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Accord: an International Review of Peace Initiatives

by John Darby, The Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

REVIEWING: Accord: an International Review of Peace Initiatives (London: Conciliation Resources, 1996-2001). Ten volumes by various authors. 15.00/$25.00 for a single issue; 125.00/$210.00 for a complete set of back issues. Order from Conciliation Resources, 173 Upper Street, London N1 1RG.


Conciliation Resources published its first volume of Accord, dedicated to the Liberian peace process, in 1996, and its most recent, on the peace process in Tajikistan, in 2001. The other peace processes covered in the series are: Guatemala (1997); Mozambique (1998); Sri Lanka (1998); Cambodia (1998); Mindanao (1999); Georgia-Abkhazia (1999); Northern Ireland (1999); and Sierra Leone (2000). Further issues are planned on Bougainville and Northern Uganda (Acholiland). Each volume is a self-contained 'narrative and analysis on specific war and peace processes in an accessible format'.

They are certainly accessible. Without exception the ten issues provide excellent and practical guides to those engaged in peacemaking. The more recent issues in particular are written by an informative mix of academics and practitioners, including some of the key political actors in the peace processes. Each issue includes an historical background to the conflict, maps, chronologies, an analysis of the peace process and profiles of key actors.

Two recent reports illustrate the Accord approach. 'Striking a Balance: The Northern Ireland peace process', edited by Clem McCartney, includes an introductory essay on the conflict, but moves on to deal with the peace process itself. Martin Mansergh, one of the key advisers to successive Irish prime ministers, outlines the early stages. Three different perspectives are provided on the framework for negotiations, including one from Nigel Dodds of the Democratic Unionist Party, the strongest party opposing the Agreement. Finally there are three chapters on the negotiations in practice, civil society and an assessment of the Agreement. The contributors have been carefully selected to provide a broad perspective, and there is a thoughtful piece on the problems of implementation by two members of the Women's Coalition. All in all, this is an excellent review of the process suitable for a variety of readers including senior negotiators, practitioners, general readers and students of the process. Only the international perspective is treated in a rather cursory fashion, which is perhaps defensible in light of the general tendency to exaggerate the role of external actors in the Northern Ireland process.

'Politics of Compromise: the Tajikistan peace process', edited by Kamoludin Abdullaev and Catherine Barnes, is equally impressive and perhaps even more useful, in that Tajikistan lacks the mass of written material available on Northern Ireland. The outline is somewhat similar, with excellent sections on the background of the conflict, and a strong emphasis on the mechanics of the negotiations. There are good chapters on both international involvement and on inter-regional dynamics, and again an interesting discussion of civil society and peacebuilding.

Both issues have excellent sections on civil society, an element in peace processes often underrated by political scientists, and each has a section on key points in agreements, a useful innovation since the earlier issues in the series.

So individually the standard of the Accord series is high. Collectively the ten issues amount to a valuable teaching resource at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and would also work as an overview for serious pre-university students - not an easy task to pull off. Many of them feature full texts of key documents and peace accords, again a useful teaching tool. If this is Conciliation Resource's main target readership, they might consider a few additions to future issues. First, although all ten issues include guides to further reading, there are almost no references in the main texts, clearly a decision made in order to attract general readers, but one which should be modified to include a few key guidelines for researchers. Second, there is an understandable emphasis on actual negotiations, but some other elements essential to successful peace processes are neglected. One of these is the role of economic factors in peace processes, although the chapter by Alex Vines in the Mozambique issue is both a notable exception and a possible model for future issues. It would also have been interesting to read more about post-accord law-and-order problems, especially in Guatemala. Finally, the issues would be even more valuable if Conciliation Resources drew on its substantial body of comparative knowledge and experience to include a section in all future issues on lessons learned from each peace process. This might include both lessons accrued from the benefit of hindsight, and those that would be useful to peacemakers working in other places.

This is an admirable series of publications. Conciliation Resources is to be praised for having the foresight to start this series five years ago, for hitting on a successful formula almost from the start and for creating a cumulative body of impressive and useful materials.

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