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"Closing the Transition Gap" Necessary for Post-Conflict Economic Growth

Mark Marich

Intervening forces -- whether officially "occupiers" or not -- have a duty to create or support existing rule of law institutions in post-conflict states, according to the new paper "Closing the Transition Gap," the fourth paper in the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation's Expeditionary Economics Research Series to reconsider the United States' approach to military- and civilian-led development in areas stricken by conflict and natural disaster.

"In states where conflict is occurring, government institutions -- if they even exist -- usually cannot adequately protect citizens' rights and prevent corruption," said author Brock Dahl, a 2010 Arthur C. Helton Fellow for the American Society of International Law. "Intervening forces have a strategic, legal and moral imperative from day zero to commit the resources necessary to create and sustain law enforcement structures to prevent, investigate and punish criminal activity, civil rights abuse and corruption."

A combined reading of international humanitarian and international human rights law presented in the paper implies that intervening forces are, in fact, obliged to take this action. Both the Law of Occupation established by the Hague (IV) Convention and international human rights law (HRL) contain language that occupying forces must "ensure" the basic rights of citizens of occupied areas. Dahl suggests that preservation of life, privacy, property and bodily integrity be the rights used in developing a policing strategy for stabilizing forces.

The paper cites Afghanistan as an example of a recent conflict in which the United States' reluctance or inability to provide robust law enforcement allowed criminal organizations and activities to flourish and subvert state viability. Furthermore, even after the "transition gap" is arguably closed, Dahl recommends that international actors can enable local citizens -- in Afghanistan and other post-conflict societies -- to enforce their own legal rights by:

  • Establishing an international forum of legal aid providers to assist rights abuse victims in filing civil claims against their abusers;
  • Working with host-society actors to develop means of fighting corruption and organized crime; and
  • Recommending that post-conflict countries sign necessary protocols, or make necessary declarations, so that their citizens can bring claims before the UN.

"Policymakers who authorize interventions must fully understand the implications of this obligation, and the commitment of resources of time necessary to intervene effectively and responsibly in transitional environments," Dahl said. "We owe it to the people in post-conflict states -- and to our own forces -- to help achieve sustainable stability and growth."

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