The peacebuilders: Making conflict resolution permanent
Out of the UN comes a new idea for ending war. Peacebuilders: An intensive process that gives permission for foreign 'interference' in conflict resolution.
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If peace deals themselves may not be enough to make peace, it's also not always enough, after war, to tackle institutions and infrastructure. Where the PBC has tried to play it safe, it hasn't worked: Despite $3 million in political dialogue workshops that got rave reviews from external evaluators, actual political dialogue in Burundi – between the workshop participants – came to a halt during national election disputes last spring.
Burundi's electoral experience does raise the question: Is peacebuilding working? Some of the new UN programs are clear successes, like the reduction of torture in Burundi. Others have been hampered by the usual spoilers – inertia and corruption. In the CAR, for example, the demobilizing of ex-combatants was delayed for more than six months, and a government minister in charge of overseeing the project absconded with half a million dollars, according to local UN workers. Several UN staff in peacebuilding field missions say the blank-check model of the commission's funding arm, the Peacebuilding Fund, posed problems on the ground. The fund positions itself as a flexible funder interested in "quick impact" projects.
"Money was suddenly on the table with nothing around it, and everybody tried to grab something from it. That was a fundamental mistake," says one Sierra Leonean staffer.
And another Sierra Leonean staffer, who also didn't want to be named, warned that a preoccupation with funding peacebuilding projects risks distracting the commission from the processes it uniquely can influence: "My own sense is that the PBC needs to help with dealing with real fundamental issues. You can't see them, you can't touch them, but you know they're there ... and those are the last things to change."
Still other countries seem like odd cases for peacebuilding. "Guinea-Bissau was maybe, in a way, the wrong evaluation of the PBC," says Frank Jarasch, at the time an adviser to peacebuilding chair Peter Wittig, the German ambassador to the UN. After a 2008 coup and an ongoing stalemate between the civilian government and the military, he says, "it's certainly going to be difficult to get back to a stage where peacebuilding might be concrete and successful."
Even so, Mr. Jarasch thinks any international engagement in such fragile situations is worthwhile. Others concur, because the PBC shows a troubled and troublesome government that someone is watching.
"I certainly think you have a lot more attention paid to [PBC member countries], and much more sustained attention, than you had had," says Wyeth. At the same time, she says, "you've certainly seen governments held to higher levels of scrutiny by the PBC in New York."
Still, it may be too early to tell.
"Nation-building in all of our countries has been an extremely long, bloody affair.... This is a country which still tries to create a nation that people feel like they belong to, together," says Schulenburg. "They're trying to bring democracy, and to do it peacefully. That's not been done in history. So let's not be arrogant about the whole thing. Let's see how we can help to speed it up."
•Travel for this article was funded by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.