Making Peace Processes Work

Peace processes have traditionally been understood as linear, with a beginning, an end, and a result that is either success or failure. At Inclusive Peace, we work to broaden this understanding with our evidence, both of the dynamics of peace processes and of what it takes to make them work towards creating pathways to inclusive societies.

The idea of peace processes as linear processes, evolving from armed conflict or non-violent change to formal negotiations and a peace or political agreement, followed by implementation (often including a constitution drafting or amending process), and (free and fair) elections ending the process with the transfer of power to a post-conflict government, does not reflect reality.

In practice, peace processes are parts of political transitions that take place over time, often decades. Within these transition processes, formal peace negotiations and the implementation of agreements constitute only one element among others and can take place multiple times.

At Inclusive Peace, we understand peace and political transition processes as a continuous negotiation and renegotiation of the social and political contract. As such, they are complex and ever-evolving, as well as inherently messy, involving a mixture of progress and setbacks. This also problematises the binary notion of success and failure: the notion of success needs to be nuanced to reflect the complexity of reality.

How do we make peace processes work?

So, if we cannot talk about success or failure of peace processes, what do we know about how peace processes work or do not work? At Inclusive Peace, we know that narrower and more exclusive elite deals can be essential to provide stability, but that they do not lead to sustaining peace over time. On the whole and over time, societies that have more open and inclusive political and economic institutions tend to be more developed, wealthier, and better governed.

At Inclusive Peace, we work to help mediators, peacebuilders, and policymakers navigate this complex terrain by working with them to understand power dynamics in peace processes and to develop strategies for influence and outcomes. We focus on making peace processes home-grown, locally-owned, and locally-led. Likewise, we strive to ensure that peacemaking and peacebuilding work is genuinely adaptative to the specific contexts. It is only then that it can anticipate and mitigate the inevitable friction and resistance that can eventually serve as opportunities to move societies towards being sustainably peaceful and inclusive.