Over the past few years the signing of peace agreements has become an increasingly rare phenomenon, while the number of armed conflicts has increased. This is described by peace researchers at Uppsala University’s Conflict Data Program (UCDP) in the latest report on states in armed conflict, States in Armed Conflict 2011. This is a cause for serious concern.
During the Cold War it was uncommon that armed conflicts were ended through negotiations and peace agreements. Many conflicts were fought for decades, with the parties being supported by external actors in line with the Cold War logic. Data from the UCDP shows that on average only around two accords were concluded annually between 1975 and 1988. This changed dramatically after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
- Only in 1991, 19 peace agreements were concluded, which is well above the total number of agreements signed in the time period 1975-1988, Stina Högbladh, one of the UCDP project leaders, says.
This positive trend continued throughout the 1990s and well into the 2000s. Protracted and bloody wars such as those in Mozambique, Guatemala and Liberia were terminated through negotiations and ensuing accords. The Dayton Agreement ended the war in Bosnia in 1995 and the conflict in Northern Ireland was terminated with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. The most recent major peace agreement was the one in Sudan in 2005.
Since 2008 the researchers have recorded a clear break in this trend, however.
- Over the past four years we have seen a decline in the number of peace agreements and we are now back at the same low levels as during the 1970s. At the same time the number of armed conflicts has. The idea that wars can be ended in a durable way through negotiations has been forced to give way to hopes of outright victories. Victories are however both rare and costly in terms of human lives and don’t always provide the stability that was hoped for. This is a great challenge for the international community, says Peter Wallensteen, leader of the program.
Developments in the UN Security Council over the situation in Syria illustrate the difficulties for international actors to initiate peace processes, despite an oftentimes explicit and outspoken will to work for peace. When different interests clash, the chances of reaching a peaceful solution to armed conflicts decline.
- The fact that many of today’s rebel groups are placed on the US list of terrorist organizations makes negotiations politically difficult, which further reinforces the worry that the negative trend in the number of peace agreements will persist, Therése Pettersson, another project leader in the program, says.
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