, the challenge in Mali is not so much an emergency as a development crisis, where long term strategies are needed. Even before the 2012-events, food insecurity was chronic, with hundreds of thousands of malnourished children. The rainy season frequently brings cholera outbreaks. Yet, the conflict has undoubtedly exacerbated the problems: 800,000 children have already missed a school year. Despite the generosity of neighboring countries in opening their borders, the high number of Malian refugees in the region and the displaced population inside the country makes the situation even more fragile.

The key issue emerging from the debate between the speakers and the audience is whether the current UN mission, with its ambitious but highly aggressive mandate, is what Mali needs?

MINUSMA will be a fairly standard large multidimensional peacekeeping mission, with about 11200 troops, 1440 police and probably more than 1000 international and national civilian staff. The mandate authorizes MINUSMA to stabilize key population centers and to “deter threats and take active steps to prevent the return of armed elements to those areas”. It should also create a secure environment and secure the main roads. The French troops in Serval will operate alongside MINUSMA “to intervene in support of elements of MINUSMA”. MINUSMA is also given a broad range of substantive tasks including security sector reform, demobilization and reintegration of armed rebels, including children, good offices, supporting an inclusive dialogue, and supporting the presidential and legislative elections.

Although the mandate is fairly aggressive if one reads between the lines, it is not as explicit as the mandate that recently was given to MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, the trend of increasingly assertive mandates given to peace operations, effectively turning these operations into peace enforcement operations is worrying. None of the traditional principles for UN peacekeeping will in effect apply – including consent of all the parties, the non-use of force and impartiality. MINUSMA is also tasked with supporting the new government in re-establishing or extending state authority and few if any will be in doubt about the fact that the mission will be partial. The human rights record of the national army is weak at best, and although the mandate includes a task in training the national army, human rights violations can be expected to continue, in turn also tainting MINUSMA.

It is also paradoxes that while the mandates for UN peacekeeping operations are becoming increasingly aggressive; the tolerance for losses of UN troops is going down. Since the bombings of the UN HQ in Baghdad in 2003, in Algeria in 2007, and other more recent attacks in Nigeria, Afghanistan and South Sudan, the UN has been criticized for its ‘bunkerisation’ – imposing increasingly strict security measures that in effect closes the UN off from contact with the local population. This is especially the case for the UN’s humanitarian agencies but also its civilian peacekeepers. Although the UN argues that this is not the case so far in Mali, only one successful terrorist attack can and will change this situation overnight. The increasing likelihood of “terrorist” attacks against aggressive UN peace “enforcement”, also means that attacks against other UN agencies operating in the same volatile area, or humanitarians for that matter, may increase.

Internally, the aggressive mandate of MINUSMA also deepens the schisms between the military, political and development components of the UN on the one hand, and the humanitarians on the other. From the humanitarian perspective, there is considerable concern that the peacekeeping mission will infringe on the humanitarian space (humanitarian agencies to operate safely and effectively on the ground) and compromise humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and universality, understood by humanitarians themselves as preconditions for gaining access to civilians in war-torn areas. UN humanitarian actors may soon find themselves imposed with escorts due to a tightening of security rules and the mandate to secure roads in the North. In what is still effectively a war zone, the different parts of the UN may very quickly come at odds with each other.

These concerns are well-known from debates on the costs of stabilization missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the last two decades, peacebuilding and stabilization programs have incorporated humanitarian aspects into their mandates, contributing to serious problems in the field for humanitarian actors.

Over the last decade a division of labor has developed between international organizations engaged in conflict and post-conflict situations in Africa. Regional and sub-regional organizations have engaged in the sharper end of conflicts with peace enforcement missions, e.g. in Somalia, while the UN has focused on the following phase of peacekeeping. Naturally, many cases blur this distinction, but in principle this has been a mutually good division of work. However, with the recent mandates for MONUSCO in DRC and MINUSMA in Mali, a worrying trend of a more aggressive UN is emerging. To sum up the discussion, a central question is if this aggressive peacekeeping is what Mali needs and which long-term consequences for humanitarian action can be expected?

Somalia from Humanitarian Crisis to Struggling Statehood

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March 21, more than 90 people attended a Breakfast seminar “Return to Somalia, a New Era” jointly hosted by NCHS and PRIO’s Migration Research Group. Speakers were Abdi Aynte, executive director of the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (HIPS) , HIPS researcher Anab Ibrahim Nur and PRIO senior researcher Cindy Horst.  HIPS is a recently established Somali think tank based in Mogadishu, and a collaborative research partner to NCHS on the Somali case study for the Protection of Civilians project. A recording of this event is available here.

Abdi Aynte explained that after more than 20 years of wars and widespread disorder, Somalia entered a new era of optimism during the last quarter of 2012. A UN-backed process culminated in the selection of 275 members of parliament, and a new leadership was subsequently elected. The capital Mogadishu is considerably safer than it was two years ago. The new government has extended its domain of control to a number of regions outside the capital, and business vibrancy and civil society activities are slowly but steadily returning to Somalia. Despite the progress, significant challenges remain. The Somali state is profoundly fragile, and the state of chronic contestation over political and resource control persists. The new government has yet to articulate a set of national policies on most crucial issues, and the nature of Somalia’s federal structure remains disputed.

In her presentation (available here, under related files to the left), Cindy Horst discussed protection, displacement and return to Somalia. Her main message was that considering the profoundly fragile state of the road towards stabilization in Somalia, it is very premature to return people there at the moment. Not only can their protection not be guaranteed, but ultimately, a large influx of “involuntary returnees” is likely to destabilize an already fragile situation in the country. Horst also argued that the increasing return visits and stays of Somali diaspora to places like Mogadishu cannot be used as an argument to force others back, as protection upon return depends on many different factors – not the least having a foreign passport that allows a quick exit again if the security situation turns bad. She expressed her concern over the shrinking protection space for refugees and IDPs worldwide – not just affecting those trying to find protection from violent conflict but also increasingly in the transitional phase towards stability.
Both speakers asked a number of critical questions relating to the issue of Repatriation and “Voluntary” Return: What will be the humanitarian implications as the Kenyan government attempts to repatriate more than half a million Somali refugees?  Many Western countries have buffed up their repatriation programs, including repatriation of rejected asylum seekers and also potentially Somalis with a criminal record. What will be the plight of these civilians and what kind of protection is available for them once they get off the plane in Mogadishu? While the new Somali government has started to reach agreements with a number of countries offering conditionality packages (aid for return), can it deal with the impact of a large influx of people?

Three specific issues were highlighted in the discussion that followed the presentations. The first is the Contested Role of the Diaspora as Humanitarians and Leaders and the development of what has been termed ‘Diaspora Hate Syndrome’ in Mogadishu and other places.  While the Diaspora has often played an important role in providing humanitarian aid for Somalis inside Somalia, the influx of a large number of Somali individuals carrying European, American or Australian passports who want “top jobs” in the reconstruction phase is currently generating tension on the ground.

The second concerned the proliferation of land disputes, which is becoming a topic of particular concern. As noted in a 2009 report by ODI on land, conflict and humanitarian action, “Land and property disputes tend to increase in the post-conflict period, particularly in the context of large-scale returns of displaced populations. If these issues are overlooked, they are likely to threaten the fragile stability of post-conflict transitions”. Hence, one of the most acute needs  is for the government to re-establish some way of managing the increasing number of land disputes, sometimes fueled by individuals in control of old registries issuing deeds and titles.

Finally, the international humanitarian community, which has a less than impressive track record in Somalia must now face up to new challenges. As pointed out in a 2012 report by Refugees International: “With security in Mogadishu improving, international aid agencies should be able to increase their presence on the ground, allowing them to learn more about how these gatekeepers operate and to whom they are connected. With this increased knowledge and greater presence, the aid system in Mogadishu can become more open and accountable”.

Sudan: Beyond Repair? The Role of Foreign Involvement in the Shaping and Implementation of the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement

Rolandsen ØH (2013) Sudan: Beyond Repair? The Role of Foreign Involvement in the Shaping and Implementation of the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement. In: Eriksson M and Kostic R (eds) Mediation and Liberal Peacebuilding: Peace from the Ashes of War? Routledge.

Descriptions

This book offers a state-of-the-art examination of peacemaking, looking at its theoretical assumptions, empirical applications and its consequences.

Despite the wealth of research on external interventions and practices of Western peacebuilding, many scholars tend to rely on findings in the so-called ‘post-agreement’ phase of interventions. As a result, most mainstream peacebuilding literature pays limited or no attention to the linkages that exist between mediation practices in the negotiation phase and processes in the post-peace agreement phase of intervention.

By linking the motives and practices of interveners during negotiation and implementation phases into a more integrated theoretical framework, this book makes a unique contribution to the on-going debate on the so-called Western ‘liberal’ models of peacebuilding. Drawing upon in-depth case-studies from various different regions of the world including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Sierra Leone, this innovative volume examines a variety of political motives behind third party interventions, thus challenging the very founding concept of mediation literature.

This book will of much interest to students of peacebuilding, statebuilding, peacemaking, war and conflict studies, security studies and IR in general.

The book is available here.