Cate Malek

Updated May 2013 by Sarah Cast and Heidi Burgess



An intervention in a violent conflict to attempt to negotiate a peace agreement.


While this term was invented to apply to diplomatic negotiations of international conflicts, it is also applicable to anyone trying to negotiate a peace between disputants-within families, workplaces, or communities, for example.


Peacemaking is necessary in violent or severe nonviolent conflicts that do not burn themselves out. It is especially important in cases where war crimes and other human devastation demand outside attention. Peacemaking includes both non-violent and violent options. However, outside interveners generally want to avoid sacrificing troops. Thus, the more energy should be devoted to non-violent processes such as negotiation. Multinational diplomacy in violent conflicts has a higher probability of initiation and success because multiple nations can share potential costs of negotiation and because the collective willpower of the international community is stronger than any individual nation.

States that are party to the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Charter have implied, though not legally binding, obligations to intervene in cases of genocide, disturbances to international peace, and other cases of human devastation. Unfortunately, constraints often outweigh obligations in the minds of state leaders. However, weak as this obligation is, it has been the motivating factor behind many interventions.

Methods of peacemaking include negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, regional agencies or arrangements, sanctions, blockading, and violent intervention.

Some have suggested that the International Court of Justice would be an effective tool for peacemaking. However there are problems with the ICJ. First, it only applies to inter-state conflict and not to civil war. Second, the decisions of the ICJ cannot be enforced. Other international courts exist, but their jurisdiction is limited. The European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice are examples.

Within the broader category of peacemaking is the concept of peace enforcement. The UN defines peacemaking as the diplomatic efforts to end conflict, whereas peace enforcement is the active use of force. Tools for peace-enforcement are sanctions, blockades, and military intervention. Sanctions are the mildest in terms of military force, though the effect of sanctions can be quite devastating. The difference between sanctions and blockades is quite small; however, one is considered an act of war while the other is not. Sanctions are understood as limiting exports and imports from a country or group, while blockading involves the active prohibition of all material trying to enter or leave a country or region.

Recent theory on civil wars suggests that conflict is highly fluid. Peacemaking efforts are often closely intertwined with preventive diplomacy, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding. Thus, diplomats and soldiers involved in these missions must maintain high levels of communication in order to reach common goals. Peacemaking in the post-Cold War era occurs most often within states where battles lines are not clearly drawn and the situation fluctuates frequently. By itself, peacemaking is insufficient to deal with violent conflicts. It must be combined with peacekeeping, which enforces the ceasefire and peace agreement over the short term, and peacebuilding which builds a lasting peace over the long term.


Examples of diplomatic peacemaking include all of the attempts at a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict-going back to Nixon and Henry Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy, Carter's mediation at Camp David, (which was successful between Egypt and Israel, but not regarding the Palestinian issue), the Oslo Accords, the Clinton administration's mediation efforts, and Bush's and later Obama's "Roadmap" to Peace. None of these, at least as of this writing, have succeeded, but they are mentioned here, as they are relatively well known. A lesser known, but much more successful effort was the negotiation of the peace agreement in Mozambique which successfully ended that country's 16-year civil war in 1992. George Mitchell's mediation of the Good Friday Accords in Northern Ireland is another example of a seemingly successful peacemaking effort.

More recent examples of peacemaking include the Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed in 2005, which ended the second Sudanese Civil War, and paved the way for the referendum that ultimately gave South Sudan its independence in 2012.  An even more recent example is the 2012 Philippine peace agreement  negotiated between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippine Government, which created a semi-autonomous region in Mindanao. The framework stipulates that the region be renamed Bangsamoro in honor of the Moro people, and be granted budgetary autonomy, a “just and equitable share” of the region’s natural resources, and its own law enforcement, among other political and economic powers. “This framework is about rising above our prejudices,” President Aquino explained. “It is about casting aside the distrust and myopia that has plagued efforts of the past.” Whether that occurs, however, will depend on the follow-up peacebuilding efforts that are now underway.

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