Why peace processes fail

Why are many post-civil war societies beset by widespread violence and political instability? Why do peace processes so often fail to consolidate peace? These questions are explored in a new book, Why Peace Processes Fail.

Jasmine-Kim Westendorf, Lecturer in International Relations at La Trobe University, asks why, despite the best of intentions and the investment of significant resources, the post-conflict reconstruction efforts of external actors so often fail. In some cases they may even help perpetuate the very conditions of insecurity and conflict they are trying to alleviate.

In the post-Cold War era, the concept of sovereignty no longer stands firmly in the way of international intervention in a state’s internal conflicts. The increasing acceptance of normative regimes around  human rights and Responsibility to Protect have led, in fact, to intervention being seen as almost the norm, if not in some cases an obligation.

However, even where all-out conflict is halted by a peace process engineered and supported by the international community, the outcome is rarely a durable peace or even stability and security. Many post-conflict states exist instead in a state of ‘neither war nor peace’. Low-level violence and insecurity become entrenched in the nominally 'peaceful' post-war state.

Dr Westendorf argues that part of the problem lies in the systems and structures of the international system which bring highly technocratic approaches to peace building. They often replicate unsuitable template-based solutions that cannot properly respond to the complex, diverse and unique contexts of each conflict. She explores in detail the cases of Mozambique, Liberia, South Sudan, Cambodia, Aceh and Bougainville, and touches on the experience of post-conflict situations in the DRC, Cote d'Ivoire and Timor-Leste.

Her research continues into the varying outcomes of different styles of peace building and state building and the sources of ongoing insecurity and violence in Timor-Leste and Nepal. 

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