Community Dispute Resolution and International Peacebuilding: Competitors or Complementary Actors? Evidence from Liberia

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This dissertation explores the conditions under which international peacebuilding and community dispute resolution (CDR), or the ways in which communities try to address issues, complement or undermine one another. It argues that community dispute resolution can, under some circumstances, address issues before they become larger-scale sources of conflict, thereby enhancing local peace. International peacebuilding in particular, tries to promote a greater reliance on state institutions and broad participation in local affairs. Depending on the CDR characteristics in place within a community, these norms will align or will not be aligned with the CDR practices that the community already has in place. International peacebuilding will either complement, supplement or undermine CDR efforts at maintaining local peace.

Through novel data collection using community leader interviews, community histories and the implementation of two surveys in Liberia (one community leader survey and one household survey representative at the neighborhood level), this dissertation develops and tests the argument at hand. The qualitative evidence is used to further develop the theoretical expectations of the project and to probe specific mechanisms by which the arguments operate. The quantitative survey evidence is analyzed as the primary test of the theoretical argument. Item response theory (IRT) models are used to further develop the measures included in the statistical models and several different kinds of statistical models (ordinary least squares regression, logit models, hierarchical linear models and hierarchical ordinal logistic models), depending on the dependent variable of interest, are used to test the observable implications of the theoretical framework.

There are several findings that emerge from the project as a whole. First, and perhaps most important, peacekeeping exposure at the micro-level has a long-lasting influence on micro-level peace dynamics, however this influence is conditional on the CDR structures in place at the neighborhood level. Second, CDR contributes to and undermines local peace depending on the CDR characteristic at hand. Third, the influence of CDR and peacekeeping exposure are not the same for different components of local peace: i.e. physical security versus perceptions of peace versus dynamics within and between communities. Fourth, peacekeeping exposure does have the potential to undermine, complement or supplement CDR efforts, depending on the CDR characteristic of interest. Lastly, in ``post-conflict'' environments with large-scale peacekeeping operations, peacekeepers often promote a greater reliance on the state. However, doing so can lead to complicated dynamics that are worthy of more time and policy attention. While these efforts can be beneficial to communities if they exhibit norms that are consistent with the goals of peacekeeping operations, they can also lead to adverse effects such as forum shopping, undermining community leader authority and exacerbating local cleavages. CDR can help to ``keep the peace'' once peacekeepers have departed, however, they should not necessarily be considered as substitutes for the state. Instead, this dissertation suggests that they are an additional actor in a complex web of institutions tasked with maintaining order and peace.





Torres, Priscilla (2023). Community Dispute Resolution and International Peacebuilding: Competitors or Complementary Actors? Evidence from Liberia. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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