Post-Conflict Reconstruction: Nation- and /or State Building

Fischer, Horst; Quénivet, Noelle (eds.)

Post-Conflict Reconstruction: Nation- and /or State Building

Band 52

Reihe Bochumer Schriften zur Friedenssicherheit und zum Humanitären Völkerrecht
Bestell-Nr 1003
ISBN 978-3-8305-1003-1
erschienen 13.07.2005
Format kartoniert
Umfang 194
Gewicht 308 g
Preis 24,00
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On 22 May 2004 the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict of the Ruhr-University Bochum organised in collaboration with the German Red Cross a conference in The Hague (the Netherlands) on “Post Conflict Reconstruction: Nation- and/or State-Building”. Almost all contributions to the conference are reprinted in this issue of the Blue Book Series. After a general introduction on lessons learned and the role of the United Nations in post-conflict reconstruction, the book is divided into two parts. The first includes “country reports” investigating post-conflict reconstruction in Afghanistan, Cambodia, East Africa and East Timor and the second contains “thematic reports” on the restoration of justice, the tasks of the civilian police forces and the return of refugees. The book is rounded up with a look towards the future inasmuch as it assesses post-conflict reconstruction efforts in Iraq. Further, the book includes a final declaration adopted by the 100 participants in the conference.
The 2004 annual Conference of the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict of the Ruhr-University Bochum (Germany) and the German Red Cross focused on post-conflict reconstruction. While the theme was chosen with the Iraqi conflict in mind, participants presented papers on a variety of themes and geographical sections. This book is the product of that Conference. The nine contributions cover a wide spectrum of issues, from an Overall examination of the role of the UN in post-conflict assistance, to the social constraints and implications of state- and nation-building within failing states in East Africa.
In an introductory article, Dirk Salomons considers the role of the UN in nation-building. He argues that the Security Council lacks the political will or credibility required for serving as the conscience of the global community when preventing conflicts or dealing with them once they erupt. It is being replaced by regional organizations. He therefore queries whether the UN may serve a better role in post-conflict reconstruction. He notes the discrepancy between the capacity of the UN and its lack of credibility. The UN has enormous technical capacity, but is regarded as the long arm of Western neo-imperialism. Its insecure financial resources for post-conflict assistance also prevent it from offering a coherent, non-biased agenda. Salomons does not appear optimistic with regard to the future of the organization, as it remains on the margins of legitimacy and credibility.
Erica Harper examines the role of UN transitional administration, through a case study of its Intervention in East Timor. The UN Transitional Administration for East Timor (UNTAET) was one of the most ambitious transitional administrations, as its mandate over East Timor covered all areas of government and administration. One of its most important tasks was to reconstruct, or, some would argue, construct for the first time, a judicial infrastructure for East Timor. Harper presents three areas of law enforcement where UNTAET opted for importation of Western concepts without examining their implications within the specific social environment of East Timor. These are the resolution of gender crimes, resolution of disputes involving black magic, and the approach towards traditional reconciliation ceremonies. The difficulties in each area were different, indeed contradictory. For example, with regard to gender offences it was the imposition of criminal law that led to antagonism within local society, while with regard to black magic disputes antagonism was caused by the refusal to intervene judicially. Harper considers UNTAET's focus on state-building rather than on nation-building to be the underlying difficulty in all three areas, which serve only as examples. UNTAET did not pay sufficient attention to local needs, but instead tried to satisfy international expectations. Harper argues that failure of the legal model to respond to legitimate needs may lead to a breakdown in law and order, resulting, in the worst case scenario, to a renewed crisis. She therefore questions the advisability of involving the UN in state-building altogether. She appears resigned to UN involvement in post-conflict reconstruction, if only because of the lack of alternative. The UN should strive, nonetheless, towards nation-building rather than state-building. She accordingly suggests that UNTAET could have demonstrated greater flexibility and achieved success in addressing the three difficulties previously examined. While Harper's findings appear sound, i.e. that in East Timor the UN engaged in state-building rather than in nation-building, her practical conclusions are not inescapable. First, if state-building by foreign interveners is difficult, what prospects are there for successful nation-building by Outsiders? Second, the choice between state- and nation-building is not normally in the hands of the foreign intervener. Where both are necessary, the intervening bodies may have a choice where to concentrate their efforts, although even then, the Situation on the ground may impose certain priorities. However, depending on the Situation, it may be that only the state has broken down and must be rebuilt, but not the nation (the converse situation is less likely). Harper is clearly right that greater sensitivity on the part of the foreign intervener, particularly when it is the UN, is in order.
Manit Sum offers an overview of Cambodia's post-conflict state-building. Not surprisingly, this contribution by a governmental representative is bland. Its first part is a detailed description of the political and military developments in Cambodia since the 1970s. Its second part is an attempt to draw conclusions from the Cambodian experience. These lessons are that progress is slow and frustrating, that people are important, the institutions and governance practices are important, as are financial resources, that coordination between partners is difficult and that implementation is difficult. All this is undoubtedly true, but uninformative. For example, Manit Sum mentioned that Khmer Rouge forces were integrated into the Royal Armed forces and stayed where they were initially located, but are now submitting to the Kingdom's law. How was this achieved? Similarly, how did the state manage to provide mass professional training within a short period of time? It is precisely the nitty-gritty details that would have been of interest.
Brigitte Piquard, a political anthropologist, provides an analysis of nation-building in Afghanistan from a social, anthropological and psychological perspective. She emphasizes the long-term implications that a culture of war has over society and the effect of this culture on surrounding states. She analyses the interdependence between changes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistani Islamisation paved the way for the rise of Taliban, and the war in Afghanistan brought weapons and drugs into Pakistani life. Particularly in view of the culture of war but for other reasons as well, she claims, international relief was regarded with scepticism in Afghanistan. The disregard of foreign relief agents for local resources and capacities prevented the Afghans from taking ownership of the process, and created institutions that, like in East Timor, were inimical to the local tradition. Interestingly, here too examples concern the changes to gender roles in the community. As a way to enhance the process of post-conflict nation-building, Piquard suggests that emphasis be put on substance rather than on form. Long-term thinking should prevail over short-term plans. Finally, the local population should be given the opportunity to take ownership of the process. This would not only enhance the chances of its short-term Substantive success, but would create the commitment necessary for its long-term viability.
M. A. Mohamed Salih looks at current patterns of state-building in East Africa, com-paring the experiences of Somalia, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya. He considers the tension between the construction of a nation-state and a democratic state and the failure of the establishment of a western-style nation state. The approach of each of the states to ethnic division is different. In Uganda multi-party democracy is stalling, but ethnic dissatisfaction emerges through insurgency. In Ethiopia the decentralization through an ethno-federal System appears to provide a viable modus vivendi. In Sudan nation-building has been given up altogether, and it is the only one of the states examined where no democratization process has been undertaken. Salih considers nation-building in Somalia to have been replaced by the emergence of three secessionist states, Somaliland, Puntland and Jubaland. This last conclusion must remain tentative, as events continue to unfold in Somalia. In Uganda and Kenya, Salih argues, state-building approaches have persisted and have been reconfigured to incorporate western concepts such as democratization, good governance, the rule of law and civil society. His conclusion is that there is yet hope for East Africa.
Peter van der Vaart describes the rule of UNHCR in helping refugees return to post-conflict states. He describes the evolving role of UNHCR in armed conflict, the type of challenges it faces, and the type of assistance it aims to offer. He takes Afghanistan as an example of UNHCR's dealing with mass repatriation. Following the Piquard article, which addresses the type of cooperation necessary between international interveners and local forces, it would have been interesting to learn of the international intervener's perspective of the same issue. The contribution, however, does not go beyond the ordinary formalistic presentation that can be expected.
A most interesting contribution is Carsten Stahn 's, which provides a comparative outline of international transitional administrations, those of Kosovo under UNMIK, East Timor under UNTAET, Afghanistan under UNAMA and Iraq under the CPA. He identifies two main challenges to the transitional administration: neutrality and lack of democratic legitimacy, which is expressed through the issues of local ownership, ad hoc versus long-term policy making, and the institutional capacity to function as an administrator. He illustrates how lessons learned in Kosovo were implemented in East Timor, for example the submission of the administration to international human rights obligations and a greater focus on local ownership (a claim that may be at least partly disputed by Harper). UNAMA carried the internalization of the justice System further, excessively so in the opinion of some. After such a review, which suggests that there is room for optimism regarding the ability of the organization to improve its performance, the CPA's practice provides a disappointing reversion to early shortcomings. For example, Stahn notes the excessive centralization of authority, particularly in view of the CPA's Status as Occupying Power. Human rights violations by the CPA are abundant, and the dependence of the judicial System on the CPA is very problematic. As a way forward, Stahn proposes that the establishment of basic judicial functions be given priority by the international administration. He also highlights the need for domestic involvement, echoing - and generalizing - Erica Harper's conclusions. He urges the international administration to be as good as it preaches, and finally, calls for greater scrutiny of the international administrator, to ensure its proper functioning. In view of Stahn's analysis it is tempting to regard the CPA as an aberration of international administration, given the irregular manner in which it became the proxy of international administration, and hope that when taken up again, international administrations return to the right path.
Milbert D. Shin focuses on the role of civilian police in peace-building operations, and highlights the importance of training police forces in post-conflict states. Civilian police missions are invariably mandates with monitoring tasks, and are often set out to establish and restructure local police agencies, investigate local police abuse, and carry out transitional police administration. In cartying out such tasks, civilian police have executive, monitoring and training roles. With regard to the executive role, Shin emphasized the need for the civilian police to be familiar with local law and to coordinate with other actors in the field. He then considers the various meanings of monitoring, which can range from passive to the intrusive. Drawing on experience from former Yugoslavia, he stresses the need for training of civilian police in both international standards and local law, the need for specialized skills in order to carry out monitoring and training tasks.
Howard Roy Williams concludes the collection with an assessment of the reconstruction of Iraq. He notes the failure of various assumptions by the US and even the UN, such as of a warm welcome for the "liberators" by the Iraqi people, and subsequently of a quick transition to order and security. Instead, security became the main concern of the post-conflict stage (if one can call the current Situation post-conflict). Combined with the delay in financial support, Iraq's reconstruction took a totally different face from that envisaged at the outset. Ironically, this has strengthened the role of the UN, in contrast to the trend identified by Dirk Salomons at the introduction. Williams leaves the future of Iraq an open question, but whatever the outcome, considers it a formative stage in international relations. The book concludes with the final declaration of the conference.
The book provides diverse angles for examining post-conflict reconstruction. The disparity in the quality of contributions tends to lend different importance to various matters, but undoubtedly, they all have significant roles if a serious attempt is taken at comprehensively managing a post-conflict situation. Clearly it is impossible in a limited collection to cover all issues, and the editors appear to have made a balanced and interesting selection. One topic that may not appear lacking at the outset but emerges from the presentations is the role of women in post-conflict reconstruction. This is an issue that is inevitable with regard to any post-conflict Situation, and addressing it could have complemented some of the existing contributions and shed light on a whole array of issues.
The only direct linkage of the various contributions to the Iraqi Situation is that of Noëlle Quenivet's introduction. This is a useful highlight of the relevance of each of the issues, and the specific dilemmas it raises with regard to Iraq. It would be interesting to return to that starting point at the conclusion, and see what the answers may be to the dilemmas. This exercise may require some chronological distancing from current events, and will certainly be continued to be considered by researchers.

(Yaël Ronen)

Humanitäres Völkerrecht – Informationsschriften / Journal of International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict, Volume 20, 4/2007, S. 253-255

Die Kriege im Kosovo und im Irak sind in der völkerrechtswissenschaftlichen Literatur zu Recht ausgiebig diskutiert worden, betrafen sie doch so grundsätzliche normative Fragen wie Souveränität und Gewaltverbot. Unabhängig von ihren Auswirkungen auf die Kohärenz der Völkerrechtsordnung als solcher führten beide Kriege aber auch zu einem verstärkten akademischen Interesse an praktischen Fragen des staatlichen und wirtschaftlichen Wiederaufbaus. Das vorliegende Werk ist das Produkt einer Konferenz der Ruhr-Universität Bochum, die wie so viele andere zu jenem Zeitpunkt sich die Aufgabe gesetzt hatte, anhand vorangegangener internationaler Erfahrungen Lösungsvorschläge für den Wiederaufbau im Irak zu erarbeiten.
Veröffentlichungen zu so hochaktuellen Themen leiden unweigerlich unter der bei Sammelwerken meist sehr langen Vorlaufzeit bis zur Drucklegung. Die akademische Literatur zum Irakkrieg und der Bewältigung seiner Folgen sieht sich jedoch mit einem mehr grundsätzlichen Problem konfrontiert: die bewusste Konzentration auf praktische Aspekte des Wiederaufbaus basiert auf der Annahme, dass politische Entscheidungsträger prinzipiell nicht "beratungsresistent" sind und dass die akademische Analyse früherer Fehler und die Identifizierung von "lessons learned" (siehe das Vorwort von Quénivet) einen wie auch immer gearteten Einfluss auf operationelle Planung und Durchführung zumindest haben können. Die unzureichende Planung der Invasion und die konstante Weigerung besonders der amerikanischen politischen Entscheidungsträger, Fehler bei der Besatzung (wie sie z.B. am prominentesten von der Iraq Study Group unter James Baker ausgearbeitet wurden) zuzugeben und entsprechend gegenzusteuern, sowie die einseitige Politik der seitdem installierten irakischen Regierung lassen diese Grundannahme jedoch zusehends fraglich erscheinen. Eine bewusst praktisch orientierte Forschung braucht jedoch einen Abnehmer, um dem selbst gesteckten Ziel genügen zu können, "nützlich" zu sein, also kein akademisches l'art pour l'art zu betreiben. Das merkliche Schwinden des akademischen Interesses am Wiederaufbau des Iraks ist vielleicht auch eine Folge der Einsicht, dass diesem selbst gesetzten Anspruch unter den gegenwärtigen Umständen nicht genügt werden kann.
Das von Fischer und Quénivet herausgegebene Werk atmet hingegen noch einen optimistischen Geist, davon überzeugt, dass es Aufgabe wissenschaftlicher Analyse ist, praktikable Handlungsanweisungen zu liefern. Hierzu dienen nach der Einleitung Salomons, der die Rolle der Vereinten Nationen im "Nation-Building" beleuchtet, vier Länderstudien, die die verschiedenen Herangehensweisen der internationalen Gemeinschaft in verschiedenen Nachkonfliktsituationen herausarbeiten sollen. Leider lässt weder die Auswahl der Fälle noch deren Bearbeitung eine unmittelbare Relevanz für die Problematik im Irak erkennen, da keiner der Autoren versucht, einen direkten Bezug herzustellen oder auch nur allgemein gültige Schlüsse aus den fallspezifischen Fakten zu ziehen. Harper gibt vor, die VN-Übergangsverwaltung in Osttimor daraufhin zu untersuchen, ob ihr Fokus eher auf Staats- oder Nationenbildung ausgelegt war. Eine überzeugende Antwort bleibt sie jedoch schuldig; sie legt stattdessen die vorläufigen Resultate ihrer Dissertation zur Bewältigung sexueller Gewalttaten in der indonesisch-osttimoresischen Rechtskultur vor. Der kambodschanische Staatssekretär Sum schließt sich mit seiner Darstellung des Konfliktes in seinem Heimatland an, beschränkt sich dabei auf die recht formlose narrative Wiedergabe dieses Konflikts und zieht lediglich allgemeine Lehren.
Selbst eine wiederholte Lektüre von Piquards Darstellung des Afghanistankonfliktes half dem Rezensenten nicht, den Sinn ihrer Ausführungen zu erschließen. Sich eklektisch auf recht wenige Quellen stützend, versucht sie, die Auswirkungen des Konfliktes und dessen regionaler Einbettung auf die soziale Struktur und die Identitätsbildung der afghanischen Stämme zu beleuchten, kommt dabei aber über einige allgemeine Aussagen nicht hinaus. Eine etwas sorgfältigere Redigierung des Englischen hätte insoweit wohl für etwas mehr Klarheit sorgen können (siehe z.B. S. 73). Negativ fällt zudem das exzessive "name dropping" lokaler Termini auf, die zudem oft falsch sind. So wird z. B. aus Jalal Ale-Ahmads berühmtem Konzept der Gharbzadaki [dem Berauschen lokaler Eliten am mächtigen Westen] ohne Hinweis auf dessen Ursprung die "maghribzada westernized elite" gemacht [S. 72], hierbei offensichtlich Marokko, Algerien und Tunesien [eben den Maghrib] mit dem Westen [Gharb] verwechselnd. Jedem, der daran zweifelt, ob die Ethnologie sinnvolle Beiträge zu Verständnis und Handhabung von Staatsverfall und -wiederaufbau liefern kann, seien als Kontrast die Arbeiten Conrad Schetters anempfohlen, die sich ausgesprochen erhellend mit dem afghanischen Konflikt und seinen Auswirkungen auf die Identitätsbildung beschäftigen.
Salihs anschließende Einführung in verschiedene ostafrikanische Konflikte ist gründlich und gefällt durch die kurze einleitende Diskussion über das grundlegende Konzept des Staates (S. 97). Es wäre zu wünschen gewesen, wenn sich unter den hieran anschließenden Thematischen Berichten auch einige gefunden hätten, die sich mit den allen Berichten zugrunde liegenden Kernkonzepten von Staat, Nation, Stamm, Identität, Sicherheitsdilemma, etc. tiefer gehend auseinandersetzen.
Der thematische Teil wird eingeleitet durch eine bündige Einführung in die allgemeine Arbeit des Flüchtlingswerkes UNHCR durch van der Vaart, einem dort beschäftigten hochrangigen Beamten. Stahns Arbeit zur Rechtsprechung in Übergangsverwaltungen ist erfreulich detailliert und sorgfältig recherchiert; sie ist auch die einzige, die sich ausdrücklich mit der irakischen Problematik beschäftigt. Shins einleitende Besprechung der Rolle ziviler Polizeikräfte in der Stabilisierung von Nachkonfliktstaaten ist ordentlich belegt und unterstreicht die Wichtigkeit dieses oft unterschätzten Aspektes des Wiederaufbaus sehr gut. Vielleicht hätte man sich noch einen Hinweis auf das deutsche Polizeiengagement in Afghanistan gewünscht. Das abschließende Kapitel von Williams greift die eingangs dieser Besprechung angeführte Grundannahme der Empfänglichkeit politischer Entscheidungsträger für Analyse und Kritik angesichts der "Realität falscher Erwartungen" im Irak auf. Wenn Williams konstatiert, dass "an element of wishful thinking pervaded early decision-making, with inevitable consequences for subsequent events" (S. 189), so geht er offensichtlich davon aus, dass unabhängige akademische Forschung ein Korrektiv für unrealistische politische Annahmen und auf ihnen basierende unzureichende strategische und taktische Planung liefern kann. Was er hierbei zu Recht herausstreicht, ist die langfristige moralische und praktische Verantwortung, die solche übereilten Entscheidungen nach sich ziehen und die eine Erwartungshaltung schaffen, deren schließliche Enttäuschung beide Gemeinwesen in Mitleidenschaft zieht: "A trusteeship was almost inadvertently assumed and its chosen terms of reference now seem more mythical than real. How this fundamental contradiction is handled is among the most significant tasks of our decade." (S. 190). Die in dem Buch abgedruckte feierliche Deklaration der Konferenzteilnehmer "reiterating the importance of university education in understanding the root causes of conflict and in preventing inhumane treatment of victims of armed conflicts and violence" (S. 193) unterstreicht diesen heute etwas wirklichkeitsfern anmutenden Selbstanspruch, an dem zu zweifeln die weitere Entwicklung im Irak leider durchaus Anlass gibt.

(Ebrahim Afsah)

Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht, Heidelberg Journal of International Law, Sonderabdruck aus Band 67 Nr. 3, 2007, Seite 979-981

The work under review represents the publication of a collection of papers presented at a Conference on post-conflict reconstruction, initiated by Horst Fischer and Noelle Quenivet, in May 2004. At this time the Situation in Iraq was still in its infancy. The need for a serious long-term international commitment to reconciliation and reconstruction was obvious. However, there was still a hope that once a national government was established, peace and stability more conducive to reconstruction would arrive. In reality, although efforts at reconciliation and reconstruction persist, these are blighted by the equally persistent efforts of those set against the continued international presence. In the light of the Situation in Iraq, the papers presented at the Conference collectively sought to highlight the issues that often arise in post-conflict reconstruction. The publication of these papers provides an opportunity to reflect a little on the suitability for the Iraq context of the issues highlighted, and the broader value of the work for the ever growing literature on post-conflict reconstruction.
The contributors were asked to present papers on specific countries or on common issues that arise in post-conflict reconstruction. The work is split accordingly. There appears to have been no stress on a particular discipline and thus there is a mix of legal, political, and sociological contributions. This plurality reflects the breadth of issues that arise in post-conflict reconstruction. The range of disciplines accommodated in Post-Conflict Reconstruction is a major strength of the work. However, more effort could have been made to accommodate this plurality in the structure of the collection, which jumps between disciplines in what seems to be an ad hoc fashion. This failing is compensated for in the first half of the book through the common theme of nation- and/or state-building, which is prominent in each chapter, regardless of the discipline or angle pursued. However, this theme loses prominence in the second half, where the common theme of UN activity does not provide such a sophisticated link between the different disciplinary approaches and subject matter.
The important distinction between state- and nation-building addresses the question of whether the focus of international efforts should be on the fostering of a common national identity or the reconstruction of physical and institutional infrastructure. The useful disciplinary link which this theme provides is most evident in the relationship between the chapters by Erica Harper and Brigitte Picquard. Harper examines the UN administration of East Timor, particularly the heritage of the judicial structures which were adopted. Picquard asks what engagement with the local population means in practice, from an anthropological and psychological perspective.
Harper describes the importation of law and methodology from other jurisdictions, which for her is evidence of a state-building approach. This approach is found to be largely ignorant of the local population's legal culture, and so carries the potential to isolate the locals from the process and consequently impede the prospects of reconciliation and reconstruction. Much more investigation would be required to confirm such a belief, but there is sufficient evidence to support Harper's call for a more nation-orientated approach. This would concentrate on accommodating cultural understanding of justice, and complements calls elsewhere for a 'fair enough' approach to trials in states emerging from conflict. To confirm and implement Harper's suggestions requires moving beyond legal analysis. In this respect Picquard's account of how to interact with a conflict-ridden society holds important lessons. Picquard stresses the benefits of consideration of a people's past as a model for interaction, and so criticizes the apparent neglect of the heritage of conflict which the Afghan people have endured. Picquard suggests that, in order to improve, reforms should not be purely procedural but must also try to provide a societal link, potentially through the media and education. The general message is that attempts should be made to know and understand the population, so that the efforts at reconstruction can be more tailored to meet needs and consequently be more appreciated and successful.
Harper and Picquard both offer wise counsel, but their suggestions appear best suited to situations of peace and stability, where there will be more time to engage with and get to know the population. Picquard herself highlights how the lack of a stable peace in Afghanistan was a major hindrance to a more nation-orientated approach. And it is easy to imagine that this has been a major factor guiding the approach taken by the international actors involved in the reconstruction of Iraq.
The distance from a true peace is one of the main factors distinguishing Iraq from other post-conflict reconstruction efforts, and this makes it difficult to draw lessons from elsewhere. Another factor is the method by which the destruction came about. The fact of US and UK Intervention, rather than civil war, as the cause of destruction, has meant that the element of transitional justice is much less than that found elsewhere. Also, the manner in which the Intervention came about has led to the UN taking a back seat, in contrast to many other reconstruction efforts. Thus the emphasis in Post-conflict Reconstruction on the role of the UN - six of the ten chapters deal with aspects of the UN's role - lacks direct relevance for Iraq. Similarly, two chapters on justice in transitional administrations, from Harper and Carsten Stahn, seem misplaced in a search for lessons for Iraq, but remain useful contributions to the broader discussion of post-conflict reconstruction.
Dirk Salomons's chapter warns that the benevolent intentions of the UN may lead to incorrect assumptions about its appropriateness as the Institution for post-conflict reconstruction. He highlights the political dimensions which can undermine the credibility of the UN, in particular its selectivity, democratic mantra, and struggle for funding. These criticisms undermine the UN as an appropriate institution to some extent, but what would be more appropriate? Salomons makes no attempt to suggest an alternative. In view of the context it might have been useful to compare the appropriateness of the UN with that of the United Kingdom and United States acting independently. The difficulties encountered in Iraq dampen a possible argument that independent action, because of its cohesion and continued funding, may be preferable, and so strengthens arguments for UN involvement. Indeed, many of the difficulties encountered in Iraq might have been lessened if the UN, despite its failings, had been more involved.
The importance and variety of roles that the UN assumes in post-conflict reconstruction is highlighted in the other chapters on the UN. Peter van der Vaart's chapter charts the evolution of the role of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and sets out the parameters of their involvement in the return and protection of those displaced by conflict. Meaningful engagement with the local population, the call from earlier chapters, is likely to be difficult while a large proportion of the population remains displaced. The UNHCR has a vital role in this respect, but as Vaart highlights, there are many, often unseen, limitations to its involvement. Central to these, but not selected for attention by Vaart, is a common problem faced by most international actors, which is that they must work with the local government. This reality, which serves as a restraint, is absent from a lot of the literature, which instead concentrates on international transitional administration, where the issue does not arise because the international actors serve as the government.
In this respect Post-conflict Reconstruction manages to strike a good balance and includes accounts of a mix of situations. A strong example of this is Mohammed Salih's political analysis of state-building and its relationship with state collapse in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda. Despite excellent accounts in each example of the issues at stake, the range of circumstances to be found makes the extrapolation of general lessons difficult. Salih stresses that in all the examples varying ranges of collapse and building coexist, and so indicates that state-building is never likely to be a project with a start and a finish. More specific lessons, of more relevance for the Iraq Situation, might have been found had the samples been selected for similarities other than their East African location.
A strong tool to help encourage desirable policy choices is reference to international legal standards. Unfortunately, it is an over-dependence on such standards which contributors such as Harper, Piquard, and Stahn suggest may cause additional problems. It would therefore seem that a balance needs to be struck. This links with the overall lesson to be taken from the work, which is that, although there are common elements in post-conflict reconstruction, there is a huge range of contexts and so the balance struck will be different in every Situation. The particular nature of the Iraq example has made it especially difficult for commentators, in and beyond this work, to offer appropriate lessons from past practice.
Beyond Iraq, the work provides a useful overview of common problems faced by international actors in post-conflict reconstruction. It engages different disciplines which appear closely related and so is a call for more collaborative efforts. Post-conflict reconstruction is a subject on which relatively little continues to be written from a legal perspective. Therefore international lawyers may regret that policy considerations tend to dominate the work, and that those chapters which are more legally orientated tend to cover the already well-trodden ground of post-conflict justice. However, assessment of the policies which have been pursued may help to highlight whether, and to what extent, new international law in relation to post-conflict reconstruction is emerging. The international law issues remain contentious, but are at the heart of examples such as Iraq, and could serve in helping to determine the point at which the international reconstruction effort in Iraq actually ends.

(Matthew Saul)

Leiden Journal of International Law, Volume 20 – 2007