International actors engaged in peacebuilding efforts often share responsibility for key sovereign functions when national governments cannot do so effectively. That has been the case in Timor-Leste, where after the security crisis of 2006, United Nations police shared duties with Timorese counterparts for core policing functions. This practice of “sharing sovereignty” is also apparent in Cambodia, where UN-appointed judges and lawyers partner with Cambodian personnel in a hybrid court to try crimes of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Sovereignty-sharing ventures aim to buttress local capacity, preserve local ownership and legitimacy, and strengthen state institutions. However, they also carry risks of redundancy, confusion, ownership gaps, and politicized feuds between national and international authorities. Their success depends on maintaining a political equilibrium that tends to be fragile and fleeting. The cases of Timor-Leste and Cambodia illustrate the positive potential of such ventures and the challenges they present in practice.
John Ciorciari is an Associate Professor and Director of the International Policy Center at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy. He is the author of The Limits of Alignment (2010) and co-author of Hybrid Justice (2014). He is part of the inaugural class of Andrew Carnegie Fellows.
Jürgen Haacke is Director of the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre and Associate Professor of International Relations at LSE.
The Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre (@LSESEAC) is an inter-disciplinary, regionally-focused academic centre within the Institute of Global Affairs at LSE. Building on the School's deep historical connections with Southeast Asia, the Centre seeks to promote the best academic and policy research on the region, deepen research ties with Southeast Asia, and improve the student experience at LSE.
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