IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

On Peace Processes

Early on in the life of this blog, I said I was going to get back to peace processes.  Well here we go.  We hear this term frequently:  it seems every conflict situation eventually has a peace process associated with it.  However, there is some ambiguity about what exactly the term means.  For instance a very nice article I found on theBeyond Intractability” site mentions two somewhat different explanations of peace process.

According to practitioner Robert Saunders, a peace process is :  “a political process in which conflicts are resolved by peaceful means.”

Whereas scholar Timothy Sisk describes it as:  “step-by-step reciprocal moves to build confidence, resolve gnarly issues such as disarmament, and carefully define the future through the design of new political institutions. In other terms, a peace process is an intricate dance of steps—choreographed by third-party mediators—among parties in conflict that help to gradually exchange war for peace.”

It would seem that peace processes are goal-oriented, and that the process involves moving through a series of steps  which lead to peace.  Certainly this progress is not necessary linear:  there can be some steps forward and some steps backward, given the very difficult questions always involved.  Still, it seems to me there has to be progress toward the goal for the process to exist. Do you agree?

Otherwise, can’t the term “peace process” actually obscure what is going on in some situations?  Isn’t it problematic to talk about supporting a peace process which is either stagnate or advancing so slowly as to offer no potential benefits to the current generation?  Wouldn’t it be preferable to consider why the current “process” is stuck and perhaps start over, focusing on more fundamental concerns?  Otherwise, the idea of “peace process” (like other important contemporary concepts like “sustainable development”) is in danger of being appropriated to promote certain hidden, and not very peace-oriented, agendas.

To me, you can make peace if the key actors (both internal and external) want to make peace.  If they are not making peace (ie advancing toward the goal), even if they say they are trying to, one has to wonder if peace and all it represents is really their top priority.  In these situations, it strikes me as something of an obfuscation *(I love that word) to keep talking about a “stalled” peace process, or “obstacles” on the road to peace, since the most basic pre-requisite for a successful process, full commitment to stopping violence and healing its effects, seems to be lacking.


(Have you ever seen that joke sign that says “Eschew Obfuscation!” ?)


December 9, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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