Sustainability and peace building: a key challenge

The overarching challenge facing the growing number of international peace-building interventions is to achieve sustainable peace. This paper illustrates this proposition through a brief investigation of the situation in East Timor as the UN mission withdraws at the five-year state-building mark, and in Haiti as a ninth UN mission is established. Adopting the view that participatory democratic governance will best ensure long-term peace, the paper maintains that to build sustainable peace requires transformation on three inter-related fronts: (a) transformation of the society from one that resorts to violence to one that resorts to political means to resolve conflict, requiring that the elite negotiate and that there should be widespread social dialogue and reconciliation; (b) reform of the governance framework to seek to ensure both that a negotiated governance arrangement between parties prevents future conflict and the adoption of basic democratic governance; and (c) the creation of meaningful institutions that will be sustainable after the mission leaves. These institutions cannot be imposed from outside, but must be bodies that are able to perform their core function and are committed to doing so.