‘Rule of Law’ initiatives and the liberal peace: the impact of politicised reform in post-conflict states


Dr Jenny H. Peterson, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia, Buchanan Building, C425, 1866 Main Mall, Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z1, Canada Telephone: +1 604 827 5126; e-mail: jenhp@interchange.ubc.ca


Strengthening the ‘Rule of Law’ (RoL) has emerged as a key requirement in the reconstruction of conflict-affected states. No longer simply a philosophical ideal, RoL now exists as a tangible set of policies created and implemented by international actors, to which conflict-affected states are expected to conform. Masked in the neutral, apolitical rhetoric of blind and objective justice, RoL programming is in fact a political tool within the larger liberal peacebuilding project. Its employment as such mutes its potential contribution to constructing a positive peace as it often creates new socio-political tensions and distorts accountability structures. An analysis of reforms in Kosovo under the United Nations administration illustrates the potential for liberal RoL reforms to increase insecurity in the short term and threaten the sustainability of peacebuilding reforms in the long term. Instrumental use of RoL programming thus provides further evidence of weaknesses and contradictions within the politicised liberal peacebuilding project, necessitating reconsideration of its role in post-conflict transformations.