‘Global’ norms and ‘local’ agency: frictional peacebuilding in Kosovo

Abstract

This article explores how the ‘liberal democratic peace package’ is received in post-conflict spaces. As such, it is part of a critical peace research agenda that raises critical questions concerning the quality of peace in many post-conflict societies. A close reading of the peace-building process in post-conflict Kosovo provides the backdrop for the theoretical discussion that identifies friction in norm diffusion processes and the different agencies that are generated through encounters between global norms and local practices. We unpack the interplay between the ‘global’ and the ‘local’ in peacebuilding and, through the lens of friction, we reveal the diverse and unequal encounters that produce new power relations. By foregrounding agency, we theorise different agentive subjects in the post-conflict setting, and map local agency from various segments of society that may localise, co-opt or reject global norms pertaining to the liberal democratic peace.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Although the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 did provide the legal foundations for the post-conflict mission, the NATO invasion itself was not mandated by the UN. Thus, to see the international presence in Kosovo since 1999 as monolithic would be deceiving.

  2. 2.

    In Kosovo, but also in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cyprus, Macedonia and Northern Ireland.

  3. 3.

    Full anonymity has been offered to the research participants that have been engaged, a choice some made due to the intricacy of their positions and/or safety concerns that are part of everyday life for some subjects in Kosovo and especially Mitrovica.

  4. 4.

    March and Olsen (1998: 948–49) define institutions as a ‘relatively stable collection of practices and rules defining the appropriate behaviour of a specific group in a specific situation’ and ‘broad enough to encompass things as varied as collections of contracts, legal rules, social norms, and moral precepts’. Hence, institutions here refer also to a collection of norms such as those underpinning the liberal democratic peace.

  5. 5.

    For global norms in Kosovo and the Kosovar democratisation process after 1999, see Ernst (2011), Ker-Lindsay (2012), and Cocozelli (2013). For the democratisation process in Mitrovica, see Gusic (2015).

  6. 6.

    EULEX operates officially as if Kosovo is not independent.

  7. 7.

    ICO operated in support of Kosovo’s independence.

  8. 8.

    See Björkdahl and Gusic (2013) and Gusic (2015) for more on the divide of Mitrovica along the Ibar river.

  9. 9.

    Interviews used in this article were conducted by co-author Ivan Gusic.

  10. 10.

    This is something that often provokes the local Kosovo Serbs who do not support or recognise Kosovo as an independent state.

  11. 11.

    Indeed, there is clear disagreement among the major Kosovo Albanian political parties when it comes to internal Kosovar politics, illustrated by the difficulties to form a government after the elections in 2014 and the instability that has followed ever since. However, when it comes to the external involvement in Kosovo, they have been united in their resistance towards it.

  12. 12.

    The word means ‘self-determination’ in Albanian.

  13. 13.

    Thus, even if the imposed norms are not read in the same negative manner in which Vetëvendosje! interprets them — that is, not seeing Western democracy as a chimera and a smokescreen for colonialism — their ideas still counter liberal democracy and its focus on the individual, multiethnicity, and a civic Kosovar identity.

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Interviews in order of appearance in text

  1. Former Head of CBM, personal interview by author, 27 November, 2011.

  2. Current Head of CBM, personal interview by author, 30 November, 2011.

  3. Local EUSR official, personal interview by author, 16 November, 2011.

  4. Member of CBM, personal interview by author, 19 June, 2014.

  5. Local political analyst, personal interview by author, 27 November, 2011.

  6. OSCE official, personal interview by author, 17 June, 2014.

  7. ICO official, personal interview by author, 17 November, 2011.

  8. EULEX official, personal interview by author, 15 November, 2011.

  9. UNMIK official, personal interview by author, 23 June, 2014.

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Björkdahl, A., Gusic, I. ‘Global’ norms and ‘local’ agency: frictional peacebuilding in Kosovo. J Int Relat Dev 18, 265–287 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1057/jird.2015.18

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Keywords

  • agency
  • friction
  • Kosovo
  • norms
  • peacebuilding