Rehabilitation in complex political emergencies: Is rebuilding civil society the answer?
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The impact of conflict in sub-Saharan Africa is such that it cannot be considered to be a temporary aberration outside the mainstream development agenda. Intervention into complex political emergencies (CPEs) is aimed at increasing the capacity of structures in order to counteract the erosion of civil society, and thus form the basis of rehabilitation. CPEs have the effect of severely weakening both civil society and governments and political capacity should be built from the bottom up, so as to marginalize predatory authorities. Rebuilding civil society can start even during a CPE, and is aims at moving from relief towards more developmental planning, whilst contributing to peace. Civil society is held to counterbalance the weight of state power and thus contribute towards democracy through the political accountability it affords. CPEs are understood to be essentially political events arising out of socio-economic marginalization, and often result in significant benefits for powerful groups. The discourse on rehabilitation through civil society draws on academic literature and practical experience in different CPEs, which characterizes CPEs as frequently undermining civil society; it is attacked by warring parties which emerge as traditional structures take the place of failing authoritarian structures. The complexity of the resulting situation should warn external agents against complacency in their ability to intervene. Developing a minimum of project planning, management capacity and accountability involves large time and resource investments, and the role for development assistance is in supporting initiatives, but it cannot make them happen. Genuine community participation, sustainability, and accountability are goals towards which progress can be made, whilst moving beyond the culture of service delivery. The development of civil society holds out the possibility that non-military parties may have a stronger voice, but it must take place alongside the broader political processes rather than instead of them, whilst offering the possibility of greater accountability and good governance, both of which would be useful tools in dealing with conflict.