2019. Local peacebuilding in the Central African Republic: What, when, where and with whom? (with Allard Duursma)

Abstract: What, when, where and with whom do United Nations (UN) civilian peacekeepers engage in local peacebuilding activities in conflict-torn environments? Scholars have argued that UN-sponsored peacebuilding is a top-down process targeting elites at the national level. From this perspective, peacebuilding is rarely successful in creating sustainable peace at the local level. However, we lack systematic evidence to empirically evaluate these claims. Most research on UN’s local-level engagement has so far focused on military deployment. In this paper, we use fine-grained, geo-referenced information on various peacebuilding activities from UN Civil Affairs in the Central African Republic to systematically test to what extend UN civilian peacekeepers engage in local-level peacebuilding. We argue that the work of UN civilian peacekeepers is driven by both pragmatic motives and their mandate. On the one hand, civilian peacekeepers generally organize local activities in response to local conflict conditions on the ground. On the other hand, these activities may be concentrated in easily accessible areas and urban centers, and when the UN has sufficient personnel capacity. Our analyses with novel spatially and temporally disaggregated data from UN Civil Affairs in the Central African Republic provide a more nuanced picture of local UN engagement, partly contradicting the presumable failures in bottom-up peacebuilding. What civilian peacekeepers do matches their organizational mission, but unevenly so across the mission area.

[1] Equal authorship is implied.

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