Rethinking Peacekeeping in Fragile States
Conventional peacekeeping operations are designed as stop-gap measures, either for a brief period of time or with a limited brief in a frozen conflict. This can be functional if the peacekeepers are dealing with institutionalized belligerents, with functioning hierarchies. In so-called ‘fragile states’, there is a risk that peacekeeping missions will turn into open-ended commitments.
Fragile states are typically defined by what they are not–they are not Weberian states in which autonomous state institutions administer the rule of law and regulate political conflicts, and not states in which governments deliver services on an efficient and impartial basis. International policies for dealing with such states, from Afghanistan to Congo, assume that these states can build ‘normal’ institutions in a brief historical span. Kofi Annan’s 2001 report, ‘No Exit Without Strategy,’ defined the criteria for success for peacekeeping operations in an identical way: ‘domestic peace becomes sustainable, when the natural conflicts of society can be resolved through the exercise of State sovereignty and, generally, participatory governance.’ This is, I fear, a formula for peacekeeping missions without end.
In this month’s International Affairs I have an article, “Mission without End” which outlines my analysis of why this is so. I argue that our starting point should be, how these states actually function–often as a patrimonial political marketplace. Based on this realistic premise, I suggest that we can begin to design strategies that are more practicable.