Committing to Peace: The Successful Settlement of Civil Wars

Committing to Peace: The Successful Settlement of Civil Wars

Committing to Peace: The Successful Settlement of Civil Wars

Committing to Peace: The Successful Settlement of Civil Wars


"This is an important book in an area that is rapidly becoming central to both policy and theoretical concerns, the conditions under which negotiated settlements can be reached in civil wars. Walter's distinction of three phases of settlement (negotiation, agreement, implementation) is a significant theoretical step forward."--Roy Licklider, Rutgers University


Why do some civil wars end peacefully, while others are fought to the finish? Why, for example, did the Sandinistas and Contras in Nicaragua stop their war with a negotiated settlement, while the Sandinistas and the Somoza regime did not? Why were the Sudanese able to end their conflict in 1972 in a settlement, but not the Nigerians? Why did negotiations in Bosnia bring peace, while negotiations in Rwanda brought genocide?

Between 1940 and 1992, only a third of all negotiations to end civil wars resulted in a successfully implemented peace settlement. In most cases, combatants chose to walk away from the negotiating table and return to war. In fact, civil war combatants almost always chose to return to war unless a third party stepped in to enforce or verify a posttreaty transition. If a third party assisted with implementation, negotiations almost always succeeded, regardless of the initial goals, ideology, or ethnicity of the participants. If a third party did not, these talks almost always failed.

This book tries to explain why combatants in some civil war negotiations choose to sign and implement peace settlements, while others choose to return to war. I argue that successful negotiations must do more than resolve the underlying issues over which a civil war has been fought. To end their war in a negotiated settlement, the combatants must clear the much higher hurdle of designing credible guarantees on the terms of the agreement—a task made difficult without outside assistance. The biggest challenge facing civil war opponents at the negotiating table, therefore, is not how to resolve disagreements over land reform, majority rule, or any of the underlying grievances that started the war. These are difficult issues, but they are not the most difficult. The greatest challenge is to design a treaty that convinces the combatants to shed their partisan armies and surrender conquered territory even though such steps will increase their vulnerability and limit their ability to enforce the treaty's other terms. When groups obtain thirdparty security guarantees for the treacherous demobilization period that follows the signing of an agreement, and obtain power-sharing guarantees in the first postwar government, they will implement their settlement. When groups fail to obtain such guarantees, the warring factions will eventually reject a negotiated settlement and continue their war.

I have four aims in this book. The first is to uncover why so many civil wars fail to end in successfully negotiated settlements and why . . .

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