Academic journal article International Journal of Peace Studies

Mutual Vulnerability and the Implementation of Peace Agreements: Examples from Mozambique, Angola, and Liberia

Academic journal article International Journal of Peace Studies

Mutual Vulnerability and the Implementation of Peace Agreements: Examples from Mozambique, Angola, and Liberia

Article excerpt


Many argue that peace agreements should contain provisions of extensive power-sharing arrangements and international intervention in order for their implementation to succeed. Yet, despite the presence of these arrangements, many countries fail to implement peace agreements or worse, return to war. Rather, as this paper argues, the implementation of many peace agreements depends on the decision-making environment: After warring factions sign a peace agreement, the promised concessions may result in changes to military or political vulnerability, making each step toward implementation contentious. To successfully implement a peace agreement, the steps taken by the signatories must result in mutually vulnerable political or military states. Importantly, varying levels of political, financial, and military intervention from the international community affect the degree of vulnerability felt by the signatories, subsequently impacting the implementation process. Examples from the cases of Mozambique, Liberia, and Angola are used to illustrate the mechanism of mutual vulnerability.


Negotiated settlements have been increasingly accepted as the preferred way of ending a civil war. A strong indication of this is the sharp increase of United Nations (UN) missions across the globe: since the end of the cold war, the UN has more than doubled the number of its peacekeeping missions since its first one in 1948 (United Nations, 2005). However, despite the increased desire to intervene in conflicts and stop hostilities early, negotiated settlements have a poor record of success. Some studies show that only 50 percent of all negotiated settlements last beyond five years (Licklider, 1995: 685), while in others, negotiated settlements have been shown to keep the peace for only three and a half years (Hartzell, Hoddie, and Rothchild, 2001: 195). This timeframe suggests that warring parties cannot successfully implement the peace agreement. This is not surprising, given the high uncertainty of the implementation period; there is a gap between the concessions required in the peace agreement--such as demobilization or political power sharing--and the actual steps needed to achieve those goals. For example, while a provision of the peace agreement may be demobilization, the incremental decisions to implement it, which might include when and where to deploy observers or which party moves first, change the military and political power structure of the post-conflict period. The changes in the military and political power structure may create impasses or in a worse case, result in renewed hostilities. Although the uncertainty and impasses may be unavoidable--the essence of a peace agreement is compromise--it may be possible to re-consider the means for overcoming impasses and reducing the chance that they will lead to conflict.

How can negotiated settlements be made more certain and impasses in the implementation of peace agreements overcome? While ample scholarly work considers the conditions under which parties begin negotiations or sign agreements, relatively little explores the transition from the signing of a peace agreement to its implementation. In this article I argue that peace agreements are more likely to be successfully implemented --and thus decrease the chance of a resumption of hostilities--when the signatories view themselves as mutually vulnerable. Mindful that concessions made by one side change the balance of power--and hence the vulnerability--between the factions, I argue that a peace agreement's implementation will most likely advance when former combatants find themselves mutually and equally vulnerable. I use examples from the implementation processes of Mozambique, Liberia, and Angola to demonstrate the effect of mutual vulnerability.

Four sections follow this introduction. In the next section, I briefly review common prescriptions for stability following a peace agreement. …

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