Understanding the peace process - how to mitigate conflict and save lives

Understanding the peace process – how to mitigate conflict and save lives

Since the end of the Cold War, negotiating peace between warring parties has been the standard practice for how our world handles conflicts – both large and small. Parties who seek to help restore peace use a variety of different methods to help end disputes and neutralize conflicts between nations and organizations alike. The successes of these efforts will depend upon the parties’ ability to find compromising ground. During this time international relations experts work hard to use tried and true techniques of many kinds that can help to make peace possible.

 Suggested Reading Conflict Background GCCT

To learn more, check out this infographic created by Norwich University’s Online Master of Arts in International Relations program.

Do's and Don'ts of Peace NegotiationNorwich University Online Master of Arts in International Relations Program

What is peace negotiation?

A peace negotiation is a process in which many different entities, such as the military officials, politicians and diplomats; attempt to bring about peace to warring nations or organizations. Sometimes this will come in the form of a clear-cut resolution and, other times, this will simply be a neutralizing of problems even if only to a lessened point than they were before.

What are the different types of peace negotiations?

  1. Truce – A truce is defined as a break in fighting. In most cases, it is a temporary arrangement used to give parties a much-needed rest. There may or may not be formal negotiations. However, a truce typically takes place when both entities are exhausted military operations need to be temporarily discontinued.
  2. Cessations of hostilities – A cessation of hostilities is a formal agreement to cease fighting. Not only this, but both parties agree to avoid entering any other conflicts in the future. Unfortunately, this does not mean that the parties will make any concrete promises to pursue peace.
  3. Ceasefire – A ceasefire is a little more involved than a cessation of hostilities. This negotiated agreement features several commitments from those involved. For example, one party might agree to move out of a certain area. Meanwhile, the other party might agree to partial disarmament.
  4. Armistice – Armistice is the ultimate goal of peace negotiations, but not all will make it to this level of commitment. An armistice is when combatants agree to not only end hostilities but also to actively pursue negotiated agreements as well as lasting peace.

Armed Conflicts and Peace Negotiating Efforts
In 2015, there were 409 global conflicts around the world. Out of these many conflicts, 223 turned violent. 24 of these incidents became limited wars while 19 were considered full-scale. In the same year, the UN’s Department of Political Affairs and Department of Peacekeeping carried out 28 country missions.

As of 2016, 16 operations were being led by the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping. Currently, 125 countries also make a contribution to providing uniformed personnel that assist the UN in keeping the peace. This outside assistance is a great and supportive tool in helping to further the outreach of peace around the world.

Consequences of Failed Peace Negotiations
There have been 78 peacekeeping operations since 1948. While many of these were a success, the failed attempts at reaching peace have been grave. For example, the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-1988 saw multiple failed negotiation attempts. The death toll for both countries is estimated to have been a whopping 1 to 2 million.

Though loss of human life is by far the greatest loss counted when peace is not reached quickly, there are other ways that the world suffers due to conflict and unrest. For instance, Syria has lost a great deal of its historical and cultural treasures over the years. One of these treasures is the oldest Byzantine church in Syria. While it still stands, this historical church has suffered immensely from shell damage, graffiti and machine gun fire.

Executing a Successful Peace Negotiation

  1. Conflict Resolution – As stated before, the only means to reach a resolution is to ensure that the peacekeeping party is neutral. The peacekeeping party must make certain that they do not take sides and risk spoiling a truce before it is even started. At this point, the peacekeeper will seek to help both parties form a truce.
  2. Logistics – Negotiations are tense enough as it is. Because these negotiations will often take place in a war-torn area, peacemakers will ensure that both parties have the basic logistics, security and transportation that they need. This allows both parties to focus their minds, hearts and energy on reaching a resolution.
  3. Limiting the Violence – This may happen in several different ways, but each on of these ways are an attempt to immediately limit violence in effected areas by securing them. This may come in the form of strict rule sets or by sending in an armed security detachment.
  4. Conditions – At this stage, the peacekeeping entities work with both parties to discover a set of conditions that will end the conflict for them. The peacekeeper works as a neutral go-between who helps each side to discover a reasonable compromise that will achieve peace.

What drive the success of peace negotiating?

There are many different characteristics to a successful peace negotiation. Because the stakes are so high, they should always be at the forefront of the peacekeeper’s mind.

  1. Lay good groundwork – Clear mandates are important. Leave no room for misunderstandings. In the same accord, ensure that the goals that you set are achievable and not unreasonable. When you do this, you will achieve the last step of good groundwork which is obtaining a high level of commitment from each party and securing the logistics to make negotiating as calm as possible.
  2. Sensitivity – A good peacekeeper is sensitive to the population in the effected areas. They seek the help of neighboring countries to help assure their safety and are always careful to communicate thoroughly with all involved.

Peace negotiations are a much-needed part of keeping the world safe for all who inhabit it. While conflicts and wars will always arise, good men and women will also rise up, helping to defend not only the innocent but also the parties involved.

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