More often than not, war leaves behind a destroyed economy, decimated infrastructure, and a lack of institutional, human, financial, and other capacities to rebuild. In the past, considerations of the economic context, the requirements of economic recovery and the implications for peacebuilding have not been at the forefront of early post-conflict recovery efforts. Economic recovery has been considered a lesser priority in peace consolidation than security/political reform, and when support has resumed for economic recovery in war-torn countries, it has too often resumed as "normal development" policy, with strategies and tools that were designed for poor but otherwise stable developing countries. They fail to take account of the particular conditions facing war-torn states.
The last decade, however, has seen a broad consensus emerge that the economic dimensions of peacebuilding are vital, not only for growth and human development but also for consolidating peace alongside political and security imperatives. It is also increasingly being recognized that economic reconstruction and recovery efforts, alongside longer-term development processes, need to factor contextual and, specifically, conflict issues into their design and implementation to ensure that they serve, rather than undermine, peace.
Economic recovery, while still an evolving concept and set of practices in need of greater coherence, is increasingly understood as an approach focused on enabling government and communities to rebuild and economically recover from war and other crises, though doing so in new and transformative ways that can facilitate the consolidation of peace. Economic recovery efforts should catalyze development activities. They should build upon and maximize the utility of earlier humanitarian efforts, and lay foundations for sustainable and longer-term development that can bring lasting transformation of the societal economic structures that were part and parcel of the conflict era.
The start of economic recovery activities early in the peace process, part of early recovery efforts, seeks to close the infamous "gap" between relief and development efforts. As such, economic recovery strategies should support the survival needs of local populations and be compatible with the protection of the environment. Economic recovery should build basic capacities for economic governance, support livelihood creation at the community level, and assist in the protection and rehabilitation of productive assets and infrastructures. Increases in production in agriculture, manufacturing, and construction, and the resumption of savings and credit needed for supporting the establishment of small enterprises and commerce, are likely to constitute important priorities. Capacity for raising domestic revenue in such contexts is often low, and demands for expenditure are high, requiring that foreign donors with financial resources play a significant role in economic recovery.
As its subject is still debated by different scholars and practitioners, this portal sub-section focuses on the following five prominent areas of economic recovery that are critically linked to peacebuilding:
Other themes are prioritized by other experts, some of which are addressed in other sections of the portal, as they are considered to be key pillars of peacebuilding (i.e., "establishing the rule of law" and "establishing a secure environment for economic recovery"). These differing ideas on economic recovery--and, more broadly, peacebuilding--underscore the integrated and overlapping nature of the many sectors of peacebuilding.
This sub-section on economic recovery strategies serves as an introduction to the topic, with an emphasis on the overarching strategies that link economic recovery and peacebuilding and the related assumptions and theoretical debates that inform these and that underlie the other thematic issue areas. The sub-section starts by examining the meanings given to economic recovery by different actors and the debates surrounding its content and employment in peacebuilding.
In each of the economic recovery sections, the main actors and activities associated with the particular sub-theme are discussed at some length. An overview is given of the role of governments, multilateral and bilateral agencies, civil society organizations (at both the national and international levels), and conflict-affected populations in economic recovery. In this introductory section, the importance of local and national ownership of the recovery and peacebuilding processes is made prominent in line with widespread consensus on this issue, as capacity challenges are recognized and the supportive roles that can be played by the international community are explored.
Other sections of the economic recovery thematic area follow the same framework, while also focusing on topic-specific roles and actors. The main activities thought to comprise each of the economic recovery thematic sub-sections are listed in this section, with links to the sub-sections where they are discussed at length. Cross-cutting principles are introduced here that run, in different forms with different emphases, through each of the sub-sections. These include: capacity development, social cohesion, social capital and social networks, self-reliance, conflict sensitivity, and a community development approach.
Economic recovery strategies and models are then discussed, followed by consideration of the following related areas addressed in each of the sub-sections: sequencing and prioritization, and the strategic frameworks and operational mechanisms that are used in the planning and implementation of economic recovery activities. Given the relative newness of economic recovery as a concept, there is no one authoritative economic recovery approach. Five "models," or "strategic approaches," that can be broadly viewed to be associated with, or at least to have important implications in debates about post-war economic recovery, are highlighted here, with the aim of making the different approaches promoted and used by different actors more explicit, which is a prerequisite for enhanced coherence and coordination. Issues of sequencing and prioritization--an agreed central challenge in post-conflict economic recovery and peacebuilding efforts-- from orthodox as well as newer perspectives on the issue are elaborated.
Go to Strategies and Models
Attention is also given in this introductory section to issues of coherence and coordination in international aid, where challenges and emerging thinking on appropriate division of labor for different actors in such settings is shared. Strategic policy frameworks are introduced, notably those that cut across all thematic sub-sections, namely the Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRS) and the United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs), which are increasingly viewed as vital in cohering national and international efforts across a range of post-conflict recovery activities. In the sub-sections that follow, discussions are oriented to the ways in which these frameworks address the specific thematic issues, while frameworks and operational mechanisms that focus on the specific thematic issue are presented.
Finally, key debates and implementation challenges are examined. While there are many debates that cover a range of conceptual, ideological, institutional, and implementation-oriented issues, this section highlights a few that broadly underlie issues of economic recovery and explicitly or implicitly inform policy and programming choices. These include what can be considered "foundational debates": the relationship between conflict and development and the role of liberalization in peacebuilding in both historical and contemporary thought. A range of debates and challenges is examined in the following sub-sections.
Overall, this introductory section aims to contribute to ongoing efforts to forge consensus around critical priorities of economic recovery so that it effectively serves its function as a solid pillar of peacebuilding. It endeavors to bring together discourses and practices that perhaps have not been considered together before, and in new ways, in the interest of expanding our collective understanding of how to more effectively meet post-conflict economic recovery challenges.
1. John Ohiorhenuan and Chetan Kumar, “Sustaining Post-conflict Economic Recovery: Lessons and Challenges,” BCPR Occasional Paper 1 (October 2005), 6.
2. Hunjoon Kim, “Development,” in Peacebuilding in Postconflict Societies: Strategy and Process, ed. Ho-Won Jeong (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2005), 123.
3. Kim, “Development,” 123.