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Research Report

YOU, THE PEOPLE: The United Nations, Transitional Administration, and State-Building

Simon Chesterman
Copyright Date: Nov. 1, 2003
Pages: 24

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. i-ii)
  2. (pp. iii-iv)
  3. (pp. 1-1)

    Is it possible to establish the conditions for legitimate and sustainable national governance through a period of benevolent foreign autocracy under UN auspices? This contradiction between ends and means has plagued recent efforts to govern post-conflict territories in the Balkans, East Timor, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Such state-building operations combine an unusual mix of idealism and realism: the idealist project that a people can be saved from themselves through education, economic incentives, and the space to develop mature political institutions; the realist basis for that project in what is ultimately military occupation.

    In early 1995, chastened by the failed operation in...

  4. (pp. 2-8)

    Though colonialism is now condemned as an international crime, international humanitarian law — specifically the 1907 Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 — provides the legal basis for an occupying power to exercise temporary authority over territory that comes under its control. The occupying power is entitled to ensure the security of its forces, but is also required to ‘take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.’ In addition to other positive obligations, such...

  5. (pp. 8-11)

    The primary barrier to establishing transitional administration-type operations in areas such as Somalia, Western Sahara, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo has less to do with the difficulty of such operations than with the absence of political will to commit resources to undertake them. The ‘war on terror’ has transformed this agenda, though triage is performed less according to need than to the strategic priorities of the dominant actors, most prominently the United States. Though the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are not transitional administrations as understood in this report, they are suggestive of how the state-building agenda has...

  6. (pp. 11-12)

    A measure of the speed with which the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo was established is the name itself. UN operations typically operate under an acronym, but ‘UNIAMIK’ was dismissed as too much of a mouthful. ‘UNIAK’ sounded like a cross between ‘eunuch’ and ‘maniac’ — associations judged unlikely to help the mission. ‘UNMIK’ was the final choice, having the benefits of being short, punchy, and clear. Only in English, however. Once the operation was on the ground, it was discovered that anmik, in the dialect of Albanian spoken in Kosovo, meant ‘enemy’. No one within the United Nations...

  7. (pp. 13-14)
  8. (pp. 15-17)
  9. (pp. 18-18)