Liberal peace

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Liberal peace

Oliver P Richmond 19 November A significant shift is required if international statebuilding and peacebuilding projects around the world are to contribute to peace and lead to reconciliation while also engaging with international standards for democracy and human rights.

Most policymakers, officials, scholars and commentators involved think that they are applying proven knowledge unbiased by cultural or historical proclivities to the conflicts of others. This is not the case. This was to provide a scientific, normative, and technical process of peaceful governance for the as yet uninitiated into peaceful liberal ways.

It often took some form of military intervention to provide the basis for liberal institutional reform, the holding of elections, tutoring in human rights, and the opening up of the poorest and least stable parts of the world to international markets the latter with generally debilitating effects - from Bosnia to Afghanistan standards of living have dropped and unemployment and poverty has increased according to the World Banks own figures.

The broader idea has been that liberal democratic and market reform will provide for regional stability, leading to state stability and individual prosperity. Underlying all of this Liberal peace the idea that individuals should be enabled to develop a social contract with their state and with international peacebuilders.

Instead - in an effort to make local elites reform quickly, particularly in the process of marketisation and economic structural adjustment - those very international peacebuilders have often ended up removing or postponing the democratic and human rights that citizens so desired, and which legitimated international intervention in the first place.

A peace dividend has only emerged for political and economic elites: Political elites have used international support to entrench themselves at the cost of a social contract and liberal reform, and strangely, international actors have become complicit in this paradoxical process.

Internationals have proven naively ill-equipped to reform the politics of post-conflict states, and uninterested in empowering citizens. Many local actors have complained not only about international arrogance and heavy-handedness, but a lack of representation, rights, or needs redressal, and a mutual miscomprehension between international peacebuilders and local actors and communities alike.

Many internationals across such a diverse array of contexts have themselves expressed great concern usually in Liberal peace rather than public at the implications of the projects they were engaged in under the auspices of one or other western government, the UN, UNDP, World Bank, or EU.

A Liberal Peace?

Yet, many now agree that this liberal peace is itself in crisis now. The shock of conflict has been used to liberalise, modernise, marketise, develop, democratise, and to remove any older political agencies and resiliencies that appeared to be an obstacle to this process.

What began as a humanitarian project has turned into an insidious form of conversion and riot control which has had many casualties. It has been profoundly anti-democratic in many cases, including in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. From the ground, for many of its recipients, the various iterations of this liberal peace project have taken on a colonial appearance.

Understanding the Liberal Peace | Oliver P Richmond -

It has become illiberal and has provoked a range of responses: In fact these deadlocks often represent new and interesting developments for peacebuilding where the all-powerful liberal peace project is being modified on the ground by its recipients.

A local-liberal mediation is occurring, leading to new, contextual, and hybrid forms of peace. Local resistance It is not surprising that local forms of resistance have emerged in many regions subject to multiple forms of peacekeeping, peacebuilding, development, structural adjustment, and statebuilding programmes.

Through the unexpected expression of such capacities, local actors are reframing what they require from a viable, just, and durable peace, often quietly and in the margins, drawing on the liberal peace as well as their own customs and interests.

Normally, such approaches result in the denial of local autonomy by international actors with predictable results: These are sensitive terms in fragile environments. Instead, it might be more useful to engage with these dynamics, as indeed, is already occurring from Timor Leste to Afghanistan.

Liberal peace

Non-liberal and non-western forms of politics, economics, society, and custom, are clamouring for discursive and material space in many post-conflict zones, with mixed implications for sustainability and for the purpose of achieving a normatively to liberals at least and contextually acceptable, locally sustainable peace.

Moves are under way to reopen spaces for local agency across South America, as well as in many reconstruction sites in Africa and Asia. This agency or resistance may have started as hidden and relatively passive but then the vocalisation of alternative approaches to politics, society, economy, and peace itself becomes more confident as liberal peacebuilding fails to deliver.

These initiatives are often elite and localised or civil and derived from evolving social movements or customary systems, which are quite often widely or transnationally connected. They have made a dramatic appearance from Iraq and Afghanistan, to Timor, the Solomon Islands, Mozambique, Liberia, Kosovo, and Bosnia, among others, sometimes in subtle ways such as the manipulation of political systems, democracy, and markets to maintain traditional elites or create statesor more confrontationally use of violence, demonstrationsor as local peacebuilding social movements, the application of localised law or welfare through customary institutions, alternative approaches to land use and management, or amalgamating tribal or chiefly councils into the modern state, etc.

The role of non-state actors in such processes has indeed been discussed in various contexts, such as Lebanonwhere non-state actors have been accused of usurping the state. This is as opposed to the substitution of failed state or customary institutions that international donors, agencies, and NGOs were expected to do since the s.

They should not be seen as automatically negative though some do ensure the persistence of a range of anti-democratic practices, patriarchy, corruption, or discrimination.

These, however, may be heavily modified not only by their prolonged contact with the agents of liberal and neoliberal reform over the longer term, but also through internal renegotiations.


For it is in the antagonistic political contact between liberal peacebuilding and local dynamics, not the virtual states and dependencies that have sprung up through neoliberal forms of statebuilding, that a more sustainable, everyday peace, developing more locally resonant forms of peacebuilding, has actually emerged.

In some cases, as in Kosovo and Timor Leste this has led to a modified form of state emerging, heavily influenced by both liberal norms and local customs, practices, identities, and national agendas.

But, it is also the case that synergies may arise, where these are sensitively handled and properly understood. All too often this has not been the case. Liberal peacebuilding has fallaciously assumed that post-conflict individuals, from Kosovo to Kabul, were colonial children to be mentored, engineered, coerced, and beckoned into adulthood often by contextually inexperienced administratorsand that liberalism itself was universal rather than culturally constructed according to the wests contextual and historical experiences.

All but the most basic aspects of security have been ignored. Social contracts between communities and emergent states in these areas have not been forthcoming, not least because of the neoliberal focus on ownership, property, production and consumption.

These contexts are of course connected to the ambit of liberal state and international institutions, but they are not defined by them. As a result, millions of people around the world do not have adequate rights or needs provision, nor proper access to representation, despite the best intentions of liberal peacebuilders.Liberal Peace These notions have lengthy antecedents and the victor’s peace has remained a key aspect of the liberal peace, even possibly including the emancipatory discourses, which still seem to depend on others being able to know, and install peace for those caught up in conflict.

Democratic peace theory is a theory which posits that democracies are hesitant to engage in armed conflict with other identified democracies. In contrast to theories explaining war engagement, it is a "theory of peace" outlining motives that .

Closely linked to the idea of Free Trade and commerce as means of achieving peace and security among Liberal nations is the notion of interdependence and liberal institutionalism, no nation in the world can claim absolute independence or dependence.

Through the unexpected expression of such capacities, local actors are reframing what they require from a viable, just, and durable peace, often quietly and in the margins, drawing on the liberal peace as well as their own customs and interests. The democratic peace also overlaps with related ideas such as the liberal peace and the commercial peace.

General Overviews The democratic peace proposition has been lurking in Western thought for millennia, as Weart shows, but Kant provides its first modern formulation. Democratic peace theory is a theory which posits that democracies are hesitant to engage in armed conflict with other identified democracies.

In contrast to theories explaining war engagement, it is a "theory of peace" outlining motives that dissuade state-sponsored violence.

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