Emerging actors in international peacebuilding and statebuilding: status quo or critical states?

Author:Richmond, Oliver P.

Emerging actors in peacebuilding are generating a slow transformation of the norms and praxes of international peacebuilding, statebuilding, and development. Although each of the emerging donors have different contexts, approaches, motives, and methodologies, their power, influence, and--crucially--their nonadherence to the principles of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have attracted scepticism and criticism from traditional donors. This article highlights the nuances of donors' engagement with peacebuilding and statebuilding. It examines whether they are critical or status quo states and what the implications are for practices of intervention. KEYWORDS: BRICS, peacebuilding, statebuilding.


OLD AND NEW DONORS--GENERALLY MEANING BRAZIL, RUSSIA, INDIA, CHINA, and South Africa (BRICS) and other rapidly developing states such as Turkey, Indonesia, Mexico, and the Gulf states--all concur on the centrality of the sovereign state, the international community, and peacebuilding, statebuilding, and development. Yet they have differing views on their substance. These practices have until recently been run by a core of Western and Northern donors through the UN system. The newly emerging donors including the BRICS, now often broken down into India, Brazil, and South Africa (IBSA), (1) are a heterogeneous group of states and their international influence is steadily increasing. They vary widely and do not form a revisionist bloc, but it is noticeable that they have all taken note of the UN, European Union (EU), World Bank, and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) peacebuilding, statebuilding, and development agendas and have become increasingly proactive around them. Even if they also support either the liberal peace or a basic liberal international order, their complex--and, partly, postcolonial--position indicates that they also aim to protect their sovereignty, seek status, and want increased power to displace the Northern-centric influence in world politics.

In this article, we examine the impact of the newly self-confident and internationally engaged emerging donors on the loosely framed liberal peace-building paradigm. (2) We characterize these states' possible roles in theoretical terms before turning to empirical evidence about their development in terms of domestic policy and practices abroad.

Status Quo or Critical States?

Liberal peacebuilding rests on security, development, humanitarian assistance, governance, and the rule of law and entails the promotion of democracy, market-based economic reforms, and institution building. (3) Yet its dependence on Northern support, force, and conditionality; its ideological cooptation by neoliberalism; its focus on territorial sovereignty and statehood; and its inability to contextually address the needs of local populations have been the target of much criticism. (4)

There are three main positions that emerging donors may take vis-a-vis the existing international peacebuilding architecture. First, they may be characterized as status quo states that find a role with some added value within the liberal/neoliberal peace system according to their own interests. Second, they may be critical states, which seek to challenge and improve that system while working from within it. Though this may be somewhat similar to revisionist debates in international relations whereby hegemony, capitalism, and international injustice are challenged, the subject is more specifically peacebuilding, statebuilding, and development than the revision of the international system itself. (5) This might be characterized as a Westphalian versus post-Westphalian position insofar as the liberal peace was an attempt to develop an international peace architecture beyond the nation-state with solidarist qualities, while concerns about the need to both preserve and transcend sovereignty remain. (6) A third option may be the complete replacement of the international system, but this does not appear broadly applicable.

The first option raises coordination and efficiency issues for the international community; the second offers more significant ethical, ideological, material, and influence challenges. The second option is contradictory for emerging donors because it requires them to accept the praxis associated with the liberal peace, with global governance, and with neoliberalism while also being aware of its limitations and the need for reform. It requires that they reflect on their own history as subjects of colonialism (Brazil, India), or of authoritarian political systems (Brazil, China, Russia, South Africa, as well as South Korea and Turkey), opponents of neoliberalism or capitalism (Brazil, India, and China at various times), or more generally as developing countries subject to external conditionality (all emerging donors). Indeed, while the BRICS and other emerging donors like Japan, South Korea, Turkey, and Qatar adopt the Western best practice in their efforts to reach out and learn from the experience of Western aid agencies, they also recalibrate their approaches to suit their interests, agendas, and priorities. The third option has not yet arisen among emerging donors, all of which work within or at least around the edges of the current system.

Old and new donors agree that domestic and international stability is a priority, though the detail of what this may mean or how it may be achieved is fraught. There may be different stances on justice, accountability, transparency and, in the light of experiences with structural adjustment programs in the 1980s, different attitudes toward the role of conditionality. (7) Likewise, benchmarks from the OECD, or the indexing of failed states are seen as problematic. The BRICS have not signed up for the Busan "New Deal" for these reasons. (8) This significantly modifies the potential claim that traditional donors (liberal peace supporters) are under critique by emerging donors. Instead, the dynamic is more complicated: new donors have a stake in the existing international system and order, which they want to preserve while improving its efficiency, influencing its norms, and following their own interests. BRICS and other donors like Japan, South Korea, and Turkey are now developing their own agencies in response to the possibilities this offers them, rather than working solely through their foreign ministries. They appear to be aiming at the second option, supporting while modifying the donor system to their advantage.

The first option of acting as a status quo state involves offering support, but minimal resources, for traditional donors and the liberal peace architecture. The second option of acting as a critical state offers more significant ethical, ideological, and material challenges. This may offer the emerging donors' own development or security experiences as a model (as with Brazil or South Africa). It may involve a development strategy used within their own boundaries, which might be used as an example for others, as with India's local development councils and its long experience of engaging with issues of poverty either with external donors or now increasingly through its own national and regional policies. (9) It may also involve some opposition to liberal forms of intervention and neoliberal forms of development for ideological reasons or because of support for the sovereignty principle. Some emerging donors see themselves as critical states while focusing on regional issues and interests (like Russia and South Africa), on investment and resources (like China and India), or on a Security Council seat and not undermining their aid recipient status (like India or Brazil).

The international community is defined by the first approach, via a liberal peace that represents a coherent understanding of rights, norms, law, and how to uphold them in international politics, for which the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is taken to be indicative. (10) This is a progressive liberal agenda, but it is also interventionary. Emerging donors are resistant to this progression, seeing intervention as unacceptable. They frame their development goals as solidarity within the context of sovereignty, in order to put pressure on traditional donors to give more. To varying degrees, this indicates a primary tension over peacebuilding and development between existing liberal states and some BRICS, notably Russia, China, and India (mindful of their own internal or border conflicts from Chechnya to Tibet and Kashmir), over Article 2(7) of the UN Charter. However, the IBSA group is more concerned about whether current peacebuilding patterns go far enough to display global solidarity, but all of these actors are focused on their own global and regional interests. These states see themselves as part of the international community, but that still does not fully represent their interests or norms.

If emerging donors were to be seen as critical states it would be likely that, from their different historical, cultural, and strategic locations, they would more directly contest the liberal internationalist and liberal institutionalist idea of the international community in which Northern states have historically set the international political agenda. Perhaps as significantly, they would also contest neoliberalism in the context of global inequality in particular.

Even so, such a multiplication of actors has the potential for a significant impact on the identity, legitimacy, capacity, coordination, and representation of the international community, and the organizations, institutions, agencies, and international nongovernmental organizations that are part of it. (11) Variations in interests, ideology, capacity, and experience influence peacebuilding, statebuilding, and development agendas and profiles. At the same time, the selection of which aspects of...

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