What is the fate of war-torn countries when peacekeeping missions end? How do states and societies wracked by civil conflict compensate for the gaps in security that seem inevitablely to persist after peacekeepers depart? This project attempts to answer these questions through a case study of the United Nations Mission to Liberia (UNMIL), which is scheduled to withdraw in 2012. Established in the aftermath of Liberia's brutal 14 year civil war, UNMIL has since become inextricably intertwined with every aspect of Liberian social, economic, and political life, from the provision of security to the construction of roads and schools. This project explores the consequences onf UNMIL's withdrawal on the incidence of violence in Liberia, using the shift in authority from international to domestic actors as a lens through which to illuminate the dynamics of state-building and state/society relations in a post-war setting.

This research proceeds in three steps: qualitative interviews with UN, government, and civil society representatives; econometric analysis of large-N, two-part panel survey on the causes and correlates of violence in rural Liberia; and high-frequency data collection on evolving levels of violence in Monrovia via SMS text-messaging ("crowd sourcing"). The data resulting from these activities will be shared with other scholars and the public. Policy makers will be briefed on any results.

Project Report

This project assesses the effects of United Nations peacebuilding on consolidation of the rule of law in Liberia, one of the world’s weakest states. As peacebuilding operations have grown in their scope and complexity, consolidation of the rule of law has become increasingly indispensable to their mandates. The obstacles, however, are enormous: in countries wracked by civil war, the very idea of the state becomes contested as political power devolves from the capital city to the hinterlands, and from formal to informal actors and institutions. Using a combination of surveys, survey experiments, behavioral games and in-depth, open-ended qualitative interviews, I demonstrate that peacebuilding induces civilians to internalize the rule of law, even in places where the state itself is weak or absent, and even in places where state law contradicts local norms, rules and customs. I also demonstrate that this effect persists even once peacebuilders begin to withdraw, suggesting that the gains from peacebuilding may be more durable than scholars and practitioners tend to believe. I have disseminated results from this project to representatives of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, as well as to members of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations more generally. These results will also serve as the core of my Ph.D dissertation in the Department of Political Science at Yale University, and will be submitted for publication as a stand-alone article in an academic journal. In future iterations of the project, I plan to replicate the research design in other countries targeted by peacebuilding operations (such as Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo) to test whether the effects generalize beyond Liberia. I am grateful to the National Science Foundation for its support.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Brian D. Humes
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Yale University
New Haven
United States
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