a website of resources for peace is a documentary website whose purpose is to promote an exchange of knowledge and know-how at the service of the construction of an Art of peace.
This website is coordinated by
Modus Operandi


Analysis file Dossier : Conflict Transformation

, , , Grenoble, May 2009

Assessing the durability of Peace Agreements

Looking at form, content and actors involved in peace agreements.

Keywords: | | | | | | | | |

This file will help you look into the factors determining the chances a peace agreement may bring durable peace.

A peace agreement is the formal ending of a conflict, the document that is signed and which lays down the terms for the rebuilding of a region to create a positive peace. A peace agreement that will result in stability must address the root causes of a given conflict, and create change in this situation otherwise it will not be able to guarantee a durable peace.

In order to do this, an agreement must be able to do the following:

  • Prevent a resurgence of the conflict;

  • Create the conditions for a stable peace;

  • Repair the damage in terms of security in the political, economic, social and psychological spheres. This would be by, for example ensuring the political representation of all groups; reforming security services etc.

  • The important elements in ensuring that violent conflict does not recur are to be found in the form, and the content of the peace agreement, as well as who is included in the creation and implementation of an agreement.

I. The form of the peace agreement

The form of the agreement is how it has been reached. Important elements here are transparency, capacity to return to government, and financial issues.

1. Transparency:

It is not just the signatories of an agreement that have to give it support for it to work, but also the population that has been in the conflict. Though secrecy can be important at the beginning of a peace process, to conduct substantive negotiations secretly can damage the legitimacy of any agreement that is reached. Ways in which this issue can be managed are to include civil society, or a supervising state as well as freedom of debate around the negotiations in the media. If the agreement is not seen or perceived to be answering the needs of the population, and there are doubts about its provisions it will not be considered to be legitimate and the implementation will be accordingly affected. Total transparency of a peace process is an ideal, and as such probably unobtainable. Very few negotiations take place within the area where a conflict has taken place, often they are in neighbouring countries, and take place between the « leaders » of different conflict parties, considered to be representative. Examples of negotiations in countries bordering the state in conflict are: the Naivasha Peace Agreement (Kenya) that ended the civil war in Southern Sudan; the Arusha Accords (Tanzania) for the Rwandan conflict. Examples of negotiations that took place in areas totally inaccessible to local media and local civil society are the Bonn Accords (Germany) that where negotiated after the intervention in Afghanistan, and the Dayton Accords (Ohio, US) that were negotiated in isolation in a military base in order to end the Bosnian conflict of 1992-1995.

2. Capacity to govern:

The extent to which the conflicting parties are educated in and committed to democracy is very important. Former fighters need to be provided with training to go from being soldiers to being politicians. A military leader is not able to conduct negotiations in the same way as a diplomat, and will not see the issues in the same way, as military conflict is about confrontation rather than finding common ground, and also it can be difficult to negotiate solutions on an issue over which you have taken up arms.

In Tajikistan military personnel from all levels of the hierarchy were an important presence in the peace negotiations. Over the course of negotiations there was perceptible change in their attitudes and development of their negotiating capabilities. The presence at the table of lower ranking military officers with direct contact with the population and legitimacy in the eyes of the latter had a role in facilitating the implementation of the accords.

3. Financial issues:

These fall into two categories, the first is quite simply the need for money, the second the need for business incentives for peace. The financial aid for a peace process usually comes from the outside and how this is managed can be important in how the peace agreement is perceived. For example if the peace process is seen to being paid for by an outside power, this will affect not only the legitimacy of the peace agreement, but also the legitimacy and authority of the government that is implementing it. These issues will be developed in sections 2.1 and 2.2. The second category is about overcoming the economic benefit that the conflict has become for some of the parties involved. This would involve something along the lines of funding a rebel group in order to help them become a political party. Care must be taken in the distribution of economic help so that funds are not seen to be favouring one group over another. A wider economic issue that also needs to be addressed as part of the peace process is the conversion of the war economy, by finding alternatives to the arms industry and stabilizing legal trade in order to provide alternatives to trafficking and the black market. The importance of this issue lies in providing economic security and a viable alternative to the war economy for those that have a stake in it. This issue will be developed more fully in the third week of the course.

II. The content of the peace agreement

Obviously the content of each peace agreement is very specific, but certain elements can be generalized upon.

It is essential that a peace agreement address the core/root issues in a conflict, or at the very least provide for further negotiation that will; otherwise the conflict is very likely to recur. Apart from this fairly core provision a peace agreement also needs to include a fairly accurate timetable for implementation.

1. Address root causes of the conflict

Further negotiations can be envisaged: for issues not addressed in the initial agreement, either by omission or due to sensitive/less urgent nature. If the root causes of a conflict are not adequately addressed by a peace agreement, or provisions for further negotiations put into place there is a very high risk that there will be a resurgence of the conflict.

Root causes can be of different domains: economics, politics, social, cultural; for example identity based conflicts triggered by economic inequalities cannot be resolved where only the factor of identity is looked at while economic redistribution remains unaddressed, as has been the case with the Bosnian conflict of the 1990s.

2. Security

As mentioned above a peace agreement needs to address security in the political, economic, social and psychological spheres. An obvious part of this is security sector reform (SSR):

  • Disarming militias ;

  • Creating a regular army ;

  • And providing training for the police force if necessary.

This also links in with economic factors, the provision of a DDR program (Disarmament, Demobilization and Re-integration) for fighters is important, and needs to address how fighters (who could also be injured and/or traumatized) will be able to make a living other than through violence.

3. Transitional justice

The most often neglected area in peace agreements due to its sensitive nature is the need for some sort of transitional justice program. A population cannot feel secure or the rule of law re-established unless the abuses that have taken place during the conflict are addressed, and the perpetrators held accountable, whatever their position within society. This has to be handled very sensitively, as amnesties or guarantees of immunity can be included in peace agreements as incentives to the participation of parties to the conflict.

4. Third party support

For the effective implementation of accords third party support in peacekeeping, training, elections, and monitoring can be essential in order to ensure transparency and encourage trust on both sides. This is much more effective where there is a regional power with an interest in resolving the conflict, this power needs to be economically and militarily influential in order to provide resources as well as a credible threat of sanctions in the event of non-implementation of an agreement (Stedman, 2001, 11). The other important role of a third party is in the securing of easily marketable commodities that are an important source of war profits, such as diamonds or timber. According to a 2001 study on the implementation of peace agreements in civil wars, no peace agreement has ever been successfully implemented where there are such valuable spoils (Stedman, 2001, 2).

III. The actors participating to the negotiations and signing the agreement

1. Balance between internal and external actors

As it was previously said about negotiations, in a peace process, and the creation of a peace agreement it is important to maintain a proper balance between the involvement of internal and external actors. External actors are undoubtedly important in the creation of a peace agreement in the capacity of negotiators, mediators and in order to monitor and aid the implementation process. However though their role is important, it cannot achieve anything without the proper involvement of internal parties in the agreement in the process. The extreme of external actor involvement is the imposed peace agreement, which is extremely likely to fail through lack of support, and reluctance in its implementation.

2. Importance of local/popular support: representativity

In the same way support within the groups that will be affected by the agreement is important. Transparency is important, as already mentioned, so that there is an understanding of the process and this is important in order to inform and educate in order for there to be a real sense of ownership in the all peace agreement. It is also important that all groups are represented in the agreement; this is so that their interests are represented, but also so that they have a stake in the process, and therefore are less likely to act as spoilers.

3. Spoilers

A spoiler is a person or group (for example a faction within a conflict) that tries to derail a peace process or peace agreement. This can be through violent means, by attempting to discredit the peace process, or by putting obstacles in the way of its implementation. An example of a spoiler from the peace process in Northern Ireland would be the terrorist organisation the Real IRA, a splinter group from the Irish Republican Army (IRA) who continued to employ violence after the latter agreed to a cease-fire in order to enter negotiations.

A party can be a spoiler with or without signing the peace accords. They can be party to an agreement purely for the benefits that it can bring them, rather than signing up to the goals of the agreement.

In the case of a spoiler not associated to the accords, it is likely to be a group not associated to the peace process wishing to destabilise the relationships that the negotiations are building, as with the example mentioned above.

A ‘total’ spoiler is a party for whom there is no settlement possible, for whom power cannot be shared. In this case the only way to bring them into the process, or prevent sabotage of the peace process is to employ coercion.

The concept of the spoilers is subject to the same criticism as that of the hurting stalemate; that they are impossible to identify before they have come into play. The other important point to make about this concept is that acting as a spoiler on one occasion does not make a person or group a total spoiler, another set of negotiations, or different approach could well bring this party into the negotiations at another time.

IV. Checklist of indicators for durability of peace agreements

  • 1. There can be no peace initiative if there is no will from the ground: an external actor should not interfere in a conflict situation and impose a cease-fire or start negotiations if there is no sign that the local actors are ready to move this way.

  • 2. Inclusiveness: all the parties affected by the conflict should be invited to the negotiating table, though maybe not together at first. Are the leaders with whom negotiations are being held legitimate and representative? Are they the right people to invite?

  • 3. Time: as we believe that the initiative belongs to local actors, local actors should set the timetable of negotiations and implementation. Pushing the process can bring no benefits. There needs to be a certain amount of flexibility in order to deal with obstacles and disputes, some thing that cannot be done with an external deadline.

  • 4. Do provisions of the agreements address all the identified root causes of the conflict? The provisions of an agreement must be precise, leaving no grey areas that can cause further conflict

  • 5. Whole of government approach. All areas of the future state must be addressed in any agreement, or a time table created for further negotiations.


  • The file is based on Modus Operandi’s analysis on the political transformation of conflicts. More extensive analysis can be found in French [reference to dossier Transition en français].

  • The outcomes of above mentioned research serve as content for the online course on “Post-conflict politics: state and society relations”. For more information, go to or contact Modus Operandi directly at or