Beyond the Absence of War: Diversity of Peace in Post-Settlement Societies
After conflicts end, scholars tend to identify the post-conflict society with peace or ongoing war depending on the success of the post-conflict endeavors. The authors challenge this presumption and introduce a new conceptualization of peace by which they view peace as a multidimensional phenomenon rather than a condition. They introduce Peace Triangle where they categorise post-conflcit societies on the basis of three dimensions: issues, behavior, and attitudes.
The authors argue that the international community has been promoting liberal democracy as a remedy to post-conflict societies since the end of the cold war. As long as what is called ‘liberal peace’ is adopted in a post-conflict society, policy circles have tended to assume that peace prevails. According to the authors, this is a false assumption because some clauses of some peace agreements may lead to the collapse of the peace in the future. In the words of authors, ‘ peace agreements sometimes contain the seeds of their own destruction’. As important as wording of the peace agreements, implementation of agreements can also inhibit emergence of peace. Therefore, a faulty peace agreement does not have to necessarily lead to absolute peace.
Peace Triangle has three dimensions. a) Issues: This concerns the issues at stake or the incompatibility in question. b) Behavior: This refers to ‘the way that the conflict is acted out by the relevant parties in question when they pursue these issues. These actions may range from direct violence to threats , boycotts or sanctions, with the intention to force the opponent ot abondon or modify its goals’. c) Attitudes: This captures ‘the psychological states or conditions that develop between the parties in a conflict’. Each dimension of the triangle has three components.
Unresolved peace: This is a condition where the peace process has failed to resolve or manage certain issues, although the conflict behavior has been regulated and violence may have stopped. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is an example.
Restored peace: In some cases the main issues of the conflict may have been addressed and resolved in the peace agreement, yet many of the underlying causes and grievances that contributed to fuel the armed conflict in the first place are still present in society. Liberia after 1996 Abuja agreement is an example.
Contested peace: This is a situation where peace agreement itself or the new political atmosphere emerged after the conflict bring about new issues causing new conflicts. Versailles peace agreement after the World War I is an example.
Partial peace: This is a situation in a post-conflict society where one or more of the former conflict parties continue to use arms tu pursue their political objectives because they back down about their commitments or they do not gain much from the peace agreement. Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge’s withdrawal from Paris Peace Accord is an example.
Regional peace: In a civil war, outbreak and intensity of violence is not the same all over the county. Fighting may be concentrated in some parts of the country, while the rest of the country is free from violence. Democratic republic of Congo is a good example.
Insecure peace: This refers to situations where widespread violent crimes prevail after the war ends. Such crimes are likely to be the end result of the war itself due to abundant fire arms, unemployment, weak or absent law enforcement agencies. Afghanistan, El Salvador and South Africa have all experienced widespread violent crimes after the conflicts were resolved.
Polarised peace: In some post-settlement societies, prevailing political attitudes become more polarised after the peace agreement and cause emergence of exteremist views/groups. Northern Ireland is an example.
Unjust peace: In some post-conflict societies, perpatrators of violence and crimes are exempted from justice or evade trials. In some societies, former fighting groups fail to reconcile and overcome hostility towards each other. A peace agreement may have been signed in such societies but the society is still fragile. The key point here is the transitional justice. Guatemala after the peace agreement of 1990s is an example.
Fearful peace: In some post-conflict societies, violence may be absent and peace can prevail following a peace agreement because of a suppressive and oppressive regime of a strongman. Absence of violence can deceive us because in such situations individuals or communities fail to overcome their conflict attitudes due to perception of fear.
According to the authors, a conflict may break out at any corner of this triangle and the components are mutually exclusive.