A grounded theory of local ownership as meta-conflict in Afghanistan

Andrew Collins, Chuck Thiessen

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Abstract

Internationally-sponsored interventions in fragile and conflict-affected states are often resisted by domestic actors who have deep local knowledge, profoundly different expectations of political processes, and keen desires to shape their country’s future. Many forms of local resistance can damage or stall the progress of externally driven peacebuilding, but the critical peacebuilding literature has suffered from an inability to articulate coherent strategic alternatives to the dominant paradigm of liberal interventionism. This paradigm, we argue, is actually part of what fuels continued resistance: as external actors seek to implant liberal democratic norms into local bureaucratic and political cultures, countless sites of conflict emerge, with local and international actors jockeying between and amongst each other for position, resources, and control over the specificities of reform. These struggles – effectively a competition over local ownership – are at the centre of peacebuilding and will determine short- and long-term intervention outcomes. Focusing on the case of political reform in Afghanistan, this article develops a grounded theory of ownership as ‘meta-conflict,’ in which participant voices from local and international peacebuilding leaders, working in-country, are given a primary role in determining the compatibility of the donor community’s prevailing liberal agenda with local requirements for building peace.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-234
Number of pages19
JournalCooperation and Conflict
Volume55
Issue number2
Early online date12 Dec 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Andrew Collins is a PhD Candidate at the Department of War Studies, King's College London (Strand Ln, London, UK, WC2R 2LS) researching peacebuilding and state-building interventions, state fragility, and local ownership of police and security sector reform. Email: andreweecollins@gmail.com.

Chuck Thiessen is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University (Priory St, Coventry, UK, CV1 5FB). Dr Thiessen’s research has focused on the ethics of international intervention in conflict and war zones, international interventions to prevent violent extremism, and international conflict resolution. Email: chuck.thiessen@coventry.ac.uk.

Funder

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)

Keywords

  • local ownership
  • Afghanistan
  • democratization
  • peacebuilding
  • intervention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations

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