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Ethics of Peacebuilding  

Reina C. Neufeldt

Peacebuilding efforts to rebuild relationships and structures during and after conflict, violence, and war present a series of ethical questions and challenges for international and national actors. Should the international community engage in peacebuilding? To what extent? Who ought to be involved? What constitutes good ends for peacebuilding? How can peacebuilding be done right? These questions identify the ways in which peacebuilding has been morally interrogated since its rise in prominence as a form of international intervention in the 1990s. The history of peacebuilding and peacebuilding meta-ethics inform current normative ethics debates involving agency as well as the ends and means in peacebuilding. The proliferation of international peacebuilding practice in the 2000s was accompanied by a series of questions that has produced a significant body of writing about peacebuilding ethics within International Relations. This growing body of literature has produced questions, debates, and theoretical positions. A limited set of meta-ethics considerations have provided the foundation for much of the normative theorizing, particularly the moral objectivist commitment to positive peace. Decolonial analysis increasingly offers an alternative set of meta-ethical considerations drawing on systems of traditional ethics. The majority of theorizing around ethics in peacebuilding, however, focuses on normative ethics debates. These works respond to the questions: Who has agency or who ought to have agency in peacebuilding? What ends should peacebuilding pursue? And, what means will ensure that peacebuilding is done right? The related literature focuses on a broad range of conditions, from individuals working for nongovernmental organizations to state- and United Nations–sponsored interventions. It includes authors who write from cosmopolitan, consequentialist, postcolonial, decolonial, virtue, critical, feminist, and Foucaultian perspectives, among others. Finally, there is an expanding set of works focused on descriptive and applied peacebuilding ethics.