The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations
In Need of Self-Reflection: Peacebuilding
in Post-War Kosovo from a Systems-
by Jens Narten
he purpose of this paper is two-fold. First, it aims to promote an alternative
approach to understanding the constitutive elements that have led to the failure of
international peacebuilding efforts, and second, in so doing, to allow for the
formulation of more in-depth policy recommendations. This approach will be led
from a systems-analytical understanding of both local and international actors as
being self-referential. This includes closed social systems that rely on their own
selective observations of the environment, as well as pre-coded means of internal
communication. In this regard, the focus of the research will be on the relationship
between international human rights norms and efforts to “civilize” violent conflict
in post-war Kosovo, as implemented by the United Nations Interim Administration
Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the international military Kosovo Force (KFOR).
“Civilize,” in this sense, is a process of non-violent resolution of social conflict that
exceeds the notion of traditional UN peacebuilding.
Consideration will be given to key aspects of applied civilian policies and
military functions, international human rights norms, and standards of
peacebuilding, on the one hand, and the observations made by various social groups
and international actors, on the other. The paper concludes with findings on
institutional self-reflection for international field missions in post-war environments,
such as Kosovo, and with practical recommendations on improving the attempts of
international organizations to secure and sustain peace after violent conflict.
Immediately following the war in Kosovo, the joint efforts of the United
Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the
European Union, in cooperation with KFOR in Kosovo (led by NATO), were
considered a success story. These joint efforts were widely perceived as exemplary
cases of international administration and peacekeeping, especially for a conflict with
deep-roots, and a strong focus on human rights promotion and protection to
maintain a fragile peace. However, this assessment has changed radically since major
violence erupted again in Kosovo in March 2004, costing many lives and leading to
a renewed large-scale displacement of minorities.
is a researcher and doctoral candidate at the Centre for OSCE Research at the
Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy in Hamburg, Germany.