Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Globalization & Challenges to Building Peace Ed. By Ashok Swain, Ramses Amer & Joakim Öjendal Published by Anthem Press, 2007 ISBN 978-1-84331-287-1

Ishita Dey

This book is a compilation of some of the papers presented at Annual Conference of the Swedish Network of Peace, Conflict and Development Research, sponsored by the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency through its Department for Research Collaboration. The book is set against the backdrop of the changing notions of “war” and “development”. As the editors argue in the introduction and rightly put it that the nature of “war” has become intra state and “development” has shifted to tapping of neo-liberal global order in the most efficient way possible. This shifting pattern of development has led to cooption of strategies that have led to marginalisation of a large number of people which has resulted in intra state conflict. One of the widely suggested copying mechanisms to this effect has been the invention of “repairing”, “reconstructing and reconciliatory” policy approaches (pp 1). Though this approach was propounded by the UN system; its significance and implementation is set against the cold war period. Thus, the very nature of peace building efforts in the context of globalization needs to be revisited because the process of peace building as our experiences of history reflect does not end with disarmament, ceasefire, election monitoring, restoration of democracy, repatriation of refugees or even monitoring conflicts through peacekeeping forces but lies at the success of societal stability and reconstruction. The chapters in this volume through peace projects undertaken in Asia, Africa, Balkans and the Middle East address the challenges of peace projects.

One of the crucial challenges of peace building is its stability and Oliver P Richmond reopens this debate through a detailed examination of genealogy of the ‘problem of peace’ within the liberal peace framework. The liberal peace framework is comprised of four strands: victor’s peace project, constitutional peace project, civil society peace project and institutional peace project. One of the crucial attempts is to develop a peace consensus and often the bottom –up approach versions of peace building, contests the top down approach of the state and other machineries which guides and controls the manufacturing of peace consensus. There are several other graduations of liberal peace and these are reflected in the role of international agencies and states in Iraq, Afhghanistan, Somalia, Kosovo etc. While negotiation seems to be the underlying strategy of liberal peace project, preemptive self-defense is also seen as a measure to resolve conflict and attain peace. Ramses Amser explores the ongoing debate on pre-emptive self-defense and the policies adopted by U.S. specifically in the National Security strategies of 2002 and 2006 which are geared more towards preventive use of force than the use of force in self-defense (pp10). The role of the international community in peace building is revisited as notions of hierarchy, relations of power percolate in situations of conflict where populations are forced to cross borders. In this context Patrick Johansson argues whether refugee repatriation is an essential condition for peace. The role of diasporas in civil wars in their homelands is a much debated one. Ideals of territorial sovereignty often guide certain sections to enrage with extremist activities and certain groups to engage in peace building efforts. Katarina Månsson and Annika Björkdahl explore the role of the UN missions in depth in Chapter 8 and 9 respectively. It is not only important to revisit the treaties, policies and role of international communities in building peace but also to understand the causes of conflicts.

The causes of civil wars in Africa are multi- layered and it requires efforts that are long driven and not short cut. Linnea Bergholm in this study argues that a generalized understanding of the causes of war is insufficient to understand regional conflicts; for eg in Nepal as illustrated in Chapter 13 by JY Rotberg where control of natural resources such as forests and cropland leads to interstate conflicts. The book ends with a fascinating account of the security challenges posed by the opium and other illegal narcotics in the Northeast Asian Region. China remains the vulnerable region in this context.

This book to sum up raises the problematic that underlies “peace” in the context of democracy and globalisation. Is globalisation about creating a new force and new empire of regulation and regulatory mechanisms that will control and guide the international community? Is it resurfacing a new era of colonization through institutional mechanisms of “peace” keeping and restoration efforts? The chapter on Palestinian- Hamas movement deals with the problematic that underlie democracy and democratic peace process. Is democratic peace process another way of co-option and monopolization of global south by global north? How are we to situate ourselves, as our borders become more intra territorial rather than cartographic division between landmass? The ethnic divisions, religious divide and political processes guide the discourses on peace and globalisation and any critical approach to “peacebuilding” need to take into account these factors.

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