From February 6 to March 30, 2015 The Hague Institute conducted its third consult which served as an opportunity for experts from across the globe to provide substantive ideas on innovative global governance reform regarding fragile and conflict-affected environments. During this e-consultation, findings from an on-site consultation on these issues at the 51st Munich Security Conference were shared and discussed as well.

The Expert E-Consultation was facilitated by Dr. William Durch (The Stimson Center), Dr. Joris Larik (The Hague Institute for Global Justice), Dr. Sofia Sebastian (The Stimson Center) and Dr. Peter Middlebrook (Geopolicity).

The views expressed below reflect the views of practitioners and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the organizations with which  they are affiliated.


Responses were received, with thanks from

Peter Middlebrook

Christina Bache Fidan

Onyinye Onuwka

Fergus Watt

Mirwais Momand

William Durch

Sameera Daniels

Peter Weiske

Andrew Campbell

Sofia Sebastian


Summary of Responses

Facilitators: Dr. Joris Larik (Senior Researcher, The Hague Institute for Global Justice), Dr. William Durch (The Stimson Center and Director of Research for the Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance).

1) The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is an important legacy of an earlier Commission, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. The 2011 intervention in Libya seemed to suggest this norm’s time had come, but subsequent events, particularly in Syria, suggest the international community may have overreached.  What more can be done to operationalize R2P while avoiding overreach?

The e-consult produced a thread of discussion regarding the capacity to protect. The overall consensus was that R2P does not necessarily mean actually having the capacity to protect (C2P), regarding the objectives, resources and necessary post-engagement plans. Therefore, there is the need to link the responsibility with the necessary capacity to act effectively in complex situations. To avoid overreach, the international community should refrain from setting goals that are laudable, but untenable due to the lack of an assessment framework for C2P. Such a framework could be a valuable idea. Another idea put forward was that, in the light of R2P superseding C2P with unforeseen, negative long-term consequences, it could be valuable to compare R2P incentives with evidence-based C2P assessments.

Additionally, the concept of a responsibility to rebuild (R2R) was raised. When the interests of external states or organizations, for example of NATO, are prioritized over that of the host nation, R2R can be poorly executed. However, it was pointed out that there is a lack of consensus regarding the execution and objectives of R2R amongst the actors involved.

To focus efforts on reconstruction, a safe and secure environment is necessary. The idea to link R2R to enforceable accountability mechanisms was also offered, since opportunistic groups with devious motives can easily target reconstruction and stabilization efforts. In order to sustain these efforts, long-term contractual reconstruction agreements could be supplemented with quarantined funds that have clear and enforceable contracts.

Regarding the concept of R2R, it was proposed that it should complement R2P under the broader concept of nation building. However, the question here remains at what stage it should become relevant—at the inception or at the end of an international effort.

Understanding of the causes for uprisings was also emphasized, especially with new roles for social media in the provision of information and coordination. Not only can R2P be operationalized more effectively, it will also allow the actors to affect the discourse of an uprising.

2) The UN is increasingly one among many global and regional actors involved in peacekeeping. In which aspects or components of peacekeeping in fragile states should the UN lead, in which should it defer to other actors, and which are beyond the UN’s ken?

Considering that poor harmonization can lead to unstable power vacuums, third party intervention can only be successful when actors act with knowledge and understanding of the local context and regional dynamics.  The point of unsoundness in programming and policy making was also raised, where the origins of the needs in policy making are misunderstood, leading to the exacerbation of current challenges and affecting future ones. The concern here is that this could lead to problem amplification within PKOs.

Overall, the idea was offered that the UN must act firm and consistent in different conflict across the board as the legitimacy of its operations depends on public perception. In terms of conflict perception, it is suggested that the UN should play an active role, as the costs of prevention are lower than those of curing. Different ideas were offered for the exact role that the UN should play regarding peacekeeping in FCAS and its limitations. One suggestion was that the UN should take the lead in the background, practicing silent diplomacy and pressurizing regional and international actors, and only stepping forward when these fail.

For this, consulting with impartial and legitimate regional organizations is essential. It is stressed that though the involvement of regional actors is important, their interests in a conflict may problematize their direct involvement. Finding the right balance is important. It is suggested that the UN may assume a supporting role in conflicts where it concerns relative impartial, effective regional actors who lack sustainable finances or logistics.

It was also offered that the increased involvement of other actors is a necessary reality, as the increase of transnational threats are of such degree, that no actor can battle these itself, and that the UN might have no other choice but to lead, when actors such as ECOWAS lack logistics and personnel.

3) The UN Secretary-General has commissioned a review of UN peace operations, currently underway. Bearing in mind the nature of contemporary conflict, and the track record of UN peacekeeping to date, what reforms are needed to plan for the next generation of UN Peace Operations? Within that sphere, should the UN and other multilateral actors be asked to further contribute to rule of law promotion and transitional justice?

The proposal of a UN Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS) was advanced, resulting from the notion that the UN’s ability for fast deployment is deteriorating. It could offer more opportunities, and may actually be financially more desirable over current arrangements of late deployment. More research into the exact costs and benefits of this is recommended. A UNEPS could also uphold a doctrine, standards and enhance the capacities for preventive deployment and the protection of civilians. Overall, whilst UN mission mandates have become larger and more multidimensional, there is an insufficient number of personnel, which calls for the provision of more resources (financial resources, but also personnel and equipment).

The issue of structural peace was also addressed. Possibly, this could be promoted by supporting new confederations or newly independent states; though a concrete suggestion is yet to be made. Additionally, it was contended that R2P is a national leader responsibility, and thus structural national leadership processes must also be addressed by UN peace operations.

It was suggested, furthermore, that the exact UNSC system drives domestic and geostrategic motivations and therefore surpasses R2P interventions. To better understand R2P dynamics, it was offered that we should better understand what specific ‘real-world’ factors exactly drive motivations. It would also allow us to conceptualize alternative action-driven frameworks when the will to act under R2P is absent or blocked.