Naazneen H. Barma is Associate Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Her research and teaching focus on the political economy of development, post-conflict peacebuilding and political order, and natural resource governance, with a regional specialization in East Asia and the Pacific. She is a founding member and co-director of Bridging the Gap, an initiative devoted to enhancing the policy impact of contemporary international affairs scholarship.
Comparative Political Institutions
Energy And Climate Policy
Natural Resource Policy
Timor-Leste (East Timor)
Naazneen H. Barma's research and teaching focus on the political economy of development, post-conflict peacebuilding and political order, and natural resource governance, with a regional specialization in East Asia and the Pacific. Barma’s most recent book, The Peacebuilding Puzzle: Political Order in Post-Conflict States (Cambridge University Press 2017), explains the disconnect between the formal institutional engineering undertaken by international peacebuilding interventions and the governance outcomes that emerge in their aftermath. Drawing on fieldwork in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and East Timor, she argues that transformative peace operations fall short of achieving the modern political order sought in post-conflict countries because the interventions themselves empower post-conflict elites intent on forging a neopatrimonial political order. She is currently working on a collaborative research project, funded by the Minerva Initiative, that examines the relationship between state-building and peace-building through the lens of public service delivery in Cambodia, Laos, and Uganda. Barma’s peer-reviewed academic research has been published in several refereed journals—including International Peacekeeping, Conflict, Security & Development, and Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies—and edited volumes. She is co-author of Rents to Riches? The Political Economy of Natural Resource-Led Development (World Bank, 2011), as well as co-editor of Institutions Taking Root: Building State Capacity in Challenging Contexts (World Bank, 2014) and The Political Economy Reader: Markets as Institutions (Routledge, 2008). She has also co-authored policy-oriented pieces on global political economic order that have appeared in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Foreign Policy, and The National Interest. From 2007–2010, Barma was a Young Professional and Public Sector Specialist at the World Bank, where she conducted political economy analysis and worked on operational dimensions of governance and institutional reform in the East Asia Pacific Region. She has over fifteen years of full-time and consulting experience with the World Bank and other aid agencies.
While scholars and practitioners alike argue that the pursuit of sustainable peace in post-conflict developing countries requires international interventions to build state capacity, many debate the precise effects that external assistance has had on building peace in conflict-affected states. This paper seeks to clear conceptual ground by proposing a research agenda that disentangles statebuilding and peacebuilding from each other. Recent scholarship has made the case that the two endeavours are geared toward distinct sets of goals, yet few have subjected the causal mechanism underlying those processes or the relationship between them to sustained theoretical and empirical inquiry. Additionally, despite decades of mixed results from international interventions, we lack knowledge of the mechanisms by which external engagement leads to specific outcomes. To address these gaps, this paper offers a causal framework for understanding the effects of aid dynamics on state coherence and the depth of peace. It specifies the variables in that framework, with a view to establishing a new research agenda to advance our understanding of statebuilding and peacebuilding. Finally, it proposes that public service delivery in post-conflict countries offers fertile empirical ground to hypothesize about and test the relationship between state coherence and sustainable peace.
International peacebuilding interventions in post-conflict countries are intended to transform the socio-political context that led to violence and thereby build a stable and lasting peace. Yet the UN’s transitional governance approach to peacebuilding is ill-suited to the challenge of dealing with the predatory political economy of insecurity that often emerges in post-conflict societies. Evidence from peacebuilding attempts in Cambodia, East Timor and Afghanistan illustrates that the political economy incentives facing domestic elites in an environment of low credibility and weak institutionalization lead to a cycle of patronage generation and distribution that undermine legitimate and effective governance. As a result, post-conflict countries are left vulnerable to renewed conflict and persistent insecurity. International interventions can only craft lasting peace by understanding the political economy of conflict persistence and the potential policy levers for altering, rather than perpetuating, those dynamics.
Transformative peace operations fall short of achieving the modern political order sought in post-conflict countries because the interventions themselves empower post-conflict elites intent on forging a neopatrimonial political order. The Peacebuilding Puzzle explains the disconnect between the formal institutional engineering undertaken by international interventions, and the governance outcomes that emerge in their aftermath. Barma's comparative analysis of interventions in Cambodia, East Timor, and Afghanistan focuses on the incentives motivating domestic elites over a sequence of three peacebuilding phases: the elite peace settlement, the transitional governance period, and the aftermath of intervention. The international community advances certain forms of institutional design at each phase in the pursuit of effective and legitimate governance. Yet, over the course of the peacebuilding pathway, powerful post-conflict elites co-opt the very processes and institutions intended to guarantee modern political order and dominate the practice of governance within those institutions to their own ends.