Julian Ouellet

September 2003

The term "peacemaking" is used in several different ways. According to the UN, peacemaking is "action to bring hostile parties to agreement, essentially through such peaceful means as those foreseen in Chapter VI of the Charter of the United Nations; Pacific Settlement of Disputes."[1] In this sense, peacemaking is the diplomatic effort intended to move a violent conflict into nonviolent dialogue, where differences are settled through representative political institutions. The objective of peacemaking is thus to end the violence between the contending parties. Peacemaking can be done through negotiation, mediation, conciliation, and arbitration. International law provides another channel through international courts.[2]

United Nations peacemaking is an extension of the parties' own efforts to manage their conflict. When they cannot, the parties, the Security Council or the General Assembly may call upon the United Nations Secretary General to exercises his "Good Offices" to facilitate the resolution of the conflict. The Secretary General may also undertake independent peacemaking initiatives by offering his "Good Offices" to parties to resolve the conflict in a peaceful way. In An Agenda for Peace, former United Nations Secretary General Boutros-Boutros Ghali defined peacemaking as "action to bring hostile parties to agreement, essentially through such peaceful means as those foreseen in Chapter VI of the Charter of the United Nations; Pacific Settlement of Disputes." These actions are carried out during a conflict, violent or latent. They entail the diplomatic process of brokering an end to conflict, principally through the use of mediation and negotiation skills. United Nations Peacemaking excludes the use of force, unless imposed action is taken by the Security Council to facilitate the peacemaking process. [3]

Outside the UN context, peacemaking is sometimes used to refer to a stage of conflict, which occurs during a crisis or a prolonged conflict after diplomatic intervention has failed and before peacekeeping forces have had a chance to intervene. In this context peacemaking is an intervention during armed combat.

Third, the term is sometimes used is to mean simply "making peace." Peacemaking is necessary and important in cases of protracted violence that do not seem to burn themselves out and in cases where war crimes and other human devastation demand the attention of outside forces. In the latter two cases, peacemaking implies the threat of violent intervention as an act of last resort. In the third case it may demand violent intervention sooner rather than later. This module will describe peacemaking in this context.

Peacemaking Constraints: Political and Economic

Understood simply as an outside intervention in a violent conflict, peacemaking should imply a few obvious things. First, outside interveners are unlikely to want to sacrifice their own troops in order to make peace. This implies that the most peacemaking effort and energy should initially be devoted to negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and the like. In fact, Chapter VI of the U.N. Charter is largely devoted to this very concept. [4] While the U.N. Charter does allow for active military intervention under Chapter VII of the Charter, the ordering of processes in Chapter VII clearly favors negotiation as a first step. This level of negotiation usually takes place at the level of Track I diplomacy, negotiations involving high-level elites.

Track I diplomacy at this level of conflict is likely to be multinational in nature. Because the potential costs of getting involved in negotiation and because the collective willpower of the international community is stronger than any individual nation, multinational diplomacy in violent conflicts has a higher probability of initiation and success. These two issues, troop commitments and economic and political costs, represent basic constraints on peacemaking actions, but peacemaking also entails certain moral obligations as well.

Moral Obligations to Peacemaking

Additional insights into peacemaking are offered by Beyond Intractability project participants.

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.[5] Article 33 of the U.N. Charter states:

  1. The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.
  2. The Security Council shall, when it deems necessary, call upon the parties to settle their dispute by such means.[6]

Similar clauses exist in the Geneva Conventions and the Genocide Convention. Unfortunately, constraints often outweigh obligations in the minds of state leaders; however, by signing on to these treaties, states have accepted an implicit moral obligation to intervene. In fact, weak as this obligation is, we do still see it as the motivating factor behind many of the interventions that take place in the world today.

Methods of Peacemaking

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Article 33 of the UN Charter specifies, "negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, [and] resort to regional agencies or arrangements" as modes of peaceful intervention in violent conflicts. Articles 41 and 42 of the Charter also allow for sanctions, blockading, and violent intervention in order to restore the peace between warring states. It is important to note that all U.N. Charter justifications for peacemaking were based on the concept of sovereign states. That is, there is no support for intervention in civil wars in the U.N. Charter itself. However, the Agenda for Peace, written under the auspices of former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, changes the conception to allow for intervention in civil wars.[7] Other modules have explored negotiation, mediation, and arbitration in depth. The following sections will look at some of the methods of peacemaking not discussed in other modules.

International Courts

Boutros-Ghali suggests in the Agenda for Peace that the International Court of Justice would be an effective tool for peaceful adjudication of disputes.[8] In the case of interstate wars or the threat thereof, the ICJ would be an effective entity for settling disputes. Two problems exist, however: first, only states can be party to disputes in the ICJ. Thus, civil wars could not be adjudicated in the ICJ. Second, the ICJ has no effective enforcement mechanisms. Thus, any unfavorable decision made by the court is likely to be ignored. Other international courts exist but their jurisdiction is more limited. The European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice are examples. Because international courts often lack enforcement mechanisms, effective peacemaking strategies should rely on the threat of force, should other negotiating strategies fail. Negotiation, arbitration, and mediation are still the first choice for third parties in armed conflicts, but the threat of force should not be ignored.

Threat or Use of Force

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.[9] Peace enforcement in this case is a separate but subsidiary concept within peacemaking. It is therefore appropriate in this peacemaking module to discuss peace-enforcement tools.

Among the tools that might fall in the peace-enforcement categories 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 can generally be seen as limiting exports and imports from a country or group in question, while blockading involves the active prohibition of all material trying to enter or leave a country or region. Because blockading is an active intervention in another state's trade it is considered a "casus belli" (reason to go to war).[10]

Example: Military Intervention in Bosnia-Herzegovina

As stated earlier in this module, military intervention is not usually unilateral. A good example of the methods and context of military intervention in a peacemaking context is the NATO Implementation Force (IFOR) and Stabilizing Force (SFOR) in Bosnia.[11] Prior to the General Agreement Framework (The Dayton Accords) Bosnia-Herzegovina was rife with civil violence. Operation Deliberate Force, begun on August 29, 1995, was a massive bombing campaign against Serbia and Bosnian-Serb targets designed to halt Serbian attacks on safe areas and bring Serbia to the negotiating table.[12] Ultimately the action was successful and led in part to the General Agreement Framework of December 14, 1995. Subsequent to Operation Deliberate Force, NATO put in the Implementation Force for a year before changing over to the Stabilization Force. What should be evident in this case is the fluid change and interaction between active military intervention, first-track diplomatic efforts and peacekeeping forces.

Not all peacemaking efforts will proceed along the lines of IFOR/SFOR, but effective peacemaking missions will shift fluidly between all the available tools. What this highlights, in fact, is the small difference between second-generation peacekeeping and traditional peacemaking efforts. First-generation peacekeeping was simply to guarantee ceasefires with neutral interposition forces. Second-generation peacekeeping has evolved to allow flexibility of function and mission, from guaranteeing ceasefires to election monitoring to subsequent peace enforcement.


Recent theory on civil wars urges people to think of the conflict as a highly fluid situation.[13] Peacemaking efforts are often closely intertwined with preventive diplomacy, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding.[14] Because of this, the diplomats and soldiers involved in these missions must maintain high levels of communication in order to ensure common goals and shared information. Peacemaking in the post-Cold War era occurs most often within states where battles lines are not clearly drawn and the strategic situation fluctuates frequently. Peacemaking in this context is but one tool to use in violent conflicts. By itself, it is insufficient to deal with intractable conflicts.

The hope, of course, is that preventive diplomacy will prevent the outbreak of violent conflict. In the event that those efforts fail, third-party diplomatic efforts must continue in the form of peacemaking. As a last resort, particularly in the face of widespread human devastation, peace enforcement units must be seen as a viable solution. The point of peacemaking efforts -- diplomatic and otherwise -- is to get the opponents to the bargaining table, at which point peacekeeping units can help to guarantee any agreed-upon ceasefire.

[1] Boutros Boutros-Ghali, "An Agenda for Peace," [document on-line] (New York: United Nations, 1992, accessed on 17 July, 2003); available from, Internet.

[2] "Peacemaking -- Overview" Conflict Management Toolkit. (Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies, Conflict Management Program). accessed on 15 Feb. 2006. Available from

[3]Nita Yawanarajah, Political Affairs Officer and Project Manager for the UN Department of Political Affairs Peacemaking Databank Project: UN Peacemaker ( Peacemaker is a publicly available website on the United Nations'experience in peacemaking and mediation.

[4] United Nations, United Nations Charter, Chapter VI & VII [document on-line], (accessed on July 17, 2003); available from

[5] Jane Boulden, Peace Enforcement, (New York: Praeger, 2001).

[4] Society of Professional Journalists, Reference Guide to the Geneva Conventions (accessed on July 17, 2003); available from

[5] United Nations, United Nations Charter.

[6] Boutros-Ghali, Agenda for Peace.

[7] Ibid

[8] United Nations, Preventive Diplomacy (accessed on July 17, 2003); available from

[9] United Nations, United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea [document on-line] (accessed on July 18, 2003), available from, Section 3, Article 17, 25, 30.

[10] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, "Stabization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina," (accessed on July 18, 2003); available from

[11] Military Analysis Network, "Operation Deliberate Force," [document on-line] (accessed on July 15, 2003); available from (Section no longer available as of March 5th 2013)

[12] George Downs and Stephen J. Stedman, "Evaluating Issues in Peace Implementation," in Ending Civil Wars: The Implementation of Peace Agreements, eds. Stedman, S., D. Rothchild, and E. Cousens (Boulder, CO: Lynne Reiner Publishers, 2002), 43.

[13] Jane Boulden, Peace Enforcement.

Use the following to cite this article:
Ouellet, Julian. "Peacemaking." Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. Posted: September 2003 <>.

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