Rethinking the Peacebuilding Puzzle

State formation and democratization have proven to be inherently organic, long-term, and complex processes that are extremely difficult to impose from the outside. Post-conflict countries are the least favorable environments in which strong and effective governance can take root and democracy can flourish. They are typically quite poor, having lost years of potential economic growth and development; they have low levels of institutional and human capacity that have been further attenuated by extended conflict; and they are home to populations with sociopolitical cleavages that have led to, and become hardened by, violent civil conflict. Nevertheless, the international community, led by the United Nations, acts on the belief that a strong state and a democratic political system are best suited to managing political conflict and presumes to be able to build the necessary administrative and democratic institutions to underpin modern political order and peace in these fragile countries.

The crux of the puzzle addressed in this book is why the international community has been relatively unsuccessful in building the peace it thinks it is building in post-conflict states. This chapter lays the foundation for the book’s approach to this puzzle and describes the manner in which it builds its conceptual, empirical, and practical contributions. It begins with an overview of the practice of international peacebuilding interventions, defining, in particular, the aspirational underpinnings of the transitional governance approach to transformative peacebuilding that is the focus of this inquiry. Next, through a brief review of the existing literature I make the case that we need to better understand the limitations of transformative peacebuilding, and I outline the unique argument this book builds in doing so. The chapter then outlines the empirical approach underlying this research, describing the outcomes of interest and the logic behind the case selection and research design.

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