Peace negotiation 101

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Countries around the world use peacemaking techniques to help ease political tension and end disputes between warring nations and organizations. In 2015, there were 409 political conflicts around the world and more than half of those disagreements were violent. The United Nations Department of Political Affairs and Department of Peacekeeping Operations were involved in 28 peacekeeping missions in 2015 involving 16,791 civilians and 106,245 uniformed personnel. Unfortunately, not all negotiations end in a positive resolution, because success can only be achieved when the involved parties are willing to compromise and mitigate conflict.

For example, the United States has a unified population through geography, yet peace can, at times, be difficult due the agreeing and disagreeing of some of the decisions made by President Trump and his cabinet members. You witnessed upheaval among voters when President Trump nominated Betsy DeVos as his Secretary of Education, because of her high-profile as an advocate for charter schools. Her nomination attracted unprecedented public interest and resulted in a close Senate vote. Since her Senate hearings were not liked by a majority of the population, she has stayed out of the public spotlight.

A peace process occurs when multiple parties, often including politicians, military officials and diplomats, work together to achieve an element of peace and establish an agreement between two or more warring or conflicting factions, countries or groups. Peacekeeping missions often accompany peace negotiations by arming a neutral force to establish security in the region.

There are four different types of peace negotiations. The first type is a truce which is a temporary pause in fighting, but no formal negotiations take place. This often happens when both parties are exhausted or necessity occurs that suspends military operations temporarily. The next type of negotiations is a cessation of hostilities. This is a more formal agreement where parties note they will stop fighting and avoid further conflicts, but there are not concrete promises on pursuing true peace. In the case of a ceasefire an agreement is negotiated with several commitments from the involved parties. For example, one party agrees to withdraw from a specific area or the party agrees to partial disarmament. The last type of negotiation is the armistice which involves everyone agreeing to end hostilities and make commitments in a formal arrangement to purse lasting peace.

While successful peace negotiations can lead to independence, economic prosperity and the basis to stop corruption, unsuccessful talks can cause destruction and numerous losses. For example from 1980-1988, the United Nations failed several attempts at peace during the Iran-Iraq war. There is an estimated one to two million causalities from both countries. The ongoing conflicts in Zimbabwe have led to large declines in the economy. The Zimbabwe’s currency has hit an all-time low and inflation rose over 1,000 percent. Another example of the consequences of unsuccessful peace negotiations can be found in Syria. In 2012, an open air market that was part of the Silk Road was engulfed in flames during fighting between rebels and loyalists. There has also been historical and cultural treasures lost because of looting and battle damage like the Church of St. Simeon Stylites. It is the oldest Byzantine church still in existence in Syria and it has suffered extensive shell, machine gun and graffiti damage.

Conflict resolution is a major part of peace negotiations and for them to be successful the peacekeeping party must remain neutral. The peacekeeping force establishes security, utilities and transportation as well as creates stability for all the parties involved. They also work with the parties to establish the conditions that must be met to resolve the conflict. When the specific conditions can’t be met the peacekeepers help the parties reach a reasonable compromise.

  • Do have clear and achievable mandates
  • Do be specific about the conditions needed for peace
  • Do get commitment from all the parties involved
  • Do have sensitivity toward the local population
  • Don’t let outside interests or politics influence the decision
  • Don’t place one group’s interests and needs above the others
  • Don’t underestimate the resources needed to provide stability
  • Don’t neglect the opportunity to find reasonable compromises

With tensions high in countries around the world, peace negotiations are an important mission to keep nations from declaring another world war. Neutrality and the commitment to compromises are the key features in finding success during negotiations. Without the calm heads of peacekeepers, negotiations would be at a standstill and many countries would find themselves in economic hardships. These efforts are an important part to providing citizens with a peaceful environment.

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