Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The U.S. in International Peacebuilding: UN Integrated Missions and the Development of Stabilization and Reconstruction Capabilities

Speakers: Espen Barth Eide (Deputy Minister of Defense for Norway)
Ambassador John Herbst (Coordinator of Office of Stabilization and Reconstruction)
James Dobbins: Director of International Security and Defense Policy Center, RAND
Moderator: Mark Malan (Peace building Program Officer, Refugees International)

The overall approach to peacekeeping has evolved since the end of the Cold War from military-heavy operations to stabilization and nation-building missions. The US in particular has begun to shift focus to integrated missions that encompass more multilateral efforts which attempt to deal with state-building challenges.

Minister Eide of Norway presented the case for a comprehensive approach to integrated peace missions, increasingly undertaken by his own government. There is a greater need to consolidate the military and civilian components of peacekeeping to deal with the lack of a holistic and coherent strategy. The UN now designates a Special Representative of the Secretary General as the senior coordinator in a given country, with the task of realigning all existing peace campaigns. This will hopefully prevent repetitive policies originating from different departments and agencies. The Minister fears that the result of US involvement in Iraq will be a general retraction from peacekeeping operations, which would diminish their capabilities.

Ambassador Herbst directly addressed the challenges of creating an American precedent in this newly developing field. The Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) was created in the State Department in February of this year. Herbst, the Coordinator of S/CRS, stressed that a whole-of-government approach is essential in defining the new role of US peacekeeping operations around the globe. He emphasized two mission objectives: (1) to create a unified approach to stabilization and (2) to deploy sufficient capabilities for nation-building. Inter-agency communication within the State Department, as well as with the Pentagon and other international reconstruction offices, is a new priority on the agenda.

Mr. Dobbins, highly critical of US peacekeeping efforts, argued that American officials ought to emulate the example of UN Peace Operations in places such as Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Liberia. These missions have proven more effective in stopping conflict as well as promoting democratic governance. The UN also spends far less money on peacekeeping than the US, and with far greater results. Author of A Beginner’s Guide to Nation-Building, Dobbins also heavily criticized the US’s ability to conduct this essential task despite having the most experience in the field, especially in the Middle East region.

Questions at the end of the discussion revealed a general sense of disillusionment with the use of US expertise in the field. I asked the Minister whether peacekeeping operations should take advantage of the field-experience of development agencies such as the UNDP, which has already established experienced Country Offices with comprehensive knowledge of the region. He wholeheartedly agreed that integration with UN agencies is essential, stressing that this was an essential part of the future of integrated missions.

Sponsor: Partnership for Effective Peacekeeping (PEP)
Location: CSIS, B1 Conference Center
Date: Wednesday May 23rd, 2007
Time: 15:00-17:00
Approximate Number of Attendees: 25
Intern Attending: Alexandra Martins

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