The Imperative to Rebuild: Assessing the Normative Case for Postconflict Reconstruction

The past two decades have witnessed the proliferation of comprehensive international missions of peacebuilding and reconstruction, aimed not simply at bringing conflict to an end but also at preventing its recurrence. Recent missions, ranging from relatively modest involvement to highly complex international administrations, have generated a debate about the rights and duties of international actors to reconstruct postconflict states. In view of the recent growth of such missions, and the serious challenges and crises that have plagued them, we seek in this article to address some of the gaps in the current literature and engage in a critical analysis of the moral purposes and dilemmas of reconstruction. More specifically, we construct a map for understanding and evaluating the different ethical imperatives advanced by those who attempt to rebuild war-torn societies. In our view, such a mapping exercise is a necessary step in any attempt to build a normative defence of postconflict reconstruction. The article proceeds in two stages: first, we present the various rationales for reconstruction offered by international actors, and systematize these into four different “logics”; second, we evaluate the implications and normative dilemmas generated by each logic.

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