Last Updated: April 9, 2009

The main actors section is intended to provide an overview of the governments, multilateral and bilateral agencies, civil society organizations (at both the national and the international level), and conflict-affected populations that play important roles in economic recovery. In this section, the importance of local and national ownership of the recovery and peacebuilding processes is highlighted, as well as the supportive role that can be played by the international community.


It is broadly recognized by peacebuilding actors that the impetus for economic recovery lies with national stakeholders, including the government and civil society. Most scholars and practitioners agree that governments and civil society must actively lead and manage economic recovery processes in order to ensure long-term sustainability, even when financial and human resource capacities are low.1
Go to Capacity building and Debate: Participation

A recent report on economic recovery by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) highlights the importance of local ownership of the recovery process, which it calls "indigenous drivers." According to this report, "The notion of 'indigenous drivers' of economic recovery denotes the efforts and initiatives of local communities, individuals, households and enterprises that stimulate and impel economic activity after war."2 In the long run, national actors should assume the leadership role in policy making and the design of recovery strategies, and they should have the capacity to govern transparently and accountably by the time the international communitys support is ebbing.3


John Ohiorhenuan and Chetan Kumar identify post-conflict economic recovery functions for national and international actors.

National Actors and Post-Conflict Functions

- Creating a secure environment for economic recovery
- Establishing a macroeconomic policy regime
- Instituting an oversight framework for the economy
- Diversifying public investment
- Reconstituting social and human capital
- Fostering decentralization
- Establishing the rule of law


Source: Ohiorhenuan, John, and Chetan Kumar. Sustaining Post-Conflict Economic Recovery: Lessons and Challenges. Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery Occasional Paper 1, October 2005.

In their report for UNDP, Ohiorhenaun and Kumar cite Afghanistan, Haiti, and Liberia as examples of transitional authorities successfully leading economic recovery efforts, despite large gaps in capacity.4 The public finance and economic governance section of this portal delves more deeply into the roles of the national government in restoring its functions and duties following conflict.

Civil society

Civil society, both local and international, can play critical roles in restoring peace and fueling economic recovery. Following war, confidence in the government may be especially low; thus, while the government is working to restore legitimacy and function, other actors may take on a more prominent role in immediate economic recovery efforts. Civil society actors, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), can uniquely support the economic recovery process in numerous ways. For example, UNDP states, "Through direct contact with the population, creative ideas, flexibility, the possibility of reaching places with difficult access to public policy, and a great commitment to service, NGOs may contribute to public policy."5 Civil society can also provide a system of checks and balances, holding governments accountable for their policies, activities, and expenditures.

The role of civil society and its ability to represent wider societal interests in issues of economic recovery as well as more broadly are at times viewed critically, particularly in the global South, where governments have criticized the ballooning of international aid to civil society since the 1980s, which may have undermined the potential for government-led development. Funds have been channeled to democratization- and governance-related activities designed to hold governments accountable. Critics, however, point to the resulting support to a narrowly defined "civil society" of professionalized NGOs dedicated to advocacy rather than development and wider democratization, which often does not effectively strengthen pluralism.6 NGOs, in particular, are seen by many critics--scholars and many governments in the South, in particular--as being facilitators of economic liberalization, which provides "greater freedom for certain economic actors, marginalizing others, while giving rise to new social groups and forms of organization as prompted by changing economic incentives."7 Donor strategies for, and outcomes of, support to civil society must be carefully assessed to ensure that they are not doing harm, specifically by creating or exacerbating statesociety tensions that can undermine peacebuilding and economic recovery efforts.8

While there are calls for increased participation by civil society in post-conflict economic recovery and peacebuilding efforts, there is debate about the veracity and genuineness behind this notions widespread promotion. This issue is discussed later in this paper.

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While national actors should be at the heart of economic recovery, international actors can play an important role in supporting recovery efforts and building national institutions.9 As previously mentioned, war-torn countries often face severe shortages of skilled human resources, which are necessary for economic recovery. International civil society can temporarily fill capacity gaps in the early recovery phase. Early recovery, whether focused on the economic or political/military spheres, requires people with highly specialized skill sets that are not necessarily applicable in the long-term. Thus, capacity building of local personnel is not always a viable or efficient option.

However, external actors can provide the funds for recovery efforts until the state can fully mobilize resources and function independently.10 If financial resources come in the form of loans rather than grants, as is often the case, there can be long-term challenges as a country begins to recover and funding sources, in particular aid, begin to dry up.11

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International Actors and Post-Conflict Functions

- Supporting national dialogue processes
- Letting national actors lead, even in the short term
- Supporting process skills
- Supporting an infrastructure for peace
- Linking reconciliation and economic recovery
- Acquiring the skills for designing and implementing economic policy
- Reestablishing legitimate authority over natural resources
- Support for mechanisms to effectively manage natural resources and prevent the illicit trade of conflict-supporting resources

Source: Ohiorhenuan, John, and Chetan Kumar. Sustaining Post-Conflict Economic Recovery: Lessons and Challenges. Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery Occasional Paper 1, October 2005.
It is key for international actors (or what is sometimes referred to as "external partners") to avoid unilateral support for the technocratic and/or political elite and to promote broad participation of civil society, the private sector, and former warring parties during the early stages of recovery. Ohiorhenuan and Kumar expand on this idea: "It is particularly important that, in their eagerness to push transition processes forward, external partners do not simply consult and make deals with a small (technocratic or political) elite. Such a move is likely to significantly disempower other important actors like parliament, civic groups, and the business community."12 Additionally, international actors should be cognizant of their own institutional biases and economic priorities, while ensuring that strategies are conflict- and context-sensitive and that the impacts of these strategies are equitably distributed.13

As demonstrated in the definitions section, there are many conceptualizations of economic recovery. The understanding of this concept by post-conflict actors sheds light on the orientation of the economic recovery strategies they utilize. The following chart provides a comparison of some of the key international actors and their use of recovery-related terminology. The subsequent sections provide an overview of the institutional structures and activities of some of the most prevalent national and international actors in post-conflict economic recovery.

NOTE: This information is not meant to be comprehensive.

Institutional Use of Terminology

The European Commission (EC)

The EC conceives of reconstruction and rehabilitation as the reestablishment of a working economy and the institutional capacities needed to restore social and political stability in developing countries that have suffered serious damage through war, civil disorder, or natural disaster.

International financial institutions (IFIs)

The World Bank tends to avoid the concept of peacebuilding and its connotations of active interference in favor of post-conflict reconstruction and post-conflict recovery. The International Monetary Fund prefers the concept of economic recovery, which it uses to mean activities to restore assets and production levels in the disrupted economy.

The United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Post-conflict reconstruction is used, defined as an umbrella term covering a range of activities required in the immediate aftermath of conflict.

The United States Agency for International Development


Post-conflict recovery and transition assistance is used, defined as immediate interventions to build momentum in support of the peace process, including supporting peace negotiations; building citizen security; promoting reconciliation; and expanding democratic political processes. The United States Department of State uses the term post-conflict reconstruction and stabilizationdefined as activities that help post-conflict states lay a foundation for lasting peace, good governance, and sustainable developmentand the Department of Defense uses reconstruction and stabilization to mean competencies identified for reconstruction, including humanitarian assistance, public health, infrastructure, economic development, rule of law, civil administration, and media. Stability operations, meanwhile, require sufficient security forces, communication skills, humanitarian capabilities, and area expertise.

Source: Barnett, Michael, Hunjoon Kim, Madalene O'Donnell, and Laura Sitea. Peacebuilding: What Is in a Name? Global Governance 13, no. 1 (2007): 38-39.

International financial institutions (IFIs)

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), often collectively referred to as international financial institutions (IFIs), both focus on economic development. The World Bank focuses on reconstruction and infrastructure and on activities to restore the assets and production levels in the economy. The IMF, alternatively, focuses on recovery- and technical assistance-related projects and on activities designed to facilitate rebuilding the socio-economic framework of the society.14 IFIs work to assist transitional authorities to revive public finances, as well as institutions for economic management. The IFIs have also been at the forefront of the promotion of economic liberalization as a tool for development and post-conflict economic recovery.  Go to Debate: Liberalization

World Bank

"A Framework for World Bank Involvement in Post-conflict Reconstruction," adopted by the World Bank's executive directors in February 1997, is a rationale and a set of guidelines for Bank involvement in countries in transition from conflict. The framework is composed of five elements that are prominent in many, if not all, economic recovery strategies: the Conflict Prevention and Reconstruction Unit (CPR); the Conflict Analysis Framework (CAF), which includes influential factors related to conflict, including social and ethnic relations, governance and political institutions, human rights and security, economic structure and performance, environment and natural resources, and external factors; the Post-Conflict Fund (PCF); poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSPs); and country assistance strategies (CAS).15

Most recently, the Bank has approved the creation of the State- and Peace-building Fund (SPF), which illustrates its increased commitment to post-conflict contexts. The new trust fund seeks to "address the needs of state, local governance and peace-building in fragile and conflict-prone and conflict-affected situations."16 The SPF will replace the PCF and the Low Income Countries Under Stress (LICUS) Trust Fund in an attempt to integrate the Bank's activities into a single unit.

Although the Bank has moved toward a broader role in post-conflict economic recovery, some critics suggest that its focus remains reconstruction after conflict ends, to the neglect of capacity building and long-term development strategies.17

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

The IMF provides "emergency assistance to help member countries with urgent balance of payments financing needs in the wake of natural disasters or armed conflicts."18 This emergency funding is designed to be rapidly deployed and is supported by policy advice and technical assistance. The IMF's policy on emergency funding has only been relevant to post-conflict countries since 1995 and is deployed in "circumstances where a member with an urgent balance of payments need is unable to develop and implement a comprehensive economic program because its capacity has been damaged by a conflict, but where sufficient capacity for planning and policy implementation nevertheless exists."19

Emergency IMF assistance loans are not necessarily attached to conditionalities (or what the fund calls
"performance criteria"), but there are requirements for receiving countries. Loans are attached to IMF technical assistance for implementing macroeconomic policies, for example, to establish and reorganize fiscal, monetary, and exchange institutions to restore key government functions, such as revenue mobilization.20 Additionally, post-conflict countries eligible for the IMF's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) may receive a subsidized rate of charge of 0.5 percent per year, while other emergency assistance loans are subject to higher interest rates.21

United Nations

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

UNDP is the largest multilateral grant-making agency in the world.22 Although it is explicitly a development agency, UNDP has increasingly involved itself in post-conflict recovery through capacity support and long-term development thinking.

UNDP identifies its role as being particularly well suited to addressing post-conflict recovery work. The executive board of UNDP "recognizes that crisis prevention and disaster mitigation should be integral parts of sustainable human development strategies and also recognizes that the United Nations Development Programme has some relevant operational experience in crisis and post-conflict situations."23 The substance of its work in crisis and post-conflict environments has a strong emphasis on local capacity building and on needs identification and management--a focus not intrinsically different to its work in other circumstances. However, UNDP emphasizes that the way in which it operates in these environments "must be different and failure to deal with this reality in the past has led to an uneven performance and to perceptions of institutional unpredictability by some key partners."24 It has also been observed that while UNDP promotes the ideas of human development, it has historically supported liberalization policies for development, including in post-conflict economic recovery.25

UNDP is particularly prevalent in assisting, through collaboration with the World Bank and national government, in the preparation of post-conflict needs assessments (PCNAs) and developing participatory methodologies for prioritizing post-conflict activities.26 In recent years, UNDP has also been closely involved supporting national governments in preparing poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSP), which are required for IFI and, increasingly, all bilateral lending.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA)

DESA envisions itself as well positioned to build on the linkages among conflict prevention, peacebuilding, and development based on its capacity to convene and promote norm-setting on development issues; its analytical research on the root causes of conflict and conflict prevention; its subject-specific expertise in the domains of economic and social development; its strong links and outreach with civil society; its programmatic links with the United Nations Regional Commissions; and coordination mechanisms that allow the organization to mainstream peacebuilding and conflict prevention into its development work.27 At a 2004 Expert Group Meeting, DESA prioritized several economic recovery-related issues: (1) the structural causes of conflict and the role of sustainable development using conflict prevention and peacebuilding theories; (2) socio-economic and institutional challenges of post-conflict peacebuilding through a long-term development lens; (3) partnerships and civil society; and (4) institutional approaches and mechanisms for conflict prevention, peacebuilding, and development.28

United Nations Peacebuilding Commission (PBC)

Established in 2005, the PBC is mandated to "propose integrated strategies for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery; help to ensure predictable financing for early recovery activities and sustained financial investment over the medium- to longer-term; extend the period of attention the international community givers to post-conflict recovery; develop best practices on issues that require extensive collaboration among political, security, humanitarian and development actors."29 The PBC's formation is recognized as a strong move toward closing the relief to development gap by aiming to link post-conflict governments with international and national actors to coordinate and develop unified long-term recovery and development efforts at an early stage. However, the PBC is an advisory body and, as such, it cannot actually impose or implement its recommendations.30

Go to Definitions: Relief to development, Early recovery model, and Definition: Early Recovery

Bilateral donors

The national development agencies of the wealthy industrialized democracies play a strong role in advocating economic strategies generally and in post-conflict economic recovery contexts specifically. As highlighted by Roland Paris, they are "among the most prominent players in the world of international aid," and they generally adhere to neoliberal strategies.31 Several illustrative examples follow.

The United States (US) focuses on aspects of economic recovery through a number of its institutions. While it has focused more on "economic recovery and democratization," efforts related to "reconstruction and stabilization" (mostly military and security) are more prominent in its activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.32 The US Agency for International Development (USAID), the largest aid donor in the world, is more of a "full service" agency. It participates in "post-conflict recovery and transition assistance," which includes "immediate interventions to build momentum in support of the peace process including supporting peace negotiations; building citizen security; promoting reconciliation; and expanding democratic political processes."33

European bilaterals tend to underscore peacebuilding, conflict prevention, and development linkages, in particular through policy. France and Germany, for example, participate in immediate post-conflict stabilization and long-term democracy promotion and economic reconstruction.34 The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) underscores peacebuilding and development linkages, noting that "development policy seeks to improve economic, social, ecological, and political conditions so as to help remove the structural causes of conflict and promote peaceful conflict management, . . . [whereas] peacebuilding attempts to encourage the development of the structural conditions, attitudes, and modes of political behavior that may permit peaceful, stable, and ultimately prosperous social and economic development."35 The Agence Francaise de Developpement participates in "crisis prevention," which is "the French government's international solidarity policy pursued in the areas of humanitarian action and development".36 The United Kingdoms Department for International Development (DFID) states that "essential postconflict peacebuilding measures include DDR [disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration], building the public institutions that provide security, transitional justice and reconciliation, and basic social services."37 The United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office participates in "postconflict reconstruction," an umbrella term covering a range of activities required in the immediate aftermath of conflict.38

Japan also takes a more holistic approach to recovery. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) participates in "reconstruction assistance," which consists of "efforts to prevent a regional conflict from recurring after a ceasefire agreement, which include an engagement in relief and reconstruction activities for victims of conflicts from the viewpoint of stabilizing the situation in affected areas."39 JICA participates in "peacebuilding," which is a "general approach extending from conflict prevention to reconciliation and postconflict reconstruction, in which peace is pursued through across-the-board endeavors that include development assistance in addition to traditional efforts within military and political frameworks."40 Japan's Defense Agency, alternatively, participates in "broad post-conflict reconstruction."41

1. Barnett et al., "Peacebuilding: What Is in a Name?" 38; Ohiorhenuan and Kumar, Sustaining Post-conflict Economic Recovery, xx.
2. BCPR, Post-Conflict Economic Recovery: Enabling Local Ingenuity, 49.
3. Ibid., 34.
4. Ohiorhenuan and Kumar, "Sustaining Post-conflict Economic Recovery," 10.
5. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), "Ad Melkert on the Role of Civil Society in Social Inclusion and the MDGs" (October 4, 2006).
6. Thomas Carothers and Marina Ottaway, eds., Funding Virtue: Civil Society and Democracy Promotion (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2000).
7. Bjorn Beckman and A. Sjgren, "Civil Society and Authoritarianism: Debates and Issues: An Introduction," in Civil Society and Authoritarianism in the Third World, ed. B. Beckman, E. Hansson, and A. Sjgren (Stockholm: PODSU, 2001).
8. Erin McCandless, Zimbabwean Forms of Resistance: Social Movements, Strategic Dilemmas (Lexington, MA: Lexington Press, forthcoming).
9. BCPR, Post-Conflict Economic Recovery: Enabling Local Ingenuity, xix.
10. Ibid., xix; Paul Collier, Post-Conflict Economic Recovery (New York: International Peace Institute, April 2006).
11. Boyce and O'Donnell, "Peace and the Public Purse," 10.
12. Ohiorhenuan and Kumar, "Sustaining Post-conflict Economic Recovery," 10.
13. BCPR, Post-Conflict Economic Recovery: Enabling Local Ingenuity, 58.
14. Ibid., 38, 45.
15. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), "Background Note for Expert Group Meeting on Conflict Prevention, Peace-building and Development" (New York: United Nations DESA, November 15, 2004), 15-16.
16. World Bank, "State-and Peace-building Fund."
17. World Bank, A Framework for World Bank Involvement in Post Conflict Reconstruction (Washington, DC: World Bank, 1997).
18. International Monetary Fund, "IMF Emergency Assistance: Supporting Recovery from Natural Disasters and Armed Conflict" (August 2008). 19. Ibid.
20. Ibid.
21. Ibid.
22. Roland Paris, At War's End: Building Peace after Civil Conflict (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 23.
23. UNDP, The Role of the UNDP in Crisis and Post-Conflict Situations, 4.
24. Ibid., 2.
25. Paris, At War's End: Building Peace after Civil Conflict, 23.
26. Ohiorhenuan and Kumar, "Sustaining Post-conflict Economic Recovery," 14.
27. DESA, Background Note for Expert Group Meeting, 5-6.
28. Ibid., 9-10.
29. United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, "What Does the Peacebuilding Commission Do?"
30. Ibid.
31. Paris, At War's End: Building Peace after Civil Conflict, 31.
32. Barnett et al., "Peacebuilding: What Is in a Name?" 38.
33. Ibid., 39, 48.
34. Ibid., 48.
35. Ibid., 39.
36. Ibid., 40.
37. Ibid., 39.
38. Ibid., 39.
39. Ibid., 41.
40. Ibid., 41.
41. Ibid., 48.

The news, reports, and analyses herein are selected due to there relevance to issues of peacebuilding, or their significance to policymakers and practitioners. The content prepared by HPCR International is meant to summarize main points of the current debates and does not necessarily reflect the views of HPCR International or the Program of Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research. In addition, HPCR International and contributing partners are not responsible for the content of external publications and internet sites linked to this portal.