In This Review

The Frontlines of Peace: An Insider’s Guide to Changing the World
The Frontlines of Peace: An Insider’s Guide to Changing the World
By Séverine Autesserre
240 pp, Oxford University Press, 2021

Through memoir and reportage, Autesserre tells the story of international peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations through her own eyes and those of aid workers and victims of violence. Drawn from several decades of experience in war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Kosovo, Autesserre paints a harrowing portrait of nongovernmental organizations, diplomats, and peacekeepers struggling to resolve conflicts. Along the way, she sharply critiques the top-down, outsider-led approach to international peacemaking, or what she calls “Peace, Inc.,” in which un and Western diplomats run the show. Autesserre argues that in these sorts of operations, outside peacekeepers and aid officials tend to interact primarily with national-level political and military leaders and rarely venture into the local conflict zones or come equipped with in-depth knowledge of the history, politics, and culture of the countries they seek to help. Autesserre calls her preferred alternative “Peaceworld,” a bottom-up approach in which aid workers immerse themselves in local areas and build ties to grassroots organizations. The book’s evocative and often moving stories all illustrate her core insight: that “peace communities” are built at the local level, neighborhood by neighborhood.