After thus constitutes a unique case study for exploring

After the end of the Cold War the
achievement of sustainable peace in post conflict regions became a top priority
for the international community. Rising numbers of internal conflicts around
the world caused enormous loss of lives and threatened regional and global stability.
Concerns over the high percentage of civilian casualties, refugee movements and
the spillover effects of these regional frictions launched a new era of
interventionism in international relations. The efforts of preventing recurring
violence and creating the conditions for long lasting peace in the post
conflict regions became known as peacebuilding. However building lasting peace
in war torn societies proved to be a challenging task and many of the
peacebuilding operations led by global actors such as the United Nations (UN)
have failed to deliver the expected results. The main debates relating to
peacebuilding have evolved around the liberal democratic model, its invasive
nature, and the shortcomings of its implementation. As Chandler
argues, the two major flaws in peacebuilding are the biased conceptualization
of liberal peace and the flawed implementation of the liberal peacebuilding
process.  The following essay argues that these
limitations are indeed true and that the model of liberal peace is highly
invasive. This argument will be made using empirical evidence from the
intervention in Cambodia and the main academic debates on liberal
peacebuilding. Cambodia is the first occasion where the UN officially took over
administration of an independent country for the creation of lasting peace and
thus constitutes a unique case study for exploring the problems with peacebuilding.
The analysis will first briefly defining the term, explaining the liberal
approach and the different gradations. It will then outline the main criticisms
and limitations of the process and then engage with the case study.

The term 
“peacebuilding” was first coined by Johan Galtung in his 1975 work “Three Approaches
to Peace: Peacekeeping, Peacemaking and Peacebuilding” in  which he argued that “peace
has a structure different from, perhaps over and above, peacekeeping and ad hoc
peacemaking… The mechanisms that peace is based on should be built into the
structure and be present as a reservoir for the system itself to draw up…
More specifically, structures must be found that remove causes of wars and
offer alternatives to war in situations where wars might occur.” The United Nations describes ‘ peacebuilding’ in a similar way by
defining it as an intervention that involves a range of measures targeted to
reduce the risk of relapsing into conflict by strengthening national  capacity at all levels for conflict
management, and to lay the foundations for sustainable peace and development.
In the aftermath of the Cold War and due to the predominance of the Western
ideology the most widely accepted way of conducting the peacebuilding process
became through the liberal peace framework. The framework combines the
establishment of democracy, development, rule of law and free markets (Mandelbaum, 2002: 6; Duffield, 2001: 11;
Paris, 2004). because it suggests that states
are more driven to cooperate with other states due to the economic ties and
interdependence. The establishment of democracy also became vital due to the
democratic peace argument that classifies democracies as more peaceful and law
abiding than other political systems. The main objectives are self-sustaining peace in which violence is
avoided by conforming to international and western models of governance. The
above liberal assumptions are consistent with most policy documentations relating
to peace and security (United

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 Liberal peace has been favored in post
conflict peacebuilding due to the assumption of its unproblematic structure and
universal applicability and its origins can be traced in four main
international theories namely the ‘victor’s peace’, ‘constitutional peace,’,
‘institutional peace’ and the ‘civil peace’. The ‘victor’s peace’ derives from
traditional realist theory of peace that depends on military superiority of a
victor and allows for his hegemony in international relations leading to
lasting stability and peace. The second theory of ‘constitutional peace’ was
directly influenced by philosopher Immanuel Kant and his liberal argument that
peace derives from democracy, free trade and internationally accepted notion
that humans are ends in themselves, rather than means to an end (Doyle, 1983).
The third theory known as ‘institutional peace’ has evolved from the
romanticized liberal-internationalist and liberal-institutionalist assumption
that states are able to multilaterally agree on the way in which to behave and
how to impose or establish that behavior. The last theory, that of the ‘civil
peace’ rests upon the phenomena of citizens direct action and advocacy for the
establishment or protection of core values and human rights principles,
extending from the abolishment of slavery to the active participation of the
civil society in international relations today (Halliday,2001)  


Liberal peacebuilding has taken
various approaches to operations depending on the needs of each state, the
actors’ capacities and the interests of the various donors involved. Traditional
peacebuilding involves top-down approaches to development and foreign led
administration of political, military or economic domains in the post conflict
region. This model of peacebuilding has been widely criticized as an alien form
of hegemony due to its minimal initiatives for local involvement. The
attachments of conditionality to economic aid/loans and the use of force by the
actors involved has been condemned as coercive and dependency inducing. In
order to overcome such limitations liberal operations have been increasingly
involving more local actors in the process. This approach is known as the local
turn in peacebuilding and involves initiatives for local ownership and close
cooperation between local elites and foreign actors in administration and the established
liberal institutions. Although this model follows a more – bottom down approach
and is more inclusive of local cultures, it still seeks to achieve a linear
application and transmission of western objectives and norms into the new built
institutions. Such an example would be the failure of the peace and
reconciliation process conducted during the Sierra Leone intervention.


The Cambodian peacebuilding intervention constitutes a
unique case study that illustrates the core limitations of liberal
peacebuilding. For the first time in history the UN took over administration of an independent country in such a
large-scale state building effort. The UN Transnational Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC)
promised a ‘comprehensive peace’ settlement (Doyle,1995: 13). Its mandate was
focused on the accomplishment of democratic elections between the four opposing
factions (the Cambodian People’s Party, the Khmer Rouge, the KPNLF and the FUNINPEC
party) and the establishment of a legitimate representative government. Other
goals included the drafting of a new constitution, the control of the
administrative apparatus, the disarmament and ceasefire in the post conflict
regions, the maintenance of human rights and the resettlement of refugees. What
the international community expected was that if transparent and democratic
elections were carried out that would result in a power sharing system and thus
help calm down the power struggle and political conflict. In addition the
establishment of liberal economy and liberal institutions would contribute to
stability and lay the foundations for a lasting peace. This assigned UNTAC with
a gigantic statebuilding task. The intervention initiated in 1992 can be characterized
as a traditional liberal peacebuilding operation, as described above, due to
the centralized and foreign led administration, the minimum local involvement
and the transmission of western understandings of good governance an democratic
values. Some NGOs and other independent actors did engage in more local approaches
but the biggest part of the interventions was administered by purely outside
forces. The mission assigned to UNTAC was a form of social restructuring and
statebuilding, based on liberal principles and the belief that the only way to
achieve lasting peace was through democratization. This pioneering attempt was
expected to achieve its ambitious objectives within a short time frame. The new
government would be powerful, representative and able to regulate the Cambodian
population without the need for arms use and violence. Moreover, human and
political rights would be protected by the state and the liberal economy and
capitalist practices would ensure the economic freedom and empowerment of the
civil society. The funding and work of NGO’s and other independent actors would
further strengthen the local population and give initiatives for the creation
of pressure groups and other representative interest groups.

Indeed, the peacebuilding intervention did
accomplish some positive outcomes for Cambodia. NGO’s have become an
indispensible part of local society since their introduction in 1992. They have
helped empower the civil society through their monetary aid and have
contributed to the overall functioning of liberal peace. In fact, figures
presented by Pact (2005)
show over four hundred NGOs being active in Cambodia. The task of carrying out
the 1992-93 elections can also be deemed successful since over ninety per cent
of Cambodians voted to elect a new government. The refugee resettlement also
delivered astonishing results with almost 400,000 individuals being repatriated
(Doyle,1995: 371).
The armed conflicts had ended and the UNTAC mission was able to withdraw having
achieved their short term goals giving credibility to the Western methods and
the liberal peace concept.

With the departure of UNTAC there was open room
left for other actors to take over the tasks previously performed by the UN
administration. A plethora of peacebuilding actors emerged to continue the
organizational tasks and ensure the continuation of liberal peace. International
financial institutions such as the IMF, NGO groups and other international
actors became increasingly involved and between 1992 ad 2001 more than 4
billion in dollars were given to Cambodia in the form of funding (Peou, 2005:
112). Loans intended for the boosting of the economy were provided by these
international actors and Cambodia saw an average annual economic growth rate of
4.6 per cent until 200 (Sok, Acharya, 2002: 14-15).

However, besides these significant successes the
peacebuilding exercise can only be evaluated by the assessment of the reach of
its primary goals: achieving long-lasting peace, good governance, effective
democratization, human rights maintenance and a powerful civil society.