The International Peacebuilding Architecture and State and Peace Formation in Post-Revolutionary Societies

Project Details


This project examines the challenges to the state and international system arising from post-revolutionary state formation in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, and the response of peacebuilding and statebuilding approaches. Prevalent blueprints for peace- and statebuilding have been openly challenged during the revolts, while the fragmentation of power on the ground prevents the continuation of elite-driven policies. Donors, UN agencies, and INGOs are under pressure to adjust their official programmes in accordance with local forces of state formation and revolutionary dynamics. This comparative project examines the tension between the international statebuilding and peacebuilding architecture and popular mobilisation in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. It ask what type of peace and state is forming at the intersection of these processes
Furthermore, it also will investigate how key international actors such as the UN or EU are responding.

This project aims to contribute to the conceptual renewal of two fields, whose long -held beliefs have been challenged by the revolutionary dynamics in the Arab region: Middle Eastern Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies. It advances the epistemology of post-revolutionary state formation, introduces the concept of peace formation, and contrasts their differing dynamics in the cases of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.

The Arab Uprisings of 2011 have exposed large gaps in Middle East Studies’ epistemology. Its understanding of the state, regime and institutions had to be revised along with an overly narrow focus on civil society. Moreover, its focus on elite-level politics limited its understanding of transformative impulses, emerging from local communities. Three years into the uprisings conceptual renewal is still limited. A growing loss of confidence in the region’s revolutionary momentum allows Orientalist tendencies (such as to fundamentalism and within terrorism studies) to regain centre stage of disciplinary debates.

This project contributes a fresh perspective on the recent uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Based on original fieldwork, it focuses on the networks through which local 'peace agency' shapes policies and institutions from below. It aims to develop a novel conceptual framework through which empirical insights into postrevolutionary developments will be evaluated: it strives for a sound understanding of everyday dimensions of non-violent state formation processes, of the fragmentation of power in post-revolutionary states, of the potential and limitations of popular sovereignty and of the moral economy dimensions of current efforts to reform post-revolutionary economies. It investigates the tension between local state formation agency, the ‘deep state’ (re-emerging political, economic and bureaucratic elites) and the international peacebuilding architecture in the most recent phase of revolutionary dynamics.

The Arab Uprisings present new conceptual, practical, normative and ethical challenges to the international peace architecture. Peacebuilding, statebuilding and development have long been criticised for their reliance on externalised agency and standards, reform and conditionality. It has become fairly clear why liberal peacebuilding and statebuilding tend to meet with resistance on the ground, particularly in our cases. Yet critique of those concepts rarely offers a sophisticated understanding of how local recipients respond to their subjectification through a kind of trusteeship driven by international organizations, donors and NGO. Moreover, it is unclear how international actors are revising their approaches in the light of the Arab Uprisings. Some innovations have been developed by the UN, such as 'non-mission policy settings' and foregrounding 'conflict sensitivity'. Inclusivity, how to engage with fragmented power and local resistance remains questionable though.
Short titleR:HAF Peacebuilding 35481
Effective start/end date1/09/1431/08/16

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute


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