This article uses security sector reform as a prism for exploring the dilemmas that confront multidimensional United Nations peace operations as they seek to build peace by building states. It claims that the United Nations finds itself severely restricted when trying to translate ideas of human security into practice in the form of a people-centered approach to postconflict security assistance.
The article explores the dilemmas of providing security assistance to post-conflict states. It argues that when used as a strategy for intervention, SSR exposes the inherent contradictions of liberal peace-building. The article focuses on the Weberian state monopoly versus other—hybrid or non-state—forms of security and justice provision. It presents the background for the discussion and suggests that as a strategy for intervention, the choice is not simply between a top-down ‘imposition’ of a universal state model and a bottom-up ‘working with what is there’ approach. It is also a choice between direct and indirect forms of rule. This makes the dilemma real for liberal-minded practitioners and observers.
The essay explores how the statebuilding intervention in Liberia produces a situation in which the locus for public authority is unclear and lines of responsibility and accountability are difficult to pinpoint. It does so by zooming in on one particular element in the intervention – the Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program – and concludes that the opacity surrounding this programme risks defeating the wider liberal objectives of the statebuilding intervention.