The Rules of Reconstruction

Lebanon’s reconstruction, so painstakingly carried out in the 1990’s, is now at risk of being undone. But Lebanon is not alone in that respect: according to the UN and several independent studies, countries in transition from war to peace face roughly a 50% chance of sliding back into warfare. Indeed, in East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and many other countries, the transition to peace seems to be failing.

Likewise, there is unfinished business in many other countries undergoing reconstruction. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for example, just held its first elections in 40 years. The stability of the Great Lakes region of Africa, perhaps that continent’s most violent area, will depend on the success of its transition and reconstruction.

When wars end, countries confront a multi-pronged transition. Violence must give way to security for inhabitants; lawlessness and political exclusion must give way to the rule of law and participatory government; ethnic, religious, or class/caste polarization must give way to national reconciliation; and ruined war economies must be transformed into functioning market economies that enable ordinary people to support themselves.

These multiple tasks make economic reconstruction fundamentally different from “development as usual.” To succeed, the transition to peace requires demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of former combatants, as well as reconstruction and rehabilitation of services and infrastructure.