Imposing the Liberal Peace: State-building and Neo-liberal Development in Timor-Leste (2015)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree NameMaster of Arts
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury. School of Language, Social and Political Sciences
AuthorsCornish, Sara Elizabethshow all
From the mid-1990s, the amalgamation of security, development, and humanitarian imperatives under the single umbrella of ‘state-building’ has provided a compelling justification for increasingly intrusive interventions into the political, economic, and social affairs of subject countries. Guided by the assumptions of liberal peace theory, state-building initiatives engage directly with states, seeking to achieve a reformulation of structures of government as a first step towards the implementation of wider socio-economic reforms. The state-building project is geared towards the construction of a particular form of statehood in subject states; state institutions are to be reconstructed in accordance with a liberal template, and tasked with establishing the necessary institutional environment for market-led development and the liberal peace.
Contemporary discourses of state-building and development are fundamentally interlinked, representing a unified process of neo-liberal replication in subject states, whereby fundamental transformations of social, political, and economic structures are to be implemented and sustained through the construction of liberal state institutions. Pressure to court international approval due to conditions of aid dependence curtails the potential for meaningful democracy in subject countries. Key questions of social and economic policy are subsumed as technical matters of good governance and removed from domestic democratic contestation, facilitating a transfer of formerly domestic considerations into the international sphere. These interlocking processes of state-building and neo-liberal discipline have contributed to an inversion of sovereign statehood, whereby the state serves to channel inward an externally driven agenda, rather than acting as a sovereign expression of domestic interests. This reality raises important questions regarding the nature of democracy in post-conflict environments, and in particular the impact of state-building activities on the prospects for broadly inclusive democracy in subject states.
This study will examine the evolution of state-building as a critical components of peace-building missions, its central assumptions and goals, and its implementation in practice in Timor-Leste. The state-building process in Timor-Leste has contributed to the formation of an insulated state with little basis in Timorese society. The democratic experience in Timor-Leste has been profoundly disempowering; conditions of aid dependence have constrained elected governments in key areas of social and economic policy, resulting in a loss of popular legitimacy and mounting public disenchantment. Closer examination of food and agricultural policy and management of Timorese oil reserves reveals the extent to which government policy remains constrained by international preferences. In these areas, the government’s inability to act in the interests of the Timorese public has compounded social hardships and popular discontent, contributing to the build-up of anti-government sentiment that manifested itself in the 2006 crisis.