Building Democracies and Markets in the Post-Conflict Context
Post-conflict reconstruction is a challenging process for any nation recovering from protracted violence, and is often looked at with a dose of criticism and skepticism. It is especially difficult when early hopes for better livelihoods, economic prosperity, and conflict resolution meet the realities of political battles, ethnic disputes, misguided policies, social disorder, and quarrels over key resources. Still, post conflict reconstruction can also be a time for hope. As reconstruction efforts mount, a unique window of opportunity for reforms opens up as domestic decision-makers, business leaders, social actors, and international donors come together in an attempt to create a more positive future for the citizens of a country emerging from conflict. Seizing this opportunity to implement real reforms is one of the greatest challenges facing all actors involved in reconstruction processes.
CIPE’s experience suggests one way to approach the complex challenges of post-conflict reconstruction is to view the process as a balancing act of providing sufficient humanitarian relief without compromising longer-term development objectives. These longer-term objectives include developing institutions – not government agencies, but political, economic, and social structures and mechanisms – that allow free market democracies to take root. These institutions do not emerge overnight and rarely take shape as originally envisioned. Yet, ultimately, the success of countries in building sound democratic governance and providing economic opportunities will be the determining factor in achieving prosperity, peace, and sustainability.
Another crucial element for reconstruction is avoiding top-down governmental or international initiatives, with little participation and input from the local population and various civil society groups. Building the reconstruction process around local groups gives credibility to the development effort and introduces a sense of accountability, as reformers ultimately become responsible for successes and failures before their own citizens, not donors or foreign governments. While it may be more of an art than a science, those involved in a country’s post-conflict recovery must identify an effective way to use the expertise and commitment of local groups to achieve lasting peace and prosperity. In cases where local capacity does not exist, it must be created with the recognition that creating domestic capacity for
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