pdf Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction

Author: Beth Cole, Emily Hsu, et al
Institution: United States Institute of Peace and the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute                              
Publication Date: 2009
Keywords: Stabilisation; Comprehensive/Integrated Approach


Guiding Principles is a best practice manual for civilians engaged in peacebuilding missions.  The document sets out a strategic framework for stabilisation and reconstruction missions; and, recommends common strategic principles based on lessons learned from past stabilisation operations. The manual provides a foundation for decision makers, planners, and practitioners to help them better prioritise their work in stabilisation missions.  This document is a useful overall guide for stabilisation advisors operating at a policy or programme level. 


Key Issues:

The manual is centred on desired host nation outcomes, not programmatic inputs or outputs.  It is focused on what actors are trying to achieve, not how they are trying to achieve it at the tactical level. These outcomes are portrayed through a framework of five overlapping end states (ultimate goals to be achieved) linked by common cross cutting principles.  This complex framework is most clearly set out in the ‘Strategic Framework for Stabilisation and Reconstruction’available Here.  The manual outlines the following 5 major end states for societies emerging from conflict, and the conditions which need to be established in order to achieve those end states:

  • A safe and secure environment (Section 6): Ability of the people to conduct their daily lives without fear of systematic or large-scale violence.
  • Adherence to rule of law (Section 7): Ability of the people to have equal access to just laws and a trusted system of justice holding all persons accountable, protecting human rights, and ensuring safety and security.
  • Stable governance (Section 8): Ability of the people to share access or compete for power through nonviolent political processes and to enjoy services of the state.
  • A sustainable economy (Section 9): Ability of the people to pursue opportunities for livelihoods within a system of economic governance bound by law.
  • Social well-being (Section 10): Provision of basic needs for people and ability to coexist peacefully in communities with opportunities for advancement.

Each of these end-states is connected to each other.  Section 3 identifies a set of cross-cutting principles applying to every actor and impact each end state in a stabilisation environment.  These are: host nation ownership and capacity, political primacy, legitimacy, unity of effort, security, conflict transformation, and regional engagement.

The manual identifies the high-level trade-offs, gaps and challenges involved in stabilisation and reconstruction missions (see Section 4).  High-level trade-offs involve making concessions between: stability and host nation legitimacy; expediency and sustainability; and, meeting needs and building capacity.  Key gaps and challenges include the lack of an agreed overall vision in the strategic direction of operations and ineffective transitions from international to local control.  Furthermore, unrealistic timelines for delivering key outcomes can lead to inflated expectations and the loss of momentum after key transition events, such as a peace agreement or election, and can also lead to discontent among the local population.

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