Local Rules?! The Practices of Conflict Resolution by the United Nations in Liberia

TitleLocal Rules?! The Practices of Conflict Resolution by the United Nations in Liberia
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsNeef, M
Subtitle / Series TitleKAIPTC Occasional Paper 41
InstitutionKof Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre

To achieve sustainable peace is the overall goal of contemporary United Nations (UN) peace operations. However, peacebuilding by the UN has been heavily criticised by various scholars, inter alia, for imposing a set of universal approaches, for being too statecentric, for being culturally biased, for neglecting the local and for lacking well-grounded concepts (Barnett et al. 2007; Kahane 2003; Lederach 1995; Mac Ginty 2008; Richmond 2009; Sending 2009). As a consequence, they argue, UN peace operations are not only ineffective, unsustainable and lack local legitimacy but have also recreated conditions for violence and counteracted the “do no harm”-principle. (...)

The first part of this paper outlines the theoretical framework. Conflict resolution is regarded as culture specifc. In consequence, culture acts as an enabler for local conflict resolution. With culture embedded in a practical approach to conflict resolution, this paper discusses local as well as international concepts for conflict resolution. It will further be shown that UN peace operations have taken a local turn on the policy level. However, this turn is not without limitations. The second part of the paper deals empirically with Liberia’s conflict formation and practices of conflict resolution. It analyses the country’s violent state building history and assesses post-war conflict resolution systems. Following an overview of Liberian
perceptions of justice as well as customary practices of conflict resolution and their limitations, the paper outlines the UN operation in Liberia and analyses two decisively different UN approaches to conflict resolution by UNMIL Civil Affairs and by UNMIL Rule of Law. Besides extensive desk research, 17 semistructured interviews with UN, government and NGO officials were conducted in July/August 2014 in Ghana and Liberia. (excerpts from the introduction)