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Liberal and illiberal peace-building in Asia, East Timor and Papua.

Posted on 18 February 2020

Claire Q Smith's new contributions to the journal Conflict, Security and Development.

The Special Issue with the Conflict, Security and Development Journal is the final product of a two-year strategic network funded by the ESRC-GCRF for £92,000, with co-funding from the ISRF and The Asia Foundation. Dr Claire Smith (Politics) co-lead the network, in collaboration with Dr Najib Azca, Gadja Mada University, Indonesia;  Professor Nicholas Farrelly, University of Tasmania; and Professor Lars Waldorf, School of Law, Essex University. Dr Rajesh Venugopal, International Development, LSE, was the Principle Investigator of the Network grant.

Dr Claire Smith, (2020) Liberal and illiberal peace-building in East Timor and Papua: establishing order in a democratising state

Conflict, Security and Development, Volume 20 2020, pages 39-70 


For states undergoing turbulent processes of democratisation, illiberal peace-building allows for management of civil war with the lowest political risks. However, the existing literature on illiberal peace-building does not explain why transitional governments sometimes opt for more liberal and negotiated means to manage conflict, despite the risks involved. To explore this question, the paper draws on original primary sources and secondary evidence to draw a novel comparison between the newly democratic Indonesian government’s management of two civil wars. Papua and East Timor form an ideal comparative case study as the government took starkly different approaches to managing conflict in each region, within the same time period, and under similarly moderate leadership. East Timor’s conflict was eventually resolved via liberal methods, while the Papua conflict was managed via illiberal means. I argue that two analytical dimensions need greater recognition within the illiberal peace-building approach to explain this difference. First, the role of shifting internal power balances within national political elites needs further interrogation. Second, the influence of external actors on internal power balances needs wider recognition.

Dr Claire  Smith, (2020) Illiberal peace-building in Asia: a comparative overview

Conflict, Security and Development, Volume 20 2020, pages 1-14


Over the past 20 years, there have been significant and historic breakthroughs in resolving protracted ethnic conflicts in restive regions of several states in South and South-East Asia. After decades of violence, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand have all witnessed periods of reduced conflict and increased stability. Peace-building, as practised in these states, departs markedly from the liberal and post-liberal models in which Western actors and liberal norms play a key role. Here, by contrast, peace-building is driven by domestic actors applying illiberal norms and practices. In this introductory article, we trace the shift from liberal to post-liberal to illiberal peace-building, define illiberal peace-building, discuss the case studies presented in this special issue, and finally draw out common themes and policy implications.