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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 2 .


The Management of Peace Processes
John Darby & Roger Mac Ginty (eds.)

London: Macmillan Press Ltd., 2000
276 pp. Index. Bibl. Hb.:47.50; ISBN 0-333-80039-7.



The fact that we are discussing the 'management' of peace processes, points in itself at remarkable changes in the academic and political fields of peace research and conflict resolution: the availability of a profound basis of international comparative data, a shift of analysis towards the causes of peace, and an increasing 'positive pragmatism' in evaluating the structures of peace-building.

With their book, an excellent team effort based on the 'Coming out of Violence' project, the authors have considerably contributed to all these levels. Monitoring five peace processes - South Africa (Pierre du Toit), Northern Ireland (John Darby/Roger Mac Ginty), Israel/Palestine (Tamar Hermann/David Newman), the Basque Country (Ludger Mees), and Sri Lanka (Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu) - over a period of two years they identified those factors which foster or prevent political progress in deeply divided societies. Six variables and their influence on the success or failure of a peace process were at the core interest of the study: Violence and security issues, the economy, external actors, public opinion, symbols, and progress towards political settlement.

Observations and findings are drawn from a primary analysis of these six themes with the last one of them, progress towards political settlement, bridging to the secondary analysis which focuses on the dynamics of negotiations, before and during the talks, and into the phase of post-settlement peace-building. Violence and progress towards a political settlement, and here a 'sufficient inclusion' of ex-militants, also to neutralise spoiler groups, proved to be the most determinant factors of the peace processes. A surprisingly low influence of economic factors was found in all the five cases. The role and kind of external involvement differs from case to case, with Northern Ireland and Israel top-scale, and Sri Lanka and the Basque at the bottom. The importance of symbols and rituals was evident for unifying the conflicting parties in South Africa, but for undermining the process in Northern Ireland. Most disputed appears the factor of public support on the ground in advancing the process. All five cases resulted from leaders accommodation rather than from peace movements, with some exception in the Basque case. Despite their different histories and socio-economic profiles the five conflicts share a number of common characteristics: the relatively narrow time frame, the focus of resolving essentially internal ethnic dispute, the fact that none of the settlements was UN-brokered.

The authors successfully create an analytical framework, a consistent set of tools to make cases of conflict settlement comparable, which vary considerably in other relevant aspects. Understanding peace processes "as the state of tension between the custom of violence and the resolution of differences through negotiation" (p.260) the study may enable other actors involved in peace processes to draw lessons and carefully create models for their own needs. The mainly descriptive focus on the dynamics of negotiations does not always allow explanations for failures which occurred in the five cases, but the concise and stimulating book makes the reader curious about the in-depth case studies which are promised as follow-up publications of the project.


Dr Corinna Hauswedell, Bonn International Center for Conversion



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