UNMIL – Can multidimensional and inclusivist concepts determine sustainable peace?

The Flag of Liberia. Picture: flickr-user Contando Estrelas, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Looking at the closure of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the newly elected president George Weah, who pledges 25 percent of his salary to a development fund, Liberia enters a new era. The withdrawal of the UN raises the question, if the country is ready to sustain peace. Given the good basis that was facilitated by multidimensional peacekeeping and the inclusivist approach, it seems quite promising.

Multidimensional Peacekeeping and the Inclusivist Approach

Ever since the Agenda for Peace (1992) the link between political, security and development processes, as well as the acknowledgement of the nexus as basis of state formation and conflict prevention, have steadily grown. In 2005 the Peacebuilding Architecture (PBA) highlighted the correlation between security, peacebuilding and development, which led to the recognition of peace operations as being a vital part of peacebuilding. These two milestones paved the way for multidimensional peacekeeping. As such, they not only carry out military tasks, but also undertake peacebuilding tasks and address root causes of conflict. Following these tendencies, the review of the PBA in 2015 laid the focus on better integration of development approaches into security efforts, as it is promoted by the inclusivist approach (Hearn, Kubitschek & Kugel 2014, Smoljan 2003).

Achievements under Consideration of Multidimensional and Inclusivist Thinking

The multidimensional operation, UNMIL, was established in 2003 and deployed military observers, police officers as well as civilian staff. Having successfully adhered to the UN`s four critical areas, which are decisive for sustainable peace, this peacekeeping force of 15.000 United Nations military personnel achieved a lot.
Regarding the first area, security and maintenance of public order, UNMIL`s achievements range from vetting and training the security forces AFL and LNP, mine action, DDRR to post-conflict reconstruction that also dealt with land and property issues. Supporting a Liberian-led process, each aspect as well as electoral assistance were contributing to a safer environment and peaceful elections. Difficulties, however, can be identified concerning the lack of trust in the LNP, prevailing corruption, or complications faced by the Land Commission. Since land management and DDRR contribute to the socio-economic recovery and development, this area can`t be clearly separated from those following.

The second critical area, strengthening the rule of law and respecting the human rights, can`t be looked at in isolation either. Human rights were a top priority throughout UNMIL`s efforts; They were considered during hiring and training security as well as political personnel, or promoted by establishing human rights clubs and institutions such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2005. Whereas UNMIL contributed to reform key-targeted laws and to strengthen the national legal framework, the implementation of TRC recommendations remains in a pending state while the access to justice is limited. A first positive step in this regard was the vetting exercise within the security sector reform (SSR) that once more combined the critical areas (AIIA 2017, ICTJ 2009, unmil.unmissions.org/timeline).

Progress in respect of the third area, which demands for legitimacy and participation, was achieved by supporting democratic elections, repatriating IDPs and refugees or promoting equality by, for example, recruiting more women into LNP (The female share rose from 6% to 17% between 2007 and 2016). By advancing security through legitimacy and participation, improvements were made possible in the last critical area of social and economic recovery and development. Quick impact projects (QIP) were implemented and grants provided to returnees who, as a result, got into working life. UNMIL thus funded agricultural and employment initiatives, which did not only reduce unemployment, but also contributed to the self-sustainment in the long-term perspective (unmil.unmissions.org/timeline).

Liberia`s Chances for Sustainable Peace

In view of all the efforts taken, it can be supposed that UNMIL created the basis for sustainable peace, since many achievements in peacebuilding activities, aligned with the UN`s four critical areas, were delivered. Regarding the inclusivist approach, it can be said that the correlation of peacebuilding, peacekeeping and development is necessary when observing the blurred boundaries between the four critical areas. It can be clearly assessed that the concepts reciprocally influence each other in all areas.

Liberia, ranking the 27th worst out of 178 countries on the Fragile States Index 2017, continues to represent a fragile state with a tendency to a marginal worsening (fundforpeace.org). Gaps in the areas of SSR, rule of law, equal access to services and economic opportunities remain worrying (AIIA 2017). As it has been done during UNMIL, root causes of conflict must be tackled and further efforts have to be taken from the multidimensional and inclusivist perspective. Paramount for the future will be phase II of the Liberia Peacebuilding Plan that starts this April and continues the preceded path, highlighting longer-term peacebuilding integrated into development frameworks. Priorities ought to be emphasized within long lists of aims, especially concerning the areas of peace, security and rule of law, as well as on cross-cutting issues that include, inter alia, transitional justice, human rights or youth employment programme. The comparison of the phases` priorities with the UN`s four critical peacebuilding areas shows that UNMIL`s achievements should be strengthened and any shortcomings addressed. It is now President Weah`s task to determine appropriate measures and to improve Liberia’s weak economy. First and foremost, positive developments must be perceptible to the individual. As it has already largely been the case within UNMIL, the following principles will be pivotal along with the multidimensional and inclusivist course to create sustainable peace: Local ownership, self-sustainment, coherence and close cooperation with civil society.


Stefanie Haring is a student at the Karl-Franzens University of Graz doing a Master`s degree in Global Studies, specialising on international relations and politics. During her studies she has gained working experience in the NGO sector as well as at the Styrian Provincial Government in the area of development cooperation. After absolving an internship at the Permanent Representation of Austria to the EU (PSC) in 2017, she continued her studies in Graz and is currently writing her master`s thesis on resilience in the ACP group of states. ​