Can a Peacebuilding Strategy, Framed by Regional Cooperation, Lead to Sustainable Peace?

Perspectives from "The International Conference on the African Great Lakes Region"

Research Paper (postgraduate) 2010 30 Pages

Politics - Methods, Research




2. Peacebuilding and the security-development nexus

3. How is peace constructed? An overview on the peacebuilding process

4. Making sense of a regional approach

5. Building peace in the African Great Lakes Region
5.1 A past of conflict
5.2 The International Conference on the GreatLakes Region (ICGLR)
5.3 Is the ICGLR an efficient solution to sustainable peace?






The target of “building peace” is a long lasting challenge for regional and international organizations in order to overcome instability and suffering caused by conflict, and reconcile divided societies. As the traditional statist diplomacy can not address the roots of most contemporary conflicts, resulting of ethnic, religious and cultural tensions often exacerbated by competition for resources,[1] new approaches linking both diplomatic and grassroots levels have been developed in the perspective to deconstruct conflicts and reconstruct or reshape societies which have harboured them. However, once the “black box” has been opened, it appears that a large number of contemporary conflicts is not confined to the borders of one state, rather, regional conflict dynamics, based on common socio-economic needs and living conditions, similar environment as well as ethnic and religious ties, confer to such conflicts high complexity.

Not surprisingly, the African continent, whose states’ borders were not properly drawn in respect of social boundaries, and where, often, colonial regimes have contributed to the formation of domestic difference, hosts some examples of regional conflict formations. In particular, the region of the Great Lakes, represents a zone of high instability, with a long lasting regional conflict which has involved since 1998, more than 3 million victims[2], mostly civilians. How to deal with conflict-transformation and peace-consolidation in such a vast region? Is the modern peacebuilding practice, framed by regional cooperation, a viable option towards sustainable peace? The paper tries to show that current peacebuilding strategies, framed by regional cooperation, might lose effectiveness, if the regional actor, whose cooperation has been mainly built with the only purpose of creating peace, represents the same region where peace has to be constructed. After an introduction on the current concept of peacebuilding, on its linkage to the development practice, as well as on the main processes which it involves, a chapter will be reserved to the necessity of regional peacebuilding approaches, if regional conflicts are at stake. In the second half of the work, one of those approaches will be met, by the analysis of a regional cooperation for peace, security stability and development[3] in the Great Lakes Region, whose effects, though positive, might not mirror the efforts invested. The major weakness of the project lies in the fact that, despite the involvement of the international community at the implementation level, decisional power remains confined to member states, which prioritize their economic interests.

Methodologically, I proceeded, as mentioned, starting from the existing peacebuilding theory, and moving later on the case study. By working on a rather recent project, on which analytical literature is still scarce, I built analyses and reflections on the existing original documents which underpin it, and on some thoughtful insights of two experts in the area[4].

2. Peacebuilding and the security-development nexus

The term peacebuilding appeared for the first time in Boutros Boutros Ghali’s 1992 report, An Agenda for Peace, in which the UN Secretary General talked about “Post — Conflict Peacebuilding” as a coordinated action to identify and support structures “tending to strengthen and solidify peace and avoid relapse into conflict.”[5] The report ushered a new era of political affairs, where, after the end of the Cold War, a number of lower-level armed conflicts broke out. In the early 1990s a wave of insecurity pervaded many countries and regions with ethnic conflicts, genocides, deadly violence, appalling human rights abuses and massive flows of refugees within and across borders. This context eased the common understanding in that conflict and deprivation are inherently interconnected[6]: if deprivation, on the one hand, has many causal links to violence, on the other hand violence, war and conflict deprive individuals of their rights and property, slow down the economy, and become an incentive to further deprivations. During the Cold war, security policies and economic development had been performed as two separate architectures, whereas in this new phase of the international agenda, the nexus security- development has become a policy mantra. The focus of the international attention has acquired new flexibility by addressing not only the macro-level of power relations among stares, but also micro (interstate) dimensions of human security, human development and human rights[7], in the so-called 4Ds frameworks: diplomacy, development, defense and democratization.[8]

In order to tackle the inadequacy of the Cold War strategies, a series of responses on the international stage took gradually place in search of a more holistic look at the threats ailing the global community. First of all, throughout the 1990s, a new comprehensive normative framework under the UN umbrella was shaped with the United Nation Millennium Declaration[9]. The Security Council broadened its spectrum of action with the commitment on human health and human security, and increasingly called for humanitarian interventions on the basis of a groundbreaking[10] principle: the Responsibility to Protect[11] This principle is not only confined to a military intervention in reaction to severe human harm[12], which a state is unable or unwilling to end (responsibility to react), but it implies two other major commitments: the responsibility to prevent, aiming at helping local efforts address both the root causes of a conflict and their more immediate trigger, and the responsibility to rebuild, based on the urgency to help states and societies in the construction of durable peace, good governance and sustainable development, in partnership with the local authorities and in close cooperation with the local populations.[13]

Not only normative, but also policy developments and new institutional arrangements have taken place during the last 20 years, allowing international organizations to practice more effective operational responses to severe crises, including reconstruction, prevention, and multifunctional peace-operations[14]. Thus, the concept of peacebuilding has gradually received a very broad scope. In 1998, Kofi Annan defined it as follows: actions undertaken at the end of a conflict to consolidate peace and prevent a recurrence of armed confrontation. (...) Emphasis must be placed on critical priorities such as encouraging reconciliation and demonstrating respect for human rights; fostering political inclusiveness and promoting national unity; ensuring the safe, smooth and early repatriation and resettlement of refugees and displaced persons; reintegrating ex-combatants and others into productive society; curtailing the availability of small arms; and mobilizing the domestic and international resources for reconstruction and economic recovery, (...) in a concerted and coordinated effort on allfronts."[15]

Peacebuilding, preceded by diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping operations, has officially become an essential international response within the standard conflict cycle (see annex 1).

This evolution shows several shifts in the modern theoretical paradigms. The theory of conflict has been contended by three main schools of thought: conflict management, conflict resolution and conflict transformation. The first, on the realist-institutional wave, sees conflicts as inherent features of states, consequences of power relations and expression of an ineradicable propensity to violence arising from existing institutions. In such a framework, the best way of dealing with them is to manage them properly and establish cooperative systems, for the constructive management of difference[16].

The second school, conflict resolution, rejects this cooperative perspective, by arguing that individuals within a society are not likely to compromise on their basic needs: in order to avoid zero-sum outcomes the intervention of a skilled third actor is necessary, for bridging cleavages, shaping new relationships and fostering progressive thinking.[17]

Finally, the concept of peacebuilding itself, belongs to the school of conflict tranformation, which argues that contemporary conflicts require, in their management, a long and gradual process of engagement in transforming relationships, interests, discourses, and social ties[18]. Although each conflict owns certain dynamics of construction and deconstruction, with life-affirming and life-destroying aspects[19], it is up to external actors to bring out or to smooth such dynamics, by building on people and resources within the setting (see annexes 2 and 3). Besides, the concept of “peacebuilding”, in its current international formulation[20], shares the orthodoxy of the liberal democratic peace theory, in which major pillars in the construction of peace have become the promotion of human rights, political inclusiveness, free and fair election and good governance. This kind of approach focusing on the importance of a stable state structure, as well as the current state-building practice, evolved towards a less intrusive and more development-oriented action (in building capacity, institutions and legitimacy in areas of limited/authoritarian statehood), make the current peacebuilding and state building practices two complementary techniques, in fostering resilience out of fragility (see annex 4)[21] Both techniques are now more and more committed in opening the black-box, avoid to impose overarching frameworks, and try to reshape the basic tenets of the social contract by working with local societies.

3. An overview on the peacebuilding process

Peacebuilding prevents, reduces, transforms and helps recover from violence in all forms, while at the same time fostering social change and relationships at all levels, in order to create structural justice.[22] The term “building peace”, refers to the construction of a just peace, a condition in which a stable set of structures and processes allow people to meet their basic needs in absence of direct and structural violence. Structural violence is the preliminary expression of disruption in a social system, in which disparities, disabilities, injustice and death caused by institutions and policies, privilege one or few groups at the expense of the others, and prevent individuals from fulfilling their basic needs.[23] Out of structural violence, structural reactions emerge, imploding upon three possible kinds of secondary violence: self destruction, community destruction, or intra- and interstate destruction.[24] (Seefigure below)

illustration not visible in this excerpt


[1] J. P. Lederach, Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies, United States Institute for Peace, Washington, 2008

[2] La Documentation fran^aise, Le Conflit desgrand lacs en Afrique -Un conflit meurtrier, at http://www.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/dossiers/conflit-grands-lacs/conflit-meurtrier.shtml. retrieved August 27, 2010

[3] International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region, Nairobi, 2006, at www.icglr.org/icglr-pacte.php■ retrieved August 26, 2010

[4] See interviews on p.30

[5] B. B. Ghali, An Agenda for Peace, Preventive Diplomacy, Peacemaking and Peace-keeping, 1992, chapter II, point 21, at http://www.un.org/Docs/SG/agpeace.html retrieved August 18, 2010

[6] S. IKingebiel, New Interfaces between Security and Development. Changing Concepts and Approaches, Studies (13), Deutsches Institut fur Entwicklungspolitik, Bonn, 2006, p.41

[7] Ibid., p.42

[8] Ibid., p.39

[9] Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 8, 2000 after a three days Millennium World Summit; at http://www.undemocracy.com/A-RES-55-2■ retrieved August 28, 2010

[10] The report called The Responsibility to Protect was released by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in December 2001.

[11] N. Tschirgi, Peacebuilding as the Link between Security and Development: is the Window of Opportunity Closing?, the International Peace Academy - Studies in Security and Development, New York, 2003, p.4

[12] Defined as “large scale loss of life, actual or apprehended, with genocidal intent or not, which is the product either of deliberate state action, or state neglect or inability to act, or a failed state situation; or large scale "ethnic cleansing," actual or apprehended, whether carried out by killing, forced expulsion, acts of terror or rape. ” In the report: ICISS, The Responsibility to Protect, 2001, point 4.19, available at http://www.iciss.ca/report2-en.asp#sovereignty■ retrieved August 19, 2010

[13] Ibid., point 5.1

[14] N. Tschirgi, op. cit.

[15] K. Annan, The Causes of Conflict and the Promotion of Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in Africa, 1998, Point 63, at http://www.un.org/ecosocdev/geninfo/afrec/sgreport/conflt2.htm. retrieved August 19, 2010

[16] H. Miall, Conflict Transformation: A Multi-Dimensional Task, Berghof Research Centre for Constructive Conflict Management, 2004, p.3

[17] H. Miall, op. cit., p.3

[18] Ibid., p.4

[19] Ibidem

[20] With reference to Kofi Annan’s definition of “Post-Conflict Peacebuilding”, see p.6

[21] ] Deutsches Institut fur Entwicklungspolitik, The Convergence of Peacebuilding and State Building: Addressing a Common Purpose from Different Perspectives, Briefing Paper 4/2009

[22] J. W. Helsing and J. A. Mertus, Human Rights and Conflict, Exploring the Links between Rights, Law and Peacebuilding, United States Institute of Peace Press, Washington D. C., 2006, p.64

[23] J. Galtung, Cultural Violence, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 27, No. 3, 1990, pp. 291-305

[24] J. W. Helsing and J. A. Mertus, op. cit., p.69


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Peacebuilding Strategy Framed Regional Cooperation Lead Sustainable Peace Perspectives International Conference Great Lakes Region



Title: Can a Peacebuilding Strategy, Framed by Regional Cooperation, Lead to Sustainable Peace?