Moving From Conflict: the Role of International Actors in Transition Management

Citation: Salmon, J. (2020). Moving From Conflict: the Role of International Actors in Transition Management (PSRP Research Report: Interim Transitions Series). Edinburgh: Global Justice Academy, University of Edinburgh.

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Summary

This report reviews the types of international actors, types of support and priority sectors of international action. It concludes by offering some brief reflections on dilemmas and trade-offs related to the ownership, burden-sharing, coordination and sequencing of international action. The report emphasizes the duality of international support for transition management – both technical and political – underscoring the significant tensions and trade-offs between building short-term confidence in a political settlement, and addressing longer-term institutional reforms. The report concludes by highlighting the primacy of politics in transition management. The most constructive role for international partners has usually been to create space for negotiations and, in some cases, safety nets – fiscal and economic, security, human and social capacity, and/or political – to protect nascent political settlements from shocks and enable them to move forward.

This report draws on a wide number of examples of transitions and peace agreements from the PA-X Peace Agreements Database. It also draws on reflective practice-based case material, rather than a conceptual discussion or rigorous comparative analysis of a set of cases. As a grounding for the analysis, examples of transitions and responses are presented throughout.

Key Findings

  • Not all transitions are highly internationalised, but when coinciding with the risk of large-scale protracted conflicts they are likely to be. Faced with the many dilemmas facing international actors, key conclusions of this report are:
  • That international actors cannot determine the outcome of transitions, but are a critical source of political support, technical assistance and resources to interim governments.
  • International actors are equally sources of deterrence, through sanction, military action or withdrawal of support, against actors seeking to defect from transition agreements or reform frameworks.
  • International actors are therefore stakeholders in national political settlements, with responsibility to advocate that transitions are conducted in line with international law, standards and ‘the national interest’.
  • In this negotiation, international actors must navigate the ‘primacy of politics’, balancing ownership between interim governments, international partners, and the population, and managing tensions between political and technical priorities.
  • The most constructive role of international partners has usually been to create space for negotiations and, in some cases, safety nets: fiscal, security, and otherwise.
  • International instruments, e.g. financing instruments, are not always fit for purpose for supporting transitions.

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