Guest Lecture: Prof. Dr. David Chandler

Prof. Dr. David Chandler presented “Peacebuilding: Conceptualising the Challenges of Resistance” at the Brandt School on Thursday, January 31st. Prof. Chandler is a professor of International Relations at Westminster University as well as the research director at the Centre for the Study of Democracy.

Prof. Chandler began the lecture by highlighting the complexity of external interventions in the name of peacebuilding. In the 1990s, many organizations and missions dedicated to peacebuilding abroad were optimistic, mostly as a result of a linear understanding of politics, intervention, peace, development and democracy. Today the mentality behind most intervention policy is a bit more cautious because of the largely unsuccessful peacebuilding missions in various regions, including those in Bosnia, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq. Prof. Chandler posed the notion that such ideas regarding peacebuilding and intervention of the 1990s were not only naïve, but also that the so-called “lessons learned” may not have been lessons learned after all because if so, then “peace” or “development” might not be the desired end goals of such interventions anymore. He also asserted that the aspirations of liberalism were problematic because despite the understanding now that the world is non-linear, “the West” still proceeds with policies that assume the world is linear, i.e. policies implemented in certain countries can be easily transferred and certain concepts can be likewise understood and implemented elsewhere.

Prof. Chandler also contested that it wasn’t the job of an academic to proscribe policy recommendations, but to consider the realities of policies as objectively and academically as possible. While his ideas were somewhat provocative, he also considered how some processes of peacebuilding have changed since the 90s. Now there is less focus on interacting with the elites of societies – just working at the level of formal institutions won’t bring peace or development. However although he believes intervention is sometimes necessary, he also believes there has to be intervention in ways where “the West” isn’t imposing or promising things and the interveners must also realize that they cannot go in with the expectation that they will make any real changes.