The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) deployed in 2003 to assist the nation rebuild, and stayed till its mandate ended final yr. By most accounts UNMIL was a success, shepherding in over a decade of peace and three consecutive democratic elections. What do we all know now concerning the results of worldwide intervention to maintain peace and restore the rule of legislation in Liberia and different war-wracked nations?
In a current article in International Organization, I argue that certainly one of UNMIL’s most vital legacies can be certainly one of its most underappreciated. Past the lives misplaced and livelihoods destroyed, the Liberian civil wars shattered the already-strained relationship between residents and the Liberian authorities, particularly the police and courts.
By the point the combating stopped in 2003, few Liberians trusted the federal government to guard them from threats or assist them resolve disputes. The place the rule of legislation is robust, residents are keen to rely on the police and courts when crimes are dedicated or violence happens.
In Liberia, that belief was gone
UNMIL was instrumental in repairing this damaged social contract. The mission restructured the police and courts from the bottom up, recruiting officers and judges and deploying them to posts across the nation. Equally vital, UNMIL engaged with residents on a face-to-face, day-to-day foundation to influence them to offer the police and courts one other probability.
UNMIL performed public awareness campaigns to unfold the phrase about ongoing safety and justice sector reforms. It organized city corridor conferences to encourage cooperation with the police. And it helped the police reestablish contact with residents via joint patrols and co-deployments in probably the most distant areas of the nation.
These efforts paid off. In my analysis I draw on surveys with greater than 13,000 Liberians between 2008 and 2012. The surveys served a number of functions. They had been the idea for an evaluation of another dispute decision program in Liberia, and for a pilot early warning system for riots and different kinds of native violence. However the surveys additionally produced a wealth of information on Liberians’ attitudes in the direction of their very own authorities, in addition to their interactions with UNMIL personnel.
UNMIL helped restore confidence within the rule of legislation
Right here’s what I found: The extra often residents interacted with UNMIL personnel, the extra keen they had been to depend on the police and courts to adjudicate probably the most critical incidents of crime and violence. Like different research documenting the consequences of seemingly mundane peacekeeping activities, I discover that UNMIL’s affect depended partly on routine patrols, public works initiatives and interventions to resolve disputes.
I additionally discover that UNMIL’s presence decreased reliance on the Liberian observe of “trial by ordeal” — an unlawful however nonetheless widely used method to find out the id of suspected criminals. In a single frequent variation, a heated cutlass is pressed in opposition to the pores and skin of the accused. If he burns, he’s responsible; if not, harmless.
The United Nations has lengthy viewed trial by ordeal as a violation of human rights and due course of protections. Whereas UNMIL didn’t eradicate the observe, the mission helped cut back its prevalence.
UNMIL personnel had been hardly saints, nonetheless
Some commentators, together with high-level U.S. policymakers, have pointed to issues like these as proof of peacekeeping failure. However criticism of UNMIL’s shortcomings might obscure a document of typically outstanding success.
The query shouldn’t be whether or not Liberian establishments are actually completely useful — they aren’t — or whether or not residents’ belief in them has been fully restored. It has not. As a substitute, maybe the query to ask as we speak, 20 years after violence broke out anew, is whether or not Liberia is healthier off than it could have been had UNMIL by no means deployed, and whether or not the funding in peace and the rule of legislation was value it.
Robert A. Blair (@robert_a_blair)i s the Joukowsky Household Assistant Professor of Political Science and Worldwide and Public Affairs at Brown College, and in addition a Junior College Fellow in Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. His analysis focuses on worldwide intervention and the consolidation of state authority after civil conflict, with an emphasis on rule of legislation and safety establishments.