Title: Saving liberal peacebuilding
Author: Paris, R
Institution: Review of International Studies, (36, pp 337-365)
Publication Date: 2010
Keywords: Liberal peace, post conflict peacebuilding, UN
In this article, Roland Paris, one of the leading proponents of the concept of liberal peacebuilding, on which post-war stabilisation is often understood, defends the concept against critiques that it is ‘irrationally exuberant’. Paris argues that liberal peacebuilding, in which intervention to support governance and economic recovery is prioritised alongside peacekeeping and humanitarian support does not deserve the ‘hyper critical’ attentions of those critical theorists who see it as a neo-colonialist approach by developed nations to expanding the borders of their influence. He identifies five key mistakes made by those who claim that liberal peacebuilding does more harm than good. Amongst them he argues that ‘Conflating Post-Conquest and Post-Settlement Peacebuilding’ misunderstands the different challenges of (a) peacebuilding from a position of (some) consensus, framed by a political settlement process, and (b) attempts to resolve conflict in post-conquest contexts in which there is no agreed strategy for resolution and recovery. This paper is important as it revisits the claims made in the 1990’s by liberal peacebuilders in the light of experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular, and makes a counter-argument to that advanced by realists and critical theorists that the ambition and desired effect is no longer plausible. It matters for those involved in stabilisation activities as it provides a wider lens through which to look at short term stabilisation efforts, and their desired effects on longer term transition and peacebuilding. As such, it is valuable, yet accessible reading for those seeking to understand the linkages between activities to promote stability and civil, diplomatic and military strategies required by outside actors to support peacebuilding in contexts affected by violent conflict.