A political science professor has won the University of Louisville’s 2012 Grawemeyer Award for World Order. Severine Autesserre is an assistant professor at Barnard College and Columbia University, and the author of “The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding.”
In her book, Autesserre examines the vast international resources that went toward peacekeeping in the Congo, and the failure of those efforts. In it, she examines the decades of violence in the Congo, despite significant international peacekeeping resources that were poured into the country.
The failure of peace, she argues, comes from a global culture that dismisses local conflicts as negligible.
“It’s the way of understanding the violence,” she said. “Diplomats and UN officials interpret fighting and massacres as the consequence of top-down problems. So for example, that will be manipulation by national leaders or manipulation by foreign groups.”
Outsiders often look toward elections to solve all problems, she says. But at least some attention should be paid to resolving local conflicts that exacerbate national violence.
Autesserre says she’s had conversations with State Department and UN officials about the importance of addressing local conflicts, but she says it’s hard to get most peace workers to change their understanding of the situation.
“I am dealing here with a culture that is really engrained,” she said. “The fact that we view national and international causes as the main drivers of conflict is something that is shared among virtually everybody. So basically I am asking people to review their entire understanding of conflict and violence.”
Autesserre says the lessons she gathered from peacekeeping in the Congo apply to many other war-torn countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq.