One can distinguish between three main factors in the assessment of whether a peace process is successful or not: The most important is the behavior of the political elite in the war-torn country or region in question. First and foremost, the extent to which they actually want and work to promote peace and sustainable development – that is, the choice the elite takes. Looking at factors such as the economy, governance, natural resources and degree of democracy, it is clear that these aspects can limit the room for maneuver of the political elite.
The second most important factor is inclusion / exclusion – to what extent one or more groups feel politically, socially and economically taken care of or neglected.
A third factor is international actors such as the UN, which can play a positive role in such a peace process. They can support marginalized groups by encouraging elites to be more inclusive. Their influence is nevertheless limited and there are many pitfalls, among other things that good intentions end up with negative consequences, so that one does more harm than good.
Some of those who have studied the extent to which peace lasts or breaks down believe that the following three questions are crucial:
- Are there sources of unity that can support the peace process? Such sources may be a possible democratic tradition as well as will, exhaustion or cohesion among the parties to the conflict. Do they want peace, are they tired of war or divided?
- Are there local forces and capacities that can support peace? How strong are the social and state institutions? Does society have the social capital needed for recovery after the war?
- To what extent is there international supportfor the peace process?
Answer these three questions called the peacebuilding triangle . We see that several of the factors that are important for the peace process itself to succeed have many common features with those that are decisive for whether peace lasts.
Although many of those who have researched war and peacebuilding after conflict like to find some commonalities when it comes to what usually works or not, it is important to emphasize that there is no one recipe for success. The strategies that have been adapted to the “ecology of the conflict” – how local parties have stood together and against each other – have proved to be the most successful. According to TRANSPORTHINT, peacebuilding must be based on the specific conflict and not on an overall strategy without a sense of or sufficient insight into local conditions.
6: How much resilience does a society have?
In the peacebuilding literature, emphasis is often placed on resilience . If a society is vulnerable, it means that the social institutions that govern politics, security, the judiciary and the economy lack resilience. “Resistance” here means the ability of social institutions to “tolerate and adapt” so that they can function somewhat well under stress. Examples of well-known conflict drivers that create stress are inequality, exclusion and neglect. To curb these, it is important to have initiatives that ensure inclusion – that everyone can take part and feel responsible – in the peace process.
The risk is gradually reduced after a quarter as the social institutions develop resilience to cope with the burdens and challenges they are exposed to. In this sense, sustainable peace should be about stimulating and facilitating that society can organize itself and thus tolerate and adapt to the pressures well enough to maintain peace.
7: What can the international community contribute?
Researchers largely agree that the world community, normally through the UN, plays an important role. At the same time, they emphasize that this role must be limited to a support function. External actors can make useful contributions by, for example, gaining stability after a violent conflict has broken out. They can also contribute as a catalyst to stimulate and facilitate the next steps in the recovery of a society. One can roughly distinguish between four ways peacekeeping can contribute to a successful peace process:
- Incentives change so that the parties have more left to maintain peace than it costs to return to the battlefield.
- Peacekeeping can reduce the uncertainty of the parties, because compliance with a peace agreement is monitored.
- By ensuring a greater degree of communication, peacekeeping forces can prevent parties from returning to war by “accident”.
- One urges both sides (especially the government side) not to exclude the other party.
However, international peace builders must be aware that external intervention is not enough to achieve lasting peace. The most important factor for sustainable peace is local forces . In order for a peace process to be sustainable, the war-torn society must develop its own institutions that can handle its own internal conflicts in a peaceful manner.
Another factor that must be taken into account when international actors intervene to support a peace process is the moral duty they have not to harm. When international actors intervene in a country, groups and citizens will react in different ways. Some of the reactions one can expect, others not. When we know that this can happen, the UN and other institutions that plan peace operations should be prepared and develop mechanisms to monitor and respond to unintentional, but inevitable and often negative consequences of their own interventions. Examples of such include civilian casualties, sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as the spread of HIV-AIDS and other diseases, such as the cholera outbreak in Haiti in 2010 , which claimed approx. 7000 human lives.
International peacemakers can contribute to and facilitate a peace process, but if they intervene too much, they will be able to undermine what a state and the local community are doing and what is needed to create robust social institutions. The key to successful peacebuilding therefore lies in finding the right balance between international support and local self-organization, a balance that will vary from conflict to conflict.