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  • Roland Paris

International Peacebuilding and the ‘Mission Civilisatrice’

Abstract: International peacebuilding operations seek to stabilise countries that have recently experienced civil wars. In pursuing this goal, however, international peacebuilders have promulgated a particular vision of how states should organise themselves internally, based on the principles of liberal democracy and market-oriented economics. By reconstructing war-shattered states in accordance with this vision, peacebuilders have effectively ‘transmitted’ standards of appropriate behaviour from the Western-liberal core of the international system to the failed states of the periphery. From this perspective, peacebuilding resembles an updated (and more benign) version of the mission civilisatrice, or the colonial-era belief that the European imperial powers had a duty to ‘civilise’ dependent populations and territories.

Reprinted in Benedicte Bull and Morten Boas, eds., International Development (London: Sage, 2009)

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