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Implementation of Peace Agreements in Civil Wars


Senior Fellow, Professor, by courtesy, Political Science
Elizabeth Cousens
Donald Rothchild

Until recently, analysts of civil war focused their attention on the negotiation of peace agreements and paid scant attention to the implementation process. Rather legalistically, they assumed that a contract between state and insurgent leaders would remain binding in the post-agreement phase. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, negotiated agreements in such countries as Angola, Cambodia, Liberia, and Rwanda collapsed and resulted in new deadly violence. In some cases more blood was shed after the failure to implement a peace accord than before the peace negotiations began.

Several hypotheses have been put forward to explain the failure to implement peace agreements in civil wars: security dilemmas of the warring parties; inadequate international involvement; the presence of spoilers whose commitment to peace is only tactical; vague, incomplete, or expedient peace agreements; and the lack of coordination among implementing agencies. Such hypotheses are merely a first step to understanding the problem. As of yet there has been no systematic, rigorous empirical examination of these explanations. And even if such explanations offer general insight into the problems of implementation, there is the need to develop policy-relevant strategies to overcome the reasons for failure.

The central purpose of this research is to understand why some negotiated settlements to civil wars are successfully implemented and why others fail, and to put forward concrete suggestions for improving the implementation of future peace agreements in civil wars.

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