Conflict resolution, peace processes and the post-conflict stages
Definitions and theory
Conflict resolution is a field of study within peace research, as well as being a generic term defined variously but developed mainly as a further step from conflict management and settlement in international relations (based mainly in the work of Burton and Azar) (Fetherston, 2000). Fisas (2004) dates the origins of the study of conflict resolution and peace back to the 1930s and the research on wars by Sorokin at Harvard University. By the 1950s, following the end of the two world wars and the increasing concern about nuclear weapons and the beginnings of the Cold War, peace studies began to consolidate as an academic discipline. As the discipline continued to evolve, different theories, perspectives, paradigms and methodologies developed with emphasis on different ways of treating a conflict. These can be summarised as conflict management, settlement, regulation, resolution, analytical problem solving, transformation and reconciliation (Fisas, 2004). All these forms of intervention in a conflict can be divided into four stages: pre-negotiation, negotiation, agreement and implementation.
A study looking at the decade from 1989 to 1999 determined that out of 75 armed conflicts, 22 ended in a victory/defeat, 21 in a peace agreement and 32 in other situations, such as a ceasefire, new negotiations or another type of stalemate (Fisas, 2004). Throughout the 1990s, according to Incore (International Conflict Research): peace processes have become the orthodox way in which low intensity, seemingly intractable, ethnic conflicts reached an accommodation...[with a] clear trend towards internally agreed initiatives, rather than externally imposed settlements, is noticeable. Nevertheless, international participation in peace processes continues to be important. According to SIPRI, there was a total of 52 multilateral peace missions in operation in 2003 (19 of them conducted or led by the UN; the rest by regional actors and ad-hoc coalitions). Of these, 14 missions were launched in 2003, the highest number in a single year since the end of the Cold War, a result of the steady decline in the number of major armed conflicts since 1998. But it is also an indicator of the fragility of peace processes in some countries, such as Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia.
The majority of peace accords fail, mainly because they do not anticipate post-conflict problems, or because they are seen more like a staging post in the conflict (Incore). Using the most recent data, the Escola de Cultura de Pau, in the period January-March 2005, registers 32 armed or unresolved conflicts in formal peace negotiations or exploring the possibility of a peace process. Among the most significant current events, this report cites the new attempts at negotiation in Burundi, the Philippines, Indonesia (Aceh) and Iraq; the decision by an armed opposition group in Rwanda to stop the fighting; the signing of a peace agreement between the SPLA and the Sudanese government, which could end 22 years of war; and the decision to send peacekeeping forces to Somalia and Sudan. In addition, the report points out that most of the peace negotiations suffered serious difficulties for reasons such as the existence of paramilitary groups, the lack of safety guarantees for the negotiators, or the rejection of facilitators.
- Escola de Cultura de Pau http://www.pangea.org/unescopau/img/programas/alerta/barometro/barometre7.pdf
- Fetherston, A.B. (2000), From Conflict Resolution to Transformative Peacebuilding: Reflections from Croatia. Centre for Conflict Resolution, Department of Peace Studies, Working Paper 4. http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/confres/papers/pdfs/CCR4.pdf
- INCORE http://www.incore.ulst.ac.uk/services/cds/agreements/
- SIPRI http://www.sipri.org/contents/conflict/MAC_patterns.html http://editors.sipri.se/pubs/yb04/SIPRIYearbook2004mini.pdf
- UN http://www.un.org/peace/
Case study: the recent peace processes in Sri Lanka
The origins of the Tamil conflict in Sri Lanka can be traced back to the colonial emancipation period in the late 1940s and the following discrimination of the Tamil minority by the Sinhalese majority. In the latter half of the 1970s, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) started a violent campaign against the government, with fighting intensifying throughout the 1980s, together with retaliatory attacks against the Tamil population. During the 20 years of civil war, an estimated 65,000 people were killed and some 1.8 million people were displaced. Following several failed attempts at peace-making and the resumption of violence in the last half of the 1990s, by the year 2000 war fatigue led the LTTE to declare a unilateral ceasefire. With the help of Norwegian diplomacy, the peace process progressed and in February 2002 both parties signed a memorandum of Cessation of Hostilities. Formal peace talks were launched afterwards, with the process stalling in April 2003 after the LTTE suspended its participation and despite further attempts at negotiation the political crisis within the government in late 2003 prevented agreement. Although external mediation has been suspended and the political conflict has not been resolved yet, the ceasefire stands despite sporadic violence (Uppsala Conflict Database). While negotiations between the government and the LTTE continue, there is the possibility of UN intervention to support the peace process (Escola de Cultura de Pau, Barometro 7, 2005).
- Escola de Cultura de Pau, Barometro 7 (Jan-March 2005) http://www.pangea.org/unescopau/img/programas/alerta/barometro/barometre7.pdf
- Forced Migration Online, Research Guides: Sri Lanka http://www.forcedmigration.org/guides/fmo032/
- INCORE: Guide to Internet Sources on Conflict in Sri Lanka http://www.incore.ulst.ac.uk/services/cds/countries/srilanka.html
- Uppsala Conflict Database http://www.pcr.uu.se/database/conflictSummary.php?bcID=151
The post-conflict stage and refugee return
The achievement of lasting peace does not end with the termination of violence and the signing of a peace process. In the post-conflict stage, the emphasis is on the difficult tasks of reconstruction, reintegration and reconciliation. These could include aspects as complex as the demobilisation and reintegration of combatants, the return of the internally displaced population and refugees, the reconstruction and rehabilitation of physical infrastructure and institutions, the treatment of past crimes and human rights abuses, as well as addressing the root causes of the conflict. Often these processes require international aid, in the form of peace-keeping forces, financial assistance, expertise and verification. Failure to address some or all of these issues can lead to a resumption of the conflict or increased levels of violence in other forms. This has been the case of El Salvador, where following the peace accords signed in January 1992 that ended more than a decade of civil war, the number of violent deaths is now higher than during the armed conflict.
In its latest study of armed conflict, human rights and peace building, the Escola de Cultura de Pau (2004) analyses 19 countries in the post-conflict stage in 2003. Looking at different indicators, it classifies 13% of these as in a good situation, 82% as regular and 38% as bad. Among the most difficult issues to resolve, the study points out the following: security and demilitarisation, human rights and impunity (important for reconciliation), humanitarian aspects and the resettlement of displaced people. As the UHNCR points out, a majority of refugees would prefer to return home as soon as it is safe for them to do so and the conditions are right. The number of returnees aided by the UNHCR has grown significantly, from under 500,000 in 2001 to almost 2.5 million in 2002 and over 1 million in 2003, mostly due to the massive return and repatriation of refugees to Afghanistan and Angola. Ensuring the sustainability of returns through its involvement in repatriation and resettlement has become one of the key current issues for the UNHCR (FMR issue 21).
- Escola de Cultura de Pau, Rehabilitacion Posbelica http://www.pangea.org/unescopau/castellano/programas/rehabilitacion.htm
- Alerta 2004 http://www.pangea.org/unescopau/img/programas/alerta/alerta/alerta04.pdf
- Forced Migration Review (FMR): Issue 21 http://www.fmreview.org/FMRpdfs/FMR21/FMR21contents.pdf Issue 11 http://www.fmreview.org/FMRpdfs/FMR11/fmr11contents.pdf
- UNHCR, Refugee by Numbers (2004 edition) http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/basics/+AwwBmeLqZw_MwwwxFqAvxxvWW9WWwmFqtFEIfgIhFqoUfIfRZ2ItFqtxw5oq5zFqtFEIfgIAFqoUfIfRZ2IDzmxwww1FqtFEIfgI/opendoc.htm
- Uppsala Conflict Database (El Salvador) http://www.pcr.uu.se/database/conflictSummary.php?bcID=137
Case Study: Returnees during the conflict and in post-conflict Guatemala
During the long armed conflict in Guatemala, an estimated one million people became IDPs and another 150,000 sought refuge in neighbouring Mexico and other countries. Formal negotiations for peace started in 1990, but already in 1986 there was a wave of repatriations sponsored by the government whereby refugees were returned to communities of origin or new model villages. Also during the 1980s and 1990s refugees returned spontaneously and without assistanve, while in 1993 was the first UNHCR-sponsored return. The return and reintegration of those uprooted by the armed conflict was a crucial part of the peace accords that ended the confrontation. Refugees themselves played a key role in influencing the negotiation of these accords and their implementation, especially in those aspects that affected them most. However, this does not mean that the process of return and reintegration has been problem-free. One of the biggest challenges still remain: the effective social and economic development of the areas where returnees have settled. In addition, there have been tensions between returnees and locals, as well as between different types of returnees and even within organised groups. Nevertheless, to date the Guatemalan peace process is considered one of the most successful.