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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 1 .


Healing Communities in Conflict: International Assistance in Complex Emergencies
Kimberly A Maynard

(New York: Columbia University Press, 1999)
245pp. Index. Bibl. Hb.: $32.00/21.95; ISBN 0-231-11278-5.



Kimberly Maynard's "Healing Communities in Conflict" is a valuable and essential book to read for scholars, policy-makers, and practitioners who work in the field of complex human emergencies. It is also a very frustrating book.

In describing the complex human tragedies that have shredded societies and any concept of international world order from Rwanda to Chechyna, from Bosnia and Kosovo to Liberia and Somalia, Maynard is superb. In describing the short-sightedness of both state and NGO involvement in such emergencies, the degree and depth of civilian tragedy, and the complexities of devising long-term strategies to restructure such societies in ways that both guard against continued disruption and assure the growth of civil society, she has performed a great service.

It is the last two chapters of the book, however, in which Maynard attempts to conceptualize a process of community rehabilitation and social reconstruction, a process of rebuilding and reintegrating societies torn asunder by civil and military trauma, that the book becomes an exercise in frustration. Research studies are alluded to, but citations are not provided. She is strong on the prerequisites for rebuilding civil communities, on the "musts," but not on the "how's". Yes, such a process should focus on human needs and security, but how is such a process to be funded -- who pays, who structures the process, how is it to be monitored? She is strong on prescription (outlining the steps that preceed a process of rehabilitation, for instance), but is short on a process of implementation.

In short, this is a very necessary, but very frustrating book. It outlines the scope of the problem and the steps needed to comprehend and design strategies for coping with the complex humanitarian emergencies that define our new world order. But, in the end, Maynard has no more idea than the rest of us as to how to cope in the real world of politicians and policy-makers. For, as stated in a proverb quoted by Maynard, "the problem of rebuilding houses can be solved. But the problems of rebuilding souls is difficult."


Barbara Callaway
Rutgers University




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