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Research Syntheses | Conflict Field Research
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Research Syntheses

Research Syntheses

These Syntheses are brief summaries of relatively recent research and academic debates on peacebuilding and post-conflict state-building.


Ana Arjona (2008). Armed Groups’ Governance in Civil War: A Synthesis.  Non-state armed groups fighting in civil wars often engage in some form of governance—that is, the organization of civilian affairs within the territories where they are present.  Despite its relevance for both scholars and policy makers, the phenomenon of non-state armed groups’ governance tends to be overlooked by studies on civil war and post-war reconstruction. This synthesis provides a short review of different bodies of literature that offer insights onto this phenomenon. 


Séverine Autesserre (2008). Peacetime Violence: Post-Conflict Violence and Peacebuilding StrategiesThis synthesis provides an overview of academic findings on the sources of violence in post-war environments and on the strategies to address them. It distinguishes between unaddressed pre-war tensions, war-induced cleavages, and peace-generated conflicts. It shows that, according to the best research, current peacebuilding strategies have two major weaknesses. First, they neglect the micro-level dynamics of violence. Second, they do not devote sufficient attention and resources to state reconstruction (which is distinct from merely holding elections). These weaknesses explain why peacebuilding efforts often fail to end violence even when they produce other positive outcomes.


Eric Brahm (2008). The Impact of Transitional Justice in Post-Conflict Environments. Transitional justice provides a potential contribution to the statebuilding process that is both forward-looking and backward-looking. In post-conflict situations, there are often demands for justice for past human rights abuses. A range of transitional justice measures, such as trials, truth commissions, and reparations programs, have emerged around the globe as tools to meet these demands. Post-conflict governments, however, are often confronted with perpetrators who remain powerful and who may have been promised amnesty as a precondition of laying down their arms. A range of other practical and political considerations also frequently come into play in the construction of transitional justice policies. As such, there is potential tension between transitional justice and state-building with respect to how these measures are structured and the motivations of their architects.


Fred Cocozzelli (2008). Post-Conflict State-Building and Social Policy. This paper addresses social policy as part of the post-conflict state-building process. The primary assertion is that fulfilling social welfare responsibilities is a core role of the modern state, and is consequently an integral part of post-conflict state-building. This paper reviews the dependence on the idea and institutions of the state by a variety of actors in the post-conflict setting. Despite the possibilities of post-modern reconfigurations of local and global power and authority, the enterprise of post-conflict reconstruction remains focused on the modern state and its accompanying bureaucracies. 


Devon Curtis and Jeroen de Zeeuw (2009). Rebel Movements and Political Party Development in Post-Conflict Societies – A Short Literature Review.  In post-conflict societies, political parties are expected to play an important role in the creation of sustainable peace, stability and democracy. There are, however, different views as to how political parties develop in war-torn settings. One of the key issues is the participation of former rebel movements in the political process. This synthesis reviews some of the recent academic literature on peacebuilding and post-conflict party development with particular emphasis on the transformation of rebel movements into political parties. Paying specific attention to the role of international actors, it outlines several implications for future policy engagement.


John Heathershaw (2008). Post-Conflict Peacebuilding and the Idea of Virtual PeaceThis synthesis discusses critical responses to liberal peacebuilding which contend that international peacebuilders generate a ‘virtual peace’ in post-conflict environments as an alternative academic tool which seeks to explain both the vast gap between international representations and local experiences and the implications of this gap. The paper looks at three ways of thinking about the virtual politics of peace: as a misrepresentation of peacebuilders, a hyper-reality of the illusion of global governance and as a social practice integral to the practice of international development, and concludes with some implications for reflexive peacebuilders who seek to move beyond the reproduction of virtual peace in post-conflict societies.


Kathleen M. Jennings (2008). Gender and Post-Conflict State-BuildingThis synthesis focuses on one of the missing links in the theory and practice of post-conflict statebuilding: gender. After this introduction, it is divided into four parts. The first section briefly introduces the interaction (or lack thereof) between the theory and practice of post-conflict statebuilding and gender. The following section outlines two arguments, one instrumentalist and the other normative, for why gender should matter to statebuilding. The final sections consist of a short conclusion and some implications for policy.


Walt Kilroy (2008). Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration: The Co-Evolution of Concepts, Practices, and UnderstandingPrograms for the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants have become more common as an element in the peacebuilder’s toolkit. They have evolved over the last 15 years, and can interact positively with an ongoing peace process. The literature assessing DDR is reviewed in this paper. Results have not always been positive, however. Despite recognition of the need for a more holistic, integrated approach, there are real challenges in implementing such a complex program in a post-conflict environment. Qualitative studies have highlighted these difficulties, and the few quantitative assessments of the outcomes are mixed. However, understanding of DDR is being advanced by a rich policy literature, together with specific “best practice” studies. Recognition of the importance of a participatory approach, and ownership of the process by the beneficiaries, has added to this understanding. The paper concludes that DDR is set to remain an important tool, and that it is most effective when used flexibly, appropriately, and with the genuine participation of those it is supposed to benefit.


Sumie Nakaya (2008). Aid in Post-Conflict (Non) State-building: A SynthesisThis overview of aid in post-conflict state-building concludes that a significant gap remains in donor approaches to the reform of public administration and finance in the aftermath of armed conflicts, despite the fact that control over economic resources is often one of the main causes of civil war violence. International assistance to institution-building in post-conflict states remains focused on economic liberalization and private forms of service delivery to the relative neglect of security sector reforms, contrary to the emphasis in peacebuilding policies on the demilitarization of politics. The result may be the formation of a state that is weak and patrimonial, prone to conflict or lacking legitimacy, central authority, or territorial control.


Ingrid Samset (2008). Economic Incentives for PeacebuildingWhat does social science literature tell us about economic incentives for peacebuilding? A variety of such incentives exists in post-civil war situations. This synthesis reviews academic research on economic incentives for peace that relates to foreign aid and state-building, to allocations to conflict-affected groups such as ex-soldiers and war victims, and to aid coordination. It also identifies implications from this literature for peacebuilding policy.


Ingrid Samset (2009). Natural Resource Wealth, Conflict, and PeacebuildingWhat connections exist between natural resource wealth and violent conflict? What do such connections imply for policies to build peace in resource-rich areas? This synthesis takes stock of what social science research has to say about these questions. In the first part, it reviews the academic literature on resource wealth and conflict. Key findings include: that dependence of resource exports is more closely tied to conflict than resource abundance; that resource wealth is more important in explaining why civil wars endure than why they break out; and that resources with attributes that make them easy to extract and sell are more closely linked to civil war duration than other resources. The second part presents policy implications of these findings as well as other research on pro-peace resource management. Recommendations relate to conflict financing, war economies, fiscal transparency, conflict-sensitive business, and revenue sharing. 


Dominik Zaum and Christine Cheng (2008). Corruption and Post-Conflict PeacebuildingCorruption has been recognized as a key challenge to post-conflict peacebuilding efforts, undermining the legitimacy and effectiveness of state institutions, and compromising key peacebuilding tasks such as disarmament and reconstruction. However, in the short run, accepting corruption might be necessary to finding a political settlement and stabilizing a post-conflict order. Our review of the debate suggests that corruption in these contexts is first and foremost a political problem and needs to be addressed as such. Anti-corruption measures, such as promoting accountability and the rule of law, need to be considered in the context of wider peacebuilding objectives.