IR Job Talk: Dr. Andrea Warnecke - Peace without agency? Explaining the curious absence of politics from externally assisted ‘post-conflict transitions’

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Nador u. 15
Quantum 101
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 10:00am
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 10:00am


Peace processes, just like the processes that lead to war, are inherently political. This truism notwithstanding, multilateral efforts to build peace in states emerging from internal armed conflict have repeatedly been criticized for their depoliticized practices. Commonly referred to as the ‘liberal peace’, peacebuilding has largely converged towards state building. As such, it reflects an understanding of peace as attainable by establishing and ‘building capacity’ for liberal institutions, market economies, ‘the rule of law’, and the protection of human rights. As a result, current peacebuilding thought and practice continues to neglect a sustained consideration of and engagement with ‘local’ conflict parties and contested issues such as identities, interests, and ideas.

How, then, can we account for the ostensible and problematic absence of ‘politics’ from peacebuilding practices? This paper argues that core institutional principles and concerns with impartiality and legitimacy prompt international organisations (IOs) in contested environments to render their work apolitical. To this end, the paper firstly reviews the trajectories by which IOs from the peacekeeping, humanitarian, and development fields of practice adopted intra-state peacebuilding to their portfolios. Secondly, the paper identifies a set of mechanisms by which IOs continuously reframe their approaches in developmental, psycho-social, and increasingly legal terms with a view to enabling them to act in contested environments. In particular, I argue that the ‘rights’ frame serves the dual purpose of depoliticizing issues while simultaneously coercing actors, thus allowing purportedly impartial and politically neutral IOs to project power while retaining their core institutional identities.

Key words: peacebuilding, state building, depoliticization, international organizations, impartiality, legitimacy


Andrea Warnecke is a Senior Researcher at the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR). She recently completed her PhD at the European University Institute (EUI), Florence, Department of Political and Social Sciences. Her dissertation ‘Peace without Agency? The Emergence and Persistence of Peacebuilding as a Depoliticized Practice’ analyses the role of international organisations in post-war governance as characterised by tensions between impartiality and political agency.

Prior to undertaking her PhD research, Andrea earned a Master’s degree in History, English Literature, and Media Studies from the University of Bochum. From 2006 to 2011, she worked as a Senior Researcher at Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC). During this time, she developed and conducted several research projects in the fields of involuntary migration, diaspora politics, and peacebuilding and development, which were funded by the 7th EU Research Framework Programme, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and the Gerda Henkel Foundation.