International peace-building interventions in post-conflict countries are intended to transform the socio-political context that led to violence and thereby build a stable and lasting peace. Yet the UN’s transitional governance approach to peace-building is ill-suited to the challenge of dealing with the predatory political economy of insecurity that often emerges in post-conflict societies. Evidence from peace-building attempts in Cambodia, East Timor and Afghanistan illustrates that the political economy incentives facing domestic elites in an environment of low credibility and weak institutionalisation lead to a cycle of patronage generation and distribution that undermine legitimate and effective governance. As a result, post-conflict countries are left vulnerable to renewed conflict and persistent insecurity. International interventions can only craft lasting peace by understanding the political economy of conflict persistence and the potential policy levers for altering, rather than perpetuating, those dynamics.