Author:Gheciu, Alexandra

Between 1989 and 1993 the United Nations authorized a number of peacebuilding operations to help implement peace settlements in war-torn states, including Cambodia, El Salvador, Liberia, Namibia, Nicaragua, Mozambique, and Rwanda. The launch of those operations was a significant departure from the limited peacekeeping missions during the cold war, which typically involved the establishment of buffer zones between conflicting parties and the monitoring of cease-fires. With the addition of political and socioeconomic dimensions, peacebuilding operations in the early 1990s were far more complex. In particular, the new operations involved the monitoring of postconflict elections, demobilization of former combatants, support for the return and resettlement of refugees, human rights investigations, and in some cases the pursuit of international criminal justice, as well as market-based economic reforms. The United Nations came increasingly to share responsibility for these tasks with a host of regional actors, nongovernmental organizations, diverse national development agencies, and international financial institutions.

If these new operations were accompanied by high hopes regarding the ability of the international community to bring lasting peace to postwar territories, by the middle of the decade that initial enthusiasm was evaporating. In political as well as academic circles, concerns emerged that, for all their increased complexity, the first generation of post-cold war peacebuilding operations had been too limited, too short, and too narrowly focused on rapid political and economic reforms. In some instances, attempts to rely on quick liberal "fixes," such as elections, and to present those fixes as indicators of success had backfired in tragic ways. In Angola, for instance, elections served only to catalyze further violence, while in Rwanda the peace settlement in which the international community had placed so much hope was unable to prevent genocide. (1)

In response to the limitations and failures of these operations, international actors (both organizations and states) soon began to focus their attention on more comprehensive approaches to postwar statebuilding. (2) This revised approach was reflected, for instance, in the practices of the international administration set up in Bosnia in 1995. The mission was initially limited both in scope (with the role of internationals largely confined to monitoring the parties' implementation of the Dayton Accords) and in time (scheduled to last until the end of 1996). Yet the disappointing result of the postwar elections organized with the support of the international community, and more broadly the lack of significant progress in key areas of reconstruction, led the international community to rethink its approach. The UN-sponsored international administration remained in Bosnia in order to play a heavier role in reconstruction around liberal-democratic principles. By the end of the decade comprehensive missions had also been launched in Kosovo, East Timor, Burundi, and Sierra Leone.

Even against a background of this variation, these missions had the common goal of enhancing governance capacity in territories emerging from conflict. Thus, missions that had at least partly been justified by the need to protect individuals--the victims of state-sponsored violence--became increasingly focused on efforts to (re)build states. With the growing focus on statebuilding as a particular form of peacebuilding, (3) the state-capacity enhancing agenda...

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