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The peacebuilders: Making conflict resolution permanent

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In its first five years, the PBC has succeeded most where it exploits its permission to be so political and interfere so heavily.

In Burundi, the commission's support helped to decrease the reported use of torture by intelligence forces friendly to the president by as much as 80 percent, says a local human rights group. In the CAR, it helped push forward a political dialogue that brought an end to an ugly rebellion.

From refugee return to building army barracks to elections, "all of it is very, very political, and for that you need a political body," says Ms. Wyeth. "You have a lot of different international actors playing a lot of different roles in these countries, and you need some political mechanism to bring all these actors together, to hold them more accountable, and to have more transparency about what the international community is doing in a country."

So far, the commission works only in Africa. Technically, that's because only African countries have so far asked to be PBC partners – which in turn may influence which countries ask for help. "There's a kind of stigmatization, but I think it's ill-placed," says Ms. Cheng-Hopkins. "This is not a poverty commission.... Unfortunately ... it happens that, so far, a lot of the [countries] that come on belong to the very poorest in the world."

Still, as a word, 'peacebuilding' sounds weak, It's an awkward compound noun – an aspiration, composed – as if shoving into a single word two pretty good ideas clears the way toward achieving them. "If you ask me to show you the thing called peacebuilding, I can't," says Peter Ngu Tayong, a media adviser in the UN's Sierra Leone headquarters. "Nobody has seen the animal called peacebuilding."

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