Problems of local participation and collaboration with the UN in a post-conflict environment : who are the 'locals'?Problems of local participation and collaboration with the UN in a post-conflict environment : who are the 'locals'?
Institute of Development Policy and Management
Development processes, actors and policies
Global society: journal of interdisciplinary international relations. - Basingstoke
25(2011):4, p. 531-548
Current UN peace-building missions all share a strong emphasis on the importance of local participation to make peace processes sustainable. New missions are increasingly designed in order to favour local involvement in different projects. Yet, despite this insistence, there are significant problems that hinder collaboration between local and international actors. Through an analysis of interviews in the field with local actors and UN staff in Liberia and Burundi we identify and categorise the problems into two categories: actor and structure related. In an attempt to explain why these difficulties arise and persist, we use a sociological perspective that emphasises the importance of practical knowledge over representational knowledge in a post-conflict structure. We argue that both external and local actors' background knowledge and individual motivations, in combination with the many factors composing the constraining post-conflict structure, hinder an efficient collaboration, which could render the peace-building projects more sustainable. Structural suggestions on how to increase participation include more long-term projects, as well as longer mandates to avoid time pressure and to build capacity. Lastly, there is a need for detailed guidelines to understand who the locals are, when to get involved and under what circumstances in order to avoid spoilers.