Summary of "The Effects of Violence on Peace Processes"

Summary of

The Effects of Violence on Peace Processes

By John Darby

Summary written by Eric Brahm, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: Darby, John. The Effects of Violence on Peace Processes. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2001.

Achieving sustainable peace after civil conflict can be a challenge. As Darby reports, 31 of 38 formal peace accords signed from 1988-1998 failed to last more than three years. Dissecting four stages of peace processes (prenegotiation, cease-fire, negotiating a political settlement, and postsettlement peacebuilding), Darby examines the impact of violence at each point. In particular, he distinguishes between violence by the state, by militants, in the community, and the emergence of violence-related issues in the course of negotiations. The volume accents the theoretical and comparative analysis with profiles of five conflicts (Northern Ireland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, the Basque Country, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) by area experts. Although much attention is on how to minimize the possibilities of violence derailing peace processes, Darby also recognizes that violence can be a catalyst for peace.

Peace processes are particularly vulnerable to violence at the early stages. Once the peace process begins, violence often takes on new dimensions. It is common to view the government and opposition as monolithic and this assumption is never more dangerous than during peace processes. The security forces, as well as factions within the opposition, frequently are threatened by moves to peace. To keep state actors on board, Darby recommends neutral monitors, reciprocal confidence-building measures, and the development of alternative sources of employment. Deriving his spoiler typology from Stedman, he argues that violence will not disrupt the peace process if those willing to deal are supported, provide opportunists with avenues to become part of the process, work to isolate zealots and those out for personal gain rather than political gain, and to begin to dismantle the state security apparatus to reduce threat to militants. The beginning of peace processes can also lead to the transformation of conflict such that there may be a rise in street demonstrations and more conventional crime. Darby argues its is crucial for the response to be an impartial application of the rule of law as well as making efforts to engage communities. With respect to what he calls violence-related issues, Darby refers to security-related problems raised by the need for confidence-building. Common issues involve the release of political prisoners, decommissioning weapons, and reforming police and security services. To minimize this risk, Darby calls for simultaneity of steps to satisfy all sides, providing training for new and existing members of security services, as well as implementing some points of the final agreement early on to instill confidence.

Darby concludes by putting forward five propositions for keeping peace processes on track in the face of violence (116-123):

1. Cease-fires are more durable if they can make it through the first few months.

2. Peace processes will only be sustainable if a sufficient number of those who have the capacity for violent obstruction are included.

3. The cooperation of former militants is necessary to neutralize the violent potential of zealots.

4. Leaders should be primarily concerned with bringing their own people to the table and only secondarily to assisting opponents.

5. Former fighters, both government and militants, must be integrated into normal society if peace is to last. As a corollary, the peace agreement needs to address victims' needs as well.