Eric Tanguay

PhD Candidate in Global Governance, Balsillie School of International Affairs (Wilfrid Laurier University)

Navigating Pathways for Peace in Hybrid Political Contexts:
Examining Ghana’s Infrastructure for Peace


The United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Department of Political Affairs currently jointly support over forty countries in establishing multilevel institutional mechanisms intended to collaboratively mobilize and integrate a multiplicity of state, non-state and international actors towards the prevention and resolution of domestic conflicts. While these Infrastructures for Peace (I4P) have been widely hailed as innovative pathways for international actors to more effectively support organic and nationally owned peacebuilding processes, an analysis of the composition and functioning of Ghana’s I4P exposes a significant disconnect between this optimistic rhetoric and policy realities. Based on six months of multidisciplinary fieldwork—including archival research, semi-structured interviews, and focus groups—conducted in Ghana in 2018-2019, this dissertation examines the relationship between Ghana’s National Peace Council (NPC), an oft-cited template for the successful institutionalization of I4P, and the subnational stakeholders it has been mandated to coordinate with. This research suggests that simplistic conceptualisations of a homogeneous local which continue to influence the study and practice of peacebuilding must give way to more nuanced appreciation for the historically overlapping logics of order and fragmented authority systems evident in many postcolonial and post-conflict political contexts. Such a conceptual shift, necessitating a more nuanced appreciation of local agency in peacebuilding, could help the UN and the UNDP to more meaningfully operationalize its oft-stated ambition of promoting more inclusive, and less intrusive, approaches to preventing violent conflict.

Eric Tanguay is a PhD candidate at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, specializing in conflict and security. His primary research interests include post-conflict peace processes, the role of traditional and religious institutions in African security governance, and the protection of civilians in peacekeeping operations. Eric’s dissertation investigates the potential of “Infrastructures for Peace”— multilevel institutional mechanisms intended to collaboratively mobilize and integrate a multiplicity of state, nonstate and international actors towards the prevention and resolution of domestic conflicts—to serve as inclusive and locally owned alternatives to conventional top-down and externally imposed approaches to peacebuilding.

Eric recently returned from six months of fieldwork in West Africa where he sought to uncover how the first peace infrastructure to be institutionalized with the assistance of the United Nations—Ghana’s National Peace Council—relates to subnational stakeholders, and to assess how these networked peacebuilding strategies have impacted local conflict-affected communities in the country’s historically volatile Northern Region. This research project questions both whether such “hybrid” peace institutions can be purposively engineered—even by endogenous actors—and the extent to which such institutions represent viable pathways for the international community to move beyond orthodox, interventionist approaches to building peace.

Eric has recently presented his research at the International Studies Association Annual Conference and the Canadian Historical Association annual meeting at the Congress of the Humanities. His doctoral research has been funded, in part, by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship. Eric is also a Junior Fellow with the University of Waterloo’s Defence and Security Foresight Group.