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International peacebuilding is experiencing a pragmatic turn. The era of liberal idealism is waning, and in its place new approaches to peacebuilding are emerging. This article identifies one such emerging approach, gives it a name—adaptive peacebuilding—and explores what it may be able to offer peacebuilding once it is more fully developed. It builds on the knowledge generated in the fields of complexity, resilience and local ownership, and may help inform the implementation of the emerging UN concept of sustaining peace. It is an alternative to the determined-design neo-liberal approach that has dominated peacebuilding over the past three decades. It represents an approach where peacebuilders, working closely together with the communities and people affected by conflict, actively engage in structured processes to sustain peace by using an inductive methodology of iterative learning and adaptation. The adaptive peacebuilding approach embraces uncertainty, focuses on processes rather than end-states, and invests in the resilience of local and national institutions to promote change.
Adaptive peacebuilding
International Aairs :  () –; : ./ia/iix
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The premise of this special section of International Aairs is that international
peacebuilding is experiencing a pragmatic turn. At the global systems level, a
phase-shift is under way. The unipolar era, characterized by a liberal US-led
global order, is waning. It is still uncertain what may replace it, but the next
stage in the transition seems to be a multipolar era, in which several states—the
United States, China, Germany, India and Russia, to name a few—each have
access to networks and forms of power sucient to prevent any of the others
from dominating the global order. Another emerging characteristic of the transi-
tion is that several non-state actors, including some international and regional
organizations, several large companies and some non-governmental agencies, can
exert significant influence on the global system on selected issues where they have
a substantial capacity or competency.
These changes at the global systems level have implications for international
peacebuilding. Here too a phase-shift is under way. The era of liberal idealism and
interventionism is on the ebb and in its place we are witnessing a pragmatic turn
in peacebuilding. The era in which peacebuilding was synonymous with pursuing
a liberal peace end-state is coming to an end, and the next phase in the transition
seems to be characterized by a more open-ended or goal-free approach towards
peacebuilding, where the focus is on the means or process, and the end-state is
open to context-specific interpretations of peace.
This article identifies one such emerging approach, gives it a name—adaptive
peacebuilding—and explores what it may be able to oer peacebuilding once it
is more fully developed. I will start by introducing the context within which the
pragmatic turn in peacebuilding has created the conditions enabling the adaptive
peacebuilding approach to emerge. I then introduce the adaptive peacebuilding
approach and examine it by analysing its foundation in complexity theory, its
See the special issue of International Aairs on ‘Ordering the world? Liberal internationalism in theory and
practice’, : , .
Jinghan Zeng and Shaun Breslin, ‘China’s “new type of Great Power relations”: a G with Chinese charac-
teristics?’, International Aairs : , July , pp. –; Kristen Hopewell, ‘The BRICS—merely a fable?
Emerging power alliances in global trade governance’, International Aairs : , Nov. , pp. –.
Ali Burak Güven, ‘Defending supremacy: how the IMF and the World Bank navigate the challenge of rising
power’, International Aairs : , Sept. , pp. –.
Charles T. Call and Cedric de Coning, Rising powers and peacebuilding: breaking the mold? (Basingstoke: Palgrave
Macmillan, ), p. .
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interlinkage with the co-emerging concept of resilience and its relationship with
the principle of local ownership. Along the way I consider its relevance for the
emerging concept of sustaining peace.
The pragmatic turn
The hypothesis of the dominant peacebuilding theory in the liberal peace era was
that societies will achieve sustainable peace when their norms and institutions reflect
and maintain multiparty democracy, a free-market economy, individual human
rights and the rule of law. The theory of change of the liberal peace doctrine holds
that societies that have not yet reached this level of development can be assisted
through peacebuilding and development interventions to adopt liberal norms and
to build liberal institutions. As Pritchett, Woolcock and Andrews explained, the
logic of the period was that ‘the fastest and most expedient route to development
modernity is to adopt the “forms” of those countries further along this path’.
Eriksen identified the liberal peace theory as a ‘deterministic-design’ model,
that is, a causal model where the outcome is more or less guaranteed if the design is
followed. The peacebuilding community was confident in its ability to diagnose
the problems aecting a society emerging from conflict, and to prescribe the steps
such a society needed to take to achieve peace. Ramalingam explains that the
process was understood as a linear cause–eect problem-solving model where
objective experts analysed a conflict to diagnose the problem by identifying the
root causes. Subsequently, these were addressed through programmatic interven-
tions undertaken by international actors such as the UN, regional organizations
like the African Union (AU) or the European Union (EU), and international
non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Where peace was not achieved, this was often attributed to shortcomings in
the implementation of the design, and the solution oered was most commonly a
redoubling of eorts to make the design work. Gelot and Söderbaum argue that
most analysis of peacebuilding during this period aimed to explain what went
well, or less well, with the aim of improving the instruments of intervention.
While several researchers have been critical of the liberal peace approach to
peacebuilding in recent decades, what triggered the pragmatic turn for the western
Youssef Mahmoud and Anupah Makoond, Sustaining peace: what does it mean in practice?, issue brief (New York:
International Peace Institute, April ).
TimothyDonais, Peacebuilding and local ownership: post-conflict consensus-building (New York: Routledge, ), p. .
Kristoer Lidén, ‘Building peace between global and local politics: the cosmopolitan ethics of liberal peace-
building’, in Kristoer Lidén, Richard Mac Ginty and Oliver P. Richmond, eds, Liberal peacekeeping recon-
structed, special issue, International Peacekeeping : , , p. .
Lant Pritchett, Michael Woolcock and Mark Andrews, Capability traps? The mechanisms of persistent implementa-
tion failure, working paper no.  (Washington DC: Center for Global Development, ), p. .
Stein Eriksen, ‘The liberal peace is neither: peacebuilding, statebuilding and the reproduction of conflict in
the Democratic Republic of the Congo’, in Lidén et al., eds, Liberal peacekeeping reconstructed, p. .
 World Bank, World Development Report 2011: Conflict, security, and development (Washington DC, ).
 Ben Ramalingam, Aid on the edge of chaos: rethinking international cooperation in a complex world (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, ), p. .
 Linnea Gelot and Frederik Söderbaum, ‘Interveners and intervened upon: the missing link in building peace
and avoiding conflict’, in Hanne Fjelde and Kristine Höglund, eds, Building peace, creating conflict? Conflictual
dimensions of local and international peace-building (Lund: Nordic Academic Press, ), p. .
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donor and policy community was the US-led interventions in Iraq and Afghani-
stan. Although these interventions followed a dierent and largely military
logic, they influenced peacebuilding because they represented a concentrated
eort to introduce neo-liberal values, backed by highly capable and techno-
logically sophisticated forces and billions of dollars of development assistance. The
same actors that supported these eorts in Iraq and Afghanistan, mostly western
diplomatic, defence and development agencies, were also the leading donors and
drivers behind peacebuilding in the rest of the world. The failures in Iraq and
Afghanistan were too obvious to ignore, and in turn helped the peacebuilding
community to recognize that peacebuilding interventions more broadly, including
those in the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa’s Great Lakes and Horn of Africa
regions, have been largely ineective. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been
saved when wars were prevented or stopped, but despite billions of dollars spent
on humanitarian, development, peacekeeping and human rights eorts, liberal
interventionism has been unable to resolve the underlying factors that drive the
conflicts in these countries. Richmond observes that it became increasingly
less clear throughout the s what types of problem, if any, could be resolved
through international peacebuilding, and that there was also increasing disagree-
ment among policy-makers with regard to how intrusive and prescriptive such
interventions should be.
A related development that also impelled the pragmatic turn was the shift from
understanding peacebuilding as something that is essentially programmatic, to
understanding it as something that is essentially political. In other words, the
problems that peacebuilding attempts to solve are not technical, they are political.
For instance, when designing a new defence force for Liberia, it is not enough to
take into account technical considerations, such as the kind of external threats
that Liberia faces, one also has to understand the political ramifications of the
various options under consideration. Up to around , there was an assump-
tion that one of the benefits of a peacebuilding intervention was that it would
result in more development resources flowing to the recipient countries. This
resulted in a peacebuilding narrative that often reflected donor nomenclature, and
reduced peacebuilding to a technical and programmatic phenomenon. Since
then, and as a result of the lessons learned from—and recognition of the failures
of—the approaches to peacebuilding informed by the programmatic or technical
 See e.g. Mark Dueld, Global governance and the new wars: the merging of development and security (New York: Zed,
); Susanna P. Campbell, David Chandler and Meera Sabaratnam, A liberal peace? The problems and practices of
peace building (London: Zed, ); David Chandler, Statebuilding and intervention: policies, practices and paradigms
Routledge, ).
 See Dan Smith, Towards a strategic framework for peacebuilding: the synthesis report of the joint Utstein study on peace-
building (Oslo: Peace Research Institute Oslo, ); Ann Wilkins, ‘To say it as it is: Norway’s evaluation of
its part of the intervention’, Afghanistan Analysis Network,  Aug. , https://www.afghanistan-analysts.
org/to-say-it-like-it-is-norways-evaluation-of-its-part-in-the-international-intervention/. (Unless otherwise
noted at point of citation, all URLs cited in this article were accessible on  Nov. .)
 David Chandler, Resilience: the governance of complexity (New York: Routledge, ).
 Oliver P. Richmond, After liberal peace: the changing concept of peace-building, RSIS Commentary no.  (Singa-
pore: S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, ).
Cedric de Coning and Eli Stamnes, UN peacebuilding architecture: the first ten years (London: Routledge, ), p. .
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approaches, this understanding of peacebuilding has gradually changed, and
by  the view that peacebuilding is essentially political and local had gained
considerable ground. Over this half-decade, then, what was understood as the
essential added value of international peacebuilding interventions had shifted
from resource mobilization to political accompaniment. Political accompaniment
in the peacebuilding context refers to the international attention that is brought
to bear on a specific country in transition—for instance by being on the agenda of
the UN Peacebuilding Commission or by hosting a UN special political mission—
and that generates structured processes and time-frames that assist the political
actors to engage with each other in analysing their situation, designing strategies
and determining priorities. These serve to maintain positive political momentum
and help to prevent violent conflict.
In , the UN undertook its decennial review of its peacebuilding architecture,
and simultaneously also reviewed its peace operations. These reviews resulted in
resolutions passed simultaneously in the General Assembly and Security Council
in  that introduced a new understanding of peacebuilding, namely that it is
essentially about sustaining peace. Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, the UN Assistant
Secretary-General for peacebuilding, argues that the new sustaining peace concept
acknowledges that peacebuilding is a political activity that must avoid templates,
formulas and one-size-fits-all solutions.
At the UN level, the adoption of the sustaining peace concept is a manifestation
of the pragmatic turn in peacebuilding. It reflects a shift away from the preoccu-
pation (associated with the liberal peace) with identifying and addressing conflict
drivers to prevent imminent relapse into violent conflict. Instead, the focus is now
on identifying and supporting the political and social capacities that sustain peace.
Adaptive peacebuilding
The UN’s new sustaining peace concept is, then, a pragmatic alternative that
is emerging in response to the failures of the determined-design approach of
the liberal peace doctrine. This new concept rejects the liberal peace theory of
change—namely, that an external peacebuilding intervention can set in motion
and control a causal sequence of events that will result in a sustainable peace
outcome. In its place, it argues that the role of the UN is to assist countries to
sustain their own peace processes by strengthening the resilience of local social
institutions, and by investing in social cohesion.
In order to operationalize the sustaining peace concept, the UN will need to
develop new approaches to peace operations and peacebuilding, where inter-
national peacebuilders, together with the communities and people aected by the
 UN, The challenge of sustaining peace: report of the Advisory Group of Experts for the 2015 review of the United Nations
peacebuilding architecture, A//-S// (New York, ).
 UN Security Council Resolution ,  April , UN Doc. S/RES/; General Assembly Resolution
/,  April , UN Doc. A/RES//.
 Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, ‘Sustaining peace is a core activity of the UN’, Global Peace Operations Review, 
April  (New York: New York University Center on International Cooperation).
 Mahmoud and Makoond, Sustaining peace.
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conflict, actively engage in structured processes to prevent conflict and sustain
peace. In this article, I propose one such approach: adaptive peacebuilding.
The adaptive peacebuilding approach is informed by concepts of complexity,
resilience and local ownership. It has become commonplace to argue that peace-
building is a complex undertaking, or that contemporary conflict scenarios are
complex. Beyond this commonsense use of the term, there is a serious academic
project under way, across multiple disciplines, to study and theorize complex-
ity. Complexity theory, applied to the social world, oers insights about social
behaviour and relations that are relevant for peacebuilding. All social systems are
complex systems; and it is increasingly acknowledged that peacebuilding is about
influencing the behaviour of social systems that have been aected by conflict.
Insights from complexity theory about influencing the behaviour of complex
systems, and how such systems respond to pressure, should thus be very instruc-
tive for peacebuilding.
Complexity theory explains that a complex system is a particular type of holistic
system that has the ability to adapt, and that demonstrates emergent properties,
including self-organizing behaviour. Such systems emerge, and are maintained,
as a result of the dynamic and non-linear interactions of their elements, based on
the information available to them locally both as a result of their interaction with
their environment and from the modulated feedback they receive from the other
elements in the system.
Complexity theory posits that social systems are highly dynamic, non-linear
and emergent. One implication of this characterization is that we are not able to
identify general laws or rules that will help us predict with certainty how these
systems will behave in the future. How, then, can we develop sucient knowledge
to help societies to sustain peace?
Complex systems cope with challenges posed by changes in their environment
through co-evolving together with their environment in a never-ending process
of adaptation. This iterative adaptive process uses experimentation and feedback
to generate knowledge about the system’s environment. It is this process, inherent
in the behaviour of all complex systems, that the adaptive peacebuilding approach
seeks to replicate and modulate.
In the development field a similar approach, called adaptive management, or
sometimes adaptive development, is finding increasing acceptance. This approach
consists of iterative cycles of learning, starting with analysis and assessment. On
the basis of the analysis, multiple possible options for influencing a social system
 See e.g. Niklas Luhmann, ‘The autopoiesis of social systems’, in Essays on self-reference (New York: Columbia
University Press, ); Ilya Prigogine, The end of certainty: time, chaos and the new laws of nature (New York: Free
Press, ); Melanie Mitchell, Complexity: a guided tour (New York: Oxford University Press, ).
 Emery Brusset, Cedric de Coning and Bryn Hughes, Complexity thinking for peacebuilding practice and evaluation
(Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, ).
 Donella H. Meadows, Leverage points: places to intervene in a system (Hartland, VT: Sustainability Institute, ).
 Cedric de Coning, ‘From peacebuilding to sustaining peace: implications of complexity for resilience and
sustainability’, Resilience : , , pp. , building on Paul Cilliers, Complexity and postmodernism: understand-
ing complex systems (London: Routledge, ), p. .
 Gregory Wilson, ‘What is adaptive management?’, USAID Learning Lab,  Nov. , https://usaid
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are generated. For instance, a peacebuilding campaign, such as the UN stabiliza-
tion plan for eastern Congo, may choose to undertake several interventions that
have more or less the same broad aim, such as supporting the extension of state
authority. When the selected options are developed into actual campaigns or
programmes, their design must be explicit about the theory of change each will
employ, so that their eects can be assessed. A theory of change should be clear
about how it intends to achieve a change in the behaviour of the social system it
intends to influence, that is, how a series of activities is expected to generate a
particular outcome. A selected number of these intervention options are then
implemented and closely monitored, with a view to identifying the feedback
generated by the system in response to each intervention. The feedback is then
analysed, after which those responsible for the intervention, together with the
communities aected and key stakeholders, decide which initiatives to discon-
tinue, which to continue and, in addition, what adaptations to introduce for those
that are continued. Those that have performed better may be expanded or repli-
cated. The ineectual ones, or those that have generated negative eects, need to
be abandoned. Those that appear to have the desired eects should be continued
and expanded, but in a variety of ways, so that there is a continuous process of
experimentation with a range of options, coupled with a continuous process of
selection and refinement.
This is essentially the way natural selection works in the evolution of complex
systems. The two key factors are variation and selection. There needs to be
variation, that is, multiple parallel interventions; and there needs to be a selection
process, through which eective interventions are replicated and multiplied, and
those that do not have the desired eect are discontinued. The analysis–planning–
implementation–evaluation–selection project cycle is already well established in
the development and peacebuilding communities. However, these communities
of practice are not good at generating sucient variation. They are also notori-
ously bad at selection based on eect, and they are especially poor at identifying
and abandoning underperforming initiatives. To remedy these shortcomings,
the adaptive peacebuilding approach suggests using a particular form of struc-
tured engagement that helps to generate institutional learning, and stimulates and
facilitates adaptation.
An adaptive peacebuilding approach recognizes the role of entropy, i.e. an
awareness that those interventions that appear to be eective today will not
continue to be so indefinitely. Even successful programmes need to be monitored
for signals that may indicate that an intervention is no longer having the desired
eect, or is starting to generate negative side-eects. Jervis observes that we
often intuitively expect linear relationships. For example, if some foreign aid
 Craig Valters, Clare Cummings and Hamish Nixon, Putting learning at the centre: adaptive development programming
in practice (London: Overseas Development Institute, ), p. .
 Owen Barber, ‘Development, complexity and evolution’,
 Frederik F. Rosén and Soren V. Haldrup, ‘By design or by default: capacity development in fragile states and
the limits of programming’, Stability: International Journal of Security and Development : , , pp. –.
Robert Jervis, System eects: complexity in political and social life (Princeton: Princeton University Press, ), p. .
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slightly increases economic growth, it is expected that more aid should produce
greater growth. However, complex systems often display behaviour that cannot
be understood by extrapolating from the units or their relations, and many of
the results of actions are unintended. Non-linearity, in this context, thus refers
to behaviours in which the relationships between variables in a complex social
system are dynamic and disproportionate. Thus it is necessary to monitor not
only for intended results, but also for unintended consequences; and to be ready
to take steps to try to deal with the perverse eects that may come about as a
result of an intervention.
The adaptive peacebuilding approach is scalable to all levels: the same basic
method can be applied to individual programmes, to projects, to regional or
national-level campaigns, or to multiyear strategic frameworks or compacts.
According to an adaptive peacebuilding approach, the feedback generated by
various interventions at dierent levels should be shared and modulated as widely
as possible throughout the system, so that as broad a spectrum of initiatives as
possible can self-adjust and co-evolve on the basis of the information generated
in the process.
In the adaptive peacebuilding approach, the core activity of a peacebuilding
intervention is one of process facilitation. Peacebuilding in the sustaining
peace context is about stimulating those processes in a society that enable self-
organization and that will lead to strengthening the resilience of the social institu-
tions that manage internal and external stressors and shocks. It is not possible to
direct or control self-organization from the outside; it has to emerge from within.
However, peacebuilding agents can assist a society by facilitating and stimulating
the processes that enable self-organization to emerge.
It is crucial, in the adaptive peacebuilding approach, that the societies and
communities that are intended to benefit from a peacebuilding intervention are
fully involved in all aspects of the peacebuilding initiative. External fixes will not
stick if they have not been internalized, and it is thus the local adaptation process
that is the critical element for sustainability. The specific arrangements can dier
from context to context, but the principle should be that no decisions are taken
about a particular peacebuilding intervention without sucient participation of
the aected community or society, depending on the level and scope of the inter-
vention. Suciency here implies that the community should be represented in
such a way that the diversity and variety of their interests, needs and concerns
inform every step of the adaptation cycle. In other words, the aected community
should be suciently represented in the processes that determine the aims and
objectives of the initiative, as well as in all choices related to the processes of
analysis, assessment, planning, monitoring of eects, evaluation and selection.
 Douglas Kiel, ‘Chaos theory and disaster response management: lessons for managing periods of extreme
instability’, in Gus A. Koehler, ed., What disaster response management can learn from chaos theory? (Sacramento,
CA: California Research Bureau, ).
 Chiyuki Aoi, Cedric de Coning and Ramesh Thakur, The unintended consequences of peacekeeping (Tokyo: United
Nations University Press, ).
 De Coning, ‘From peacebuilding to sustaining peace’, p. .
 De Coning, ‘From peacebuilding to sustaining peace’, p. .
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The adaptive peacebuilding approach thus requires a commitment to engage in a
structured learning process together with the society or community that has been
aected by conflict. This commitment comes at a cost, in terms of investing in
the capabilities necessary to enable and facilitate such a collective learning process,
in taking the time to engage with communities and other stakeholders, and in
making the eort to develop new and innovative systems for learning together
with communities as the process unfolds. Andrews, Pritchett and Woolcock point
out, however, that experimental iterations ‘are not necessarily slow or slow to
produce results’. In fact, they argue that ‘the iterations need to be rapid and aggres-
sive to build momentum and team spirit and to ensure continued and expanded
Along the same lines, the UN’s sustaining peace concept also builds on a logic of
upstreaming, meaning that the approach of investing upstream costs in sustaining
peace and preventing future violent conflict is envisioned to be significantly less
expensive than the downstream costs of managing an outbreak of violent conflict.
The Institute for Economics and Peace estimates that, on average, for every US$
invested in prevention, the future cost of conflict could be reduced by US$.
Adaptive peacebuilding will also require a change in organizational culture and
attitude. Experience with the UN Civilian Capacity reform initiative has shown
how challenging it is to bring about change in the organizational culture of so
multifaceted and dispersed an institution as the UN. Salafsky, Margoluis and
Redford suggest several principles that institutions will need to cultivate if they
are to become more adaptive: ‘promoting institutional curiosity and innovation;
valuing failures and learning from mistakes; expecting surprises and capitalizing
on crises; and encouraging personal and organizational growth by hiring people
who are committed to learning.
While the sustaining peace concept and adaptive peacebuilding approach will
have implications for the expenditure of time and resources and for organiza-
tional culture, these do not necessarily mean significantly more eort and expen-
diture overall. The dierence is that more will need to be invested in prevention,
rather than in the management of conflict. Currently, the UN Secretariat spends
approximately US$. billion a year on peacekeeping, and less than US$ billion
on prevention, mediation and peacebuilding. The new UN Secretary-General
has been making this argument energetically; but only time will tell whether
UN member states are willing to take the leap of faith and shift more of their
expenditure from management to prevention.
 Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock, Doing iterative and adaptive work, CID working paper
no.  (Cambridge, MA: Center for International Development, Harvard University, ), p. .
 J
osé Luengo-Cabreraand Tessa Butler, ‘Reaping the benefits of cost-eective peacebuilding’, Global Observatory, 
July ,//peacebuilding-expenditure-united-nations-sustaining-peace/.
 UN, Civilian capacity in the aftermath of conflict: independent report of the Senior Advisory Group, UN Doc. A//–
S// (New York,  Feb. ).
 Nick Salafsky, Richard Margoluis and Kent Redford, Adaptive management: a tool for conservation practitioners
(Washington DC: Biodiversity Support Program, ), pp. –.
 Arthur Boutellis, ‘The threat of US cuts: helping peacekeeping help itself?’, Global Observatory,  March ,//peacekeeping-funding-united-states-trump-security-council/.
 UN Security Council, ‘Secretary-General, in first address to Security Council since taking oce,sets restoring
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I have explained how adaptive peacebuilding is an approach to sustaining peace
that is informed by complexity theory. In the following sections I will highlight
three elements of complexity theory that are important for further developing the
adaptive peacebuilding approach: namely, adapting to uncertainty, a shift in focus
from ends to means, and working with, not against, change. In the process, the
interlinkages with resilience and local ownership will also be further developed.
Adapting to uncertainty
Adaptive peacebuilding recognizes that uncertainty is an intrinsic quality of
complex systems, not a result of imperfect knowledge or inadequate planning
or implementation. One of the core elements of an adaptive peacebuilding
approach that is informed by complexity theory is a recognition that our ability
to fully know complex systems is inherently limited. For peacebuilders this
implies a recognition that tools such as conflict analysis or needs assessments, while
necessary and important, can never generate a fully accurate understanding of a
conflict-aected social system. The planning and programming that are done
on the basis of such analyses and assessments thus need to take into account that
the available knowledge is at best provisional. The unfortunate series of events in
December  that saw the new nation of South Sudan lapse into violent conflict;
the degree to which the conflicts in Syria and Yemen have resulted in the collapse
and fragmentation of these two societies; and the man-made humanitarian crisis in
Rakhine State of Myanmar sparked by the actions of the security forces against the
Rohingya people—all these episodes demonstrate how the dynamic, non-linear
and emergent behaviour of complex social systems can, at times rapidly, evolve
in unpredictable ways, especially when they are under conflict-aected pressure.
Adaptive peacebuilding thus suggests that instruments such as conflict analysis and
needs assessments be approached not as predefined steps in a determined-design
programme cycle, but rather as continuously iterative processes.
Recognizing uncertainty as a starting-point is what Michael Barnett refers to
as cultivating ‘a spirit of epistemological uncertainty’. Bryn Hughes specifi-
cally applies the point to the peacebuilding context and argues that ‘an explicit,
reflexive awareness of the incompleteness of our understanding is … vital so that
decisions are taken with a large degree of caution (and humility) while at the same
time demanding that we think through the possible ramifications’.
trust, preventing crises as United Nations priorities’, press release,  Jan. ,
 Damian Popolo, A new science of international relations: modernity, complexity and the Kosovo conflict (Farnham:
Ashgate, ), p. .
 Frauke de Weijer, A systems perspective on institutional change, with an eye on Afghanistan (Boston: Harvard Kennedy
School, ).
 Valters et al., Putting learning at the centre, p. .
 Hilde F. Johnson, South Sudan: the untold story from independence to civil war (London: I. B. Tauris, ).
 uoted in Thorsten Benner, Stephan Mergenthaler and Philipp Rotmann, The new world of UN peace operations:
learning to build peace? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, ), p. .
 Bryn Hughes, ‘Peace operations and the political: a pacific reminder of what really matters’, Journal of Interna-
tional Peace Operations: –, , p. .
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Recognizing uncertainty does not mean that we cannot engage with complex
social systems in a meaningful way, but it should remind policy-makers, planners
and practitioners of the pitfalls of determined-design assumptions and linear
planning methods when dealing with complex systems. Not all situations peace-
builders have to deal with are complex. Every programme or intervention requires
administrative, financial and logistical planning aimed at generating human
resources, equipment and funding. This part of peacebuilding planning does
indeed require linear, deterministic planning. The challenge, however, is that many
planners and policy-makers seem unable to make the distinction between compli-
cated and complex phenomena. Organizing the logistical aspects of a national
dialogue process in Malawi or Nepal is likely to be complicated; but facilitating
the actual dialogue, with a view to generating an agreed outcome document such
as a national peace accord, will be complex. Complicated systems can potentially
be fully understood, and predicted, provided sucient information is available.
Complex systems, in contrast, are characterized by processes of emergence and
self-regulation in which non-linearity and dynamism play critical roles. Hughes
points out that many ‘continue to plan, implement and evaluate peacebuilding
initiatives as though they were complicated problems—somehow aorded with
well-defined stopping points, solutions that could be “objectively” arrived at and
evaluated, and existing in stable and thus predictable environments’.
How then, in practice, can policy-makers plan peacebuilding interventions
that aim to influence complex social systems? The alternative to a deductive,
determined-design approach to engaging with social systems aected by conflict
is to follow an inductive methodology of participatory exploration, experimen-
tation and adaptation. As outlined above, the adaptive peacebuilding approach
consists of simultaneously exploring multiple options by undertaking several
parallel initiatives. In practical terms, this could mean that several dierent initia-
tives are undertaken simultaneously to support the extension of state authority
in, for instance, the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, northern Mali or
the southern Philippines. These could include building police stations, courts and
civil administration facilities, and recruiting, training and (re-)deploying police
ocers and justice ocials from other parts of the country to sta these new
service centres. Such initiatives are likely to be accompanied by new approaches,
such as community policing, and to be informed by best practices from transitional
justice programmes applied elsewhere. What would distinguish an adaptive peace-
building approach is that it would purposefully generate a variety of initiatives, in
close cooperation with national and local communities; that it would put in place
the capacities necessary to monitor what eects these initiatives are having; and
that it would invest in collaborative mechanisms to select which of these initiatives
to discontinue, expand or adjust, in an iterative process of structured adaptation.
The adaptive peacebuilding approach is thus at its core a continuous process
of exploration and adaptation that generates an emergent understanding of the
 Cilliers, Complexity and postmodernism, p. .
 Hughes, ‘Peace operations and the political’, p. .
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system as it evolves. Andrews, Pritchett and Woolcock describe it as a process
of iterative incrementalism, ‘where each step leads to some learning about what
works and what does not, which informs a next (and potentially dierent) step to
see if an adjusted action works better’. An adaptive peacebuilding approach to
knowledge generation recognizes that because the overall environment, and the
particular social system, are constantly changing, our understanding of the social
system has to co-evolve with it. Even in situations where we may have agreement
among a broad range of stakeholders about what a peacebuilding intervention
should aim to achieve, we cannot know at the outset how to achieve it. Murray
and Marmorek argue that an adaptive approach allows ‘activities to proceed
despite uncertainty regarding how best to achieve desired outcomes … in fact,
it specifically targets such uncertainty … and provides a science-based learning
process characterized by using outcomes for evaluation and adjustment.
One of the recommendations of the UN High-level Independent Panel on Peace
Operations (HIPPO) that undertook a review of UN peacekeeping in  reflects
this approach. The HIPPO was critical of how the UN Security Council currently
authorizes UN peace operations from the outset with a detailed set of mandate
requirements and a budget envelope. It argued that the assumptions on which such
mandates are given are almost always flawed, but once the Security Council has set
an operation on its path it is extremely dicult and politically costly to make any
significant changes to its mandate. It suggested instead a two-stage or sequenced
mandating process, whereby the Security Council as a first step sets out the broad
vision and parameters for the mission, and then requires the UN Secretary-General
to come back to the Council in, for instance, six months, with recommenda-
tions for a more detailed mandate, once the mission has been deployed on the
ground, and has had the benefit of obtaining some information for itself. This
recommendation recognizes the danger of committing to a certain approach based
only on a pre-mandate conflict analysis and needs assessment. The HIPPO recom-
mends instead a mechanism for adapting or refining the peacekeeping mandate
when more information is available. This recommendation is a good first step in
moving UN peace operations away from the current determined-design approach
to planning, but more will need to be done to transform the UN’s planning and
management culture—and related processes—before it is possible to claim that
the UN has embraced an adaptive approach to the planning of peace operations.
Another key feature of the adaptive peacebuilding approach is the recognition
of the inherently political nature of peacebuilding. Choices regarding who gets
to make decisions about which opportunities to explore, which programmes to
 Andrews et al., Doing iterative and adaptive work, p. .
 Valters et al., Putting learning at the centre, p. .
 Carol Murray and David R. Marmorek, ‘Adaptive management: a science-based approach to managing ecosys-
tems in the face of uncertainty’, paper prepared for fifth international conference on science and management
of protected areas, ‘Making ecosystem based management work’, Victoria, British Columbia, – May .
 UN, Uniting our strengths for peace: politics, partnership and people, report of the UN High-level Independent Panel
on UN Peace Operations (New York: UN, June ; hereafter HIPPO Report), p. .
 HIPPO Report, p. ; Adam Day, To build consent in peace operations, turn mandates upside down (Tokyo: United
Nations University, ).
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replicate or expand, and what criteria will be used in the process, all have political
dimensions and political eects. Decisions regarding which policy options to
pursue are rarely technical. They are influenced by political judgements about
who may lose or gain, and as a result it is rare that the technical aspects of a partic-
ular initiative will override what is seen as politically feasible in a given context.
This also implies that a decision to pursue a particular initiative may face pushback
from those who may view it as harmful to their interests, or who were excluded
from the process. An approach informed by complexity theory recognizes that
forward momentum is not inevitable. This is why Kleinfeld recommends that we
plan for sailing boats, not trains:
Progress looks less like a freight train barrelling down a track, whose forward motion can
be measured at regular increments, and more like a sailboat, sometimes catching a burst of
wind and surging forward, sometimes becalmed, and often having to move in counter-
intuitive directions to get to its destination.
The recognition in the adaptive peacebuilding approach of the fact that there is no
external privileged knowledge or predetermined model, and that the design and
decisions should emerge from the process itself, creates meaningful opportunities
for all stakeholders, and especially for local societies and communities, to co-own
and co-manage the process. The adaptive peacebuilding approach may also help
to clarify the dierent political interests at stake or reveal spoilers, because of its
focus on proactive monitoring and feedback. The iterative nature of the adaptive
process also creates many opportunities for engagement of key stakeholders in
decision-making processes.
A shift in focus from ends to means
There is no stopping point or end-state in complex systems. In the context of
a social system whose emergence has been influenced by violent conflict, when
can peacebuilders/practitioners claim to have achieved sustained peace? History
cautions us that there is a high likelihood of relapse into violence for countries
emerging out of conflict. Paul Collier and his colleagues found that approximately
 per cent of all peace processes fail within ten years. The emerging political
crisis in South Africa, which has reached a new tipping point  years after the
end of apartheid, the increasingly high levels of urban violence in Latin America,
decades after several violent conflicts in that region ended, and the emergence of
violent extremism within Europe among second-generation immigrants all serve
to remind us that no society ever reaches a point where it no longer needs to invest
in social cohesion. Rob Ricigliano argues that thinking in terms of ‘success’ and
‘failure’ is nonsensical and even self-defeating in complex peacebuilding contexts.
 Hughes, ‘Peace operations and the political’, p. .
 Rachel Kleinfeld, Improving development aid design and evaluation (Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for
Peace, ), p. .
 Kleinfeld, Improving development aid, p. .
 Paul Collier, V. L. Elliot, Håvard Hegre, Anke Hoeer, Marta Reynal uerol and Nicholas Sambanis, Break-
ing the conflict trap: civil war and development policy (New York: Oxford University Press and World Bank, ).
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He suggests that we instead think of sustaining peace as an infinite game, rather
than as something at which we can succeed or fail. He argues that you never
win in peacebuilding in the sense that you can declare victory and stop investing
in sustaining peace. You can achieve and celebrate milestones along the way, but
we need to recognize that these are always potentially reversible. Moving away
from focusing on ‘problems’ and ‘solutions’ enables peacebuilders to focus on the
quality and sustainability of the engagement with the communities and stake-
holders necessary to sustain the peace.
This shift of focus also helps to reframe peace approaches away from interven-
tions guided by short-term risk assessments to longer-term and earlier preventive
interventions aimed at stimulating and supporting the development of resilient
social institutions that can better manage future shocks and setbacks. This is also
the essence of the dierence between a post-conflict or conflict-management
approach to peacebuilding, which is focused on responding to identified risks,
and the sustaining peace concept of peacebuilding, which is aimed at investing in
the capacity of societies to manage future tensions themselves.
A society that is emerging from recent violent conflict may reach a point where
the likelihood of an imminent relapse into violent conflict is low. However, that
does not imply that it can stop investing in sustaining peace. What does change
over time is the kind of engagement necessary to sustain peace. For instance, in
 Liberia may reach a point at which it is no longer necessary to have a UN
peacekeeping operation as an external guarantor to consolidate its peace process.
However, Liberians will still have to further increase their internal eorts to
improve social cohesion, and to address the inequalities in their society that have
been among the main underlying causes of their vulnerability to violent conflict.
Insights from complexity theory also imply that there cannot be one best or
optimal solution. Innes and Booher argue that, because ‘causality cannot be defini-
tively established and because the system is constantly subject to unanticipated
change, the idea of a best solution is a mirage’. It is not possible to find a single
correct solution to a complex problem such as a conflict between two or more
communities. One should, therefore, not attempt to solve such problems with
determined-design methodologies aimed at definitively diagnosing a problem and
prescribing a solution. The alternative presented by the adaptive peacebuilding
approach is to work with the aected communities to collaboratively develop self-
awareness of the causes and drivers of conflict in the system, through a structured,
collaborative process of experimentation, selection and adaptation, to ultimately
support the emergence of local resilient social institutions that can self-manage
future tensions.
 Rob Ricigliano, ‘Dump the terms “success” and “failure”’, presentation at  Sustaining Peace conference
hosted by Advanced Consortium on Conflict, Cooperation and Complexity, Columbia University, New York,
 June ,UgyelNqxI&
 Judith E. Innes and David E. Booher, Planning with complexity: an introduction to collaborative rationality for public
policy (New York: Routledge, ), p. .
 Cedric de Coning, ‘Implications of complexity for peacebuilding policies and practices’, in Brusset et al.,
Complexity thinking, p. .
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This also implies that peacebuilders have to be cautious about how they use
the notions of ‘best practices’ and ‘lessons learned’. It is important to assess the
eects interventions have generated, and to learn from our experiences. However,
that does not mean that something once learned in one context will work in
another. As Jervis has pointed out, a particular initiative may work well in one
situation, but is unlikely to have the same eect when scaled up or applied in
another context. Even worse, it may generate negative side-eects; or spoilers
may have learned some lessons of their own, and react dierently the next time a
so-called best practice is employed.
The adaptive peacebuilding approach is based on learning, but also on contin-
uous adaptation, and ‘learning-informed’ knowledge should thus always be
understood as provisional. Peter Coleman notes that the main contribution of a
complex-systems approach is ‘that it shifts our understanding away from static,
simplified views of conflict’ and helps us to appreciate the ‘complex, multilevel,
dynamic, and cyclical nature of these phenomena’. In this context, best practices
and lessons learned should be understood as inputs into decision-making processes,
not as standing operating procedures.
Finally, a shift in focus from ends to means may also entail an investment in a
network approach, because networks are more robust and resilient than hierar-
chical structures when dealing with shocks, setbacks and dynamic change. Such
a network approach has already become manifest in the international peace-
building system in the growing number and variety of actors. On the one hand
this has created significant coherence challenges, but on the other hand it has
enabled the international system to deal with a much larger and more diverse set
of situations than would have been the case if it relied exclusively on, for instance,
the UN Secretariat. Despite these challenges, the complex network of interna-
tional, regional, non-governmental and local actors—and the total cumulative
eect their combined eorts are able to generate, for instance in places like Mali,
northern Nigeria and Somalia today—are indicative of the shape future interna-
tional interventions are increasingly likely to take: namely, a networked pattern
of multistakeholder cooperation and partnerships.
Investing in resilience: working with change, not against conict
Liberal peace theory tends to perceive conflict as a problem that needs to be fixed,
and peacebuilding as one of the tools through which the international system
is maintained by correcting the behaviour of errant states and returning them
to their orderly place in a stable international system. Adaptive peacebuilding
recognizes that conflict is a normal and necessary element of change. Its focus is
 Jervis, System eects, p. .
 uoted in Hughes, ‘Peace operations and the political’, p. .
 Paul Cilliers, ‘Boundaries, hierarchies and networks in complex systems’, International Journal of Innovation
Management : , June , pp. –.
 HIPPO Report, p. .
 Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart, Fixing failed states: a framework for rebuilding a fractured world (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, ).
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on supporting the ability of communities to cope with and manage this process
of change in such a way that they can avoid violent conflict.
Commonsense understanding of non-linearity is often associated with concepts
such as disorder, chaos and randomness, because we typically explain non-linearity
as the opposite of the linear, the logical and the orderly. It is thus important to
emphasize that in the context of complexity theory, non-linearity is recognized
as an essential ingredient in the processes of emergence and self-organization that
generate order in complex systems. Non-linearity is the element that distinguishes
a complex system from a linear, deterministic, mechanical or complicated system.
The latter is fully knowable, predictable and, therefore, in principle controllable.
It is therefore also unable to do anything that is not pre-programmed or designed
(if it is a human-made system) or new, in the sense that we could not predict
it in advance, provided we had enough information (if it is a natural system).
In contrast, the non-linearity in complex systems is what makes it possible for
these systems to adapt and to evolve, that is, to create something new that goes
beyond what is pre-programmed in the parts that make up the system. This is what
is known as emergence in complexity theory. Non-linearity is thus an essential
part of—in fact, a precondition for—emergence, self-regulation and adaptation
in complex systems.
When we say that an adaptive peacebuilding approach recognizes that conflict
is a necessary element of change, a distinction needs to be drawn between violent
conflict, which is undesirable, and constructive conflict, or what Morin calls the
antagonism of the network. Constructive conflict refers to the competition
among people pursuing dierent, often incompatible, interests: this is normal,
desirable and indeed necessary for any society to be vibrant, adaptive and innova-
tive. Adaptive peacebuilding recognizes that complex systems, including social
systems, need to be under stress to innovate, adapt and evolve. Adaptation in
response to stress perpetuates the system and helps it to evolve and survive.
Many conflicts come about as a result of inequality, exclusion, or the margin-
alization of one or more identity groups in a society. At some point, these groups
organize themselves and gain the ability to protest against their exclusion. Societies
are, however, unlikely to change their patterns of power and privilege unless forced
to do so. Social systems usually start to adapt only when the cost of maintaining
the current system becomes too high. The disadvantaged group typically draws
attention to its plight by increasing the costs of its exclusion, for instance via
public protest. If those in power continue to ignore the protests, or step up the
suppression of the excluded group, some elements in this group often turn to
violence as a means of increasing the pressure on those in power. Eventually a
 Cilliers, Complexity and postmodernism, p. .
 Edgar Morin, ‘Restricted complexity, general complexity’, paper presented at colloquium ‘Intelligence de la
complexité: épistémologie et pragmatique’, Cerisy-la-Salle, France,  June , trans. Carlos Gershenson;
repr. in Carlos Gershenson, Diedrik Aerts and Bruce Edmonds, Worldviews, science and us (Liverpool: Univer-
sity of Liverpool Press, ), p. .
 Nicholas Taleb, The black swan: the impact of the highly improbable (London: Penguin, ), p. .
 Mareile Kaufmann, ‘Emergent self-organisation in emergencies: resilience rationales in interconnected socie-
ties’, Resilience : , , pp. – at p. .
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tipping point is reached where the costs of exclusion exceed the benefits; a point at
which society typically starts to adapt by creating new and more inclusive patterns
of organization and representation. Many conflicts and struggles have followed
this pattern, including for example the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa,
the anti-slavery movement in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the
struggle for the rights of women to vote and run for oce in the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries in Europe and the United States.
An important characteristic of the adaptive peacebuilding approach is that it
works with change, not against conflict. It does so by making use of the natural
dynamic and non-linear processes that characterize complex social systems to
stimulate feedback, and facilitate the natural ability of complex systems to self-
organize. If a society is fragile, it means that the social institutions that govern its
politics, security, justice and economy lack resilience. Resilience refers here to the
ability of the social institutions to absorb and adapt to the internal and external
shocks and setbacks they are likely to face. If a society is fragile, there is a risk that
it may not be able to manage these tensions, pressures, disputes, crises and shocks
without relapsing into violent conflict. This risk is gradually reduced as the social
institutions develop the resilience necessary to cope with the type of threats to
which they are exposed.
McCandless and Simpson explain this focus on resilience as a shift ‘from the
aspiration to prevent conflict by controlling change, to the capacities of systems to
cope with, adapt to, and shape change’. It implies channelling change, facilitating
the flow of information, and generating processes that can stimulate and support
the self-organization necessary to manage complex social systems.
The adaptive peacebuilding approach is aimed at helping societies to develop
the resilience and robustness they need to cope with and adapt to change by
helping them to develop greater levels of complexity in their social institutions.
McCandless and Simpson point out that ‘the resilience lens oers peacebuilding a
perspective on the endogenous strengths in systems, structures and people within
conflict-aected societies, rather than the more conventional focus on the obsta-
cles to peace’. The adaptive peacebuilding approach thus aims to work with the
constructive attributes of change by investing in the resilience of social institu-
tions and thereby helping them to cope with and channel change positively, and
to manage conflict in such a way that it does not become violent. It does so by
proposing to involve local societies and communities in all decisions related to the
peacebuilding process, on a scale not attempted to date.
International peacebuilding is experiencing a pragmatic turn. Over the past decade
setbacks in several places, including Burundi, Libya, South Sudan and Yemen, to
 De Coning, ‘From peacebuilding to sustaining peace’, p. .
 Erin McCandless and Graeme Simpson, Assessing resilience for peacebuilding (New York: Interpeace, ), p. .
 De Coning, ‘From peacebuilding to sustaining peace’, p. .
 McCandless and Simpson, Assessing resilience for peacebuilding, p. .
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name a few, have significantly eroded the confidence that peacebuilding formerly
enjoyed in the international system. These failures have begun to take peace-
building in qualitatively dierent directions.
In , the UN undertook strategic reviews of its peacebuilding architecture
and its peace operations; these reviews introduced the new ‘sustaining peace
concept, which acknowledges that peacebuilding is a political activity that must
avoid templates, formulas and one-size-fits-all solutions.
These developments created fertile ground for the emergence of new
approaches to peacebuilding. This article makes the case for one such approach,
namely adaptive peacebuilding, and argues that it can assist in operationalizing the
new sustaining peace concept. It is an approach in which peacebuilders, together
with the communities and people aected by the conflict, actively engage in a
structured eort to sustain peace by employing an iterative process of learning
and adaptation.
The adaptive peacebuilding approach is aimed at helping societies to develop
the resilience and robustness they need to cope with and adapt to change, by
helping them to develop greater levels of complexity in their social institutions.
The adaptive peacebuilding approach is indicative of the pragmatic turn in
peacebuilding in that it embraces uncertainty, focuses on process not end-states,
and opts to invest in the resilience of local and national institutions and thereby
their ability to promote change.
This is a significant departure from the liberal peacebuilding commitment to a
liberal end-state and the deductive, deterministic design methodology it employed
to arrive at such a predefined end-state. The article argues that the adaptive peace-
building approach is well placed to facilitate the shift in peacebuilding towards a
long-term investment in preventing conflict and sustaining peace, with a focus on
strengthening the resilience of social institutions, and investing in social cohesion
and related capacities that assist societies to self-sustain their peace processes.
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... We embed the theoretical discussion in two distinct, but related streams of research developed in different theoretical contexts that inform our understanding of how leaders act in and adapt to complexity. Those streams are research on Complexity Leadership Theory, hereafter CLT , and adaptive peacebuilding (De Coning, 2018). Both have complexity as their theoretical foundation and hold that adaptivity and adaptive space are significant factors in handling complexity. ...
... Therefore, the crucial question is how to lead and adapt to the kind of complexity defined through local knowledgecontent complexity-and through processes and social relations to locals-process or social complexity (see Conklin, 2005;Stoppelenburh & Vermaak, 2009). Consequently, a holistic understanding of peacekeeping and the importance of the local have become an issue, and the theoretical development of these notions has been undertaken in the adaptive peacebuilding approach (De Coning, 2018). ...
... Adaptive peacebuilding is informed by concepts of complexity, resilience, self-organization, and local ownership (De Coning, 2016). The concept acknowledges the importance of adaptation to uncertainty while encouraging a shift in the focus from ends to means and working with, not against, change to sustain peace (De Coning, 2018). As in CLT, the adaptive space is central to the adaptive and selforganization processes. ...
The article examines how military leaders serving as peacekeepers navigate complexity and adapt to it. The theoretical underpinnings of the study are linked to adaptive peacebuilding and Complexity Leadership Theory, and specifically to how enabling leadership through adaptive space helps to work with the local conflict dynamics and change to sustain peace. The findings are based on 29 interviews with military leaders with command experience on peacekeeping operations. The findings introduce five dimensions that unpack complexity into structural, functional, security‐related, professional, and steering‐related complexity and provide empirical evidence on balancing actions relating to complexity in a peacekeeping context. The article develops an analytical framework for peacekeeping. It also contributes to Complexity Leadership Theory by unpacking the complexity into dimensions, unpacking the actors into groups and communities with commitments, and by addressing power relations and the dark side of their emergence.
... At the same time, continued monitoring is necessary because of the world's continency and non-linearity that might at one point suggest a whole new strategy that did not seem to be related to the intervention in the beginning. (De Coning, 2018) A contextual shift in peacebuilding also unveils a lot of strategies that are already in place in (post-)conflict areas and do reflect a relational peace. While they are often not regarded as peace-relevant since do not meet the ideal demands of modernist conceptions of peace, they do ease the worst hardships of armed conflict, enable prosperous life in uncertain contexts or thoroughly resolve conflicts and provide justice. ...
... Related international peacebuilding strategies will find themselves within a spectrum that represents the degree of confidence regarding the possibility and necessity of external involvement: from the pure recognition and acknowledgement of ongoing local peace arrangements via their support and sustainment (Pospisil, 2019, p. 165-198;Rusche, 2022) towards the design of adaptive and contingent intervention frameworks. (Torrent, 2021a, p. 37-56;De Coning, 2018;United Nations, 2016) ...
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The performance of international peacebuilding is far away from its high ambitions after the end of the Cold War and remains rather bleak. While its underlying concept of the liberal peace has been extensively criticized, an affirmative approach might offer a promising way to overcome various shortcomings of related undertakings. After all, affirming the malaise of peacebuilding translates the circumstances of failure into a reconsidered and non-foundational ontology where entities have no inherent characteristics but are constituted through their infinite entanglements with the human and non-human world. A respective ontological shift not only unveils substantial obstacles to peace-oriented endeavors, but thereby also implies a whole new set of strategies. This paper introduces the debate regarding the issue of peacebuilding within an entangled world. In order to do so, it explains the crisis of peacebuilding ontologically and epistemologically, but at the same time rearticulates it under reconsidered circumstances along a relational concept of peace. On this foundation, the paper contemplates the operational relevance of international actors for peacebuilding.
... Subsequent advances in the fourth-generation missions in 2006 with the "New Horizon" program [31] and in 2014 with the "HIPPO report" [32] are especially important in that they present an adaptive approach focused on the stakeholders who benefit or suffer from the conflict, carry out a risk study and an early-warning study, and are sufficiently flexible to adapt to the changes that may occur, with the additional integration of civil organisations and regional alliances. ...
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A Peacekeeping Operation (PKO) of the United Nations (UN) is a complex project whose objective is determined by the mandate, and which seeks to eliminate violence, achieve peace, and consolidate the future of society in conflict zones. For a PKO is important to assess the success or failure of the mission because might have implications for the outcomes of future missions. In this paper, it is proposed a methodology that combines two available tools, on the one hand the tool of PMI to determine the most appropriate approach to manage a PKO and on the other hand the NUPI tool, to measure the success of a PKO. The methodology is applied to two studies cases of fourth generation PKOs, the UNMISS PKO in South Sudan and the MONUSCO mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. From the results obtained an adaptive approach enjoys a greater guarantee of success than does a predefined approach.
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The environmental crisis is increasing risks to security and peace worldwide, notably in countries that are already fragile. Indicators of insecurity such as the number of conflicts, the number of hungry people and military expenditure are rising; so are indicators of environmental decline, climate change, biodiversity, pollution and other areas. In combination, the security and environmental crises are creating compound, cascading, emergent, systemic and existential risks. Without profound changes in approach by institutions of authority, risks will inevitably proliferate quickly. Environment of Peace: Security in a New Era of Risk surveys the evolving risk landscape and documents a number of developments that indicate a pathway to solutions––in international law and policy, in peacekeeping operations and among non-governmental organizations. It finds that two principal avenues need to be developed: (a) combining peacebuilding and environmental restoration, and (b) effectively addressing the underlying environmental issues. It also analyses the potential of existing and emerging pro-environment measures for exacerbating risks to peace and security. The findings demonstrate that only just and peaceful transitions to more sustainable practices can be effective––and show that these transitions also need to be rapid.
This paper integrates peacebuilding components into sustainability impact assessment (SIA) for application in geographies vulnerable to, recovering from, or experiencing conflict. Based on the understanding that peace is a crucial pre-requisite for sustainable development and vice versa, it argues that integrating peacebuilding into SIA will enhance the development potential; particularly in conflict-affected countries. So far, SIA does not address this nexus of development and peace. Comprehensive SIA prior to implementation (i.e. ex-ante) facilitates reflections on outcomes (positive and negative), helping to design context-specific best-fit interventions. The objective of this study is to develop a set of peacebuilding indicators for future impact assessments. The study finds that existing SIA tools address many aspects, particularly economic and environmental impacts, but, although crucial to enhance societal relations and peace(building), these neglect societal aspects relating to social cohesion, agency, and transformation capacity. Thus, 17 indicators for assessing peacebuilding potential are proposed for integration in SIA in conflict-affected areas. The indicators are grouped into four components aligning with the key areas identified as missing in existing SIA frameworks but also crucial for positive peace: social cohesion, agency, negotiation capacities, and compensations.
Most post‐conflict reconciliatory exercises make it incumbent upon survivors to forgive, and seek closure as a demonstration of ‘moving on’. Various anthropologists have criticized reconciliation and related forms of ‘alternative justice’ extensively but within the framework of maintaining social bonds and the rule of law. In this introduction, I reflect critically on the interdisciplinary scholarship on reconciliation, apology, and forgiveness, and theorize irreconciliation as a less examined lens of analysis. Rather than being in opposition to ‘peace’, irreconciliation allows us to interrogate the status quo by refusing to forgive endemic impunities, particularly in the aftermath of staged processes of justice and the absence‐presence of the rule of law. In this special issue of the JRAI, I ethnographically explore irreconciliation's links with law, aesthetics, temporality, resistance, and control to locate its multiple analytical manifestations. Irreconciliation allows an important examination of the rule of law within processes of unresolved genocidal injustices and debates relating to slavery, Black Lives Matter, and institutional responses. Introduction : de l'irréconciliation Résumé La plupart des exercices de réconciliation engagés à l'issue d'un conflit imposent aux survivants de pardonner et de chercher une manière de résolution pour « aller de l'avant ». Divers anthropologues ont formulé des critiques de la réconciliation et des formes apparentées de « justice alternative », sans sortir du cadre du maintien des liens sociaux et de l’État de droit. Dans cette introduction, l'autrice pose un regard critique sur les travaux interdisciplinaires étudiant la réconciliation, l'excuse et le pardon, et elle théorise un prisme d'analyse moins usité : celui de l'irréconciliation. Au lieu de s'inscrire en opposition à « la paix », l'irréconciliation permet d'interroger le statu quo en refusant le pardon des impunités endémiques, notamment au terme de procédures judiciaires mises en scène et en l'absence‐présence de l’État de droit. Dans ce dossier, elle propose une exploration ethnographique des liens entre l'irréconciliation et le droit, l'esthétique, la temporalité, la résistance et le contrôle, afin d'en localiser les multiples manifestations analytiques. L'irréconciliation est un moyen important d'analyse de l’État de droit dans les procédures sur les injustices génocidaires irrésolues et les débats sur l'esclavage, Black Lives Matter et les réponses des institutions.
Environmental peacebuilding is an emerging and rapidly evolving field, and there is value in articulating a broad, integrated definition of the field to support its ongoing development and evolution.
Environmental peacebuilding practitioners and their funders must be prepared for the unique challenges of operating in conflict-affected contexts by creating responsive and effective policies, practices, safeguards, and risk-mitigation strategies to ensure safe, successful, and sustainable interventions.
Connectivity seems to have become an essential quality of modern societies. Following this understanding of being woven together, this article explores and describes complexity as the epistemological vantage point for the rise of emergency and resilience within discourses of security. It describes how seemingly contradictory logics of ‘governance’ and ‘self-organisation’, of ‘retaining’ and ‘developing with change’ converge in the concept of resilience and critically discusses the different forms of power they instantiate. It analyses how the understanding of security as ‘absence of danger‘ is recast by resilience as a continuous ‘process of adaptation’.
Models used in the understanding of complex entities, like organisations, are problematic in several respects. After an introductory discussion of this problem, this paper addresses the problems associated with the boundaries of complex systems, arguing that although boundaries do exist, they have a peculiar nature. Similarly, it is argued that although hierarchies form an important part of the structure of complex systems, they are not clearly defined or "nested" as is often assumed. Hierarchies should also in principle be transformable in a viable system. Finally, the usefulness of network models is investigated. The conclusion is that although network models have a structure similar to that of complex systems, they are subject to the same limitations all models of complexity are faced with. A few implications for our understanding of organisations are mentioned.
Analyzing emerging practices of collaboration in planning and public policy to overcome the challenges complexity, fragmentation and uncertainty, the authors present a new theory of collaborative rationality, to help make sense of the new practices. They enquire in detail into how collaborative rationality works, the theories that inform it, and the potential and pitfalls for democracy in the twenty-first century. Representing the authors' collective experience based upon over thirty years of research and practice, this is insightful reading for students, educators, scholars, and reflective practitioners in the fields of urban planning, public policy, political science and public administration. © 2010 Judith E. Innes and David E. Booher. All rights reserved.
Doing iterative and adaptive work, CID working paper no
  • Matt Andrews
  • Lant Pritchett
  • Michael Woolcock
Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock, Doing iterative and adaptive work, CID working paper no. 313 (Cambridge, MA: Center for International Development, Harvard University, 2016), p. 25.
Reaping the benefits of cost-effective peacebuilding', Global Observatory
  • José Luengo-Cabrera
  • Tessa Butler
José Luengo-Cabrera and Tessa Butler, 'Reaping the benefits of cost-effective peacebuilding', Global Observatory, 31
Adaptive management: a tool for conservation practitioners
  • Richard Salafsky
  • Kent Margoluis
  • Redford
Salafsky, Richard Margoluis and Kent Redford, Adaptive management: a tool for conservation practitioners (Washington DC: Biodiversity Support Program, 2001), pp. 67-80.
The threat of US cuts: helping peacekeeping help itself ?', Global Observatory
  • Arthur Boutellis
Arthur Boutellis, 'The threat of US cuts: helping peacekeeping help itself ?', Global Observatory, 30 March 2017,
Secretary-General, in first address to Security Council since taking office, sets restoring 58 Rob Ricigliano, 'Dump the terms "success" and "failure"', presentation at 2015 Sustaining Peace conference hosted by Advanced Consortium on Conflict
  • Security Council
Security Council, 'Secretary-General, in first address to Security Council since taking office, sets restoring 58 Rob Ricigliano, 'Dump the terms "success" and "failure"', presentation at 2015 Sustaining Peace conference hosted by Advanced Consortium on Conflict, Cooperation and Complexity, Columbia University, New York, 16 June 2015, DXfTACfyzqB9pMmrm4-IID.