Solutions to Violent Conflict

Toward Quality Peace

In Governance, Peace, Peace Accords on November 25, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Peter Wallensteen

The notion of quality peace is gaining momentum. Its origin stems from a growing interest in strategic peacebuilding and the search for post-war conditions that will prevent the recurrence of war.

One result of this interest is the development of the Kroc Institute’s Peace Accords Matrix (peaceaccords.nd.edu), a database with comparative information on 34 comprehensive peace accords, which allows analysts and negotiators to examine issues that have been included in previous peace processes and consider their relevance to ending current conflicts.

Explorations of the concept of quality peace are intended to stimulate thinking beyond the customary juxtaposition of “negative” versus “positive” peace. In November 2010, the Kroc Institute convened a conference to explore the idea of “quality peace” and its relevant dimensions. The participants included scholars as well as practitioners and negotiators.

The conference challenged the prevalent notion of “peace” as only the absence of war and identified five dimensions associated with sustainable quality peace:  The importance of civil society, security, governance, economic reconstruction, and reconciliation (including transitional justice).

TWO BOOKS UNDERWAY

The investigation into quality peace has spurred a series of book-length manuscripts. One volume underway presents several case studies — Cambodia, El Salvador, Mozambique, and Northern Ireland— that examine the prospects for lasting peace through the lens of the five dimensions of quality peace.

The case study analyses indicate that some characteristics of quality peace are more significant than others. For instance, civil society did not contribute significantly to the peace process and post-accord developments in Mozambique. In Cambodia, however, there was a seemingly vibrant civil society role, albeit one largely dependent on external funding. The selected cases thus demonstrate that the influence of the five dimensions is likely to vary. This raises additional questions: What is most important in preventing the recurrence of war? Which aspects of society are most significant in generating quality peace?

Another volume underway systematically compares post-war situations resulting from peace agreements with those resulting from a military victory by one side. This comparison of traditional peacebuilding approaches with consolidation from military victory offers a novel field of inquiry. In many ways this study addresses the most politically relevant question:  Which outcome is more likely to create the conditions of quality peace — a victory by the government or the rebels in a civil war, or a negotiated peace agreement?

The research demonstrates that, when a peace agreement is present, quality peace outcomes are more robust, resulting in more transparency, more democracy, and a stronger connection to internationally shared values. The presence of an agreement also better enables the integration of opposing military factions in the aftermath of a civil war. The study also seems to indicate that victories may be more durable when a peace agreement is in place. This finding underscores the importance of evaluating outcomes through multiple dimensions, rather than merely through the absence of war.

When a peace agreement is present, quality peace outcomes are more robust, resulting in more transparency, more democracy, and a stronger connection to internationally shared values.

The quality peace research project focuses not only on civil wars but also on inter-state conflicts, in an effort to connect the notion of quality peace to a larger set of relations among states. This part of the research is attempting to find indicators that could help assess situations that may be deteriorating toward war or moving further away from war. Among the variables being examined are:  gender equality as an expression of societal norms, political repression as state power, and black market operations as an indicator of elite perception of risks before and after war.

All of these studies on quality peace demonstrate the crucial role of governance as it applies to the control or containment of the power inherent in state structures. The state’s destructive capacity clearly surpasses that of any other political or social actor. The study of quality peace is thus likely to underscore the importance of civilian control over the state’s coercive capacity, as well as the necessity of transparency and checks and balances on those who hold power.

Peter Wallensteen is the Richard G. Starmann Sr. Research Professor of Peace Studies at the Kroc Institute and Senior Professor at Uppsala University in Sweden.