This roundtable draws on 4 cases to explore the thesis that international peace efforts have little influence but big impacts. In short, they tend to 1) fail, but 2) have profound, rupturing effects on the political landscape, which 3) may contribute to unforeseen peaceful outcomes in the long run.
International intervention in contemporary wars has been accused of imposing Western hegemony, securing Western interests and propelling the paradigm of liberal peace. This critique has spawned renewed interest in "vernacular" and "local" approaches to peace, and the forms of interaction, contestation and hybridity that emerge when international efforts "hit the ground". This roundtable takes issue with the common tendency to overestimate the hegemonic power, the significance and the foresight of international peace interventions (and then conclude this supposed hegemony yields a litany of failure). At the same time, it takes cognisance of the fact that such interventions often have enormous, often rupturing, impacts with sometimes quite enduring legacies. To navigate this apparent contradiction (while also seeking a middle ground between blind optimism and depressing cynicism), this roundtable explores an argument consisting of three components: 1) international peace efforts are rarely able to successfully engineer the outcomes they set out to achieve; 2) at the same time, they often have dramatic and enduring effects on the political landscape in which they intervene; and 3) in unintended and unforeseen ways, these effects may in fact contribute to peaceful outcomes in the long run. With this session, we will juxtapose our research on the long-term legacies of diverse international peace interventions (by regional hegemons, soft power mediators and large UN missions) in four countries: Cambodia (Howe), Solomon Islands (Hobbis), Sri Lanka (Klem) and Timor Leste (Smith). The roundtable comprises short inputs and comparative panel discussion followed by plenary Q&A.
The unintended role of externally-driven 'local' peacebuilding in Timor-Leste: disruption, resistance and political order in comparative perspective
Legacies of foreign peacebuilding in Solomon Islands: tales of gendered inequalities, political centralization and a distrusted police force