Since in international policymaking in the 1980s. During

Since the creation of liberal
peacebuilding paradigm, it has attracted academic scrutiny regarding its lack
of success and negative side effects. Yet this paradigm is still the most
widely used paradigm in the field (Autesserre, 2014).  The basis of the paradigm is on the pacifying
effects of neoliberal theory, which was a popular consensus in the period of
Thatcherism (BBC, 2013). Today the paradigm is still used for what is thought to
be a lack of a better option (Mac Ginty, 2013). This is an argument this essay
finds to be incorrect. The continued use of the liberal peacebuilding paradigm
is based on economic interests (Paris, 2010), Western bias (Donais, 2009), and
the lack of contextual knowledge integrated into the framework (Tadjbakhsh,
2011). I will explore the various ways this has affected the paradigm in
practice, and how the alternative view of peacebuilding rose from the
paradigm’s criticism.

The liberal peacebuilding paradigm
dominated peacebuilding in the early 1990s. The paradigm was based on
neoliberal ideas of free market economies and the rolling back of the state
(Paris, 2010). The neoliberal discourse was omnipresent in international
policymaking in the 1980s. During this period, The World Bank and the IMF
funded projects using conditionalities they believed promoted neoliberal ideals
and good governance (Koeberle et al., 2005). Good governance was encouraged
based upon the neoliberal belief that economic growth occurred when a free
market is in place. Free markets are most successful when the government is
strong and stable, synonymous with the accountability found in democratic
governments (Paris, 2010).

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The application of an economic-based
argument to the field of peacebuilding may not seem logical beyond the means to
fund peacebuilding efforts. However, in researching the causes of war,
development economists Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler (2004) found that war
commences when the economic incentive for the warring group in the long term
outweighs the short-term cost. After further research, Collier, Hoeffler and
Rohner (2008) found war depends more on the feasibility of action over the
initial or actual motive of war, such as inequalities or political gain.
Feasibility depends on whether the financial gains of possible war economies
outweigh the opportunity costs of participation.

An alternative approach on the cause
of war was proposed by political scientists Barbara Harff and Ted Robert Gurr
(2003) who found ethnic civil war commences following a realisation by either
single or multiple ethnic minorities that they are experiencing injustice by
their state or a dominant group. The shared injustice is generally emphasised
by a lack of political power. The oppressed group revolt against the state to
gain power and end the inequalities (Harff and Gurr, 2003). This can be
observed in the case of the Rwanda Genocide, where both the Hutus and the
Tutsis were fighting over state power following a twenty-year ethnic conflict,
caused by colonial definitions of ethnic identity, identities defining social
status and intelligence (Beswick and Jackson, 2014).

Alongside the research into the
causes of war, Webel and Galtung (2010) developed two ways of defining peace:
negative peace, a lack of physical violence, and positive peace, the absence of
any structural or cultural violence. The liberal peacebuilding paradigm in its
prime was understood as a framework to develop positive peace in all war-torn
societies, through reduction of structural and social inequalities (Paris,
2010). The paradigm aimed to do so by creating a public space where
inequalities can be overcome peacefully, through democratic government. This
was to minimise the grievance-based argument for relapse into war (Harff and
Gurr, 2003). Once a democracy was established, a free market could be put into
place and reduce the greed-based arguments for war (Collier and Hoeffler,
2004). This, in theory, should create positive peace. However, in application,
a large majority of countries who underwent the paradigm reverted to violent
conflict (Mac Ginty and Richmond, 2013).

Peacebuilding is expensive
(Autesserre, 2010) and difficult to implement, especially in the case of civil
wars. Civil war requires rebuilding a country’s institutions from rubble, as
well as the creation of trust between groups (Autesserre, 2010). Despite the
cost and difficulties, it is understood to be in global interest to have
democracies in all countries. According to the democratic peace theory,
countries with a democratic government are less likely to go to war with one
another (Webel and Galtung, 2010).

Yet, the expense and international
lives lost from peacebuilding missions attract attention from donors and media
outlets. Thus, slow results in the target country receive negative press in the
short term, and possible reduction in donations (Anderson and Olson, 2003). For
this reason, many humanitarian aid missions have strict deadlines to achieve
their goals by (Clarke and Herbst, 1996). As a result, pressure is put on the
organisations to cut corners that look good in the short-term but have negative
effects in the long-term (Mac Ginty and Richmond, 2013).

In the case of Afghanistan, warlords
were integrated into the peacebuilding process as a means for the State to gain
the monopoly of violence (Mac Ginty, 2010). The State did not hold this
monopoly in the post-Taliban era when the US military left. Involving warlords
was more time efficient than removing the threat to democracy lying within the
warlords’ power, which would have involved the training of new state militia
(Mac Ginty, 2010). This lead to the democratic institutions established being
flawed from their foundation, a weakness that cannot be afforded as it will
cause the democratic institution to fail in the long term (Donais, 2009).

To build strong foundations for
democracy, an understanding of a country’s socio-political climate is needed.
In turn, this enables an elimination of potential ‘spoilers’ involved in the
peacebuilding process. These spoilers are defined as individuals that benefit
from war, and therefore wish to benefit from the peacebuilding process to avoid
losing their livelihood or power (Stedman, 1997). The means of removing spoilers
depends on what they wish to gain from the process. Some spoilers, if ignored,
could manipulate, refute or monopolise the peacebuilding process, as in the
case of warlords in Afghanistan (Mac Ginty, 2010).

The liberal peacebuilding framework has
a fundamentally universalist nature that neglects local context. Shahrbanou
Tadjbakhsh (2011) believes the assumptions that built the framework – that free
market and democracy are the key to a peaceful society – are the key to its
inability to achieve long term peace. This discourse is replicated throughout
the academic field of peacebuilding with very few academics advocating for the
paradigm (Paris, 2010). Liberal peacebuilding creates negative peace rather
than positive peace as it “disempowers local communities and in practice has
delivered poor-quality outcomes characterised by superficial democratisation,
entrenched corruption and worsening socio-economic inequalities” (Selby, 2014).

This criticism is demonstrated in
the peacebuilding efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In
2003, a peace agreement was achieved using the liberal peacebuilding narrative
(Autesserre, 2014). Since the official end of the conflict, deemed the largest
since the second world war, two million Congolese died (Herbst and Mills,
2009). Severine Autesserre (2014) found, the deaths after the peace agreement
correlated to the misperception of where the Congolese conflict initially
stemmed from. The tensions driving the conflict were not coming from above, but
started at local levels with disputes around land distribution (Autesserre,
2014). This was an issue not addressed in the paradigm, and therefore did not
stop the fighting at the ground level (Autesserre, 2014). Herbst and Mills
(2009) also link the DRC’s continual conflict to the division of natural
resources, but believe that it is not only at the local level. They found the
neighbouring countries benefited from the DCR’s weak state, which created low
opportunity costs for outsiders (Herbst and Mills, 2009). Liberal peacebuilding
in this case achieved neither negative, nor positive peace. It achieved an
election, which only gave the impression of a democracy (Selby, 2014) and a
dependency on international aid (Autesserre, 2010).

The Gulf war in the early 1990s led
the US, along with others in the international community to a victory, without
intervening in domestic politics (Cornwell, 2016). Therefore, a consensus arose
that countries could direct their help to humanitarian disasters and aid giving
without committing to the long process of peacebuilding (Clarke and Herbst,

Somalia’s famine in the early 1990s
fell into the category of a humanitarian disaster. However, the famine was man-made,
caused by food theft and lack of social institutions to help those living below
the poverty line (Binet, 2013). The United States’ intention was to insert a
task force preventing further theft of food, but to play no part in politics or
statebuilding (Clarke and Herbst, 1996). When the latter became inevitable, the
United Nations took over the peacebuilding efforts, implementing methods of
statebuilding to rebuild institutions and create order (Binet, 2013). The
top-down nature of this method neglected the local militias that had created an
economy from the food theft. They had “amassed wealth for purchasing weapons
and keeping followers loyal” (Clarke and Herbst, 1996). Underestimating the
influence of local militia and failure to disarm them early in the process
resulted in the mission’s failure, and the UN’s departure in 1995 – returning
power to a corrupt government backed by the warlords (Clarke and Herbst, 1996).
The lack of contextual knowledge on the situation in Somalia is now understood
to be the major pitfall in the UN and US’ mission; in aiming to act quickly and
efficiently, they woefully underestimated the local situation (Binet, 2013).

The narrative within peacebuilding
is that despite the paradigm’s failures: “the settlements produced by American
driven interventions are often … equal or superior in quality to the
previous social circumstances” (Mac Ginty, 2010). The continuation of a
peacebuilding system that has proven inefficient has been deemed ethnocentric
(Mac Ginty and Richmond, 2013) as, despite the flaws that have been found, they
are deemed better than the result a host country could achieve. This is a point
that has been proven wrong time and time again. A recent example is the
intervention and removal of Saddam Hussein as president of Iraq in 2003, the butterfly
effect of which is still present in modern Middle Eastern politics (Cornwell,

The narrative of “equal or superior”
interventions by the US is perceived as a milder form of colonialism (Donais,
2009) and a means in which to steamroll western ideals on a society in a
fragile state (Goldfinch and DeRouen, 2014), under the false pretences of long
term peacebuilding and conditional aid (Goldfinch and DeRouen, 2014). The
western power intervening also benefits from the host country’s natural
resources as well as a new alliance with them (Paris, 2010). Conditionalities leave
space for individual gain, as the aid supplied is entrusted to the government
to distribute. The World Bank and the IMF have since found that conditional aid
rarely goes where it is promised, and falls instead into the pockets of the
elite (Koeberle et al., 2005).

The political climate of the country,
as well as aid, can be manipulated by the elite. The United Nations is a made
up of delegates; delegates are selected by their country’s government, and so
an autocratic government’s delegates will advocate for autocracy. In the case
of war, they have a greater ability to manipulate the UN in their favour, as
well as the flow of aid, arms and international support, unlike their
opposition, who have no voice in the international arena (Kiernan, 2002).

Cambodia is an example of how the UN’s
delegate nomination system is flawed. Following the removal of Pol Pot by the
Vietnamese-backed government (People’s Republic of Kampuchea or PRK) in 1979
(Kiernan, 2002) the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) led by Pol Pot was
recognised as the official government of Cambodia (BBC, 2017). The UN
representative of Cambodia belonged to the CPK, and remained in the seat for
the ten years of Vietnamese occupation (Selby, 2014). The CPK was influential
in the peacebuilding program in Cambodia (Selby, 2014), despite the mass murder
of around 1.5 million Cambodians between 1975-1979 (Kiernan, 2008).

The UN is by nature diverse and the
power structures within it lead to various allies and adversaries playing
unilateral roles in politics (Selby, 2014). For example, the United States’
complex history with Vietnam and Vietnam’s primary aid giver, the Soviet Union,
lead to sanctions against the newly formed Vietnamese backed government in
Cambodia, the PRK (Vickery, 1994). Aid was therefore directed to its
opposition, the Khmer Rouge, who were painted as refugees that’d been driven
out of the country (Kiernan, 2002). Internationally, the consensus was that a US-Chinese
backed government was preferable to a Soviet-Vietnamese government (Selby,

The UN’s persistence to use the liberal
peacebuilding paradigm lead to a ‘successful’ election, which ousted the
Vietnamese-backed government for a three-party coalition government whose only
common interest was the removal of the PRK (Vickey, 1994). This lead to
international complacency (Selby, 2014), as the war was over, and the illusion
of positive peace was there, but not truly achieved – demonstrated by the
current leader, Hun Sen, who has been prime minister of the country since 1985
(BBC, 2017).

The liberal
peacebuilding paradigm influences the way in which NGOs and governments train
aid workers and practitioners in the field (Anderson and Olson, 2003). The
paradigm is perceived as a means of problem solving, opposed to academia that
simply critiques the paradigm without solutions (Paris, 2010).  Employees’ priorities reflect those of the
organisation, as well as how they try to implement positive change in the
conflict setting (Anderson and Olson, 2003). The analysis of a country’s
background is difficult due to the amount of information available, and it is
difficult to establish what is important within the context, as well as how it
may have evolved or will change (Goldfinch and DeRouen Jr, 2014). In most
contexts individuals involved in peacebuilding are trained elsewhere, by NGOs,
the UN or individual country’s development offices (Anderson and Olson, 2003). Outsiders’
peacebuilding efforts can only go so far, as the framework they are given as a
tool is ethnocentric. (Pouligny, 2005).

The liberal peacebuilding paradigm
underestimates the importance of local involvement in the peacebuilding
process. The wider population needs to adapt liberal peacebuilding methods into
their context for them to last (Donais, 2009) instead of the task being given
to elites, warlords and militias who can manipulate, or wait out the
peacebuilding process, by creating superficial democracy (Selby, 2014) until
outside influence retreats (Donais, 2009).

fieldwork in the Congo, Sudan and Burundi found that change needs to be led
from within the country (Autesserre, 2014). Thus, outside organisations should be
limited to a support network, aiding inside professionals to generate options based
on skills and resources available (Autesserre, 2014). In this case, the
grassroots operations will therefore adapt the peacebuilding to be more
efficient without undermining current institutions in place. Instead, they will
be building upon them (Autesserre, 2014).

Local empowerment is based on the
creation of a workforce to promote production, enabling exchange of goods and
services (Webel and Galtung, 2010). In the aftermath of war, this needs to be
achieved to a level that meets basic human needs and can be divided equally
(Webel and Galtung, 2010). Sustainability in the practices put in place will
also provide long term solutions to greed-based arguments for violent conflict,
as well investment into the state, instead of outsourcing to make up the debt
created by the conflict (Paris, 2010).

In conclusion, the liberal peacebuilding
paradigm has failed to achieve positive peace, only achieving the absence of
violence (Cooper, Turner and Pugh, 2011). It is the position of this essay that
it should be abandoned in its current format. The aim to remove inequalities in
the target country does not occur. The paradigm simply transforms them, in some
cases making the social divide larger, as was the case in Afghanistan (Mac
Ginty, 2010). Organisations’ power and resources should facilitate internal
transformation, using trained professionals in the short-term and transferring
of skills in the long-term (Anderson and Olson, 2003). This is finer use of
resources currently used to implement a universal political structure that does
not facilitate local context. There is not one solution to every country’s
conflicts, but it is possible for knowledge to be translated contextually into
practice to create positive peace (Autesserre, 2014). The new predominant
discourse is one in which positive peace is achieved when it is driven from
within the country, rather than the culturally unspecific peacebuilding
structure known as the liberal peacebuilding paradigm (Cooper, Turner and Pugh,