Adding to the messiness of post-conflict reconstruction

A new study finds that local priorities in post-war torn regions and those of peace keeping operations may be very different.  Jobs and education appear to rank high as immediate goals for the population, unsurpisingly, while peacekeepers see the end of physical threats as the immediate task, again unsurprisingly.

“[P]erceptions of security differ significantly among the three sets of actors. Within the context of their mission objectives, the military contingents that characterize PSOs [peace support operations] understand security first and foremost in terms of “force protection”, that is, the need for protection of their own personnel from attacks and threats of attack. PSO perceptions of the security needs of AAs and local communities are viewed through those lenses. While AAs [Assistance Agencies] are also concerned about insecurity as it impinges on their ability to carry out their assistance and protection activities, they are more likely to take risks in the interest of carrying out their tasks. They also tend to have a better understanding of how socio-economic issues impact on security and generally have a better grasp than PSOs do of the concerns of local populations. For their part, local communities view security as safety from physical harm and abuse but also extending far beyond to encompass a sense of well-being, including elements such as employment, access to basic services, political participation, and cultural identity. As one respondent put it, ‘There is no peace without bread.'”

Certainly, each part has its arguments for its priorities.  But there may be another issue. Paul Collier and Anne Hoeffler’s oft-cited argument–namely, that it takes time to build the absorptive capacity to effectively utilitize aid–may imply that it’s not so easy a matter as switching focus.  In conjunction, post-conflict expectations and constraints may be a recipe for frustration and disappointment. Maybe.