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What is Stabilization?

“Stabilization is an inherently political endeavor that requires aligning U.S. Government efforts —diplomatic engagement, foreign assistance, and defense —toward supporting locally legitimate authorities and systems to peaceably manage conflict and prevent violence.”

(Stabilization Assistance Review (SAR))

Stabilization is a range of actives that is brought about through partners allies and a whole of government response. The wide range of Stabilization activities takes place before during and after conflict. The challenge in enacting Stabilization activities is Consolidation of Gains across the Competition continuum.

 It is difficult to say that any country is completely stable. However, there are several end states that are used to make progress towards a stable environment.

End States

End states are framed according to the perception of the host nation population, as they will be the final arbiters of whether peace has been achieved.

Safe and Secure Environment

Ability of the people to conduct their daily lives without fear of systematic or large-scale violence.

Security Sector Stabilization

Rule of Law

Ability of the people to have equal access to just laws and a trusted system of justice that holds all persons accountable, protects their human rights and ensures their safety and security.

Justice and Rule of Law

Stable Governance

Ability of the people to share, access or compete for power through nonviolent political processes and to enjoy the collective benefits and services of the state.

Governance and Participation

Sustainable Economy

Ability of the people to pursue opportunities for livelihoods within a system of economic governance bound by law.

Economic Recovery and Infrastructure

Social Well-Being

Ability of the people to be free from want of basic needs and to coexist peacefully in communities with opportunities for advancement.

Essential Services

What Makes Stabilization Difficult?

          Stabilization can be nebulous in that it covers a wide range of factors, the end states can be subjective and dependent on Host nation culture, values and norms. The Goals, objective and even definitions differ in partners that are trying to work to stabilize regions.

For instance the US Depart of Defense differs from the Stabilization Assistance Review (SAR), mentioned at the start of this section.

  • Department of Defense Directive (DODD) 3000.05, Stabilization, “Stabilization is an inherently political endeavor that requires aligning US Government (USG) efforts—diplomatic engagement, foreign assistance, and defense—to create conditions in which locally legitimate authorities and systems can peaceably manage conflict and prevent violence.”

The NATO Definition is also different from the US Interagency and the US Department of Defense definition.

  • AJP 3.28 (Allied Joint Publication, Military Contribution to Stabilization) Stabilization is an approach used to mitigate crisis, promote legitimate political authority, and set the conditions for long-term stability by using comprehensive civilian and military actions to reduce violence, re-establish security, re-establish Safe and Secure Environment (SASE), and rule of law, and end social, economic, and political turmoil

Although there are differences there are more similarities then there are differences. When taken into account the unique strengths and organizational missions of the unique agencies and nations involved in a stabilization effort the difficulties in working towards stabilization can become unique strengths.

Not only understanding different strengths the process of stabilization is not completed by one organization; it is important to know that there will be changes in responsibilities and leadership throughout stabilization efforts. Planning early for handoffs that will align for the next organizations beginning state is a key success factor in stabilization.

Stabilization and the US Department of Defense approach

          The US Military is known for its offence and defense operations, commonly however is the idea that stabilization must occur at the cessation of hostilities. This idea is only part of truth. Stabilization must happen at all times when the military is conducting operations.

 The amount that Offense, Defense and Stability operations occurs is a result of the operational needs at the current time. However, stabilization must always occur, no matter how little, of the operation.

ADRP 3-0, pg 3-3, 11 November 2016

Stabilization along the Conflict Continuum

Competition below armed conflict against a competitor and cooperation with partners to turn an adversary’s attempted intimidation into an overall gain for the US. Such actions also help deter future efforts by adversaries to destabilize regional security through competition below armed conflict. (Joint Doctrine Note 1-19 “Conflict Continuum”)

If there is truly a goal to avoid conflict, Stabilization activities must be occurring before the conflict breaks. Stabilization activities and take many forms depending on the level of escalation a nation has moved along the competition continuum. Targeting the mechanisms that are worsening or maybe able to improve a nation provide tools that can elevate or even mitigate conflict.

The tools to mitigate or elevate conflict could be new to a situation or they could be existing tools such as security cooperation, security force assistance, Diplomacy, Trade deals, and many others.