‘Bending the Rules’: The Space between HQ Policy and Local Action in UN Civilian Peacekeeping

in Journal of International Peacekeeping
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Recent literature has argued that a ‘dominant peacebuilding culture’ has precluded the contextualisation of peacebuilding to local dynamics. The article explores the ‘peacekeeping-peacebuilding nexus’ in practice, where civilian peacekeepers are increasingly considered to be early peacebuilders. Drawing on examples from United Nations (UN) civilian peacekeeping involvement in local peacebuilding in South Sudan, this article argues for a less reductionist and more nuanced view of local peacebuilding and the social interactions and dynamics which take place. It recognises the discrepancies between official UN Headquarters (HQ) policy and action in the “field”, and thus explores the relationship between policy and practice and the location of agency and authority in civilian peacekeeping. The article argues that the critique levelled against peacekeeping and peacebuilding for being focused on actors in host country capitals does not sufficiently take into consideration the relationship between capitals and the “field”. Rather, local peacebuilding outcomes depend as much or more on negotiations, bargains and compromises between different actors at the “field” level, than on institutional policy decision-making deriving from headquarters.

‘Bending the Rules’: The Space between HQ Policy and Local Action in UN Civilian Peacekeeping

in Journal of International Peacekeeping




AutesserreThe Trouble with the Congo pp. 10-14.


Hilhorst and Jansen‘Humanitarian Space as Arena’ p. 1120.


 See e.g. Ian Johnstone‘Legislation and Adjudication in the UN Security Council: Bringing Down the Deliberative Deficit’American Journal of International Lawvol. 102 no. 2 2008 pp. 275-308; David Malone The UN Security Council: From the Cold War to the 21stCentury (Boulder: Lynne Rienner 2004).


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Catherine WeaverHypocrisy Trap: The World Bank and the Poverty of Reform (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press2008); Michael Lipson ‘Peacekeeping: Organized Hypocrisy?’ European Journal of International Relations vol. 13 no. 1 2007 pp. 5–34.


Avant Finnemore and SellWho Governs the Globe? p. 19.


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John Karlsrud‘UN as a Competitive Arena for Linked Ecologies: The Case of UN Peacekeeping’Political Perspectivesvol. 7 no. 1 2013 pp. 6-25; John Karlsrud ‘Multiple Actors and Centres of Agency? Examining the UN as competitive arena for normative change’ Journal of International Organization Studies forthcoming 2014.


Michael Lipson‘Peacekeeping: Organized Hypocrisy?’European Journal of International Relationsvol. 13 no. 1 2007 pp. 5-34.


 See United NationsPeace: Keep It. Build It. The Contribution of United Nations Peacekeeping to Early Peacebuilding: Strategy. (New York: UN DPKO and DFS2012). See also e.g. ACCORD Conflict Trends 3/2011 issue dedicated exclusively to the peacebuilding-peacekeeping nexus.


DPKO/DFS 2010Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding: Clarifying the Nexus.


DPKO/Department of Field SupportPolicy Directive on Civil Affairs (New York: DPKO/DFS2008).


Niels N. Schia and John Karlsrud‘Where the Rubber Meets the Road’: Friction Sites and Local level Peacebuilding in South Sudan, Liberia and Haiti’International Peacekeepingvol. 20 no. 2 2013 pp. 233-248.


Allen and Schomerus 2010p. 94 in Jansen MIMEO 2011.


Jort Hemmer‘“We Are Laying the Groundwork for Our Own Failure”, The UN Mission in South Sudan and its Civilian Protection Strategy: an Early Assessment’CRU Policy Brief No. 25 (Clingendael Institute & NOREF 2013).


Mark Duffield‘Risk-Management and the Fortified Aid Compound: Everyday Life in Post-Interventionary Society’Journal of Intervention and Statebuildingvol. 4 no. 4 2010 pp. 453-474. See also Diana Felix da Costa Working in Challenging Environments: Risk Management and Aid Culture in South Sudan – Field Report Humanitarian Policy Group (ODI) and University of Bristol research project ESRC-DFID grant 2013.


Hilhorst and JansenHumanitarian Space as Arena p. 1120.


Bakewell 2001pp. 108–9 cited in Hilhorst and Jansen ‘Humanitarian Space as Arena’ p. 1120.


LongDevelopment Sociology p. 243.


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