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In the News August 18, 2023

Rethinking Stability: Key findings and actionable recommendations

By Will Bennett, Riccardo Vinci, Anca Agachi, and Leah Scheunemann

The Rethinking Stability initiative was a partnership between Interpeace, the Atlantic Council, and the Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik (BAKS). The initiative was made possible thanks to the generous contributions of the German Federal Foreign Office.

In the last twenty years, stabilization has become perhaps the main approach through which international actors have engaged in conflict affected areas. Yet almost all stabilization efforts have struggled, with the sources of instability more complicated and difficult to remedy than first envisaged. The definition of what ‘stabilization’ actually constitutes remains ambiguous, with the term used inconsistently over time and in different contexts, so that aims and approaches have varied enormously in ambition and application between actor and place. Stabilization successes have been scant, and the field appears to be in something of a definitional and operational limbo, where despite their stated purpose of reducing violence and laying the structural foundations for longer-term security, most stabilization efforts have too often not only failed but occasionally made conflict environments worse.

This context provided the rationale for the Rethinking Stability initiative. Launched in July 2020, it recognized that stabilization efforts in Afghanistan, the Sahel, and in north, east and central Africa were all struggling to build lasting peace and stability. The initiative sought to ask why, and in doing so discern how stabilization efforts could better contribute to positive social and political changes in fragile environments.

Based on five private dialogues on three continents, in-depth desk and country research, and discussions with circa 1,000 policy makers, academics, practitioners, and conflict-affected citizens, this final paper sets out the project’s key lessons and suggests actionable recommendations for how the field can improve.

The Transatlantic Security Initiative, in the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, shapes and influences the debate on the greatest security challenges facing the North Atlantic Alliance and its key partners.

The Scowcroft Strategy Initiative works to develop sustainable, nonpartisan strategies to tackle security challenges.

Related Experts: Leah Scheunemann and Anca Agachi