Brokered Democracy-Building: Developing Democracy through Transitional Governance in Cambodia, East Timor and Afghanistan

Naazneen H. Barma

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Abstract:

This paper examines the attempts of the international community to build democratic political systems in post-conflict countries, focusing on the “transitional governance” approach of the United Nations to working with domestic political factions to establish democratic institutions in Cambodia (1992–93), East Timor (1999–2002) and Afghanistan (2002–04). The transitional process is intended to
develop local institutions and administrative and political capacity, while attempting not to reify the static balance of power in place at the end of the conflict. The idea of transitional governance may be seen as a pragmatic stepping-stone in a democracy-building process. It defers to elected representatives all-important decisions about the specific institutional architecture of democracy, including the question of what forms of power-sharing make sense given the domestic political context. The transitional governance process appears to be fairly effective in the initiation phase of the democracy-building process: administering a peace settlement through to a first national election and facilitating the writing of a constitution. Yet democratic consolidation after the transition point has been stunted to some extent in each of the countries considered. The very mechanisms of
transitional governance – particularly the designation of a semisovereign body to act as a UN counterpart – act at cross-purposes to the impulse to allow a dynamic democracy building process to take root.

Suggested bibliographic reference for this article:

Barma, Naazneen H. Brokered Democracy-Building: Developing Democracy through Transitional Governance in Cambodia, East Timor and Afghanistan. IJMS: International Journal on Multicultural Societies. 2006, vol.8, no.2, pp. 127-161. UNESCO. ISSN 1817-4574. www.unesco.org/shs/ijms/vol8/issue2/art1

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