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Grawemeyer world order recipient says peacekeepers should know ‘root causes of war’

April 18th, 2007


Roland Paris

The world’s nations must do a better job of helping create a lasting peace in countries torn by civil war, says the winner of the 2007 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.

Roland Paris, a Canadian expert in international security and foreign policy, discussed his winning idea Tuesday at UofL.

An associate professor of public and international affairs at the University of Ottawa, Paris co-directs the Research Partnership on Postwar State-Building, a collaborative research project funded by the Carnegie Corporation involving 14 scholars from six countries.

He won the Grawemeyer world order award in November for the ideas set forth in his 2004 book, “At War’s End: Building Peace After Civil Conflict.”

“A cease-fire is just the beginning of the peace-building process,” said Paris, who analyzed peacekeeping efforts by the United Nations and other groups that followed civil wars in 18 countries from 1989 to 1999.

For years, peacekeeping has focused on the assumption that creating free elections and a free market economy in a nation would stabilize post-war nations, Paris said.

“But as important as these steps are, he said, they tend to have varied results.”

For example, the approach did not “take” in two countries with long-standing patterns of repression and rebellion, Liberia and Cambodia. In both cases, peacekeeping officials assumed that administering “a quick dose of democracy” would bring about peace.

But in Liberia, one candidate in a free election set up by the peacekeepers realized he was losing, broke away from the process and became a despot, he said. And in Cambodia, the principles of democracy set in place turned out to be “only skin deep.”

Unless peacekeeping deals with the underlying causes of conflict, nations that have had civil wars are likely to slip right back into their previous conflicts, he said.

“We need to spend more time trying to understand the root causes of wars in the countries we are trying to help,” Paris said. “We need to ask, ‘Is there a serious gap between rich and poor?’ ‘Is there a full-scale religious conflict?’”

Those trying to build peace also should focus less on the trappings of democracy and more on the rules and institutions that make democracy work, Paris added.

“Building peace is a long-term enterprise. You can’t just go into a country that has never had it, start it up and leave.”

For example, it is critical to train police and establish laws in countries recovering from war if they are to “achieve a sustainable peace,” he said.

The situation in Iraq is not a typical peacekeeping operation since civil war broke out there after the country was invaded, he said. However, when Saddam Hussein’s regime collapsed, the United States did not have enough of a presence to establish order and now there is a full-scale religious conflict.

“When the statue of Saddam was pulled down, no one seemed to think ahead to what would happen next.”

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