The Critical Barrier to Civil War Settlement
This article examines the impact of guarantees given by a third party on success of negotiations. Rather than looking at the classical variables of the literature, she focuses on conditions under which belligerents commit to the peace agreement. She argues that third party guarantees matter, especially if the negotiations are in a positive trend and likely to succeed.
Walter builds her theory on the fact that once a civil war breaks out mutual distrust arises between government institutions and rebels. Therefore, any potential peace deal is almost impossible to implement because either side believes that the other side will not commit to the deal. Either side may believe that they can be worse off than they would have been if they continued fighting. This increases the sensitivity of either side and they can overreact even to a small violation of the peace deal.
Walter believes that peace deals cannot be designed by the belligerents themselves for three reasons. First, they cannot convince each other that they will fully implement the requirements of the deal. Second, belligerents cannot convince each other even if a slightest chance of annihilation exists. Third, fighting groups will have a difficult time in trusting newly built state institutions and committing to rulings of these institutions because these institutions will be staffed with unexperienced staff.
The main hypothesis of the author is that ‘the more willing an outside power is to guarantee the safety of the adversaries during the critical implementation phase, the more likely domestic opponents are to reach and execute a final deal’. Examining 41 civil wars ended between 1940-1990, she tests this hypothesis and other variables related to conflict resolution such as cost of war, issue divisibility, whether it is an identity conflict.
The ultimate success of a peace treaty seemed to rest on a third-party’s desire to become involved and remain involved after a treaty was signed.