Book Talk. The NGO Game: Post-Conflict Peacebuilding in the Balkans and Beyond by Patrice McMahon

Monday, March 19, 2018
1201 International Affairs Building (12th Floor, 420 W 118th St)

Please join us for a talk with Professor Patrice McMahon, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln about her new book The NGO Game: Post-Conflict Peacebuilding in the Balkans and Beyond (Cornell University Press, 2017).

In most post-conflict countries nongovernmental organizations are everywhere, but their presence is misunderstood. In The NGO Game Patrice McMahon investigates the unintended outcomes of what she calls the NGO boom in Bosnia and Kosovo. Using her years of fieldwork and interviews, McMahon argues that when international actors try to rebuild and reconstruct post-conflict countries, they often rely on and look to NGOs. Although policymakers and scholars tend to accept and even celebrate NGO involvement in post-conflict and transitioning countries, they rarely examine why NGOs have become so popular, what NGOs do, or how they affect everyday life.After a conflict, international NGOs descend on a country, local NGOs pop up everywhere, and money and energy flow into strengthening the organizations. In time, the frenzy of activity slows, the internationals go home, local groups disappear from sight, and the NGO boom goes bust. Instead of peace and stability, the embrace of NGOs and the enthusiasm for international peacebuilding turns to disappointment, if not cynicism. For many in the Balkans and other post-conflict environments, NGOs are not an aid to building a lasting peace but are part of the problem because of the turmoil they foster during their life cycles in a given country. The NGO Game will be useful to practitioners and policymakers interested in improving peacebuilding, the role of NGOs in peace and development, and the sustainability of local initiatives in post-conflict countries.

Patrice McMahon is an Associate Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her research focuses on humanitarian affairs, peacebuilding, nongovernmental organizations, and U.S. foreign policy. She is the author most recently of The NGO Game: Post-Conflict Peacebuilding in the Balkans and Beyond (Cornell University Press, 2017) and the co-author (with David Forsythe) of American Exceptionalism Reconsidered: U.S. Foreign Policy, Human Rights and World Order (Routledge: 2017).

She is also the author of Taming Ethnic Hatreds: Ethnic Cooperation and Transnational Networks in Eastern Europe (2007) and has coedited several books including most recently State Responses to Human Security: At Home and Abroad (2014). Her research has appeared in various publications, including Foreign Affairs, Political Science QuarterlyHuman Rights Quarterly, Democratization, and Ethnopolitics and has been supported by the American Council for Learned Societies (ACLS), the U.S. Department of State, the National Research Council, the National Council for East European and Eurasian Research (NCEER), the Soros Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

She is currently working on three projects. Her book project, Backlash looks at the challenges of global civil society. “Activists, Academics and Altruists” examines the growth of private organizations addressing water crises, and “The End of an Era: U.S. Foreign Policy, Rising Powers and the Future of the Liberal World Order” examines discourse and policies in China, India and Russia during the Trump administration.