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Matheus de Abreu Costa Souza
Publicerad: 2024-02-28

Illiberal Peacebuilding

PORTRÄTT Illiberal Peacebuilding in UN Stabilization Peace Operations and Peace Agreements in the CAR, the DRC and Mali, International Peacekeeping, 2024

Bild: Mattias Pettersson
Matheus de Abreu Costa Souza

Authors: Geraldine Rosas Duarte & Matheus Souza 
DOI https://doi.org/10.1080/13533312.2023.2300135

What is the article about? 

Within the United Nations (UN), stabilisation peace operations, characterised by a heavy military footprint and active engagement in neutralising armed groups, have been authorised to support (often authoritarian) states in fighting non-state armed groups. These operations are often seen as indispensable for creating an environment which allows for the negotiation of more progressive and liberal peace agreements in the future. In this article, we sought to challenge this discourse by analysing UN stabilisation peace operations in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Mali, and the peace agreements that accompanied these interventions. We show in the article that the practices of stabilisation peace operations are highly shaped by illiberal norms. Moreover, we demonstrate that these illiberal norms are also reflected in the terms of peace agreements signed in the CAR, the DRC and Mali.

What is new in your findings? 

The article shares novel empirical findings alongside theoretical approaches to the field. Empirically, our primary finding reveals that the use of illiberal strategies and heavy military presence deployed in stabilisation missions fails to catalyse the negotiation of progressive and liberal peace agreements. Indeed, our findings demonstrate that illiberal norms such as socio-political exclusion, authoritarianism and violence are reflected both in the activities and mandates of stabilisation missions but also in the agreements brokered between the authoritarian national governments and non-state armed groups. Theoretically, we introduce an analytical framework that allows scholars to capture and examine illiberal norms and illiberal peacebuilding practices of UN peacekeepers—a group conventionally perceived as liberal peacebuilders in the literature.

Why is this an important subject to research?

UN peace operations have been the main international response to ongoing armed conflicts. Thus, it becomes imperative to evaluate the mandates, everyday practices and short- and long-term effectiveness of such interventions. Since the 2010s, the turn towards stabilisation peace operations has increased academic interest as scholars agree that those distance themselves from traditional liberal values and practices that used to shape previous UN peace operations. We see our article as helping to make sense of this shifting context by unveiling the illiberal practices and outcomes that are, directly or indirectly, encouraged by stabilisation peace operations and reflected in peace agreements that accompany these missions.

How did you conduct your research? 

The research was conducted mostly through desk research combined with findings from other academic sources. We analysed several UN documents to understand the mandates and activities carried out by UN peacekeepers on the ground, as well as the content of three peace agreements, which are the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the CAR (2019), the Agreement between the Government of DRC and the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Force (FRPI) (2020), and the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali (2015).

Who is going to benefit from the results? 

Our findings offer valuable insights for both researchers and policymakers. In the realm of research, this article serves to improve our understanding of the illiberal features of UN stabilisation missions. For policymakers, a central takeaway highlighted in the article is the ineffectiveness of employing illiberal strategies and norms—such as increased violence against non-state armed groups, socio-political exclusion, and support for authoritarian regimes—as means to achieve inclusive, progressive, and liberal peace agreements. Thus, our findings serve as an invitation for policymakers to reassess and recalibrate their approaches towards fostering sustainable and inclusive peace processes.

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