Our world is facing greater conflict than ever before. Yet we continue to apply the same solutions, but expect different results. As we face an era of alarming conflict, existing peace processes fail to be effective when they are needed most.
An imperative for action
Existing approaches to peace are not fit for purpose
On-going conflicts worldwide
of the active conflicts in the 2000s were initiated in countries that had already experienced civil war
is the average number of years post-conflict peace lasts
of peace agreements are not implemented
The ineffectiveness of the international community’s approach in addressing contemporary peace and conflict challenges has long been known to practitioners, researchers and policymakers, yet current approaches to peace remain outdated and ineffective.
The opportunity and momentum to reframe the current approach to peace processes is growing in light of the current political will reflected in policy frameworks such as the Sustaining Peace Agenda, Women, Peace and Security Agenda and the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda.
There is a need for a collective effort to establish principles for peace to serve as a new frame of reference, a moral and ethical basis for peace processes, and as a set of standards that guide their implementation.
Fundamental flaws in current approaches to peace
In light of the apparent difficulties of current peace processes to achieve sustainable, long-term peace, there are at least seven interrelated and fundamental problems with the way peace processes are structured today:
Too often, peace processes are focused on negotiations ‘at-the-table’ aiming to end violence thereby trading short-term milestones for long-term prospects of sustainable peace.
While the cessation of violence is essential, the focus on short-term milestones often leads to exclusionary power-sharing agreements that compromise the prospects for peace processes to succeed.
While Peace is a complex social process that cannot be ’built’ in a singular moment but takes time, the overfocus on negotiations leads resources towards these processes rather than accompanying and simultaneous efforts that aim at helping societies build capacities to deal with conflicts in non-violent ways.
Negotiations and peace agreements are important, but they should not be seen as the start and end point of peace processes.
Lack of real inclusivity.
Peace process often fail to engage all relevant elite actors and almost always fail to adequately engage women and youth.
The lack of women in peace processes, while important in itself, is often one highly visible manifestation of the broader exclusivity of the peace process.
Actions by international actors can have unintended consequences by advancing tokenistic forms of inclusion or forms of inclusion that inadvertently place undue pressure on civil society, women, youth and unarmed members of a society.
Peace processes need to be inclusive and recognize that every member of society has a role to play in consolidating peace.
Lack of local ownership.
Despite the “local turn” in international peace interventions, they are inherently biased towards an international perspective rather than ensuring real “local ownership”.
“Local ownership” in practice often comes to mean local actors “buying into” internationally developed plans rather than joint program development and implementation.
Lack of implementation and long-term oversight.
Partly as a consequence of flawed negotiation processes based on elite bargaining, too many peace processes are either not implemented at all or essentially ended at the stage of conflict cessation.
Strategic deficit in international peace and security interventions
The international ‘toolbox’ of peace and security interventions, such as Peacekeeping, development and mandates for elections in post conflict settings, stabilization, mediation, DDR and SSR, CVE and PVE overwhelmingly tend to be mandate-driven interventions and not problem-driven.
This limits their focus to their specific remit, leads to a lack of coordination and shared objectives as well as interventions that are not based on a mutual understanding of the root causes of conflict.
Failure to address historical root causes, the fluid nature of conflict and grievances.
While peace agreements can lay the groundwork for stable peace in the short term, sustainable peace cannot be achieved until historical, deep-rooted grievances and structural issues are addressed.
There is a need to expand the frame of reference on peace processes, peace agreements and a cessation of violence are important, but should not be seen as the start and end point of peace processes.
The failure of international interventions to understand root causes often leads to the failure of peacemaking and peacebuilding programs that in turn can create new grievances.
Failure to understand and address the political economy of conflict.
The political economy of conflict and the impact of states and actors who have vested interests in conflicts cannot be overlooked in the resolution process.
International interventions can themselves create a political economy of conflict that benefits specific political and economic elites and incentives them to maintain an instable status-quo instead of working towards lasting solutions for conflicts.