An important component of peace building in post-conflict areas is to determine who has national ownership, or the ultimate authority for setting and implementing policy priorities. While national ownership is now entrenched as a core tenet of UN engagement with fragile and war-affected states, what is less clear is how national ownership principles should be operationalized. If peace building is to move beyond being an exercise in externally driven social engineering, outsiders must do more to acknowledge peace-building resources that exist within conflict-affected societies themselves. While much of the ownership debate has focused on ownership by domestic political elites, the emergence of a “local turn” in peace-building scholarship strongly suggests that peace cannot be sustained in the absence of ownership on the part of domestic civil society. This brief examines the conceptual issues and challenges that up until now have stood in the way of effectively putting national ownership principles into practice in actual peace-building situations, as well as to highlight emerging lessons and good practices with regard to respecting and facilitating national ownership.
Timothy Donais is an associate professor at the Balsillie School of International Affairs and Wilfrid Laurier University's Department of Global Studies. An international security expert, he is currently leading a collaborative research project on vertical integration and the United Nations peacebuilding architecture.