Consolidating Peace after
Civil War


Copyright © Timothy D. Sisk 2013
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First published in 2013 by Polity Press
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About the Author
1.   Civil War and Post-War Fragility
2.   The State into the Twenty-first Century
3.   International Engagement for Statebuilding after Civil War
4.   Authority: Imperatives of Security
5.   Capacity: Creating the Conditions for Development
6.   Legitimacy: Toward a Democratic State
7.   Strengthening the International Statebuilding Regime

About the Author

Timothy D. Sisk is Professor and Associate Dean for Research at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, and an Associate Fellow of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy in Geneva, Switzerland. He specializes in the comparative politics of war-torn countries and international conflict management efforts in them.

His research focuses on democracy and governance and the management of conflict in deeply divided societies, especially those emerging from civil war. He has conducted extensive research consultancies on the role of international and regional organizations, particularly related to or for the United Nations, in peace operations, peacemaking, and peacebuilding.

Sisk is the author of International Mediation in Civil Wars: Bargaining with Bullets (Routledge, 2009) and Democratization in South Africa: The Elusive Social Contract (Princeton University Press, 1995). He is the editor of the 2012 edited volume, Between Terror and Tolerance: Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding (Georgetown University Press). Other recent books for which he is co-editor are: From War to Democracy: Dilemmas of Peacebuilding (with Anna Jarstad, Cambridge University Press, 2008) and The Dilemmas of Statebuilding: Confronting the Contradictions of Postwar Peace Operations (with Roland Paris, Routledge, 2009). He is a former editor of the journal of the Academic Council of the United Nations System (ACUNS), Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations.

Prior to joining the University of Denver in 1998, Sisk was a Program Officer and Research Scholar in the Grant Program of the United States Institute of Peace and, prior to that, a professional staff member for United States Senator Dale Bumpers of Arkansas. He earned a PhD “with distinction” in political science from The George Washington University in 1992 and an MA in International Journalism (1984) and a BA in Foreign Service and German (1982) from Baylor University.


The Libyan civil war of 2011 – which ended with the bloody ousting of the longstanding autocratic regime of Col. Moammar Qadhafi – underscores that the end of civil war does not automatically lead to the consolidation of peace. Indeed, for more than 40 years, the dictator Qadhafi had systematically inhibited the capacities of formalized state institutions, and instead he ruled through family, tribal, and other personalistic ties in the form of a “General People’s Committee.” He maintained his coercive grip on society mostly through informal networks and loose militias and, with these and other clients (including international mercenaries), Qadhafi managed a “distributive state” based on crafty distribution of the country’s vast oil rents (Vandewalle 2006). Thus, when he was gruesomely killed on October 20, 2011, at the hands of rebel fighters on the final battlefield of war in Sirte and the insurgent National Transitional Council (NTC) emerged fully victorious, only the first step of the struggle for peace in Libya had been won … for the rebels, there was really no state to inherit.

After the end of the civil war in Libya, the country started with no integrated military establishment, no professional civil service, few institutions of justice and the rule of law, and no local or decentralized government to deliver basic services. The transitional government operated in a vacuum of authority, and for some time anarchy reigned as pro-Qadhafi forces fled, mostly tribally based insurgent militias took to the streets, and the Libyan state essentially ceased to function.1 After the victory over the loyalist forces, it was clear that an urgent yet long-term requirement was the need to build a new core pillar of the state, from the disparate elements of the revolutionary forces: the security forces.

Equally pressing in the immediate post-war moment, however, was the need to engage in a political process to legitimize the victorious rebel regime through rapid elections that could give the NTC a formal, legal basis as the custodians of the Libyan state. In June 2012, Libyans did go to the polls in, remarkably, mostly free elections (with the exception of eastern Libya, and especially the city of Benghazi, where violence and boycott threats disrupted the poll) to elect a new assembly that would serve as both an interim government and as a constitution-making body – the National Congress – as a process through which the state would be reconceived and reformed and a new social contract negotiated. Following the elections, outgoing United Nations envoy Ian Martin, head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), addressing the UN Security Council in July 2012, after the elections, continued to put the focus in Libya on the long task of statebuilding:

There is no underestimating the challenges and the expectations which the new government will face. Foremost among those is security – the issue which all agree was uppermost in the minds of voters. Contrary to some reporting, Libya’s revolutionary brigades do not seek to remain in separate existence and to challenge state authority, but a government with full legitimacy and a longer time-horizon has been awaited to address their future. Libya’s citizens overwhelmingly want the rule of law to prevail, in a weapons-free environment, where police respond to crime, and only state authorities arrest and detain suspects. Where local conflicts erupt, they want the rapid deployment of neutral, trusted security forces to maintain peace while underlying causes are addressed. Especially in the South, they want Libya’s borders to be secured against the trafficking of persons, drugs and weapons.2

The challenge of stability in post-war Libya is reflective of a broader realization in post-civil war countries that statebuilding is the telos (or end goal) of consolidating peace. The statebuilding approach puts the social contract between citizen and the state at the forefront of long-term efforts to create the conditions for the management of conflicts within societies and for the provision of public goods necessary for their prosperity. In practice, this means focusing on the ability of the state to rule with authority or to provide internal security across its territory, to have the capacity to implement the rule of law, provide justice, deliver essential services needed for development, and enjoy the legitimacy that emanates from its being responsive to citizen demands. This book is about the global governance regime that emerged in the 1990s and through into the 2000s and 2010s based on the international efforts to consolidate peace after civil wars.

I would first like to thank Dr Louise Knight of Polity Press for suggesting the need for this book on statebuilding for the series on “War and Conflict in the Modern World.” Her instigation is very much the inspiration for putting proverbial pen to paper on a topic that is much debated, but often with little conceptual clarity or an appreciation for the practical difficulties of the statebuilding enterprise. Together with David Winters at the Press, they have been exceedingly helpful (and patient!) as this book has come together. I am particularly grateful to two anonymous reviewers of an early draft of the text, and their insightful comments and helpful suggestions were absolutely invaluable in so many ways.

During 2007–2009, I was a consultant to the United Nations Development Program Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, when I worked closely with their seasoned and senior practitioners on the statebuilding themes from a UNDP perspective. Especially critical in furthering insights and guidance on statebuilding has been the always engaging and enlightening work in partnership with Senior Governance Advisor Eugenia Piza-Lopez and program specialist Dr Jago Salmon, together with countless UNDP practitioners who shared their experiences, frustrations, and successes on the front line of the statebuilding endeavors in the research work for the UNDP. My impression from working with the UNDP professionals is reflected in this book in many ways, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have learned and worked with such dedicated, committed, and most impressive international public servants.

I am also grateful to the Carnegie Corporation of New York for their support of two projects on statebuilding, both with Professor Roland Paris of the University of Ottawa; in particular, the Corporation supported a two-year, multifaceted research project on “Sustainable Approaches to Statebuilding” through which much of the research on this project was conducted. Particularly, at the Carnegie Corporation, I am grateful to Dr Stephen J. Del Rosso, Jr, for his personal support of this work and the broader program there on states at risk; many of the works cited in this book are the products of the Corporation’s grant-making in this area. The Henry Luce Foundation’s Initiative on Religion and International Affairs has graciously supported my research on divided societies and religious bodies and movements as informal institutions that are part and parcel of the debates on social cohesion reflected in chapter 4.

While I am deeply indebted to each of these supporters of my research on statebuilding, the views reflected herein are my own.

Timothy D. Sisk
Denver, Colorado
September 20, 2012



Common Country Assessment


Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women


International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala


Comprehensive Peace Agreement (Sudan)


Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration


Department of Economic and Social Affairs (United Nations)


Department for International Development (United Kingdom)


Development Partnership Administration (India)


Democratic Republic of Congo


Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative


Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front


European Union Force (Bosnia)


Food and Agriculture Organization


Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia


Foreign Direct Investment


Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda


Front for National Liberation (Burundi)


International Criminal Court


International Commission on State Sovereignty


Integrated Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Standards


International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance


Implementation Force (Bosnia)


International Non-governmental Organization


Internal Security Forces (Lebanon)


Lord’s Resistance Army (Uganda)


Millennium Development Goals


United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC


North Atlantic Treaty Organization


Non-governmental Organization


National Transitional Council (Libya)


Organization for Cooperation and Development-Development Cooperation Directorate


Office of the Quartet Representative


Kurdish Workers Party


Proportional Representation


Provincial Reconstruction Team


Responsibility to Protect


Mozambique National Resistance Organization


Stabilization Force (Bosnia)


Single Non-transferable Vote


Sudan People’s Liberation Army


Security Sector Reform


Uppsala Conflict Data Program


United Kingdom


United Nations


United Nations Hybrid Mission in Darfur


United Nations Development Program


United Nations Environment Program


United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees


United Nations Mission in Liberia


United Nations Mission in Nepal


United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire


United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime


United Nations Protection Force (Bosnia)


United Nations Security Council


United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon


United Nations Support Mission in Libya


United States Agency for International Development


World Development Report (World Bank)


Following civil war, statebuilding is the creation or recovery of the authoritative, legitimate, and capable governance institutions that can provide for security and the necessary rule-of-law conditions for economic and social development. State capacities and governance capabilities are essential: while there is good reason to foster reconciliation at the societal level, ultimately the extent of peace consolidation is based on the building of a state that is socially accepted as a legitimate, accountable arbiter of social differences and a provider of critical public goods. Statebuilding has become an overarching concept to security and development in fragile states that envisages the improvement in governance institutions and processes at the national and local level as a way to channel and manage social conflicts away from the battlefield or streets and into regularized processes of non-violent resolution of social conflict through professional public administration, elections and parliamentary politics, and through participation and voice of citizens.

From the perspectives of outsiders, like the United Nations and multilateral and bilateral development partners, who seek to support post-war recovery through peacekeeping interventions and through development aid, the statebuilding approach takes advantage of the windows of opportunity that post-war transitions present to recreate or reform the state to prevent the recurrence of conflict and to promote human development in often deeply unequal or poor countries.1 This ambitious goal raises the principal question this book addresses: How can external engagement in post-war countries help build authoritative, capable, and legitimate states as a strategic approach to peace consolidation, thereby creating an enabling environment for development and democracy to mitigate the underlying drivers of conflict in the long run?

In this book, I argue that the contemporary statebuilding approach, and its concomitant areas of policy and practice, encapsulates the teleological end-state of international efforts to consolidate peace after civil war. However, the international community’s approach – particularly by leading human rights, norm-driven actors such as the United Nations – must balance the lofty goal of “local ownership” of statebuilding processes with an explicit and sometimes very assertive liberal interventionist agenda of promoting a human rights-based approach to development and to democracy. While statebuilding is in theory the route to peace consolidation in situations of fragility, this enterprise can only be successful into the twenty-first century if the state that is built is one that is able to advance human rights-based development for the poorest and most marginalized sections of society, and a state that is built on a democratic social contract that links state legitimacy to participation and accountability by the people. International intervention for statebuilding is transformative, as many traditional and war-time informal institutions of governance persist, and outside actors must sometimes act with resolve and fortitude to advance international norms and standards of human rights and democracy.

Civil War and Post-War Fragility

Civil wars within states present global problems: as in Libya, they often see gross crimes against humanity in the form of attacks on civilians and near-genocidal killing; moreover, conflicts spill over with deleterious effects on neighboring states and regions, and they present man-made humanitarian emergencies that prompt international intervention to protect civilians and deliver relief (Wheeler 2000; Barnett 2011). Consequently, civil wars are at the forefront of the international security and development agendas into the twenty-first century. With the rise in the prevalence of internal conflicts that began in the post-Cold War era, and the fragile states and societies they leave behind, post-civil war statebuilding has risen to the very top of the international peace and security agenda. From top-level priorities at the United Nations, to global humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Save the Children, to the National Security Strategy of great powers such as the United States, countries that are vulnerable to armed conflict are an ever-present threat to international peace and security. Statebuilding has equally come to the top of global development agendas with the realization that progress in development is inhibited by conflict, and that fragile and conflict-affected countries are precisely those that are not making progress toward the 2000–15 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).2

While civil wars in faraway places do not necessarily pose direct security threats to the great powers such as the United States, they do present global deep-seated humanitarian challenges and indirect security challenges emanating from lawlessness or the effects of disorder (Patrick 2011). Consequently, in the last 20 years, the problem of internal conflict has precipitated the evolution of a broader system of international and regional response mechanisms by the leading states in the international system, the United Nations, regional organizations, multilateral and bilateral development aid agencies, and global civil society organizations to prevent and manage the effects of conflict and to build peace in war-torn countries. At the UN, as an outcome of the so-called High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change, a major institutional shift occurred with the creation of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, the Peacebuilding Support Office, and the UN Peacebuilding Fund.

In responding to the problems that civil wars pose to global peace and security, the international community has turned its attention beyond short-term, crisis-response remedies such as humanitarian intervention, peacemaking (negotiating peace agreements; see Crocker et al. 2004), and peacekeeping, to long-term approaches that emphasize direct efforts to build state capacities in post-war contexts: statebuilding. In the wake of war, the root causes that underlie the turn to conflict in the first place are often inadequately addressed. These conflict-related legacies continue to have a detrimental effect on the population’s safety, livelihoods, and opportunities for development. In sum, without progress on statebuilding and a new social contract, war-torn countries may well become trapped in vicious cycles of conflict: one of the most robust and recurrent findings from scholarly research presented in this book is that countries that experience civil war are more likely to fall victim to conflict in the future (see chapter 1).

Today, nearly 60 mostly post-war states out of 193 in the international system, populated by more than 1.5 billion people, are considered “fragile” or vulnerable to debilitating violence that in turn undermines prospects for development (World Bank 2011). The Organization for Development Cooperation-Development Coordination Directorate (OECD-DAC), the club of mostly Western donor agencies, defines fragility with this carefully honed definition: “States are fragile when state structures lack political will and/or capacity to provide the basic functions needed for poverty reduction, development and to safeguard the security and human rights of their populations.”3 The conflict trap of fragility at the societal level is in turn fueled and reinforced by weak, inept, or corrupt governments that fail to deliver basic security or essential services such as education, health care, or water and sanitation, the essential elements of long-term development. Because the aftermath of war leaves countries highly vulnerable to renewed or recurrent cycles of crisis conflict, they are today commonly and collectively – and sometimes contentiously – referred to as the “fragile states.”4

In addition, these fragile countries will face enormous new economic and social pressures in the years ahead, and climate change, scarcity, and inequality may come together to fuel new wars in the future (United Nations Environment Program, UNEP, 2004).5 There are good reasons to be concerned that future global shifts such as the effects of climate change will lead to new climate-induced conflicts prompted by migration, localized scarcity conflicts, rapid urbanization, and group-based inequalities (Hegre et al. 2009). Indeed, influential observers once in the United States government have argued that fragile states will continue to be a global security concern well into the twenty-first century (Krasner and Pascual 2005).6

Consolidating Peace: From Peacebuilding to Statebuilding

In the now-landmark 1992 Agenda for Peace, a document drafted by then UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali following the first-ever summit at the level of heads of state of the UN Security Council (UNSC), the term “peace-building” was coined as an initial approach to address the problems that post-civil war countries face (Boutros-Ghali 1992). Peacebuilding – preventing the recurrence of conflict and beginning to address its root causes – is primarily about implementing peace agreements and fostering reconciliation (Sandole 2011). Statebuilding, as such, is a specific approach to peacebuilding that sees improvements in government capacities to deliver on security and development aims as a long-term linchpin to consolidating peace and solidifying the institutions and processes of governance to create the conditions for societies to sustainably develop and prosper on their own. In this vein, statebuilding is a complementary approach to peacebuilding, and while they are not synonymous (and can even be contradictory when short-term stabilization leaves warlords and militias empowered, which may work against long-term consolidation of state authority), the peacebuilding and statebuilding terms are in many ways aimed at addressing the same challenges in post-war contexts (Wyeth and Sisk 2009; Rocha Menocal 2009), albeit perhaps with slightly different time horizons.

Historically, the formation of states and the centralization of governance authority in the state were essentially internal or endogenous processes through which dominant elites expanded power and authority and developed capacities through consent (e.g., through taxation and other revenue raising) to eventually become the sole source of legitimate use of coercion in a country (following Weber and others; see chapter 2). States were formed and consolidated, in large part, in response to internal threats and internal grand projects to construct nations under single governmental authority. In this sense, statebuilding is a highly political process through which national-level government institutions prevail over rebel groups, warlords, and hereditary authority (such as religious authorities, chiefs, and traditional leaders), in a consolidated territory, and which is recognized internationally as enjoying legal sovereignty. The consolidation of state power in the Western world, and in countries like China, took centuries of often internal violent struggles between the would-be state and its contenders – criminals and warlords, insurgents, separatists, and insurgents – as well as external wars with aggressive external foes such as neighbors or would-be colonizers.

Over time, the state as a sovereign emerged through the gradual expansion of capacities: protecting the state from outside threats, revenue raising and spending on citizens in an implicit exchange relationship, institutional development of ministries, agencies, and regulatory bodies, and formation and reformation of justice-providing structures into a rationalized, legal order, approximating the consolidated states that govern much of the globe today. Similarly, many countries evolved over time from authoritarian regime types to democratic states, a non-linear process which is still ongoing even though there are more democracies in the world today than ever before; some, such as Amartya Sen, have convincingly argued that democracy has become a “universal value” (1999).

Today, statebuilding in fragile states is mostly endogenous, as before, but it also involves no small measure of external intervention and post-war assistance to aid post-war regimes to consolidate authority. Thus, statebuilding today has an expanded and arguably different connotation, reflecting both internal, domestic dynamics of post-war governance and outside military intervention (for example, through peacekeeping) and development aid. “Statebuilding” in contemporary parlance – sometimes known as “international statebuilding” to reflect the prominent role that outsiders play in such processes – is very much about the interactions of internal and external or international efforts to essentially expedite and indeed shape endogenous processes with external involvement to end wars, primarily through military interventions, and through post-war development aid flows and technical assistance (human resource expertise). In today’s world, international actors seek to shape the type of state that is built to ensure domestic alignment with international norms, such as the rights of women, minorities, or vulnerable elements in the population such as those with disabilities … and through norms that suggest a global right to good governance and democracy (see chapter 6).

It is in this sense that statebuilding has emerged since the late 1990s and into the present century as a principal strategic perspective that creates common ground between security and development agendas for consolidating peace in countries emerging from civil war. From a security perspective, statebuilding is the end goal of efforts to stabilize war-torn countries and create a sole, legitimate authority that can be held accountable internally and internationally. From a development perspective, statebuilding sees the need for an authoritative government under the rule of law as a precondition for gains in economic growth and in human development.

The conviction underlying the modern statebuilding concept is that outsiders can assist essentially domestic processes of statebuilding. The statebuilding approach is guided by an acknowledgment that states are built mostly from within and that international assistance must depart from the principle of “local ownership” in trying to assist statebuilding efforts after civil war. Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Chair of the Secretary-General’s Senior Advisory Group for the Review of International Civilian Capacities (described in chapter 7) asserts that “international assistance has to identify, protect and nurture latent national capabilities, in short, that it must build on what is already there, not start from a blank slate.”7

This dedication to the principle of local ownership, however well-intentioned, is fraught with problems. Local ownership, a concept with its origins in approaches to community-level development, is difficult in practice when outsiders meet the realities of post-war environments, where the scope of the challenge of humanitarian catastrophe and recovery is immense, where local ruling elites may act in a predatory way, and where there is deep social distrust of the state to begin with. These vexatious questions have led scholars to evaluate the statebuilding enterprise in terms of a set of dilemmas at the intersection of the international system and the messy realities of local context (these questions are considered more fully in chapter 3). These dilemmas are especially acute when international interveners must engage and negotiate with non-state armed actors whose commitment to peace is often questionable (Henri Dunant Center 2010).

Statebuilding is a complex and problematic process. In many cases, statebuilding is a vexatious effort because elites at the top are often predatory or ethnically focused, state authorities are neglectful or inept, and there is little trust in these fledgling institutions; instead, security is provided (if at all) by traditional chiefs and clan leaders, armed militias and insurgents, or criminal networks, and development is stagnant with little hope for improved livelihoods. Although statebuilding is the common and often implicit goal of international organizations, development agencies, and transnational NGOs, there is little consensus about how international organizations or states acting alone, through external military interventions (to provide security) and aid instruments (to enable development), can conceivably accomplish such an ambitious and inherently political aim.

For outsiders, dilemmas of approach and action abound, approaches diverge, there is often little coherence and coordination among international entities (Paris 2009). Interventions are costly and sometimes indeterminate, and heavy-handed approaches by international interveners can backfire. Moreover, there are few clear answers to the core questions of how to avoid the risks in enabling state capacities – preventing states from being captured by predatory elites, ethnic factions, or leaders that turn out to be authoritarian – and how to effectively use aid to create the incentives for states that are accountable to their own people, not outsiders. And, in the immediate aftermath of conflict, it may be more efficient and effective to deliver aid through informal networks, such as religious organizations or faith-based NGOs, that may not share international agendas on issues such as gender equality. The debates about statebuilding play out in international organizations, today’s great and emerging powers, and most significantly in those societies struggling to create new governments to meet security, development, and democracy aspirations after war.

Thus, in the twenty-first century, statebuilding involves a constant and perhaps unending search for an appropriate balance between an endogenous, locally driven process that is internally “owned” by the recognized government – and, ostensibly, the “people” – and one in which international actors assertively and without excuse advance global norms. In short, statebuilding cannot be a value-neutral endeavor based solely in the principle of “local ownership:” it should have a clearly transformative agenda as well if the goal of universal peace and security is to be pursued.

About this Book

This book explores the challenges of civil war and the responses that have emerged to try to reverse cycles of conflict and underdevelopment through an emphasis on building the capacity of post-war states to extend their autonomy, authority, capacity, and legitimacy. The challenges and dilemmas the statebuilding approach presents are reflected in several critical questions that get at the heart of contemporary issues in war and peace.

•  How can a viable, functioning state be built in the aftermath of civil war as a strategic approach to consolidating peace in the long term?
•  What are the conditions under which, in practice, governance reform in fragile countries can create the underlying conditions that are needed for development – security, education, health care, water and sanitation, and livelihoods – which in turn can reverse vicious cycles to help stimulate a virtuous cycle of peace and development?
•  How can outsiders constructively assist inherently domestic processes of building the authority, legitimacy, and capacity of states … especially when these post-war governments are typically weak, captured, or corrupt?

The objective of this book is to introduce and explore prevailing concepts, discourse, debates, and dilemmas of statebuilding. Drawing on scholarly and practitioner literatures and on a wide array of examples from every major world region, the book introduces the reader to the strategic, practical, and ethical issues in contemporary statebuilding. Special topics considered in the book include issues such as advancing women’s rights and livelihoods, inclusion and participation of marginalized and vulnerable groups, the role of informal authorities such as tribal, clan, or religious leaders, and the opportunities and sometimes disappointment of efforts to build local capacities.

The book presents some of the prevailing scholarly and practitioner literatures on statebuilding to introduce the reader to the principal themes and areas of practice now found in international organizations, leading states, bilateral and multilateral development aid agencies, and NGOs. There is a strong reliance in these pages on the analysis and reflection of various practitioners, as seen in the material drawn from international organizations such as the UN and the OECD-DAC, which have invested considerably in reflection on lessons learned and on their analysis of both challenges and solutions to the statebuilding conundrums. In general, I have found the research methods and findings of these organizations to be genuine and robust, albeit with perhaps an institutional bias to present a more positive spin on their own roles and programs. On the other hand, I have also tried to include those voices – typically, scholars and advocacy groups – who have challenged the assumptions on which international organizations work and who have offered critical views of orthodox statebuilding approaches and practices.

The disadvantage of the methods employed here are that much of the present scholarship and policy reflection on these matters lacks a systematic way to ascertain how the 1.5 billion people who live in fragile countries see the role of the state and its authority, capacity, and legitimacy. For many, the state may in fact be a very distant reality that has little bearing on their security or their livelihoods. While some philanthropic foundations have begun to seed research that explores how those living in situations of insecurity or deprivation see the statebuilding efforts, there is little ability to generalize on popular views toward what are often global-level debates and processes that take place in faraway centers of international power or in capitals that are very distant from their own front-line realities of living in conditions of “fragility.”

A second disadvantage may be that the scope of the topic is vast – from rebuilding Somalia’s central state, to extending local government in Guatemala, to creating a “tax-mediated” social contract in Afghanistan – such that it is difficult within so few pages to go in depth into specific cases or to fully show the variance of context and culture. To mitigate this problem, I have sought to include reference to examples to allow the reader to go into greater depth in any particular example or country-level case study.

Chapter 1 presents the current context for the focus on statbuilding by introducing trends in armed conflict, violence, and state fragility in the twenty-first century. We begin by first looking at the pattern of armed conflicts and their termination since the end of the Cold War, and the security, humanitarian, and development challenges that post-war, fragile states pose to the international system. The chapter presents some of the leading theories on the underlying drivers of internal conflict and civil war in terms of their root causes, the ways in which patterns of war termination – military victory or negotiated settlement – affect the starting points for post-war recovery, and the consequences of conflict for the post-war period as a way to unpack the syndrome of fragility.

Chapter 2 defines and delineates conceptual approaches to statebuilding by exploring its origins in core theories of the state that emerged as a consequence of historical patterns in Western Europe, countries such as China, and statebuilding in post-colonial contexts. The statebuilding notion is grounded in the need for authority to enforce the rule of law, the need for a “tax-mediated social contract” between state and society, the capacity to govern in pursuit of providing for citizen or human security and in creating the conditions for economic and social development, and legitimacy through popular participation in terms of state–society relations.

In Chapter 3, I present some of the leading debates on the tension between international liberal order based on human rights and global norms and engagement in the messy realities of post-war countries – interventions which Roland Paris has thoughtfully termed a colonization-like mission civilisatrice, or a “civilizing mission” (2002). The chapter summarizes some of the scholarly and practitioner debates on contemporary approaches to statebuilding, and it highlights the dilemmas of action that emerge in complex international–domestic interactions. It grapples with how to conceptualize the notion of state autonomy, or the ability of a state to implement its own vision and goals, in the face of broad-based and sometimes heavy-handed international engagement. In many ways, these issues of the purpose and limits of international intervention are at the very heart of the transformation of the international system into the twenty-first century.

In chapters 4 through 6, the conceptual approach developed in chapter 2 organizes the subsequent analysis of the dimensions and practical tasks of statebuilding. Chapter 4 focuses on a first-order priority: the imperative of security and the consolidation and extension of state authority. It investigates the importance of a “security-first” perspective to statebuilding and the ways in which securing the state and extending its authority are the primary concerns for local protagonists and international interveners alike. In this chapter, I argue that security sector reform must be holistically conceptualized, and that other goals of statebuilding will prove elusive without security advances. The chapter explores the impetus for intervention by the international community – either through the UN, or in some cases by external military forces of leading states through “coalitions of the willing” – when states fail to effectively govern their territory and the vacuum or misuse of power leads to mass atrocities that pose broader security threats and humanitarian aid costs to the entire international community. Consolidating authority and realizing security are pursued through two mechanisms: disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of armed, non-state forces such as rebel groups, and the restructuring and sometimes wholesale recreation of the security sector (armies and police forces). The chapter ends with a look at emerging approaches to security with a focus on community-level social cohesion and proliferating conflict management capacities at the local level.

Chapter 5 turns from security and authority to development and state capacity to deliver basic services. A critical objective of statebuilding is to create the conditions through which the state can foster development through the macroeconomic chapter 1