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Title: Whose peace? : local ownership and UN peacebuilding
Author: von Billerbeck, Sarah Birgitta Kanafani
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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Recent years have seen an increasing emphasis on local ownership in UN peacebuilding. Advocates of local ownership assert that it boosts the legitimacy and sustainability of UN peacebuilding by helping to preserve the principles of self- determination and non-imposition of externally-conceived solutions onto post-conflict countries in an activity that can contravene them. However, while the UN perceives local ownership as enabling it to act in accordance with these principles, it also perceives local ownership to imperil the achievement of its operational goals, thus bringing its normative and operational objectives into conflict. This thesis evaluates the UN’s discourse, understandings, and operationalizations of local ownership in peacebuilding. Drawing on examples from the UN peace operation in DR Congo, it shows that despite the UN’s regular invocation of local ownership discourse, it operationalizes ownership in restrictive and selective ways that are intended to protect the achievement of operational goals but that consequently limit self-determination and increase external imposition on the host country. This gap between the rhetoric and reality of ownership suggests that the UN uses local ownership primarily as a discursive tool for legitimation, one intended to reconcile the organization’s normative and operational imperatives. However, because its actions do not match its rhetoric, the UN’s attempts to generate legitimacy through discourse appear to fall flat, particularly in the eyes of local actors. Moreover, because of contradictions in the ways that the UN operationalizes local ownership, it not only deepens the curtailment of self-determination and the degree of external imposition, it also undercuts its ability to realize the very operational goals it is trying to protect. Ultimately, because it is a contradictory and contested concept, local ownership fails to eliminate or ‘fix’ the trade-offs the UN faces in peacebuilding, suggesting that the UN must instead accept them and incorporate them into its goals and expectations.
Supervisor: Caplan, Richard Sponsor: Clarendon Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Social Sciences ; Political science ; International studies ; Peacekeeping ; Peacebuilding ; Post-conflict peacebuilding ; local ownership ; United Nations ; Democratic Republic of the Congo ; conflict ; post-conflict reconstruction ; intervention