New Publication: Toward Sustainable Peace: A New Research Agenda for Post-Conflict Natural Resource Management

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Krampe, Florian. 2017. Towards Sustainable Peace: A New Research Agenda for Post-Conflict Natural Resource Management, Global Environmental Politics 17 (4). [Impact Factor: 2.316]. 

This forum reflects upon the current state of research on post-conflict natural resource management. It identifies two dominant perspectives on environmental peacebuilding in the literature: one focused on environmental cooperation, the other on resource risk. Both perspectives share a concern for the sustainable management of natural resources in post-conflict settings and prescribe environmental cooperation at large as a means to foster peace and stability. Yet both perspectives also feature notable differences: The cooperation perspective is driven by a faith in the potential of environmental cooperation to contribute to long-term peace through spillover effects. The resource risk perspective, however, recognizes that resource-induced instability may arise after intrastate conflict; stressing the need to mitigate instability by implementing environmental cooperation initiatives. Despite the significant contributions of both perspectives, neither has provided any cohesive theoretical understanding of environmental peacebuilding. This article suggests a timely revision of the research agenda to address this gap.

The unfolding humanitarian crisis around Lake Chad: UN report falls short of naming environmental dimensions

Lake Chad Bassin crisis january 2017 Photo: Espen Røst / Bistandsaktuelt – newspaper on aid and development

This article was originally published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

It is encouraging to see that the United Nations Security Council is beginning to acknowledge the transboundary dimensions of fragility and conflict, as demonstrated by its newly launched Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Lake Chad Basin region. The report, which was presented in the Security Council on 13 September 2017, emphasizes the need for regional responses and the enhanced cooperation of different UN and humanitarian agencies as important steps to addressing the unfolding humanitarian crisis. However, while regional responses to address the regional security challenge are desirable, the report would have been stronger if it had highlighted the underlying environmental contributions of the region’s fragility.

Multiple stressors converge in the Lake Chad region, which lies at the southern end of the Sahara desert. In the region around the lake–which borders Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria–unemployment, poverty and conflict interact with environmental change and degradation. The mismanagement of water resources, for instance, in the form of increased water withdrawal for irrigation from the lake’s tributaries, as well as prolonged severe droughts, have contributed to a 90 per cent shrinking of Lake Chad in the past 40 years. In addition, the ongoing insurgency by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria further exaggerates the reduction of livelihood security for communities in the region. According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP), the conflict with Boko Haram has caused over 10 000 deaths between 2009 and 2016. The military interventions of the Multinational Joint Task Force and armed forces of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria achieved a sizeable reduction in Boko Haram’s activities. Nonetheless, according to the newly published report: ‘From April to June 2017, 246 attacks were recorded, resulting in the deaths of 225 civilians.’

The ongoing insurgency and the continued shrinking of Lake Chad, which is the main source of livelihood for millions of inhabitants, are causing a massive humanitarian crisis, intensifying the fragile security situation and increasing cross-border displacement of populations. The Report of the Secretary-General points out: ‘Some 10.7 million people across the Lake Chad Basin region currently need humanitarian assistance, including 8.5 million in Nigeria.’ According to the report, 7.2 million people currently suffer severe food insecurity, of which 4.7 million are located in the north-eastern part of Nigeria.

The food and water insecurities caused by environmental change and mismanagement have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis caused by the Boko Haram insurgency. Although there is a lack of consistent monitoring around Lake Chad, the available data clearly indicates that the region has experienced significant environmental changes. For every year since 2000, the annual temperature anomaly, based on the 1961 to 1990 average temperature, was continuously above 1°C. Research agrees that environmental degradation—and especially the predicted impacts of climate change—will further exacerbate these pressures on the states and societies around Lake Chad. During the 2017 Stockholm Forum, experts from the region outlined the complex dependencies of local livelihoods on natural resources, in particular the Lake Chad ecosystem, and how important ecological factors are to understanding and addressing the regions vulnerability and fragility. As Sweden’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Olof Skoog, pointed out during the Security Council debate on 13 September: ‘The effects of climate change and its links to the stability and security are evident. We cannot hide from this reality if we want to truly address the challenges in the region. The lack of follow-up in this area in the Secretary-General’s report once again underlines the need for improved risk assessments and risk management strategies by the UN, as clearly highlighted by the Security Council in Resolution 2349 (2017): ‘The Council must remain alert to the threats to stability as a result of the adverse effects of climate change.’

By acknowledging the adverse effect of climate change in the Lake Chad Basin region, the UN report should have emphasized the inevitable pathways for addressing the current crisis. Managing natural resources sustainably is one of the key factors to achieving regional stabilization, reducing people’s vulnerability, increasing resilience and thereby thwarting the fertile grounds for insurgent group recruitment. This is only possible when the UN Security Council and other peacebuilding agencies begin to integrate the linkages of environmental, social, and political issues in their peacebuilding efforts in the Lake Chad Basin.

About Resolution 2349:

At the end of March 2017, the United Nations Security Council unanimously issued Resolution 2349against terrorism and human rights violations in the Lake Chad Basin. It recognized the role of climate change in exacerbating human insecurity—particularly around food insecurity and livelihood vulnerabilities—which are linked to the Basin’s complex conflicts: ‘the adverse effects of climate change and ecological changes among other factors on the stability of the Region’. The resolution was initiated by the Security Council member states’ travel to the Lake Chad region earlier in 2017. The resolution tasked the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, to provide an assessment of the situation. A direct mention of climate and environmental change is absent in the newly published report.

Florian Krampe, PhD, is a researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in the Climate Change and Risk Project. He specializes in peace and conflict research, international relations, and political ecology. Follow him on Twitter @FlorianKrampe.

New article in The Lancet Global Health


Avoiding catastrophes: seeking synergies among the public health, environmental protection, and human security sectors

Global health catastrophes have complex origins, often rooted in social disruption, poverty, conflict, and environmental collapse. Avoiding them will require a new integrative analysis of the links between disease, armed conflict, and environmental degradation within a socioecological vulnerability and human security context.

In Kosovo, Post-War Water Faults Show Challenge of Balancing Political With Technical

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Rivers have shaped the Western Balkan Peninsula’s characteristic landscape and played an important role in its history. Following the violence of the Yugoslav secession wars in the 1990s and the creation of six new nations, the number of transboundary river basins doubled from 6 to 13. In Kosovo, where independence remains a question, the water sector is a microcosm of tensions between ethnic Serbs and Albanians. The challenge of water resource management exists not only over the province’s contested national boundaries with Serbia, but between divided ethnic groups within the territory.

In recent research published in Cooperation and Conflict, I show how the international community, choosing a highly technical approach to reconstruction of the Kosovo water sector after the conclusion of violence, has frequently clashed with political realities in this landlocked and disputed territory. The United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK), which assumed trusteeship of the territory in 1999 until it was replaced by a European Union mission in 2008, was caught in continuous tension between technical ideals and the limits of what politics would allow. Empirical analysis shows UNMIK’s handling of the water sector in fact impeded the peace process.

Read on at New Security Beats the blog of the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program.

Starke Gemeinschaft oder starker Staat? Lehren für die internationale Friedensförderung aus Nepals Kleinwasserkraftwerkprojekten

von Florian Krampe

Nachkriegsländer gehören zu den schwierigsten politischen Arenen. Die Herausforderungen bestehen nicht nur darin, diese Länder dabei zu unterstützen Kriege zu beenden und neue Gewaltausbrüche zu verhindern, sondern vielmehr zu einem friedlichen Zusammenleben zurückzukehren. In diesem Zusammenhang ist in den letzten Jahren das Interesse vieler Wissenschaftler als auch vieler internationaler Akteure gestiegen, das mögliche Potential des nachhaltigen Managements natürlicher Ressourcen zu nutzen um Friedensprozesse zu unterstützen. Die Hoffnung liegt dabei darin, dass eine gute Regierungsführung („Good Governance“) und insbesondere die nachhaltige Entwicklung und Nutzung von Ressourcen wie Wasser, Wald oder landwirtschaftlichen Flächen, Kooperation zwischen Konfliktparteien ermöglichen und dabei zum Neustart der internen Beziehungen beitragen. Die wachsende Bedeutung des Zusammenspiels zwischen der Entwicklung von Frieden und Umweltschutz sowie der nachhaltigen Nutzung von Ressourcen wurde erst kürzlich durch die Ziele nachhaltiger Entwicklung der Vereinten Nationen bestätigt.

In einem kürzlich in der Zeitschrift Conflict Security and Development veröffentlichten Artikel habe ich dieses Zusammenspiel näher untersucht. Nepal litt zwischen 1996 und 2006 unter einem anhaltenden Bürgerkrieg, welcher über 12.000 Todesopfer forderte und vor allem das Leben der ländlichen Bevölkerung stark beeinträchtigte. In der Studie untersuche ich die wirtschaftlichen und politischen Auswirkungen von Projekten zur Förderung von Kleinwasserkraftwerken in den ländlichen Regionen Nepals. Die neu gebauten Kleinwasserkraftwerke haben dabei deutlich zum Anstieg der sozialen und wirtschaftlichen Lebensverhältnisse der ländlichen Bevölkerung beigetragen.

Fluss in Nepal

Hatiya im Baglung Distrikt, Entwicklungsregion West in Nepal . Bild von Florian Krampe

Andererseits sind die politischen Nachwirkungen, insbesondere in Bezug auf die Frage der Legitimität des nepalesischen Staates, überraschend negativ. Eine positive Reaktion war zu erwarten, da der nepalesische Staat durch die Entwicklung von Kleinwasserkraftwerken in diesen Dörfern die Elektrifizierung der Gemeinden ermöglichte und damit unter anderem neue wirtschaftliche Möglichkeiten erschloss. Allerdings ist das Gegenteil der Fall. Nach erfolgreicher Erbauung der Kraftwerke und der Elektrifizierung der Gemeinden wurde die Legitimität des Staates weiter in Frage gestellt. Dadurch wurde das bereits bestehende Zerwürfnis zwischen dem nepalesischen Staat und der nepalesischen Zivilbevölkerung weiter ausgeprägt. Die Frage, die sich durch diese Beobachtung erschließt ist, ob die Erbringung von Dienstleitungen durch den Staat und damit die Entwicklung der ländlichen Bevölkerung zur Förderung des Friedens in Nepal beiträgt.

Elektrifizierung und Wasserkraft

Die Bereitstellung öffentlicher Güter, insbesondere Elektrizität, für die Bevölkerung in Nepal bleibt eine der größten Herausforderungen für den nepalesischen Staat. Mehr als ein Viertel der Bevölkerung hatte in 2010 keinen Zugang zu Strom. Darüber hinaus müssen auch jene Haushalte, die ans Stromnetz angeschlossen sind, kontinuierlich koordinierte Stromausfälle erdulden. Als wasserreiches und gebirgiges Land, hat Nepal die Möglichkeit seinen Strom vollständig aus Wasserkraft zu erzeugen. Trotz dieses immensen Potentials, bleibt die Produktion allerdings weit unter der öffentlichen Nachfrage. In der Hauptstadt Katmandu leidet die Bevölkerung in der wasserreichen Monsunzeit unter koordinierten Stromausfällen von zwei bis drei Stunden am Tag. Diese Ausfälle steigen in den trockenen Wintermonaten bis auf 14 Stunden am Tag an.

Wasserkraft ist Nepals einzige wirtschaftlich sinnvolle Möglichkeit der Stromerzeugung, da das Land keine eigenen fossilen Brennstoffe besitzt. Die Möglichkeiten, diese auf dem Landweg in die gebirgige und oft extrem unzugängliche Region zu bringen, sind nicht nur begrenzt, sondern auch kostspielig. Wasserkraftwerke und insbesondere Kleinwasserkraftwerke sind daher häufig die einzige Möglichkeit, entlegene Regionen und Dörfer mit Strom zu versorgen.

Stark von internationaler Entwicklungshilfe abhängig, hat der nepalesische Staat seit Kriegsende stark in diese Technologie investiert. Gelder, die unter anderem von der Weltbank und dem UNDP bereitgestellt werden, werden durch das Alternative Energy Promotion Center, das dem Ministerium für Umwelt, Wissenschaft und Technology untersteht, in die Förderung lokaler Projekte geleitet.

Blühende Landschaften…

Geländewagen in Nepal

Auf dem Weg von Baglung Basar nach Hatiya. Bild von Florian Krampe

Die Ergebnisse meiner Untersuchung zeigen eindeutig das enorme Potential von Kleinwasserkraftwerken in Nepal. Insbesondere die wirtschaftliche Entwicklung der stark von Armut und Krieg betroffenen Bevölkerung wurde durch die lokale Stromerzeugung enorm gefördert und ist bei einem Besuch der Dörfer unübersehbar. Öffentliche und private Dienstleistungen, wie zum Beispiel Schulen, Kliniken und kleine Handwerksbetriebe bereichern und erleichtern das Leben. Breitbandinternet und Kabelfernsehen, mit dem zum Beispiel die Möglichkeit besteht Bundesliga zu gucken (kein Scherz), sind keine Seltenheit und verändern den täglichen Alltag und die Möglichkeiten der Bevölkerung auffallend.

Dieser Wandel hat die Verwundbarkeit der Gesellschaft gegenüber wirtschaftlichen und natürlichen Notlagen stark reduziert. So ist zum Beispiel ein ungeplanter Nebeneffekt dieser Entwicklung, dass die Erträge der lokalen Landwirtschaft stark gestiegen sind. Dies auf Grund verbesserter Bewässerungssysteme, die nicht nur Wasser zum Kraftwerk leiten, sondern auch zu den anliegenden Feldern.

Politische Auswirkungen

Aber hat diese Entwicklung auch einen positiven Effekt auf die Entwicklung des Friedens in Nepal? In meiner Untersuchung habe ich mir daher auch die politischen Auswirkungen von staatlich geförderten Kleinwasserkraftwerken angeschaut. Durchgeführte Haushaltbefragungen deuten dabei darauf hin, dass die Projekte die Interaktion zwischen Mitgliedern der Dorfgemeinschaften stark gefördert haben. Dies hat wiederum dazu geführt, dass lokale informelle Regierungsformen mit einer starken Unabhängigkeit zum nepalesischen Staat gefördert wurden.

Wenngleich dies gut klingt, wenn man menschliche Sicherheit in den Vordergrund stellt, so wirft diese Beobachtung doch die Frage auf, inwieweit dies den gesamtgesellschaftlichen Zusammenhalt zwischen Staat und Gesellschaft in diesem Nachkriegsland beeinflusst. Insbesondere da die Legitimität, welche Bevölkerungen dem jeweiligen Staat entgegen bringen, ein wichtiger Indikator der Stabilität von Nachkriegsordnungen ist.

Wirtschaftliche und soziale Unzufriedenheit waren wichtige Faktoren, die zum Ausbruch des nepalesischen Bürgerkriegs beitrugen. Obwohl die Maoistischen Rebellen am Ende des Bürgerkriegs in 2006 die unbeliebte Monarchie erfolgreich überwunden haben und zwischen 2006 und 2013 die stärkste politische Kraft im Land waren, haben die sichtbaren wirtschaftlichen und sozialen Verbesserungen nicht dazu geführt, dass die Teilung zwischen Gesellschaft und Staat überbrückt werden konnte und die Legitimität des nepalesischen Staates in den Augen der Bevölkerung anwuchs.

Das Gegenteil wäre theoretisch zu erwarten gewesen. Das Bereitstellen staatlicher Dienstleistungen, in diesem Fall durch die Versorgung mit Elektrizität, sollte die Legitimität des Staates im Auge der Bevölkerung erhöhen und dadurch zur Konsolidierung der Nachkriegsordnung und der Kohäsion zwischen Staat und Gesellschaft beitragen. Die Ergebnisse meiner Untersuchung zeigen allerdings, dass das Zusammenspiel zwischen dem Erbringen staatlicher Dienstleistungen und der wahrgenommenen Legitimität des Staates komplexer ist als oft angenommen. Die Fallstudie aus Nepal veranschaulicht dabei, wie bereits existierende Spaltungen in einer Gesellschaft durch die Bereitstellung von Kleinwasserkraftwerken nicht verringert wurden, sondern es Anzeichen gibt, dass diese Spaltung weiter befördert wurde.

Politische Konsequenzen

Die Erbringung staatlicher Dienstleistungen in der Form von Kleinwasserkraftwerken hatte sowohl positive als auch negative Auswirkungen auf den nepalesischen Friedensprozess. Wirtschaftliche Entwicklungen stehen dabei einer reduzierten Legitimität des Staates gegenüber. Eine gestärkte Gemeinschaft, einem schwächeren Staat.

Neben den spezifischen Ergebnissen, zeigt die Studie kritische politische Herausforderungen und Dilemmata auf. In vielerlei Hinsicht reflektiert dies die komplexe Natur internationaler Politik, insbesondere solcher, die sich mit Nachkriegsgesellschaften befasst. Darüber hinaus ist dies aber auch ein Ergebnis einer sich ständig ausweitenden Agenda internationaler Friedensförderung.

Diese Agenda hat sich innerhalb der letzten zwei Jahrzehnte erst in Richtung eines liberalen Friedens entwickelt, welcher als universales Rezept Demokratisierung und wirtschaftliche Liberalisierung in den Vordergrund rückte. Es folgte eine stärkere Einbeziehung internationaler Entwicklungshilfe, Indikatoren humaner Entwicklung sowie die Aufarbeitung von Kriegsverbrechen und einer Stärkung von Menschenrechten. Weitere Expansionen betreffen die Einbeziehung von Kinder- und Jugendrechten, geschlechtliche Gleichstellung und auch LGBT. Die nachhaltige Entwicklung natürlicher Ressourcen und der Schutz der Umwelt sind eine der letzten Hinzufügungen in dieser Hinsicht.

Brücke in Nepal

Malma im Baglung Distrikt. Bild von Florian Krampe

Die Ausweitung der Debatte internationaler Friedensförderung reflektiert die gestiegene Komplexität von dem, was ein friedliches gesellschaftliches Zusammenleben ausmacht – insbesondere in Nachkriegsländern und -zeiten. Allerdings verdeutlicht es auch, wie schwer es ist Erfolg und Misserfolg friedensbildender Maßnahmen zu erfassen. Viele der heutigen Friedensprozesse erleben eine Vielzahl unterschiedlicher Akteure und Interventionen, welche vermehrt interagieren und dabei unbeabsichtigte als auch ungewisse Ergebnisse erzeugen. Der Fall Nepal ist ein Beispiel von vielen.

Es ist klar, dass mehr Forschung benötigt wird, um die Komplexität und das Zusammenspiel unterschiedlicher friedensbildender Maßnahmen und insbesondere das Potential nachhaltigen Ressourcen Managements in Nachkriegsgesellschaften zu verstehen.

Die separate Betrachtung von Staat und Gesellschaft ist dabei wichtig. Aber wichtiger ist es noch, die Interaktionen zwischen diesen beiden essentiellen Komponenten einer friedlichen gesellschaftlichen Grundordnung zu verstehen. Die Stärkung lokaler Gemeinschaften und informeller Regierungsformen kann den Staat in Frage stellen und dabei die Stabilität des Gesellschaftsvertrages gefährden. Gleichwohl ist auch ein zu starker Staat, welcher die gesellschaftliche Entwicklung hemmt, wenig hilfreich. Es wird darauf ankommen, die richtige Balance zu finden. Die nachhaltige Entwicklung von Ressourcen und der Umwelt kann dazu beitragen, wenn denn die Auswirkungen richtig verstanden werden und alle Akteure die richtigen Konsequenzen daraus ziehen. Um nachhaltigen Frieden zu erreichen, werden ökologisch sensible Lösungen nötig, die ebenso sozial und politisch relevant sowie für Nachkriegsländer erwünscht sind.


Für tiefergehende Details und Zitiernachweisen siehe Krampe, Florian. 2016. “Empowering Peace: Service Provision and State legitimacy in Peacebuilding in Nepal.” Conflict, Security, and Development 16 (1), pp. 53-73.


Florian KrampeFlorian Krampe ist Politikwissenschaftler und spezialisiert sich dabei auf die Themenbereiche Friedens- und Konfliktforschung, Internationale Beziehungen und politische Ökologie am Department of Peace and Conflict Research der Universität Uppsala.

Empowering peace: service provision and state legitimacy in Nepal’s peace-building process

My new article Empowering peace: service provision and state legitimacy in Nepal’s peace-building process got just published in the journal Conflict, Security and Development:

There is growing demand for an understanding of peace beyond the absence of violence. As such research focuses increasingly on the issue of state legitimacy as a tool to assess and understand peace processes. In this paper the relationship between service provision and state legitimacy is studied to assess whether the provision of services like electricity to rural communities of war-torn countries through state actors contributes to the consolidation of the post-war political system. The qualitative analysis of two localities in post-war Nepal highlights that service provision in the form of electricity through micro-hydropower yields tremendously positive socio-economic effects for rural communities. However, socio-economic development in combination with interactions among villagers has strengthened local autonomy through emphasising alternative local governance structures. This highlights that the relationship between service provision and state legitimacy is more complex than previous research anticipates. The absence of a positive effect on state legitimacy raises the question of whether in its current case-specific form service provision is conducive to the broader peace-building efforts in post-war Nepal, because it stresses the divide between state and society.

Krampe, F. (2016). Empowering peace: service provision and state legitimacy in Nepal’s peace-building processConflict, Security & Development16(1), 53–73.

Impressions from fieldwork in Nepal

In September 2013 I conducted fieldwork for my dissertation in Baglung district in Nepal. These photos give a few impressions about the travel it took to reach the two communities in the western part of the district and about life and nature along the way. I have published two brief posts about the implications of this study for Carnegie Ethics Online and New Security Beats.

Creative Commons License
These photos are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Reflections on 13 years peacebuilding in Afghanistan

Hindu Kush mountain range.

Hindu Kush mountain range in Afghanistan. This photo is edited from the original licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

As the sun rose in the sky and glittered off the snow-capped mountains below us, Abdullah spoke with controlled passion of the travails his country had experienced. (…) Abdullah then went further than I had expected, stating that Afghanistan’s next leader should be a Pashtun and should come from outside the Northern Alliance. (…) “Did you have anyone in mind? I inquired. “Hamid Karzai would be an acceptable choice,” Abdullah suggested.

Dobbins, J. (2008). After the Taliban: Nation-building in Afghanistan. Dullers: Potomac Books. Pages 3-4

By the moment they had landed in Afghanistan in late November 2001, James Dobbins, (Bush administration’s representative to the Afghan opposition in the wake of September 11, 2001) and Abdullah Abdullah (Foreign Minister of the Northern Alliance’s government in Exile) had decided the political future of Afghanistan. Meanwhile US forces and the Northern Alliance were still fighting the Taliban on the ground. Actual peace talks between the different Afghan factions about the future of the Afghan state and people were still outstanding.

Today, almost 13 years after the invasion of Afghanistan by US forces and its international allies, most foreign troops have left Afghanistan. Afghans are left to govern themselves – at least as long as they agree to the U.S.-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). On 14 June 2014 its citizens were called to cast their votes in the search of a successor to Hamid Karzai. Having paved the way for Karzai in 2001, this time Abdullah Abdullah was running himself to become Afghan president. Thanks to James Dobbins, who was assigned back to Afghanistan in 2013, both candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai agreed to the provisions of the BSA. The elections that were hoped to consolidate the Afghan state and place the future of Afghanistan in the hands of its citizens have yet to produce a winner and are contested by the candidates themselves.

Meanwhile the Taliban are overrunning Kunduz! In short: peacebuilding in Afghanistan has failed!

The question is not if, but why peacebuilding in Afghanistan failed. And, what we can learn from this to change the way in which peacebuilding operates. I am neither the first one to claim that peacebuilding in Afghanistan has failed, nor do I count my self to those that foresaw the failure of this endeavour even before it had started in 2001. In this post I share my reflections about the peacebuilding process in Afghanistan and highlight what I believe are the key factors responsible for this invidious situation today. These reflections are based on my article The Liberal Trap – Peacemaking and Peacebuilding in Afghanistan after 9/11 in which I analyse the peace process in Afghanistan from 2001 till 2010.

Governing the life of Afghans

Today, Western international actors are expecting Afghans to govern themselves. Yet, in all those years of US-led peacebuilding in Afghanistan the international community did exactly the opposite. They governed the life of Afghans – of ordinary citizens and the elites! As Dobbin’s and Abdullah’s agreement above the Hindu Kush shows this process had already begun before the different Afghan factions were summoned to negotiate the future of Afghanistan in Bonn.

At the meeting in Bonn from 27 November 2001, eventually four Afghan factions negotiated under UN leadership the Bonn Agreement, the political framework for the coming years of Afghanistan. Yet, what was publicly presented as the place for Afghans to decide their future, was a carefully orchestrated event in which the different Afghan parties were controlled and regulated by the external actors, led by US diplomats around James Dobbins. The regulation and control of the agenda was at all times framed by the need to assist the Afghan parties to reach an agreement. Yet, instead of allowing Afghan factions to decide the future of their country, Dobbin’s thought narrow. He favoured stability before a comprehensive agreement that would be more just and legitimate in the eyes of the Afghan population. Dobbin’s peacebuilding agenda required Karzai’s government to be supported and accepted by the Afghan warlords, not the people. As argued by Dobbin’s, without that support, Karzai’s administration ‘wouldn’t have had much capacity to govern’ (interview James Dobbins 18 June 2010). ‘Every population centre in the country was under the control of one commander or another. There were only a few hundred American troops in the country. Karzai and his Government would be unable to exercise authority anywhere, not even in Kabul, without the cooperation and support of these commanders’ (interview James Dobbins 19 November 2010). Thus, statebuilding was given preference over other provisions in the process. As Dobbins explains: ‘the outcome of the meeting focused on governance, not accountability, but this was inherent in its purpose, not the result of external manipulation or advice’ (interview James Dobbins 19 November 2010).

From the very onset of the peacebuilding process the Western international actors, particularly the USA, were shaping and influencing the political transition process after their will. We have seen this in many peace processes before, from Bosnia and Kosovo, over Liberia to Sudan. Yet, in the wake of the neoliberal moulding of the new Afghan political elites, the peacebuilding process experienced something additional – increased intervention by international civil society. This involvement of civil society became stronger and eventually also influenced the state led peacebuilding. Indicative of a new trend in peacebuilding starting in the early 2000s, this new bottom-up approach of international NGOs and think tanks had significant influence, as for instance the role of International Crisis Group in Bosnia in 2001 shows. In Afghanistan the transitional justice community as self-appointed advocate of Afghan citizens objected to and criticised attempts by the Afghan government to develop autonomous policies to deal with transitional justice issues. The Afghan government attempted to promulgate a law on amnesty that would bring the peace process between the different Afghan faction forward, including the Taliban. Yet under pressure from international civil society actors Karzai did not sign the law until 2009, although it was passed by parliament in 2007.

These international civil society actors act on behalf of the Afghan people, in the believe that their policy solutions hold the answers to the problems faced by the Afghan people. They criticise external statebuilders, who clearly control the implementation priorities, for having narrowed their approach to security and statebuilding and to open the political agenda.

On the first sight this tension appears to be between top-down statebuilding by political elites versus bottom-up peacebuilding of the local people, and as such constitute a “hybrid” or post-liberal peace – terms Roger Mac Ginty and Oliver Richmond use to describe the outcomes of external, top-down interventions and local, critical agency. Yet, by closer examination international civil society actors are neglecting the fact that their influence on the process still represents an external intervention and consolidate the external regulation and governing of Afghan society – even though under the umbrella of good governance, peacebuilding and dealing with the past.

Also international civil society actors have been governing the life of Afghans the last decade!

Overcoming liberal ideology

The primary obstacle to building peace in Afghanistan, as well as other cases, has too often been seen in the tension between top-down and bottom-up approaches to building peace. However, concluding from studying the peacebuilding efforts in Afghanistan, we have to realise that the focus on these tensions diverts attention from the fact that all external actors to the peacebuilding process in Afghanistan have been imposing their agendas on the Afghan people. So why didn’t Western state and civil society actors give Afghanistan’s politicians and society the opportunity to govern themselves?

Since Dobbins and Abdullah decided the future of Afghanistan above the snow-capped mountains of the Hindu Kush, all western elites, comprising diplomats, policymakers and the human rights community in Afghanistan engaged in regulatory practices, treating the Afghan people and politicians as immature objects. We need to start to understand that peacebuilding, particular liberal peacebuilding, strives towards universal applicability of its cosmopolitan ideology and attempts to implement it through control and regulation of muted subjects. In todays peace-processes, first of all in Afghanistan, external political and civil society actors are to the same extend oppressing local agendas, disregard the sovereign rights of citizens and govern away their autonomy and sovereignty. Learning form the failure in Afghanistan, policymakers and scholars must recognise that peacebuilding as promoted today by the USA, is an ideology that is justifying intervention and social transformation and involves striving towards the total and universal applicability of its values.

It is high time that we reflect on the inconvenient consequences and inevitable conclusion that are intrinsic to these types of policies.


Dobbins, J. (2008). After the Taliban: Nation-building in Afghanistan. Dullers: Potomac Books. Pages 3-4

Eriksson, M., & Kostić, R. (2013). Mediation and Liberal Peacebuilding. Routledge.

Harooni, M. (2014). Afghan forces battle for control of symbolic Kunduz province. Reuters. Kabul 27 August 2014

Kostić, R. (2014). Transnational think-tanks: foot soldiers in the battlefield of ideas? Examining the role of the ICG in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2000–01. Third World Quarterly, 35(4), 634–651. doi:10.1080/01436597.2014.924065

Krampe, F. (2013). The liberal trap – Peacemaking and peacebuilding in Afghanistan after 9/11. In M. Eriksson & R. Kostić, Mediation and Liberal Peacebuilding (pp. 57–75). Routledge.

MacGinty, R. (2010). Hybrid Peace: The Interaction Between Top-Down and Bottom-Up Peace. Security Dialogue, 41(4), 391–412. doi:10.1177/0967010610374312

Richmond, O. P. (2011). A Post-Liberal Peace. London and New York: Routledge.

For an extensive analysis and critique of the Afghan peacebuilding process see Krampe, F. (2013). The liberal trap – Peacemaking and peacebuilding in Afghanistan after 9/11. In M. Eriksson & R. Kostić, Mediation and Liberal Peacebuilding (pp. 57–75). Routledge.

Nepal’s Micro-Hydropower Projects Have Surprising Effect on Peace Process


Riverside village in Nepal’s Baglung District, Nepal.

by Florian Krampe | published 14 May 2014, New Security Beats. Washington DC: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment, which has been rolling out in stages since last September, confirms a crucial divide in current climate thinking: efforts to adapt and mitigate to climate change are often considered separately from the vulnerability of people.

Climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability were covered by IPCC Working Group II, while Working Group III handled mitigation. Each group developed and released their reports separately. Why is this significant? Because in conflict and post-conflict societies, climate mitigation efforts can have significant impacts on existing tensions, sometimes even making them worse. It is therefore vitally important that policymakers understand these two sets of issues together and researchers build a better understanding of how they interact.

The Climate-Peacebuilding Nexus

Environmental issues in post-conflict societies have been paid more attention recently, as development and climate researchers and practitioners increasingly focus on the poor and vulnerable segments of society. This has been accompanied with a shift in the security community from a focus on state to human security. These changes have led to a higher profile for environmental issues in many post-conflict peacebuilding policies (e.g., Afghanistan).

While this is an important step to thinking about environmental issues and peacebuilding efforts together, research on the nexus of climate change adaptation and mitigation and their consequences for peacebuilding is almost nonexistent (an exception that looks closer at human security being the recent Wilson Center report, Backdraft: The Conflict Potential of Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation). How are our efforts to reduce the impact of climate change affecting post-conflict societies? In an attempt to add to this body of knowledge, I recently looked at the development of micro-hydropower systems in Nepal and assessed whether they contribute to building peace.

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