The Tswalu Protocol on Peace-Building

















Attached please find ‘The Tswalu Protocol’, a guide to building peace in states emerging from conflict. This is available above in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Dari, Russian, Chinese, German, Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, and Japanese.


This Protocol articulates a consensus derived from the experience of a select group of civilian and military professionals, academics, individual organisations, concerned government departments and heads of state who have been at the epicentre of peacekeeping and peace-building missions. Recognising the ad hoc nature of international responses to armed conflict and state failure, the Protocol proposes a pragmatic and realistic approach to improving co-ordination of the international community in such missions. Instead of simply calling for more co-ordination, it offers a set of principles and practical guidelines for future peace-builders.


The Protocol is a result of a series of meetings and wider consultations, evaluating the successes and failure of past peace-building missions from Afghanistan to the Balkans, Somalia to Sierra Leone. It was convened by the Johannesburg-based Brenthurst Foundation in collaboration with Danida. 


The co-chairs and participants in the Tswalu Process that resulted in this Protocol have noted:


-                       President Paul Kagame (Rwanda): This Protocol outlines a strategy for greater success in peace-building which deserves to be read, debated and hopefully adopted by all interested parties.’

-                       Vice-President Francisco Santos Calderon (Colombia): ‘Only in this way [through the Tswalu Process] can new light be shed on the sometimes dark road towards a lasting and sustainable peace.’

-                       General Carlton W Fulford (USMC rtd): This Protocol will intensify dialogue, highlight enduring lessons for future efforts, and make way for more effective and sustainable peace-building activities in the 21st Century. I commend it to thoughtful leaders and committed peace advocates around the globe.’

-                       State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ib Petersen (Denmark): By its comprehensive coverage of past missions, this Protocol clearly identifies obstacles and pitfalls to be avoided and successes to be replicated. The Tswalu Process’ recommendations are highly relevant for all those embarking on peace-building missions.’ 

-                       HE Patrick Mazimhaka (African Union): 'The Tswalu Protocol is the distillation of experiences world-wide in peace-building, bringing peace to fragile states. It offers a best practice guide in plain language to future operations, and as such will help future peace-builders avoid the mistakes of the past. It is essential reading for Africans, the African Union's Peace and Security Department and others engaged in such operations.’

-                       General Sir David Richards (British Army): ‘I wish this excellent piece of work had been available before I deployed to Afghanistan. I commend it to anyone involved in the leadership of complex peace-building missions.’


And from others:

-                       President Dahir Rayale Kahin (Somaliland):Peace-building is a difficult and often a long, home-grown process. The Tswalu Protocol greatly simplifies this process for both the host governments and the international community. It offers clear strategic thinking and operational good sense in proposing a series of guidelines for such international missions and should be adopted by those interested in peace through stability and prosperity.'    

-                       Lord Paddy Ashdown (fmr. High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina): ‘I found this Protocol a most useful distillation of what succeeds which, given our track record of repeated failures in intervention, will I hope be read by policy makers.’

-                       Sir Malcolm Rifkind (fmr. UK Foreign Secretary): The Tswalu Protocol is a splendid initiative which should remind governments as well as the public that peace and security in Afghanistan and elsewhere will require a coherent and agreed strategy by all involved as well as cash, military might and high ideals.’

-                       Professor Barry Desker (RSIS, Singapore): ‘The Tswalu Protocol offers a comprehensive overview of what it takes for successful international responses to peace-building in failed states. It details realistic steps for states and aid-agencies to improve peace-building interventions. A must-read for all scholars and practitioners interested in international peacekeeping and peace-building missions.’

-                       Dr Tapani Vaahtoranta (Finnish Institute of International Affairs): ‘Hundreds of years of combined peace-building experience from throughout the world has been distilled to its essence by the authors of The Tswalu Protocol - if practitioners and political decision makers take its wisdom to heart, we will see more successful attempts at peace-building. Nordics, too, should read it.’

-                       Professor Mike Clarke (RUSI, London): ‘There are many weighty volumes on ‘lessons learned’ in peace-building, but only the Tswalu Protocol offers a concise synthesis of all the most relevant lessons. It is a distillation of the thinking of some of the world’s most experienced practitioners in real life, peace-building operations. As such, it represents the most concise and accessible guide to best practice that has so far been written.’

-                       Abdulaziz Sager (Gulf Research Centre): ‘Peace-building continues to be a subject that is too often neglected but the Tswalu Protocol offers clear and practical suggestions that should be considered by policy-makers and specialists world-wide.’

-                       Professor Hugh White (SDSC, Australian National University): ‘The Tswalu Protocol provides a very sober, balanced and well-informed guide to the difficult choices required to make peace-building operations work. It will provide a most valuable guide to action, and a wonderful stimulus for further research and debate.’

-                       Lt.-General (Ret) Gebretsadkan Gebretensae (CPRD, Ethiopia): ‘Building peace in countries emerging from conflict is not easy. Often it is linked with building state capacity; which usually is shattered by the conflict. It is also not for the faint-hearted. It is time taking and costly, sometimes dangerous, and fraught with problems, sensitivities and unresolved agendas. The Tswalu Protocol makes the job of peace-builders easier by identifying where international action should stop and domestic responsibility should begin. It should be closely studied by every would-be peace-builder.’



We would of course welcome your comments on the document. We would also be happy if you would like to forward the Protocol onto others who might be interested, or to post it on your websites. Please contact Leila Jack at if you require a Word version to do so. The English word version is also attached to this end.


The document together with the full forewords by the joint chairs and the supporting papers will be published shortly as a RUSI Whitehall Report compendium. Please supply your preferred physical and e-mailing addresses to Leila Jack if you would like to receive complimentary copies.



All good wishes – and also for 2008





Greg Mills


Dr Greg Mills

The Brenthurst Foundation

E Oppenheimer & Son



The Tswalu Protocol*

Principles and Guidelines for Peace-Building Missions



January 2008




The Tswalu Protocol articulates a consensus derived from the experience of a group of civilian and military professionals, academics, individual organisations, government departments and heads of state who have been at the epicentre of peacekeeping and peace-building missions. It is intended as a guide for the leaders of future international interventions.

The Tswalu Protocol recognises the ad hoc nature of international responses to armed conflict and state failure. Instead of simply calling for more co-ordination, it offers a set of principles and guidelines that future peace-builders can use to help offset the inherent limitations of any multilateral operation.



There are two contrasting views on what ‘peace-building’ is. The United Nations defines peace-building as efforts at capacity building, reconciliation and societal transformation. Peace-building, in this view, is a long-term process that occurs after violent conflict has slowed or stopped.

The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence describes peace-building as political, economic, social and military measures designed to strengthen political settlements, in order to redress the causes of conflict. In this view, peace-building may take place while the conflict is still ongoing, as in Afghanistan, the experience that provided the impetus for the Tswalu Protocol.

The Tswalu Protocol embraces the broader definition of peace-building enshrined in the UK Ministry of Defence approach, understanding that peace-building efforts must sometimes be undertaken before conflict has ended. Peace-building is thus synonymous with ‘stabilization’, the aim being to support countries emerging from conflict by preventing or reducing violence, protecting people and key institutions, promoting political processes which lead to greater stability, and preparing for longer-term, non-violent politics and development.



In the past 15 years, peace-building interventions have fallen short in part because they lack the following characteristics:

-                       Security: Some local forces oppose the peace-building process, the host government, and international actors. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘spoiler’ problem.

-                       Strategic Planning: External actors fail to identify an agreed end-state that provides a common purpose for their joint intervention.

-                       Directing Authority: There is no recognized authority that can direct the various independent organizations that compose the international effort.

-                       Cultural Education and Awareness: Foreign personnel lack sufficient knowledge of the host culture.

-                       Local Capacity: Donors are constrained by the absence of national professionals capable of executing complex public-sector projects.

-                       Tolerance of Risk: The international intervention is too slow to genuinely empower local partners due to lack of trust and fear of failure.

-                       Funding: External funding can undermine peace settlements when not used systematically and with due consideration of the political consequences. While the host government’s financial accountability procedures are often inadequate, funding mechanisms can be slow, unpredictable and temporary, making sustainability an issue. External funding can also be guided by reporting mechanisms, auditing and budgetary cycle requirements rather than host country needs.

-                       Jobs and Basic Services: Programs for job-creation and basic services, both crucial to consolidate peace, do not receive high priority, and rarely generate adequate results.



The following principles should govern every sector of the international response. Failure to adhere to a key principle has jeopardised the success of previous missions:

-                       Local Legitimacy: However peace is secured in the short-term, if the host government cannot win the people to its cause, the peace-building campaign ultimately will fail.

-                       Coherence of Effort: Operational coherence in peace-building demands prioritisation and agreement at the strategic and operational level. Prioritisation across the different sectors of the operation requires structures for co-ordination, and the subsuming of national/organisational interests to the needs of the host state. Securing broad agreement on these structures before deployment is critical. In principle, strategic coherence and co-ordination is the purview of the host government, but in cases where transitional governments are weak, co-ordination will require external frameworks as well. Agreement on broad strategic objectives and co-ordination mechanisms must not over-reach and place unnecessary constraints on the autonomy of international aid agencies.

-                       Accountability: All actors involved in the peace-building process must submit to enforceable regulatory structures – preferably overseen by local authorities in partnership with international partners – to ensure transparency and accountability. This includes all international organisations and forces, private security companies, NGOs, as well as local agencies.

-                       Pragmatism: Success requires an understanding of what is realistically attainable. The factors which should inform a realistic assessment include the threats to the security of the process, local capacity, the cohesion of the response, the level of international political will and resources, and the local political culture and history.

-                       Impartial Communications: Trustworthy and impartial communication from the peace-building effort is essential to win the trust and support of the host populations.

-                       Role of Women: Women, as a particularly vulnerable group which suffers disproportionately from conflict, are a key peace-building and conflict mitigation asset.

-                       A Common Purpose: The external actors and the local government require a common understanding of the host country’s needs and the long-term purpose of the international initiative before prescriptions are devised.



Successful peace-building requires the restoration of a functioning state by focusing on security, development, and governance. These three missions are essential to every peace-building effort and should usually be tackled in the following order of priority:

-                       Security: This is the primary goal of any peace-building strategy. Security includes general public safety, as well as national and international security. The intervention force needs to seize the advantages afforded by the ‘golden hour’ – the period immediately following the end of major hostilities – to establish a secure environment. The peace-building actions that follow must be conducted within the context of a stabilisation plan, integrating foreign and local efforts. The joint military forces must operate according to an agreed common doctrine (ideally determined before the commencement of operations). These forces must have the training and resources to tackle post-conflict security challenges, such as refugee flows, and to carry-out quick-impact public works projects. Priority should be given to the rapid establishment of indigenous security and border control forces in order to deny ‘spoilers’ freedom of movement. This process must include early and adequate provision for the disarmament, demobilisation and social and economic reintegration of former combatants.

-                       Development: Security and development are mutually reinforcing. The urgency is this: More than half of post-civil war countries slide back to war within five years. The lessons of success and failure in post-conflict countries consistently point to the need to stimulate entrepreneurial activity and create employment, especially for demobilised soldiers. Higher rates of economic growth decisively improve the chances of success in peace-building. To achieve a virtuous cycle of growth, stability and development, the strategy must prioritize the conditions that make entrepreneurship possible, including reducing the costs of doing business, promoting the rule of law, protecting property rights, stabilising the currency and ensuring the predictability of tax and regulatory policy. The peace-building effort must ensure that key ministries function, if necessary by embedding technical and administrative support personnel. Development and aid benchmarks should be set and adhered to, ranging from published expenditure run-downs to targets for the ratio of aid to gross domestic product. The barriers to doing business should be identified and tackled. Public works programmes can both reduce unemployment and deny manpower to spoilers. Even where there is embedded expertise, foreign visibility should be kept as low as possible, and rules (conditionality) kept to a core, non-negotiable minimum. Care should be taken not to shape policies according to the institutional prejudices and culture of external actors. Equally critical for development over the long-term will be the swift restoration of education services, which serve a vital peace-building function in developing a shared narrative and history or in some cases re-building collective national identities shattered by war.

-                       Governance: External actions – co-ordinated by a single, in-country authority – should be aimed at improving the capabilities and legitimacy of local partners. Actions should be targeted at vital areas such as the civil service and the election commission. Such programmes should be supported by a robust communications strategy. It is essential to create mechanisms to capture local voices and assimilate what external actors learn from local coping strategies. Over time, donor support for local media must give way to private media, lest the support corrode the credibility of local outlets. Given the role of the international media in determining the success or failure of missions, there should be a determination of what external messages could best build public support in contributing countries. Information operations and messaging should be proactive, consistent and coordinated at the highest level. Internally, the promotion of inclusive political representation and government legitimacy should underpin all communications.



In most peace-building operations, the international consensus will break down on certain issues. Tensions will arise between the prioritisation and implementation of tasks. Only some of these tensions will be reconcilable. (UN Security Council Resolutions and related instructions seldom offer direction on these issues.) No guide to peace-building can provide ready-made solutions to the full range of dilemmas that might arise on the ground. As ever, actions must be informed by an accurate understanding of local culture, politics, and conflict dynamics. The international response must be agile and adaptable – but also ensure that its actions do not violate core principles or deviate from the agreed peace-building plan to an extent which jeopardises the mission.

The Tswalu Protocol serves as a guide for decision-makers when circumstances present ‘hard choices’ such as these, drawn from recent peace-building experience:

-                       State-building versus reconciliation. The revival of the state is often thought to be synonymous with reconciliation, but in fact state-building by its nature often produces competition and conflict. It shapes the fundamental question ‘who rules?’ and determines who controls the assets of the state. Circumstances will dictate whether, for instance, elections ought to be held early or postponed in the interest of maintaining peace. Yet even in the latter case, it is important to recognise that the process of managing political conflict over key issues can be constructive and effect wider reconciliation.

-                       Working with versus working around the state. Peace-building operations almost always have a mandate to build state capacity. But sometimes state authorities are obstructionist or lacking competence. In the short-term, peace-builders may have to choose to work around rather than through state authorities, even at the cost of weakening the very institutions they are tasked with rebuilding. But if the necessity to ‘work around’ is due to government malfeasance, the continued viability of the peace-building mission should be exposed to rigorous internal scrutiny and, in extremis, abandoned if the government ceases to be a partner.

-                       State versus non-state authorities. There is often no government presence in remote regions of failed states. International actors are thus compelled to work with whoever constitutes ‘the authority’ (e.g., traditional elders, local militia leaders, self-declared mayors or governors, clerics, and so on). Although careful assessment and local knowledge are essential to decide among competing claims, even well-reasoned choices will sometimes provoke local conflict.

-                       Constitutions/formal rule of law versus customary law. Formal judiciary and police functions in many post-conflict states – especially poor ones – are usually weak. In these instances, local communities rely principally on customary or religious law (such as sharia) and a variety of extra-constitutional means of policing and maintaining public order. External actors face difficult choices about whether to recognise and work with these informal systems, or to insist on formal judicial and police systems. This is especially challenging for ‘rule of law’ projects. To work only with formal structures risks overlooking systems that actually work; to abandon formal security structures risks adversely affecting governance and development. That external peace-builders are increasingly seeking ways to forge partnerships between weak state structures and informal governance arrangements, such as through community policing projects, reflects the primacy of the core principle of genuine local empowerment.

-                       Non-discriminatory awarding of contracts versus proportional allocation by social grouping. Awarding of contracts by peace-builders – for employment, rent, procurement and construction – is a major source of revenue and can trigger conflict. External actors must often choose between contract systems based purely on merit versus local insistence on rotation of contracts by ethnic group or another criterion. Although the latter may help to keep peace by giving each group its ‘turn’, it undercuts the principle of merit. It may also make peace-building missions more expensive. Nevertheless, the better of two poor options is to ameliorate the more pernicious effects of local systems, rather than impose unwanted foreign structures that are likely to be resented and ultimately rejected.

-                       Peace versus justice. Demands for the arrest of individuals suspected of war crimes – whether by local communities or international human rights groups – can collide with the need to prevent spoilers from inciting violence. Virtually every peace-building mission encounters the ‘peace versus justice’ trade-off. Insofar as international political will allows, decisions should be guided by the wishes of national authorities and their populations, not by external actors.

-                       Local ownership versus effectiveness. The need to place ownership in the hands of local actors can collide with the imperative to get things done quickly. This problem is worsened by the increasing use of quantitative metrics to judge the performance of external peace-building activities.

-                       Civil society versus the state. A vibrant civil society is considered an important element of a strong democracy, and local civic groups (NGOs) are often the most effective partners for development projects. Yet the need to channel funds through state institutions to strengthen their capacity and legitimacy is also important. Too much aid through local NGOs can undermine nascent state institutions, for example by luring away the best public servants. Peace-builders must make informed choices about balancing its partnerships with both sets of actors.



The Tswalu Protocol identifies ten measures for improving the effectiveness of peace-building interventions.

1. Campaign Plan: To manage the peace-building process, a ‘campaign plan’ owned and led by the local government, to which the military and other international organisations contribute, should be devised in the earliest phases of the intervention to create a co-ordinated and sequenced focus of effort.

2. Establishing Coherence: A top-level, government-led committee – a Stabilisation Action Team (SAT), along the lines of the Policy Action Group (PAG) established in Afghanistan (essentially a ‘development war cabinet’) – should be created at the outset of the mission to co-ordinate international and local programs on governance, development and security.

3. Lead Nations: The host government is the lead nation. However, it is vulnerable to being overwhelmed both by local demands and external offers of assistance. Where this is threatened, external nations can be tasked in special security and development areas, but care must be taken to ensure they remain answerable to the host nation and do not operate independently.

4. Building Capacity: Local empowerment should begin as soon as possible. There needs to be clarity on what technocratic and managerial capacity is lacking to understand what improvements and assistance are required. The emphasis must be on institutions rather than individuals.

5. Economic Assessment: A detailed audit of the local economy is a priority for the early days of a peace-building mission and will help in programming donor support. Peace-building must be based on a clear understanding of the competitive strengths and weaknesses of the economy including the drivers of growth and key exports.

6. Aid Focus and Priorities: Aid must be focused and its aims prioritised. Some things are more important than others. Attempting to do everything at once is a guarantee of failure. External funds should be targeted at areas where some conditions for economic success already exist – in other words, the existing market should be reinforced rather than re-engineered.

7. Create Employment: Attention must focus on bolstering employment and reducing the costs of doing business – from better policy to improved physical infrastructure. Public works programmes can assist in managing the groundswell of high expectations that are always present when a conflict ends. These expectations seldom subside, and indeed increase the more the government delivers.

8. Codes of Conduct: Private security companies are now an ever-present part of the peace-building environment. There needs to be a change of culture to accept, embrace and regulate their activities. Both PSCs and international NGOs could be regulated through codes of conduct. International law needs to be reviewed to encompass this new security landscape.

9. Information and Messaging: A strategic messaging campaign, which aims to deliver carefully sequenced messages to local, regional, and international audiences is essential.

10. Maintaining Momentum: The continuity of the external peace-building mission is crucial to maintaining momentum, which reassures the population. This requires longer rotations for senior military and non-military personnel.

* * * *



Paul Kagame (HE), President of Rwanda***

Francisco Santos (HE), Vice-President of Colombia***

Ib Petersen (Hon.), State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Denmark***

Carlton Fulford (General, USMC, rtd), US**



Adam Cobb (Prof.), US Air Force Air War College, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, US*

Agostinho Zacarias (Dr), United Nations Development Program, Zimbabwe*

Andrew Stewart (Maj.-Gen. rtd), UK*

Ato Yemane Kidane (Mr), Centre for Policy Research and Dialogue, Ethiopia*

Brownie Samukai (Hon.), Defence Minister, Liberia*

Chris Vernon (Colonel), Deputy Commander: IMATT, Sierra Leone*

Christopher Coker (Prof.), London School of Economics, UK*

Danielle Pletka (Ms), American Enterprise Institute, US*

David Richards (Lt.-Gen. Sir), Commander: ISAF IX, Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, UK*

Dominic Medley (Mr), Moby Media Group, Afghanistan*

Dominique Orsini (Dr), Former UN & EU political adviser, Bosnia & Afghanistan*

Emmanuel Karake Karenzi (Maj.-Gen.), African Union Deputy Commander, Darfur**

Frank Mugambage (Maj.-Gen.), Office of the Presidency, Rwanda*

Frank Pearl (Hon.), Alta Consejería para la Reintegración, Presidencia, Colombia***

Frank Rusagara (Brig.-Gen.), Commandant: Military Academy, Rwanda

Jordan Ryan (Amb.), Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General, Liberia*

Kelly Langdorf (Colonel), Office of the Secretary of Defence, US*

Kieran Prendergast (Sir), Former UN Under-Secretary-General, UK*

Larry Swantner (Colonel rtd), US

Montgomery McFate (Dr), Social Science Adviser: US Army Human Terrain System Program, US*

Patrick Mazimhaka (Hon.), Deputy Chair, African Union

Paul Wolfowitz (Hon.), American Enterprise Institute, US*

Peter Jouvenal (Mr), Gandamack Lodge, Afghanistan*

Rory Stewart (Mr), Turquoise Mountain Foundation, Afghanistan*

Shaha Ali Riza (Ms), World Bank, US*

Steve Stead (Rear-Admiral, rtd), Brenthurst Foundation, South Africa

Vance Serchuk (Mr), Office of Senator Lieberman, US*


Paper Writers

Alistair Harris (Mr), Pursue Group, Lebanon

Aziz Hakimi (Mr), Killid Group, Afghanistan**

Bill Byrd (Dr), World Bank, US

Chris Brown (Maj.-Gen.), Chief of Staff, ISAF IX; General Officer Commanding: Northern Ireland, UK

Chris Parker (Lt.-Col. rtd), Centre for Defence & International Security Studies (CDISS), UK

Dale Lautenbach (Ms), World Bank, US

Dickie Davis (Brig.-Gen.), Chief Engineer: ISAF IX; Assistant Chief Planner: Land, UK

Martin Edmonds (Prof.), CDISS, UK

Mauro De Lorenzo (Mr), American Enterprise Institute, US

Michelle Parker (Ms), RAND Corporation, US

Sean McFate (Mr), Bipartisan Policy Center, US


Tswalu Protocol Drafters

Greg Mills (Dr), Brenthurst Foundation, South Africa

Jeffrey Herbst (Dr), Miami University, US***

John Mackinlay (Dr), King’s College, London, UK

Ken Menkhaus (Dr), Davidson College, US

Terence McNamee (Dr), Royal United Services Institute for Defence & Security Studies, UK








* The Tswalu Process generating this Protocol comprised two formal meetings: on Lake Kivu in Rwanda, 21–22 July 2007; at Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, 29 November–1 December 2007. A list of participants is to be found at the end of this document. A comprehensive ‘peace-building dialogue’ was also extended through a wide range of external consultations on the formal papers and this Protocol. The Process was convened by The Brenthurst Foundation ( in collaboration with the Danish International Development Agency (Danida).

* (* Tswalu event only); (** Kivu event only); (*** non-attending participation)