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Don’t Keep Plodding On

Rather than plodding on[1], perhaps it’s time to stride meaningfully forward and deliver peace-building projects confident in the DNA and lineage of our peace-building practice.

An important factor in building confidence, trust and ultimately ownership of our part of this universal peacebuilding picture, whether it’s an approach, a process or an idea, is the ability to communicate its justification, its origins, its intentions and its significance. 

This article aims to explore the type of peace we are building and highlight some complicated aspects of its character and its ability to gather support and foster trust from those it’s designed to serve.


The origin of peace-building will be examined and the DNA of peace suggested in the hope of reawakening trust in the process, its authenticity and legitimacy.  Perhaps, this article will develop confidence in advocating peacebuilding as a project driver when dealing with adaptation, recovery and change, mindful that it is a collaborative process which requires shared values and vocabulary.

It is also important to recognise the merits and weaknesses of this kind of peace we are working towards, its origins, intentions and significance so that those involved can rationalise its role in combating global security issues and providing a legitimate strategy to improve and support states struggling to build a sustainable and productive recovery from conflict.



Understanding the origins of the peace we are aiming to build helps underpin its authenticity and supports an assurance and aim which in turn helps encourage ownership of the project’s significance within a bigger peacebuilding picture.


There have been several prominent peace approaches (you might say that they provided the ‘terroir’ from which the peace tree grew) There was an Alexandrian peace, Pax Romana peace, Carthaginian peace, an Augustine peace, The Westphalian peace and the Pax Britannia peace. The Augustine peace with its notion of ‘Just War theory’ and Westphalian peace, which was dependant on the security of states and the norms of sovereignty and Britain’s domination of the seas but also trade and loose alliances with colonised groups. All have resonance with today’s ‘democratic’ peace theory and eventually, a model of ‘Liberal Peace’ we work to.

You can argue that in 1795,  the seeds of democratic peace were sewn by the work of German philosopher, Emanuel Kant and in particular his essay "Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch”. (C. P. Webel and J. Johansen. 2012) Kant’s peace proposal later helped underpin the eventual core values of Liberal Peace, values that establish four components to peace strategy and structure which are carefully aligned with objectives in Security, Development, Humanitarian and Law & Governance.

Joining Emanuel Kant’s work is a wide range of considered (and at times provocative) influences, ideas, insight and intellect which have helped craft today’s liberal peace.  John Stuart Mill, based on his 1859 essay On Liberty, is viewed as an important source of modern liberal ideas. Anatol Rapoport the Russian-born American mathematical psychologist and his work on, ‘peace through strength’, balance of power’, ‘peace through law’, ‘personal pacifism’, ‘collective security’,‘ revolutionary pacifism’, and the ‘Game Theory’. (Milton Rinehart 1989) Adam Curle’s work, as suggested by Adam Curie in his paper ‘Peace with Work to Do’ explores the notion of ‘Peaceful relationships’…..between those individuals or groups are enabled to achieve together goals which they could not reach separately. Other than ‘unpeaceful relationships’, in which the people concerned damage each other so that they achieve less than they could have done independently – harm each other’s capacity for growth maturation and fulfilment (James O'Connell & Adam Curie 1985). John Locke’s far-reaching work on human rights and natural law, the list is extensive and extremely distinguished, it might include the likes of Rudolph Rummel, Charles Wright Mills, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Dom Helder Camara. They and many others have had a considerable intellectual influence. Democratic peace theory and liberalization evolved and are seen by many in the western hemisphere to be a potential remedy to what Dr. Roland Paris suggests as ‘social ills’ in other words, violence, poverty, famine, corruption and environmental destruction.

The 1980s was a milestone where classic peace initiatives such as preventive diplomacy, peace-making, and peacekeeping, in the form of facilitating, buffer zones, cease-fire agreements and political transitions had begun to develop iterative processes to create a legitimate structure for peace. A structure based on reciprocity, equal rights, benefits and dignity - "what you want for yourself you should be prepared to give to others" (J. Gultung 2000)

Before the 80s the liberal peace model was cast during the 1919 Paris Peace Treaty. A meeting of the allied victors following the end of WW1, predominantly directed by the ‘Council of Four’ (later becoming five with the People’s Republic of China joining in 1971) composed of David Lloyd George of Britain, Vittorio Emanuele Orlando of Italy, Georges Clemence of France and Woodrow Wilson of the United States of America. The council set the peace terms for the defeated central powers following the armistices of 1918 and following the famous ‘14 point’ speech of President Woodrow, an advocate of capitalism and democracy The establishment of an association of nations was called for, in the hope of guaranteeing the independence and territorial integrity of all nations, an association which became known as, ‘The League of Nations’. Oliver Richmond interprets the association of nations as,

“A United Nations system, dependent upon collective security and international cooperation, a social peace entailing social justice, and a liberal peace, including upon democratisation, free markets, human rights and the rule of law, development and perhaps most of all the support both normative and material, of the United States and its allies” (Oliver P. Richard 2012).

The system was to be where democracy, sovereignty, liberty and self-determination would be respected and although France and Britain were still dominant colonial powers, this was the beginning of the Demographic Peace theory. The beginnings of a family tree which would later result in the birth of Liberal Peace.



The 1990s shaped the peace we aim for today, the 90s heralded the end of the Cold War which was in many ways a triumph for the liberal vision of democratic cooperation.

 “As a result of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the EU, the Council of Europe and NATO had embodied Liberal peace as a political concept which was also adopted in October of 1993 by the Declaration of Vienna – as the basis for democratic development and preservation of democratic human rights”. (Z. Tziarras 2012)

In many other ways, it marked a complicated new phase for Liberal peace - a phase that has led to the problems and misinterpretation of the Liberal peace agenda and its authenticity; creating ambiguity through rapid growth and a perception that its objectives and methods had changed. This change in momentum and meaning was the catalyst for a large-scale application of liberal peace structures and their potential. A formula set in place, a principal drive for robust peacekeeping ambitions in theory, practice, responsibilities and guidance. 

It was, however, obvious that peacekeeping alone would struggle so the UN looked to remodel its activities and responsibilities. The United Nations called for the then Security General Boutros Boutros-Gahli to provide an agenda that would address the growing criticism that peacekeeping alone, would not be enough in the future. In 1992 He stated that

“The absence of war and military conflicts amongst States does not in itself ensure international peace and security. The non-military sources of instability in the economic, social, humanitarian and ecological fields have become threats to peace and security. The United Nations membership as a whole, working through the appropriate bodies, needs to give the highest priority to the solution of these matters.” (Boutros-Ghali 1992)

An agenda for Peace informed by a Liberal peace code was crafted outlining processes and preventative diplomacy which could be used before and during peacekeeping. Boutros-Ghali more importantly used Chapter VII of the UN Charter to justify military involvement without the consent of both parties in a conflict situation and proposed the application of ‘Post-Conflict Peace Building’ as an attempt to “identify and support structures which will tend to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict.” (Boutros-Ghali 1992)

The process and core values which were to underpin this proposal was the democratic liberal peace model.

For many, the United Nations was overextending itself, and the idea of a liberal peace. Soon after, peace missions and their intentions began to suffer from a lack of continuity, parity and support.

The United Nations, essentially an institution guided by hegemonic state principles, began to create a universal model for peace. The West’s assumptions regarding a liberal peace were in many ways becoming the foundations of a quasi-brutalist structure - massive, governmental, and fortress-like. The Liberal peace, its goals and values became a vehicle to communicate strength, functionality, a frank expression of materiality and a reaction to buoyancy. The term ‘brutalism’ originates from the French word for "raw", a word that seems to capture the peace-building character as seen from a non-western perspective.

“Liberal peace”. This represents an increasingly formulaic synthesis of Western-style democratisation, “good governance”, human rights, the rule of law, and developed open markets. The footprints of liberal peace are visible in most societies emerging from civil war over the past decade and a half. There are, of course, many variations of liberal peace, as it has been accepted, interpreted and promoted to different degrees in different societies. In virtually every society emerging from civil war, however, the quality of the outcome facilitated by the liberal peacebuilding project, and the epistemic community of actors who coerce and induce it into existence, has been unsatisfactory. (R. Mac Ginty & O. Richmond 2007)


The Liberal peacebuilding framework looked something like this,

·       Transitional justice,

·       Economic Development

·       Disarmament,

·       Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants,

·       Employment initiatives, 

·       Refugees & Resettlement,

·       Food,

·       Health,

·       Law and order,

·       Justice and legislation,

·       Public services

·       Human rights are all legitimate,


However,  there were glaring issues with timing, ownership and authenticity. For Roland Paris, the problems encountered during peace-building operations in large measure stem from rapid and ill-managed liberalisation. A finding which, in Paris’ view, suggests that the international community should place more emphasis on supporting the growth of strong liberal state institutions, and extending the typical duration of peace-building interventions. (Jan Selby 2013). For others like Edward Newman in his book ‘New Perspectives on liberal peacebuilding’ in 2009, it was a ‘top-down’ elite, ethnocentric and Western-style formulaic process that gave little thought to the local context of religious values and the historical, regional, and cultural norms. However, there seems to be more to it than that. The ‘elephant in the room’ is the metaphysical and practical collaborative absence of the other powerful nations such as Russia, China and Japan and yet China, for example, is making some noticeable headway of its own, as Rebecca Tinsley argues,

 “We also ignore some inconvenient facts about the rise of China, which defies our notions of free market economics and democracy: the vast majority of the progress in reducing world poverty and other development indicators included in the Millennium Development Goals was due to China lifting millions out of poverty and ignorance”. (Rebbeca Tinsley 2015) 

When stepping back and taking a wider perspective, the problems seem to relate (again) to trust, and the importance of ownership, reflection, commitment and communication. To build trust in the Liberal peace and its intentions a change of focus is required.  Rather than the over-analysis of the machinery in place and its output, there should be a more fundamental approach.

There is an argument for re-designing the assembly of the ‘peace machine’s parts so that they resonate better with local cultures and the agencies applying the processes on the ground. This would mean addressing an apparent institutional resistance to change or exploring new or unfamiliar components. An approach which could open Liberal peace to evolution and become more relevant, rather than a vehicle for typical ‘Top Down’ methods that aggravate the likelihood of sustainable peace.  

  ‘de-romanticising the ‘Liberal peace’ perspective, managing expectations, addressing illusions of wealth, vulgarity, celebrity, freedom and the good life conjured forth by the ‘fourth’ and ‘fifth’ estates, through screen, literature, radio and gossip. In other words a frank and transparent ‘Bottom-Bottom Up’ approach.

No doubt that a liberal peace is an important model for the West and its relationship with integral like-minded states. The model has emerged dominant after a complex and frantic route through past ‘cultural violence’, ‘direct violence’ and ‘institutional violence’, (J. Gultug) many years of filtration through facets of culture, religion, and politics, and influenced by world wars, the enlightenment, the industrial revolution, the technical and the digital ages. The route to Liberal peace can’t be underestimated when expecting ownership from foreign states.  

Liberal peace is seen by many critics as hegemonic, patriarchal and elite-driven. However, the liberal peace approach hasn’t matured yet and it isn’t the finished article by far. With the rise of political violence and terrorism reportedly stemming from failed or suffering states, “Terrorism is strengthened where states are at their weakest” (former British foreign secretary, Jack Straw 2002), the Liberal peace effort is under increasing pressure to evolve and deliver better long-lasting results.

Although the combination of the UN, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and private industry have been successful in creating certain aspects of Liberal peace and putting an end to the violence and its reoccurrence in many areas affected by conflict, it is easy to see how much more a liberal peacebuilding process can achieve given the right circumstances. The model that Frances Fukuyama critically calls the "Universalization of Western liberal Democracy" has gone a long way to deliver on Kofi Annan’s (Secretary-General of the United Nations 1997-2006) plans to "Create the conditions necessary for sustainable peace in war-torn societies" (Kofi Annan) building on Boutros Boutros–Ghali’s (Secretary-General of the United Nations 1992-1996) objectives to "Identify and support structures which will strengthen and solidify peace to avoid a relapse into conflict".

Today a liberal understanding of peace and its intentions underpin contemporary peacebuilding initiatives. It is closely related to democratic peace theories and both promote the idea that certain kinds of societies will be more peaceful and productive both in their domestic dealings and in their international relations. A liberal peace involves not just managing instability between states but also building peace within states based on liberal democracy and market economics. Emulating the democratic peace debate, the Liberal peace encompasses socio-cultural norms associated with peace-making.

A Liberal peace intends to promote:

1.      Democracy,

2.     The rule of law,

3.     Good governance and human rights.

To foster a robust and sustainable relationship with Liberal peace, it is important to explore and recognise the significance of liberal peace and its impact.



Liberal peace is significant in a wide range of ways not all of them positive at first glance but all are worth highlighting. Liberal peacebuilding delivers a framework designed to provide hope, security and a future for communities and individuals stricken by the many facets of civil war. Liberal peace addresses the needs of failed and struggling states. It provides the apparatus for justice and reconciliation processes and humanitarian aid. Liberal peace provides the methodology to counter direct, cultural and institutional violence.

Liberal peace is also significant due to the friction it causes, its failures and shortfalls. However,  it is also significant as a platform for developing new ideas and alternative approaches like hybrid peace, resilience and the theory of resistance. Lastly, a less tangible significance, nonetheless an important one is the fact that a liberal peace process provides a useful vehicle for analyses and reflection. An excellent measure to explore the values and norms of social structures, goals, ethics and politics of the international peacekeeping nations themselves.

A liberal peacebuilding process provides the theory and method for a vast framework of peacebuilding initiatives developed to create a democratic and liberal starting point for infrastructural reform and a network to promote freedom of speech, movement and expression and to support the critical services required to sustain a distressed and vulnerable post-conflict state.

The framework has roughly 10 priorities:

1.     Employment (getting people back to work and re-engaging in employment and business)

2.     Resettling and reintegrating refugees and the displaced,

3.     Providing food and the infrastructure around agriculture and distribution,

4.     Providing healthcare and education,

5.     Supporting law and order,

6.     Helping to administer justice and develop and re-establish legislation,

7.     Support new and re-use existing public services,

8.     Ensure human rights are adhered to and enforced,

9.     Help settle land disputes

10.   Provide and enforce security.

A Liberal peacebuilding process provides the moral reasoning for many aspects of the security processes in post-conflict conditions.  A key process is the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration of ex-combatants (DDR). This is seen as a critical step to sustainable peace and the long-term security of the state. DDR is a complicated and fragile process that helps ex-combatants acquire civilian status, gain employment, and an income and become productive and positive members of society.   A process that has five main challenges as J. McMullin explains is Programmatic, Security, Political, Structural and Ideational. In his book on Liberian ex-combatants Jaremey McMullin explains the significance to state security and the Liberal peace process DDR has become. (J. McMullin 2013)

Liberal peacebuilding, its core values and democratic peace theory are just as significant to the ‘Transitional Justice’ process which involves halting human rights abuse, investigating past crimes, identifying human rights perpetrators, imposing sanctions, facilitating reparation for the victims, preventing further abuses, providing security reform, ensuring the peace is preserved and reconciliation through Truth and Reconciliation commissions (TRC).  A key example of this is the work being done in the DRC after many years of conflict and abuse. Liberal peacebuilding processes are in place on a huge scale to combat violence and establish peace within a war-torn country almost 10 times the size of the United Kingdom and currently enduring occupation (in-part) by five separate foreign armies.  A country where sexual violence and abuse are rife and the government is struggling to manage the corruption and infrastructure of a huge amount of natural resources of minerals, oil and rubber. The United Nations is a significant force in the country, attempting to apply Liberal peace initiatives in a significant attempt to help turn the country around and install an element of peace which will help stimulate more organic, locally lead initiatives to eventually regain control of the country. 

Another important significance of liberal peace is that it provides the model from which to develop alternatives and alterations to peacebuilding processes and methods; an important aspect of Liberal peace and International Relations (IR) concerning growth and currency. The Liberal peace model has developed two pronounced methods of engagement within the ranks of IR which are as Robert Cox argues in his article “Social Forces, States and World Order; Beyond International Relations Theory” 1981 – Problem Solving and critical theory. The problem solvers, he suggests, engage with practicality and performance issues whilst the critical theorists engage in the values and assumptions which underpin Liberal peace. (Robert Cox 1981) However some like Hansen, Dunn and Wright suggest that IR theory has potentially run its course as expressed in their article “The End of IR Theory?” (Hansen, Dunn and Wright 2013). Liberal peace has become more and more significant as a model from which to base analyses, investigations and reconfiguration, whilst constantly looking for improvement and combinations to support the peacebuilding processes. For example, in the critical analysis of security and development processes by Mark Duffield, a key practice over the past 10 years has been to merge the security and development concerns creating a “security-development nexus”. Duffield puts it into perspective and explores its merits and pitfalls, explaining the fragile links between aid and foreign policy, politics and the safety of the peacekeepers (Mark Duffield 2012). Oliver Richmond’s critiques and observations on Liberal peace and its weaknesses, validity and current hegemonic character of international practises, serve as a diagnostic set of challenges from which to address and further improve the resilience of the Liberal peacebuilding process. Oliver’s recent observations on ‘Back Sliding’- a condition leading to “a physical deterioration of peace during the peacebuilding process, or a retreat from the Liberal peace framework itself on the part of the international and local actors” (R. Oliver 2011), flags up important conditions that require care and remedy. Many other scholars and practitioners have set out parameters and dialogue on the merits and the pitfalls such as Paris, Oliver, Chandler, MacGinty, Newman and Tadjbakhsh, exploring interesting alternative approaches and reflecting on past peace missions and their impact and validity. Robin Luckham for example provides great insight into democratic transitioning, the problems with conflicting Western value systems, a Western history-driven process and its connection with money politics, global capitalism and hegemony. David Chandler’s work on Liberal peace and its position relating to state-building and the importance of democracy and local ownership in the process, whilst highlighting the importance of working with the existing institutions rather than starting from scratch and intervening without local ethnicity.

Two current proposals which have arisen from the Liberal peace model and highlight the importance of this analytical process are the idea of the Hybrid peace process (a top-down and a bottom-up approach) and the acknowledgement of resilience in a fractured or struggling state. According to MacGinty’s analysis, there are 4 factors of ‘Hybridity’, the ability of liberal peace agents and their networks and structures to enforce compliance; the incentivizing powers of Liberal peace networks and structures; the ability of local actors to resist, ignore, or adapt liberal peace interventions and the ability of local actors, networks, and structures to present and maintain alternative forms of peacebuilding. (MacGinty 2011) The other is resilience and the importance of local ownership and resistance. Ken Menkhaus explores the notion of resilience cautiously at first, concerned that it may be IR and peacebuilding’s “zeitgeist” term. However, Menkhaus suggests that resilience springs from trust networks, leadership, and assistance from international actors, national government actors and partners. (K. Menkhaus 2013) this is supported by De Wijer’s theories of adaptive systems (‘Trojan horse’, aid theory of resilience and resistance), which are socio-ecological, organic, self-organised and connected, in other words, ‘a network of meaning’. (Frauke de Wijer 2013) These and many others are testimony to the significance of Liberal peace as part of the genetic blueprint for peace.

At the beginning of the 20th century, 90% killed through conflict were soldiers, however during conflict in the 1990s,  90% of the people killed were civilians according to UNICEF statistics - strategies and tools of war meant killing, rape, mass executions, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Liberal peacebuilding was significant in its approach in dealing with the atrocities and set out to tackle the situations as it was clear that these conditions affected not just the local population but had severe ramifications universally. However the penultimate significance of Liberal peace is its failure and its potential to create friction, frustration and renewed violence.

These are significant because failure is just as important as success, as long as they are learnt from. Although weaknesses are often brushed under the carpet and not discussed they can be reused and turned into positives. Notable unsatisfactory results include the Congo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Bosnia and Somalia. It is true to say that all the peace missions to date can be seen through the lenses of failure and success but what is important is the methods in which lessons are learnt and folded into the future and existing conflict and disaster scenarios.  Where the problems have been structural or institutional and of timing, alteration can be made far quicker than if the issues relate to world politics and global finance. Some common manageable issues that create friction are ones of security and separation. Security of the aid workers, diplomats and peacekeepers limits contact with locals and promotes an elite to elite dialogue that is open to interpretation and manipulation. International peacebuilding agencies and their staff often run the risk of undermining the peacebuilding effects simply due to the separation between populations and their value systems and cultural norms. Assumption has often been an ‘Achilles heel’ of peacekeeping in the past as suggested by MacGinty in his analysis of the pre-war reconstruction of post-war Iraq in his 2003 article of the same name, where he highlights the risks of assuming that the war would follow a predictable pattern and that “the danger was that many Iraqis would regard post-war reconstruction as something ‘done to them’ rather than a process in which they could participate.” (R. MacGinty 2003) It would exclude the locals from the peacebuilding process and more importantly it would align the peacekeeping forces with the military and ultimately the Western governments create a homogenous entity and be seen as an extension of the war.

The last significance of liberal peace (of which there are many more) highlights the development of liberal peace as a device from which to measure the values and cultural norms of the societies that make up the international peace-keeping community. What can Liberal peacebuilding say about the nations that comprise the peacekeeping community, how do they combat violence and conflict nationally? What can we discover if the peacekeeping framework were to be applied as a gauge to evaluate the health of peace, in the peacekeeping nations? Liberal peace is a significant tool to define what peace is and whether the peacekeeping community is content to apply a blueprint for peace which on reflection may have fundamental flaws and systematic contradictions. 





How does one characterise current peacebuilding activities?  Some explain it as a liberal peace process, however, this seems only prevalent in an  academic context perhaps, suggesting an inherent fragility associated with academic rather than practical relevance.

For example, the Global Peace Index issued a report on peace, called ‘Positive Peace 2015’ with seemly no reference to the term ‘Liberal Peace’. Further exploration of the term ‘Liberal Peace’ is uncommon in the literature and documentation of highly influential and prominent peace-related international organisations.

In the United Nations 1993 Declaration of Vienna, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) online literature, the World Bank’s strategic report, Oxfam‘s official website, the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP)documents; alternatively, the relatively recent book by Sir John Holmes, (formerly the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs from 2007 until 2010), published in 2013 and titled ‘The Politics of Humanity: The Reality of Relief Aid’, the term ‘Liberal peace’ was extremely difficult to find. In fact if the term "liberal peace" is typed into the UN’s website search engine a small yellow dialogue box appears stating ‘No Result’ on the left-hand side of an empty screen.

To add to the complicated and elusive identity of ‘Liberal Peace’ as a recognisable term, a leading human-rights activist, author and journalist, Rebecca Tinsley emailed an unexpected response when asked about ‘liberal peace,’ stating that the “Treaty of Westphalia guaranteeing state sovereignty is still paramount. Frankly, Liberal peace doesn't exist beyond academia”. (Rebecca Tinsley 2015).

On the face of it, the term ‘Liberal peace’ appears, vague, obscure and only relevant to a Western academic audience.  However, digging deeper into the academic notion of liberal peace and pushing through the thin layers of semantics, rhetoric, abstract posturing and political gesturing, what you will find is a rich vein of compassion, care, and careful investigation. An approach that serves the humanitarian collective working to build peace in catastrophic situations derived from conflict and persecution.

A collective that developed at a remarkable rate since the end of the Cold War era with a quest that has mutated from a humanitarian collective to a peacebuilding institution associated with big business and global politics.

A collective quest,  that became a mission then a programme, which led to a framework of programmes, which became a network, which required an agenda, which led to a political and social strategy, which has become legislation. A political concern to an international crisis and currently some argue, the primary component in the key to global security.

Beneath the ambiguous label of the ‘Liberal peace’ lies an unambiguous machine with shared systems underpinned by overlapping value drivers, methods and a principle core drawn from a main metaphysical seam of the ‘democratic peace theory’, which Professor Edward Newman editor of the journal ‘Civil Wars’ explains as an “empirical proposition that consolidated democracies do not go to war with each other because democracies have institutional constraints upon leaders that make going to war with other countries more difficult; and, because such countries are interdependent economically and in terms of trade, going to war may disrupt economic/trade relations”. (Edward Newman 2009) In other words, liberal democracies are potentially more peaceful and law-abiding in contrast to other political systems and therefore, common sense would suggest, that the best and currently only solution to the struggle for peace in conflict-prone states for example, is the Liberal Peace…..Or is it?

Professor Oliver Richmond, a well-respected International Relations, Peace & Conflict Studies academic of note, suggests that the ‘Liberal peace’ is the dominant conceptualisation and represents an amalgam of mainstream approaches to IR theory - alternatives are needed but none yet comparable and have had little impact on policy (Oliver P. Richmond 2012)

However Mark Hoffman’s article in the London School of Economics and Political Science, Journal, ‘CONNECT’ titled ‘Give peace a chance what’s left of the ‘liberal peace’? explains that “Not only has liberal peacebuilding done more harm than good, it is, in reality, an exercise in power that seeks to subjugate the non-west by creating dependency through chronically weak states” . (Mark Hoffman 2009)

Whereas Dr. Roland Paris, a hugely influential academic figure in the liberal peace discourse warns in J Selby’s Article ‘The myth of liberal peace-building, that “Liberal peace-building’s demise ‘would be tantamount to abandoning tens of millions of people to lawlessness, predation, disease and fear’; and that liberal peace-building thus needs ‘saving’ from its ‘irrationally exuberant’ ‘hyper-critics’”. (Rolland Paris 2013)

A ‘liberal peace’ is a truly beguiling idea and yet a crucial notion to take ownership of, if peace-work is to be a more considered, transparent and legitimate process to bring about non-violence and a platform to build global trust.

A great many international agencies and NGOs acknowledge and trust the essence of  Liberal peace and recognise its role in developing a key remedy to social ills, a part of an approach, which is capable of unlocking the current security conundrum.

The origins of  Liberal peace are impressively comprehensive and can be traced back through layers of past security conundrums, peacebuilding and socioeconomic development, unfortunately mainly from a northern hemisphere’s perspective, which also suggests its weakness and provides an interesting and pertinent challenge to tackle as the process matures and adapts.

"If one learns from others, but does not think, one will be bewildered. If, on the other hand, one thinks but does not learn from others, one will be in peril." Confucius


Liberal peacebuilding is an integral part of post-conflict initiatives around the globe and is a component part of the solution required to address states torn apart through war, localised catastrophes and global security issues.  Since the early 1990s Liberal peace has struggled to contain and remedy situations, leading to growing criticism and a loss of confidence both from the local and the international perspective. However, this article has made an effort to open a debate to reawaken a sense of trust. This article tries to explore the notion of authenticity and legitimacy whilst re-engaging the integrity and qualities which inform the liberal peace foundation of theory and practice.

Do we in the peacebuilding sector need to develop a renewed sense of ownership and trust which is needed to develop the peacebuilding ambitions to a point where they can meet their potential and offer a life-changing and valuable service? I hope this article helped shine light on the issues relating to the identity, origins, and intentions of the Liberal peacebuilding processes and encouraged debate on the significance of the process. I hope to engage and help galvanise our trust and understanding of a Liberal peace if not in its current form perhaps in its potential.  By exploring identity this article revealed the conflicting aspect of identity and indicated the difficulty in securing the term and its identity of an important process and body of work, indicating that a key hurdle to overcoming detachment and encouraging local and international ownership of a Liberal peace process lies in its appellation, a shared vocabulary and common understanding of origin and potential. This article outlined the origins of the Liberal peace and acknowledged the rich history of theory, politics and war that led to the crafting of a Liberal peace approach. Identifying key characters and situations which has led to the foundation of Liberal peace ensures renewed understanding and confidence in the process. By exploring the intentions and the reasoning behind them this text offers insight into the weaknesses and strengths behind the expansion and complexities of the situations relating to peacebuilding and its responsibilities. Finally, this article drew from the many significant aspects of Liberal peace, Liberal peace failures and friction positioned as an educational and productive tool to develop the process.

Liberal peace is a useful model to stimulate alternatives in peacebuilding and a beguiling device to measure the validity of the individual peacebuilding nations and the way they apply liberal peace values at home. In writing this article, I aim to help reposition liberal peacebuilding and promote trust and confidence from the bottom up and the top down.




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[1] Winston Churchill less profane alternative to the his KBO Phrase 


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