Why Humanitarian Interventions Succeed or Fail: The Role of Local Participation

Why do interstate interventions, even when carried out with the best of intentions, so often fail to contain conflicts and support a peaceful settlement? We argue that the extent of local participation exerts a strong effect on the prospects for successful peace-building and reconstruction efforts in the wake of humanitarian interventions. Even though the population in target countries may sympathize with the goal of the intervention, local populations are unlikely to feel a personal attachment to a solution externally imposed unless actively consulted or involved in the intervention strategy. Humanitarian interventions without some form of local participation are likely to create cognitive dissonance among the local population between the outcome and the means chosen to implement it. We evaluate our hypotheses about the relationship between local involvement and successful post-conflict reconstruction by looking at variation in conflict and local involvement over time in two humanitarian interventions, Bosnia (1991-95) and Somalia (1987-97). Consistent with our hypotheses about how lack of local involvement can undermine post-conflict reconstruction efforts in the wake of interventions, we find that phases with more local involvement are associated with lower levels of conflict.

Gender Empowerment and United Nations Peacebuilding

Previous studies have suggested that societies where women have higher social and economic status and greater political representation are less likely to become involved in conflict. In this article, the author argues that the prospects for successful post-conflict peacebuilding under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) are generally better in societies where women have greater levels of empowerment. Women’s status in a society reflects the existence of multiple social networks and domestic capacity not captured by purely economic measures of development such as GDP per capita. In societies where women have relatively higher status, women have more opportunities to express a voice in the peacemaking process and to elicit broader domestic participation in externally led peacekeeping operations. This higher level of participation in turn implies that UN Peacekeeping operations can tap into great social capital and have better prospects for success. An empirical analysis of post-conflict cases with a high risk of conflict recurrence shows that UN peacekeeping operations have been significantly more effective in societies in which women have relatively higher status. By contrast, UN peacekeeping operations in countries where women have comparatively lower social status are much less likely to succeed.