by Tanya Vo
The first week of IPSI touched on the complexities of building transitions in post-conflict areas. Arguably, what was learnt through the first week is that transitions, at the very heart, are messy and personal. So then why do many attempts at peace processes fail to be sustainable in the long term? Despite the financial, political and moral energy to sustain peace, why is it that not long afterwards, peace processes can easily be reversed?
While many attempts can be made to have transitions address the concerns of civil society, as Jasmine-Kim Westendorf (2015, p. 4) argues “security building, governance building and transitional justice initiatives were primarily technocratic exercise that attempted to ‘fix’ the infrastructure and systems of states emerging from civil war.” Her characterisation is not limited to civil wars only. Armed conflict, ethnic conflict or even to some extent inter-state disputes/conflict can be affected by technocratic approaches in post-conflict transitions.
At the heart of peace process, the failure to address at the local level the roots of conflict, whether they may be ethnic tensions or economic equality, the technocratic approach to peace processes in post-conflict transitions is not considered in practice. In fact, on some occasions post-conflict transitions have, as Mac Ginty (2010, p. 159) argues, frozen the conflict. In other words, the violence may have ended; however, peace can remain fragile. It can take one small incident to reverse a peace process. What key actors in peace building process fail to recognise is by fulfilling the basic requirements, that is to say “fixing” what needs “fixing” does not mean a peace process is “successful”.
Is peace achieved when violence has stopped in a civil war? I beg to differ. There are people whose intentions is to restart violence and reverse a peace process. There are also people who need economical or psychological support, but their needs are not addressed. Transitional justice may be crucial to peace but is merely saying the truth achieving peace? What is identified is that technocratic approaches to peacebuilding efforts from key actors, organisations and institutions do not address the fundamental roots of conflict, leaving behind peace that is fragmented and sensitive to alterations of the political and social environment.
Westendorf, J. 2015, Why Peace Processes Fail: Negotiating Insecurity After Civil War, Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder, CO.
MacGinty, R. 2010, ‘No war, no peace: Why so many peace processes fail to deliver peace’, International Politics, Vol. 47, No. 2, pp. 145–162.