Making science work for development

The peace-building process

Helping countries recover and rebuild after serious conflict

Once a conflict has ended, peace-building is a critical phase in moving towards re-establishing political and social stability in a region. However, such negotiations can be volatile: reaching a stalemate or quickly plunging nations back into repeated bouts of unrest. One professor from the University of Birmingham has become a well-respected expert in the field of post-conflict reconstruction – playing an instrumental role in resolving civil war in Nepal, as well as shaping both UK and international approaches to post-conflict interventions.

Following times of volatility, effective post-conflict reconstruction and peace-building are vital to re-establish political and social stability. This helps guard against a quick slide back into conflict or unfavourable forms of authoritarian rule. Examples from history, such as the transition of Rhodesia to Zimbabwe, teach us that disjointed peace agreements can lead to political turmoil.

Professor Paul Jackson, from the University of Birmingham, has worked with a number of international bodies and governments to advise on the most successful approaches to conflict resolution and peace-building. His research – supported by the Economic and Social Research Council and Department for International Development – has revealed insights into the significance of governance and power-sharing relationships, and connected issues of decentralisation, demobilisation and post-conflict reconstruction.

The civil war in Nepal lasted for a decade (Image Ingmar Zahorsky)

As a result, he has become a world-renowned expert on post-conflict reconstruction and security sector reform, helping to shape international policy and bring stability to conflict zones. In 2008, he was commissioned to evaluate the UK’s ten-year peace-building intervention in Sierra Leone, which was initiated following its eleven-year civil war. The findings from his evaluation went on to inform future UK government interventions and have been incorporated into training courses for high-ranking security officials around the world. Over 500 UK personnel have since been trained on these courses before being deployed to overseas stabilisation operations.

Jackson’s work into security sector reform was also taken up into the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s official advice and guidance. These guidelines have helped strengthen security reform networks in South East Asia, Latin America, South Asia and Africa. 

Jackson’s experience in post-conflict reconstruction and his pragmatic recommendations made a significant contribution to the peace process in Nepal (Image randomix)

In 2010, the Birmingham professor was appointed as the only International Adviser to the Government of Nepal to help them to integrate and rehabilitate Communist rebels following a ten-year civil war. He was asked to facilitate discussions between Nepalese political parties, the Nepalese Army and Communist leaders. Drawing on his previous research, he advised that Communist fighters should be integrated into the Nepalese Army to create unity and joint purpose between the previously conflicting groups. Talks remained at a stalemate for some time, but in 2013, thanks to negotiations supported by Jackson, 20,000 Communist fighters were demobilised and reintegrated into the Nepalese State. Some were recruited into the Nepalese Army and others were given a retirement payment and returned to civilian life.

Jackson was commended for his work in bringing peace back to Nepal. Talking about the role that the Birmingham professor played, the Communist party leader, and former Prime Minister of Nepal, commented: “Thoughtful ideas, pragmatic recommendations and profound experience on the integration and rehabilitation process have made a substantial contribution to concluding the peace process”.

Read more about this research in the original impact case study submitted to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. 

Department for International Development | Economic and Social Research Council