Armed conflict does not respect political or territorial boundaries, but forms part of wider, regional conflict systems through dynamics that cross borders. Policy is well established – if not always well applied – between states (diplomacy) and within them (governance). But there is a policy gap across borders and in borderlands where governance and diplomacy can struggle to reach, as conflict response strategies still focus on the nation state as the central unit of analysis and intervention. Alexander Ramsbotham and I William Zartman outline some of the challenges of cross-border peacebuilding and introduce the structure and content of the publication.
Conﬂict-affected and fragile states are experiencing ‘repeated and interlinked violence that crosses borders’, and that ‘excessive focus on assistance to the individual nation state is mismatched with the challenge of transnational and cyclical violence’. This publication in Conciliation Resources’ Accord series tries to address this gap.
Alexander Ramsbotham and I William Zartman
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Armed conflict does not respect political or territorial boundaries, but forms part of wider, regional conflict systems through dynamics that cross borders: refugee flows, ‘nomadic’ armed groups, narcotic or criminal networks, illicit trade in ‘blood diamonds’ or small arms or cross-border political, economic and social ties [see box 1].
Some of the following definitions are explanatory of terms used in this Accord publication.
Structure of the publication
The publication is divided into five sections. The first section, ‘Thinking outside the state’, presents three conceptual analyses of the challenges of ‘cross-border peacebuilding’ from global, systems analysis and legal perspectives. Sections 2, 3 and 4 present case studies of cross-border peacebuilding initiatives from around the world, looking ‘Beyond the state’, focusing primarily on regional inter-state responses, and ‘Below the state’, looking at cross-border community relations, and at cross-border trade and natural resources. A fifth, final section draws policy conclusions from the analysis.
Thinking outside the state
The first article by I William Zartman looks at Boundaries in war and peace. There are two types of transboundary disputes: disputes over (about) boundaries and disputes over (across) boundaries. Disputes about boundaries occur because we do not know where the line is, or we do not like where the line is. Disputes that cross boundaries are more complex. They are likely to involve other bordering areas between the two countries, often otherwise not in dispute. A second circle carries the dispute to the two capitals, the centre of the peripheries. A third circle then encompasses the two countries’ allies, for each country will seek additional power by engaging support from abroad. Disputes across boundaries by their very nature involve at least the threat and most likely the lure of escalation, ie conflict beyond boundaries. While such disputes are bound to occur, there are specific ways outlined in the article by which their occurrence can be prevented and their effects can be reduced.
Building peace beyond the state
Section 2 of the publication looks at the political, governance and security challenges of cross-border peacebuilding. An introductory article to the section by Cedric Barnes suggests that regional diplomacy or institutions can help to level the ‘political playing-field’ for cross-border state-to-state dialogue by counterbalancing perceptions of power inequality among states. Regional bodies can instil confidence in peace processes, add impetus to inter-state peace processes and bring practical assistance in delivering peace dividends. But regional institutions may lack capacity, or member states can refuse to divest sovereignty. Barnes suggests that developing links between regional organisations and cross-border civil society networks would enhance regional capability for conflict prevention and resolution.
Building peace below the state
Sections 3 and 4 look at efforts to build peace below the state, through cross-border community or trade networks.
Cross-border community relations
Section 3 looks to social and community networks and relations. In an introductory article to the section, Kristian Herbolzheimer notes that borders can be much less relevant to peoples than to states, and that understanding the social and cultural conditions of borderland communities is key to tackling cross-border conflicts. Social and cultural ties can span state borders. State presence may be weak in remote borderlands where local people are left to provide for their own needs. This can mean looking outwards across borders to other communities, rather than inwards to administrative capitals. Herbolzheimer asserts that borderland communities have the insight and capability to respond to cross-border conflicts, and he shows how international support can help to strengthen this capacity and link it to formal peacebuilding processes.
Cross-border trade and natural resources
Section 4 of the publication looks at trade and natural resources as ‘entry points’ for cross-border peacebuilding. Diana Klein introduces the section. She describes how economic or environmental cooperation across borders in pursuit of a shared goal, such as access to end markets for local traders, regional economic interaction to promote development and integration, or better management of shared natural resources, can open trade channels that contribute to building trust, or establish interdependencies across borders that provide incentives for cooperation and increase the costs of war. She warns that cross-border economic cooperation can also promote violent conflict if profits are used for war. Nor can a peacebuilding outcome be assumed; rather, initiatives need to mainstream a peacebuilding objective in order to maximise effectiveness and impact, for instance so that increased cross-border trade extends beyond economic activity and addresses the needs of peacebuilding.
Building peace across borders
A fifth, concluding section looks in more detail at how peacebuilders can ‘think outside the state’ to link supra-and sub-state peacebuilding initiatives. It looks at how peacebuilders can strategise ‘holistically’, focusing on conflict systems rather than states, and at ways to ‘humanise’ regional security cooperation to engage better with conflict prevention and resolution.
Box 1: Cross-border conflict dynamics