Peace Agreements

British academy logoI am currently working on a project entitled  Peace Agreements: Resolving intra-state conflicts since the end of the Cold War. This work is funded by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship (£99.991)

The Project

The project provides a systematic and comprehensive analysis of peace agreements signed in separatist conflicts since the end of the Cold War and aims to uncover:

  1. How contentious issues – relating to territory, security, power and justice – have been addressed
  2. How the institutional design, and its success or failure, was affected by the context of the conflict
  3. The interaction between the conflict context, the content of the agreement and the peace process.

Main Findings

The project has found that autonomy – usually territorially- and ethnically-defined – is an overwhelming trend in peace agreements signed in separatist conflicts, while human rights are surprisingly marginal.

The illiberal nature of many settlements can in part be explained by the ‘core deal’, and its prioritisation of collective rights, but also owes something to the narrowness of the typical peace process and an assumption that such ‘soft concerns’ can be left for later.

The agreements demonstrate some ingenuity when it comes to trans-border dimensions, but the dominant, binary, conception of sovereignty and statehood still poses significant constraints and the examples of ‘simple autonomy’ are more numerous.

The analysis warns against ‘destructive ambiguity’, exclusive agreements, and a lack of sub-state capacity. It suggests that a greater emphasis on intra-communal dynamics and political contestation within conflict parties could help temper the tendency of peace agreements to reflect unduly the narrow interests and perspectives of the negotiating elites.

A broadening of the peace process and of the resulting institutional design could result in a more legitimate and therefore more sustainable peace.

Policy Recommendations


Read my conference papers on human rights in peace agreements (or the lack thereof) and interim peace agreements.

Project workshop: Impossible Peace?

Watch my recent talk:

The main output from this project is a monograph, Peace Agreements Finding Solutions to Intra-State Conflicts (Cambridge: Polity Press, forthcoming November 2016)

Book blurb: Since the end of the Cold War a significant number of peace agreements have been signed, many of them in bloody intra-state conflicts that were previously thought beyond resolution. How have these agreements addressed issues of territory, security, power, and justice? Do they reveal a blueprint for peace, and what can we learn from both their successes and their failures?

This timely book provides a comprehensive and cutting-edge analysis of peace agreements signed in separatist conflicts from 1990 to the present day. Drawing on a diverse range of cases, including Bosnia, Indonesia, Philippines, Sudan, Israel-Palestine and Ukraine, it analyses the different peace “packages”, focusing on the interaction of the elements in play, and exploring the impact of political contestation within conflict parties and of peace process dynamics.

Though some of these agreements have displayed great ingenuity in finding lasting solutions, many have relied on more traditional, and often problematic, designs. For all such agreements, the enduring challenge is that of ensuring flexibility while avoiding destructive ambiguity. This is why the content of peace agreements really matters – not only to sustain peace once it is achieved but to make the prospect of peace possible in the first place.