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The need to maintain cohesive societies has remained one of the areas of focus for many governments and stakeholders across the globe. Körppen (2007) argues that, for any country to succeed there is the need to ensure that, a healthy relationship with  its neighbours is maintained, as this promotes trade, sharing of expatriates, collective bargaining through trade blocs such as the European Union, ECOWAS, United Arab Emirates and BRICKS among other notable trading blocs across the globe. However, over the recent years, peace and stability between states has proved elusive, resulting to multiple of deaths, displacement of individuals, loss of personal and state properties among other notable atrocities towards humanity. In this light, international organization such as the United Nations, Non-governmental organizations, donors among other notable institutions have pondered on the best recipe, which can be employed by various governments and stakeholders to ensure peace and prosperity among states. This is a critical ingredient in the enactment of the millennium development goals among other set economic and political visions across the globe.

For instance, in order to ensure peace and prosperity, United Nations has used peace-building, preventive diplomacy and peacemaking, sanctions and disarmament as the main instruments and tools for peace and security. Among the four  tools and instruments, peace-building has proved to be very effective, as seen in countries such as East Timor, Cambodia, Sudan and Burundi, where this has been significantly productive. Lidén (2005) argues that, as the term ‘peace-building’ suggests, peace is regarded as certain state of a society, which has to be obtained and is based on the main assumption that, every process of peace has a notable beginning and end, thus can be effectively controlled as well as guided. On this note, Körppen (2007) indicates that, peace can only be built, if the right strategy is effectively developed and tools be adequately applied. Therefore, there is the need to adopt more pro-peace modules, such as good governance, demobilization, gender issues, and judicial reforms among others. Based on the above arguments, this paper will critically evaluate the reasons as to why liberalism cannot provide a good framework for building peace between states.

Background at Liberalism

According to Budziszewski (1999), liberalism can be regarded as a political philosophy, which is built on the idea of equality and liberty. Liberalism normally espouses wide range of array of views, which depends on their personal understanding of principles relating to liberty as well as equality, though they support ideas like civil rights, free and fair elections, freedom of religion, and free ownership of private properties among others. Körppen (2007) notes that, initially, liberalism became a well known political movement at the age of enlightening, and was brought about by economist as well as philosophers from the Western countries such as the United States, United Kingdom among other countries in the European region. It is clear that, liberalism highly rejected the notions of absolute monarchy, hereditary privileges among others. The revolutionaries, who were in the French Revolution and American Revolution among other liberal revolutions, significantly used philosophy of liberalism, in order to justify armed overthrow of what they viewed as tyrannical leaderships. However, in the late 19th century, liberal governments, which were established in countries across Spanish America, Europe, and North America, employed the idea of classical conservatism in their ideologies (Körppen 2007).  There are various ideologies, which supports the concept of liberalism. One of it is classical liberalism, which advocates for political freedom as well as civil liberties with limited government being under the rule of law.

The ideology also promotes laissez-faire policies on economic development among others (Newman, Paris and Richmond 2009). During the early 20th century, liberal ideas were highly spread. This is due to the fact that, liberal states usually found themselves winning both wars, that is, the First and the Second World War. Further, liberalism also survived notable ideological challenges and this ranged from the idea of communism and fascism among others. As a result, the idea of liberalism started to acquire diverse meanings across various parts of the world. For instance, Budziszewski (1999) note that, in the United States, liberalism is usually associated with welfare policies on New Deal programme, as suggested by President Roosevelt. On the other hand, in the European region, liberalism is associated with commitment to laissez-faire economic policies among other activities, which checks the power being exercised by the government. Since the onset of the 21st century, liberal states and political parties remains a major political force, having varying degrees of influence and power in most parts of the world (Budziszewski, 1999). Based on the fact that, the idea of liberalism has been adopted by most states globally, is it an effective tool for building peace between states?

Liberal Peace-building

Budziszewski (1999) notes that, as a result of the scope as well as the breadth of the activities aimed at building peace across the globe and the need of building institutions which are based on democracy and market economies, contemporary peacebuilding activities are usually described as liberal peacebuilding. The main theoretical underpinning of this liberal peacebuilding is the liberal peace, the idea that, a given type of society will be more likely to be peaceful, in regard to their domestic affairs as well as in international relations in comparison to illiberal states. On the other hand, the international invariant is usually ‘democratic peace’, where consolidated democracies do not usually go into war with one another. This is due to the fact that, democracies own institutional constraints on these leaders who make initiating conflicts with the other states difficult. In addition to this, these countries are fully interdependent especially in regard to their economies, thus going into war may highly interrupt their trade or economic relations (Reus-Smit and Snidal 2008). Moreover, since the onset of the 21st century, there has been the resurgent interest in regard to democratic variant of the liberal peace theory. This is the mentality that, states which are liberally constituted are enormously peaceful, humane and prosperous as well as better environmentally friendly as compared to non-democratic states. Chandler (2009) argues that, indeed, the domestic and international versions on the theory of liberal peace have highly blended into great reaching claims on the manifold peace producing benefits of marketisation and democratisation.

On this note, Newman et. al (2009) argue that “....Countries that govern themselves in a truly democratic fashion do not go to war with one another. They do not aggress against their neighbors to aggrandize themselves or glorify their leaders. Democratic governments do not ethnically ‘‘cleanse’’ their own populations, and they are much less likely to face ethnic insurgency. Democracies do not sponsor terrorism against one another. They do not build weapons of mass destruction to use on or to threaten one an- other. Democratic countries form more reliable, open, and enduring trading partnerships. In the long run they offer better and more stable climates for investment. They are more environmentally responsible because they must answer to their own citizens, who organize to protest the destruction of their environments. They are better bets to honor international treaties since they value legal obligations and because their openness makes it much more difficult to breach agreements in secret. Precisely because, within their own borders, they respect competition, civil liberties, property rights, and the rule of law, democracies are the only reliable foundation on which a new world order of inter-national security and prosperity can be built........” (p. 11).

It is notable that, peacebuilding activities are not usually neutral in regard to their impact or normative orientation. This raises a great concern on the role and ability of international organisations such as the United Nations and International Monetary Fund among others in attempting to bring to end civil conflicts, through the idea of promotion of particular economic and political models. In some given instances, some particular values as well as approaches can prove to be odd towards the attainment and stability of peace. For instance, they promote neo-liberal economic agendas that may be significantly exacerbate economic or social tensions as well as obstruct reintegration of people who were displaced during conflicts, or in some instances, exacerbate secretarial divisions and political conflicts. Reus-Smit and Snidal (2008) note that, the legitimacy of peacebuilding through liberalism has over the recent years experienced some growing levels of criticism, though there are notable differences in regard to the terms of whether this may have resulted from assumptions and values, which underpins its performance.

Emerging Issues and Hybridized Forms of Peacebuilding

In the recent years, the aspect of peace-building has been left to the hands of well-established economies, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, donor organisations. However, it is clear that, most of these actors posses conflicting morals and this is opposed tom the idea of liberal peacebuilding. They also have little democratic and social accountability, especially in the post-conflict communities, which they work for. Newman et. al (2009) note that, if liberal peace is the main goal of peacebuilding, then, there is the need include social contract. In order to develop this, states are required to access as well as support social, policy and academic hybridised epistemic base. Peacebuilding cannot fully depend merely on the knowledge and the leadership, which is developed by the West or any other state. Given the experience in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, policymakers are now required to think on ways in which they can improve the idea of liberal peace, especially on ways to deal with issues emerging out of it. Newman et. al (2009)  argue that, in the study of universalism and validity of the liberal peace, it is becoming clear that, peacebuilding is a bigger duty as compared to the liberal state building in the idea of its own problem solving. This is due to the fact that, peacebuilding engage with political and security institutions, the economy as well as the global economy. This indicates that, institutions as well as the norms of liberalism are significant contributors to the idea of peacebuilding as well as statebuilding.

The Failure of Liberal Peace-Building in Central America

As seen in the case of Central America, liberalism has in most cases failed to offer a healthy framework for building peace between states. In 1987, presidents from Central America signed peace treaty that was a critical the much step in ending various notable internal wars. The Esquipulas-II-Treaty, significantly laid the needed basis geared towards ending escalating wars in countries such as Nicaragua, Guatemala and Slavado. These states had evoked various interstate incidences as well made the region to be one of the trouble spots across the globe (Kurtenbach, 2007). During the next ten years, peace accords were signed in Nicaragua, El Slavador and Guatemala. This was in 1990, 1992 and 1996 respectively (Kurtenbach 2007). At this time, more than 300,000 lives had been lost; two million people displaced from their homes as well as destroyed the much weak economic and social infrastructures (Kurtenbach 2007). The formal end of this war was viewed as a step not just for recovery but also for notable fundamental transformation for the Central American region towards stability, development and peace. From a global point of view, the region was one of the initial laboratories for the idea of the paradigm of liberal peacebuilding.

This paradigm assumed threefold transformation of market economy, democracy and peace as a strengthening process resulting to sustainable growth. Although, none of these three countries ever slipped back into civil conflict, there still remain some notable deficits, which cannot be explained neither as moral development problems nor legacy of war. One of the areas in which the paradigm of liberalism failed is in regard to public security. In Central America, the main aim of peace accord was to bring to an end the violence, which had been experienced for a long time (Kurtenbach, 2007). In the accord, three notable steps namely ceasefire, demobilisation and then reintegration were followed. The accord significantly affected three groups namely contra, a combatant group in Nicaragua, former guerrilla members located in Guatemala and El Salvador. Although demobilisation of the contra and the guerrilla groups armed forces is widely viewed as the most successful phases of the peace accord, there was no equity in carrying out this activity. This is due to the fact that, demobilisation should have involved the paramilitary forces, which were operating in the three states. For instance, in 2006, it was estimated that, over 800,000 fire arms still remain unregistered, a fact which justifies the high crime rate in this region, especially in Guatemala (Kurtenbach, 2007).


The need to maintain peaceful coexistence between states has remained a critical area of focus to many stakeholders across the globe. Though the paradigm of liberalism has been viewed as one of the best way to building peace to states across the globe, it has failed to fulfil its mandates, as seen in the case of Esquipulas-II-Treaty in Central America. Liberalism normally espouses wide range of array of views, which depends on their personal understanding of principles relating to liberty as well as equality, though they support ideas like civil rights, free and fair elections, freedom of religion, and free ownership of private properties among others. Given the experience in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, policymakers are now required to think on ways in which they can improve the idea of liberal peace, especially on ways to deal with issues emerging out of it. In its liberal definition, therefore, peacebuilding can thus not be a measure for radical structural transformation of economic and global order as it tends to be controlled by most developed economies especially those from the West. 

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