Peace Agreements - Nina Caspersen - ebook

Peace Agreements ebook

Nina Caspersen

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Since the end of the Cold War a significant number of Peace Agreements have been signed, many of them in bloody intra-state conflicts that were previously thought beyond resolution. How have these agreements addressed issues of territory, security, power and justice? Do they reveal a blueprint for peace, and what can we learn from both their successes and their failures? This timely book provides a comprehensive and cutting-edge analysis of Peace Agreements signed in separatist conflicts from 1990 to the present day. Drawing on a diverse range of cases, including Bosnia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sudan, Israel-Palestine and Ukraine, it analyses the different peace 'packages', focusing on the interaction of the elements in play, and exploring the impact of political contestation within conflict parties and of peace process dynamics. Though some of these agreements have displayed great ingenuity in finding lasting solutions, many have relied on more traditional, and often problematic, designs. For all such agreements, the enduring challenge is that of ensuring flexibility while avoiding destructive ambiguity. This is why the content of Peace Agreements really matters - not only to sustain peace once it is achieved but to make the prospect of peace possible in the first place.

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Title Page





A Post-Cold War Package for Peace

Bridging the Gap: Peace Agreements and Case Studies

Evaluating Success and Failure

A Word on Terminology

Plan of the Book


Part 1: Content

1 Territory

The Popularity of ‘Ethnic Autonomy’

Autonomy Trends

Types of Autonomy and Sustainability


Blurring Sovereignty

Conclusion: Optimism, with Caveats


2 Security

Commitment Problems: Reducing the Risk of Cheating

Conflict Resolution as State-Building

Legitimacy and Intra-Communal Security

Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR)

Possible Trade-Off with Human Security

Conclusion: Security, But Not Necessarily as We Know It


3 Power

Consociational Democracy

When Political Power-Sharing is not Needed, or not Wanted

Limitations of Consociational Power-Sharing

Centripetal Approach

Hybrid Models of Power-Sharing

Conditions for Successful Power-Sharing



4 Justice

Overarching Rights and Institutions

Rights of Excluded Groups

Dealing, or Not Dealing with Past Abuses

War Crimes

Implications: Stability Now, Justice Later?



5 A Post-Cold War Blueprint for Peace?

Trends: Simple Autonomy, But Some Creative Potential

The Whole Package

Ensuring Flexibility



Part 2: Context and Process

6 Internal Dynamics: A Right Time for Peace

Ripe Moment for Peace

The Problem of Spoilers

Managing Spoilers

Conclusion: Rethinking Ripeness


7 External Involvement: Opportunities and Constraints

Third Party Involvement: From Military Intervention to Support and Advice

Reaching an Agreement

Implementing the Agreement

Altering Post-Settlement Dynamics

External Spoilers




Dominant Model: Simple Autonomy

Pitfalls: Ambiguity, Lack of Capacity and Lack of Inclusivity

Policy Implications



End User License Agreement



Table of Contents

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To Emma and Sebastian





Copyright © Nina Caspersen 2017

The right of Nina Caspersen to be identified as Author of this Work has been asserted in accordance with the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

First published in 2017 by Polity Press

Polity Press65 Bridge StreetCambridge CB2 1UR, UK

Polity Press350 Main StreetMalden, MA 02148, USA

All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of short passages for the purpose of criticism and review, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.

ISBN-13: 978-1-5095-1569-1

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Caspersen, Nina, 1976- author.Title: Peace agreements : finding solutions to intra-state conflicts / Nina Caspersen.Description: Malden, MA : Polity Press, 2016. | Includes bibliographical references and index.Identifiers: LCCN 2016020511| ISBN 9780745680262 (hardback : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780745680279 (pbk. : alk. paper) | ISBN 9781509515691 (epub) | ISBN 9781509515684 (Mobi)Subjects: LCSH: Peace-building. | Self-determination, National. | Autonomy and independence movements. | Partition, Territorial. | Regionalism. | World politics--1989-Classification: LCC JZ5538 .C375 2016 | DDC 303.6/9--dc23 LC record available at

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Every effort has been made to trace all copyright holders, but if any have been inadvertently overlooked the publisher will be pleased to include any necessary credits in any subsequent reprint or edition.

For further information on Polity, visit our website:


While working on this book I have become indebted to a large number of people. Particular thanks are owed to my colleagues and students in the Department of Politics at the University of York, who provided a stimulating intellectual environment that allowed me to try out some of my initial ideas. The British Academy awarded me a Mid-Career Fellowship which gave me much-needed time for research and writing. I am immensely grateful for this. Polity has been a supportive and patient publisher throughout, and I thank Louise Knight, Nekane Tanaka Galdos and the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments which helped me clarify, improve and shorten my arguments. Finally, I thank my beloved partner Keith for enabling me to finish a book with two small children in the house; this is undoubtedly the biggest debt of them all.



Abyei Boundaries Commission (Sudan)


Assistance and Evaluation Commission (Sudan)


Aceh Monitoring Mission (Indonesia)


Association of Southeast Asian Nations


Chittagong Hill Tracts (Bangladesh)


Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration


Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland)


European Convention of Human Rights


European Court of Human Rights


European Union


Free Aceh Movement (Indonesia)


Croatian Democratic Union (Bosnia)


International Criminal Court


International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia


Internally displaced people


The Implementation Force (Bosnia)


Intergovernmental Authority on Development


International Force for East Timor


Irish Republican Army


The Lord’s Resistance Army (Sudan)


Tamil Tigers (Sri Lanka)


Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (Senegal)


Moro Islamic Liberation Front (the Philippines)


Moro National Liberation Front (the Philippines)


National Congress Party (Sudan)


Organization of the Islamic Conference


Office of the High Representative (Bosnia)


Organization of the Armed Resistance (Niger)


Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe


Palestinian Authority (Israel–Palestine)


United People’s Party of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (Bangladesh)


Palestine Liberation Organization (Israel–Palestine)


Papua New Guinea


Republika Srpska (Bosnia)


Social Democratic and Labour Party (Northern Ireland)


Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army


South Sudan Defence Force


Security sector reform


Single-Transferable Vote (Northern Ireland)


United Nations


National Union for the Total Independence of Angola


United Nations Mission in Sudan


United Nations Observer Mission in Bougainville


Ulster Unionist Party (Northern Ireland)


The announcement of a peace agreement is, with good reason, marked as an important breakthrough: former enemies have managed to put their difference aside and agreed to a negotiated settlement. The popular image of such events is of dark-suited men – and it is almost always men – emerging bleary-eyed from marathon negotiations. The mediators pat them on the back, urging a handshake for the cameras. The public may have been aware that talks were ongoing, but rarely will they have knowledge of what was being discussed. This is only discovered once the agreement is announced. However, interpretations of what has been agreed to often vary wildly, with both sides claiming a victory for their position and hardliners typically denouncing the agreement as a betrayal.

Since the end of the Cold War a significant number of such peace agreements have been reached, including in bloody intra-state conflicts that were previously thought beyond resolution, such as in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Aceh (Indonesia) and Sudan. Some of these peace agreements have displayed a great deal of ingenuity when it comes to engineering compromises and crafting institutions that address both individual aspirations and collective grievances and fears. Territory has been divided, power has been shared, rights have been guaranteed, and these arrangements have in a number of cases crossed state-borders thus addressing the trans-border nature of many of these conflicts. However, as many – if not more – peace processes have failed in the same period. Peace talks have been ongoing but compromise solutions are still eluding the mediators. Decades of negotiations have for example failed to bring a solution to the conflicts in Cyprus, Georgia–Abkhazia and Azerbaijan–Nagorno Karabakh. The solutions proposed in these cases were often similar to the successful agreements, yet either the specific package of mechanisms put forward did not fully address the dynamics of the conflict, or the timing was just not right.

Reaching an agreement is often a formidable challenge, but the challenges involved in making it work are equally daunting, and many agreements do not last. The Oslo Accords for Israel–Palestine quickly ran into problems and were never fully implemented; the General Peace Agreement for Casamance (Senegal) barely got off the ground; while war broke out again in Mindanao (the Philippines) a few years after the signing of the 1996 peace agreement, and it took until 2014 before a new comprehensive agreement was signed. The settlements for Mali and Crimea (Ukraine) both survived for more than a decade. However, war reignited in Mali in 2012 when rebels proclaimed an Islamic state in the northern part of the country. Russian-backed separatists took control over Crimea in 2014 and Russia subsequently annexed the peninsula.

This book explores how post-Cold War peace agreements have addressed issues of territory, security, power and justice. It identifies common trends and common problems: Do these agreements reveal a blueprint for peace, and what can we learn from both their successes and their failures? The analysis focuses on how these different solutions interact with the conflict context and with the specifics of the peace process. Are some solutions for example only feasible in case of moderate divisions or in case of third party involvement? It emphasizes that peace agreements should be analysed as ‘packages’, with a focus on the interaction of their different elements. The content of these agreements matters; for the prospect of reaching a negotiated solution in the first place, for post-settlement stability, and for the quality of the peace that ensues.

A Post-Cold War Package for Peace

Kaldor (2007a) argues that the end of the Cold War saw the increased importance of what she calls ‘new wars’. These are intra-state wars centred on identity politics, they involve non-state actors, are financed through transnational networks, and civilians are the primary targets. While I am unconvinced of the newness of such wars (see Berdal, 2003), we clearly did see an upsurge after the end of the Cold War and the international responses also changed. Firstly, there was a greater international willingness to intervene and an expansion of the remit of peacekeepers. Peacekeeping was no longer just about separating armies; the 1990s and 2000s saw the creation of international missions that aimed to rebuild war-torn states and in a number of cases took over the running of these states until stability was ensured (or this was at least the idea) (see e.g. Bellamy & Williams, 2010; Gutteri & Piombo, 2007). Secondly, the solution proposed by these international interveners came to be described as the ‘liberal peace’. The emphasis was on introducing political and economic reforms and thereby creating (multi-ethnic) democracy and market economy, which was seen as the key to stability. However, this approach has been heavily criticized by the critical peace-building literature for reflecting global power inequalities and for being insensitive to local culture, identity and history (see e.g. Mac Ginty & Richmond, 2013).

This debate has generally focused on the post-settlement period and has largely ignored the agreement that preceded it. Peace agreements tend to be seen simply as ‘contextual or permissive conditions for post-conflict activity’ (Selby, 2013, p. 64). However, other authors have shown greater interest in peace agreements and argue that the tool kit available to mediators has expanded since the end of the Cold War, and more creative and dynamic approaches are now available. Weller (2008, p. 156) argues that we have escaped the ‘self-determination trap’ and that the range of possible solutions to separatist conflicts has been significantly enhanced, while Bell (2008) identifies a rapidly evolving new Law of Peace, which includes both a ‘new law of hybrid self-determination’ and a ‘new law of transitional justice’. But the question is to what extent these solutions are widespread or remain the exception: are we predominantly dealing with creative, liberal agreements? Moreover, we still lack knowledge of the way in which the different elements of an agreement interact and the conditions under which they are likely to succeed.

In the existing conflict resolution literature we find a rich debate on the relative merit of different institutional designs, including autonomy and federalism, and forms of power-sharing (see e.g. Lapidoth, 1996; Reilly, 2001; Roeder & Rothchild, 2005). But these mechanisms tend to be treated separately not analysed as a package (Cordell & Wolff, 2009, p. 138) and the focus is primarily on their impact on long-term stability rather than how they affect the prospect for getting the conflict parties to agree to a settlement in the first place. These questions are addressed in some quantitative studies but, although very valuable, these studies do not provide a detailed analysis of the content of peace agreements. On the issue of territorial autonomy, we are for example often left with a dichotomy: decentralization or no decentralization,1 but this does not fully capture the differences between these agreements and the importance of, sometimes rather subtle, details.

When it comes to peace talks, the tendency in the literature is to focus on the process and the context rather than the content. Zartman’s (2001a) concept of a ‘ripe moment’ for peace has proved hugely influential, and the emphasis when explaining the success or failure of peace talks tends to be on the relative military strength of the two sides, the availability of external support, or the existence of spoilers (see Stedman, 1997). In empirical cases of failed peace talks, the typical argument is similarly that what is needed is a change in the conflict context. The agreement did not fail because of its content; no amount of institutional creativity will resolve the situation. The content of peace agreements is therefore under-analysed – at least if we look at the agreement as a package – and the crucial interaction between content, context and process is rarely subjected to in-depth scrutiny.

This book fills a gap in the literature by providing a comprehensive and systematic analysis of the content of peace agreements and the ways in which this content interacts with the conflict context,2 and the process of the peace talks. In other words, the content of the peace agreement matters: peace is not simply a question of ‘ripeness’, nor can crucial decisions be left to the post-settlement phase, even in case of significant third party involvement. The agreement, the institutions it creates and the actors it empowers, significantly constrains what is possible at a later stage. This book stresses that peace agreements must be viewed as a whole: the different elements interact and this affects both the extent to which different arrangements are acceptable to the conflict parties and the sustainability of the agreement. A full analysis of the effects of different institutional designs, moreover, necessitates an understanding of intra-communal dynamics, including the political contestation and governance capacity found within the separatist movement. This is not usually afforded much attention in existing literature on peace agreements.

The following chapters find that autonomy – usually territoriallyand ethnically-defined – is an overwhelming trend in peace agreements signed in separatist conflicts, while human rights are surprisingly marginal. The illiberal nature of many settlements can in part be explained by the ‘core deal’, and its prioritization of collective rights, but also owes something to the narrowness of the typical peace process and an assumption that such ‘soft concerns’ can be left for later. The agreements demonstrate some ingenuity when it comes to trans-border dimensions, but the dominant, binary, conception of sovereignty and statehood still poses significant constraints and the examples of ‘simple autonomy’ are more numerous. The analysis warns against ‘destructive ambiguity’, exclusive agreements and a lack of sub-state capacity. It suggests that a greater emphasis on intra-communal dynamics and political contestation within conflict parties could help temper the tendency of peace agreements to reflect unduly the narrow interests and perspectives of the negotiating elites. A broadening of the peace process and of the resulting institutional design could result in a more legitimate and therefore more sustainable peace.

Bridging the Gap: Peace Agreements and Case Studies

The book combines a systematic analysis of peace agreements signed in self-determination conflicts after the end of the Cold War with more in-depth case studies and examples. It thereby endeavours to bridge the current gap between quantitative and qualitative studies of peace agreements. The peace agreements have been selected according to two criteria. Firstly, they attempted to find a solution to intra-state conflicts that involved a confrontation between a sovereign independent state and a rebel movement that sought self-rule or outright independence. The self-determination movement is in most cases ethno-nationalist, but there are exceptions, such as the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army in South Sudan. Secondly, they are comprehensive agreements that were signed by major parties in the conflict and aimed to address the underlying causes of the conflict.

The focus is limited to self-determination, or separatist, conflicts in order to make an in-depth analysis manageable and since these conflicts are more directly comparable than other types of intra-state conflicts. It has moreover been argued that although separatist wars are often ‘unending’ and violence tends to reoccur, they more commonly end in negotiated settlements than other types of civil wars (Heraclides, 1997). Finally, by only focusing on self-determination conflicts that all involve a territorial element, it is possible to analyse the interaction between all four types of mechanisms – relating to territory, security, power and justice. Some of the findings will however also have implications for other types of intra-state conflicts, especially since solutions proposed in these conflicts sometimes also include a territorial element, such as a federal model for Syria (Reuters, 2016).

The second criterion, a comprehensive peace agreement, is commonly used in peace agreement datasets.3 My interpretation is however less strict than what is used by, for example, the Peace Accords Matrix. Firstly it allows for some substantive issues to be left for later, as this can be an important negotiation technique that for example proved successful in the case of the Belfast Agreement for Northern Ireland. It also allows for a peace agreement to take the form of an agreed change to the constitution, such as in the case of Ukraine–Crimea. Secondly, all potential ‘spoilers’ are not necessarily included in the agreement: spoilers do not always succeed in undermining an agreement and I am specifically interested in how spoiler activity, and its effectiveness, is influenced by the content of the agreed settlement. But I do require both sides to have accepted the agreement – even if under considerable pressure. The Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement, also known as Ahtisaari’s Plan, is therefore not included, even though it was later implemented by the Kosovo Government. Determining what is, and what is not, a comprehensive agreement is of course not always straightforward. I chose for example to include the very brief Khasavyurt Accord for Chechnya, although it contains very few institutional mechanisms and is deliberately vague on the issue of status. Including this agreement helps me examine possible solutions at the extreme end of the spectrum – in cases where the separatist movement has achieved de facto independence – and the problem of postponing crucial issues.

Finally, unlike most datasets on peace agreements, I also include settlements signed in non-armed conflicts, including Serbia & Montenegro, Moldova–Gagauzia, Ukraine–Crimea and Russia–Tatarstan.4 These conflicts all posed significant challenges to the state and there was a clear potential for violence, as evidenced by later developments or by other separatist conflicts facing the state. Including these agreements allows me to examine the effect of violence, or its absence, on possible solutions.

This results in a list of twenty agreements signed between 1990 and 2010 (see table 0.1). In addition to an in-depth analysis of these main settlements, I also examine any subsequent agreements which added details to the original agreement or included new actors. Such as the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Oslo II, 1995), in the case of Israel–Palestine, and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (2014), in the case of Mindanao–Philippines. Later developments, in particular implementation difficulties, also form a core part of the analysis.

Table 0.1. Twenty Agreements Signed between 1990 and 2010


Main settlement

Bangladesh–Chittagong Hill Tracts

Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accords, 1997


General Framework for Peace/ Dayton Peace Agreement, 1995

Croatia–Eastern Slavonia

Basic Agreement on the Region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium/ Erdut Agreement, 1995


Memorandum of Settlement/ Bodo Accord, 1993

Indonesia–East Timor

Agreement on the Question of East Timor, 1999


Memorandum of Understanding, 2005


Declaration of Principles/ Oslo Accords, 1993


Framework Agreement/ Ohrid Agreement, 2001


National Pact, 1992


Law on the Special Legal Status of Gagauzia, 1994


Agreement Establishing Permanent Peace, 1995

Papua New Guinea–Bougainville

Bougainville Peace Agreement, 2001


Final Peace Agreement, 1996


Treaty on Delimitation of Jurisdictional Subjects and Mutual Delegation of Authority, 1994


Khasavyurt Accord, 1996


General Peace Agreement, 2004


Agreement on Principles/ Belgrade Agreement, 2002

Sudan–South Sudan

Comprehensive Peace Agreement, 2005


Ukraine’s Constitution, 1996

UK–Northern Ireland

Good Friday Agreement/ Belfast Agreement, 1998

This list of agreements tells us two things about separatist conflicts. First of all it points to the surge in these conflicts in the early 1990s, which explains why most of the settlements were concluded in this decade. Secondly, although the list covers a range of different conflict contexts and a wide geographic domain – including cases from Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia – the lack of cases from Latin America is noticeable. This does not reflect an absence of intra-state conflicts or settlements on this continent, but it does reflect an absence of separatist conflicts. I will briefly analyse agreements signed in non-territorial conflicts, including in Latin America, when examining the effect of territorial provisions on issues relating to security, power and human rights, but the focus of this book is on territorial conflicts. The list is intended to be complete, but it is possible that I have left out agreements that others would characterize as comprehensive or that I am missing certain conflicts with a separatist element.5 Intra-state conflicts are fluid: conflicts that were initially about who should govern can acquire a territorial dimension and come to involve the continued existence of the state. However, even if a couple of cases are missing, the list should be comprehensive enough to identify key trends and common problems, and analyse the interaction between different parts of the agreements and the effects of different conflict contexts.

Tabulation is used to provide an overview of these agreements, but this is combined with detailed analysis of their content. This makes the analysis different from existing datasets. For example, I examine the specific form of territorial autonomy (extent, along what lines, how guaranteed?) and the interaction between the different mechanisms. In addition to the analysis of the content of these agreements, a number of failed peace proposals are also scrutinized. These add to the analysis of the effects of the conflict context: what are the limits to different institutional approaches, when do they provide a possible solution? Comprehensive proposals put forward in six cases of self-determination conflicts are examined: Georgia–Abkhazia, Cyprus, Serbia–Kosovo, Azerbaijan–Nagorno Karabakh, Sri Lanka, Morocco–Western Sahara.

The analysis of the content of peace agreements and proposals is combined with more in-depth analysis of specific cases. The purpose of this is to analyse more closely the interaction of the different elements of an agreement and between the peace agreement, the peace process and the conflict context. It will, in other words, allow for a fuller analysis of what explains the failure and success of peace agreements. The case studies draw on extensive research that I have conducted over the years in the Balkans and the Caucasus, but additional examples from other regions will also be included. These examples draw on secondary sources and I have, as far as possible, triangulated any information obtained from these. This did present a challenge with some of the conflicts that have only received limited media and scholarly attention, and a few errors and misapprehensions can therefore likely be found by area specialists. However, I base none of my conclusions on one case only, let alone just one source, so this should not undermine the main thrust of my argument.

Evaluating Success and Failure

Any attempt to evaluate peace agreements should ideally make use of fairly well-defined success criteria. All the twenty agreements are successful in the short-term in the sense that it was possible to get major parties to agree to them. An additional success criterion commonly used is that they have lasted for five or ten years. Both of these will be referred to in the analysis. However, it is not always clear what it means for an agreement to have lasted. It may be fairly clear that an agreement has collapsed if full-scale war breaks out anew, but what if significant provisions were not implemented, or if only some factions continued their violent campaign? Hartzell and Hoddie (2007, p. 137) describe the 1996 peace agreement for Mindanao as a success, since hostilities between the Philippine Government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) did not reignite. I would however characterize it as a failure since the strongest armed faction, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), was not included, several provisions were left unimplemented, and war broke out again in 2000 (see e.g. International Crisis Group, 2013a). The 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accords is even more difficult to classify; most observers agree that significant parts of the agreement have never been implemented, but although tensions remain and violence occasionally flares up, the separatist conflict has not reignited (see e.g. Fortna, 2008). Another problem is deciding at what point an agreement fails. It is for example hard to find anyone who would argue that the Oslo Accords for Israel–Palestine were successful, but at what point did they fail: was it when key provisions were left unimplemented, when Rabin was assassinated and Netanyahu was elected new Israeli prime minister, when Hamas launched a series of suicide bombings in Israel, or was it not until the collapse of the Camp David talks in 2000 and the outbreak of the Second Intifada? Did it therefore pass the five-year threshold, or not? It is consequently difficult to decide on clear-cut criteria for success, and for failure. This is made even more difficult by the post-settlement violence that characterizes many cases but does not necessarily spell the end of an agreement.

The benefit of not doing a large-N study is that it allows for a more nuanced analysis. The specific threshold is not crucial, nor are binary understandings of success and failure. I am interested in institutional provisions that lead to tension, and sometimes violence, and also in the quality of the peace that results; not simply in whether an agreement makes it past an arbitrary threshold. An agreement may survive despite significant tensions, but these tensions still hold important lessons for the effects of different provisions. Moreover, some agreements that did make it past the ten-year mark eventually broke down, which suggests that they did not succeed in addressing the underlying causes of the conflict. The kind of regime that results from the agreement is another important concern: have they ensured ‘good enough governance’, which some authors argue we should settle for, or have they managed to achieve a ‘legitimate peace’ which is supported both horizontally and vertically (Themner & Ohlson, 2014)? This matters for the longer-term sustainability of the agreement and it matters for the conditions faced by the civilian population. Finally, it should be noted that secession will not be considered a failure if the agreement allows for the break-up of the state and the separation does not result in the outbreak of widespread violence. The purpose of a peace agreement is to ensure peace, not the continued existence of the state.

A Word on Terminology

In the analysis I tend to refer to either ‘self-determination conflict’ or ‘separatist conflict’ and I use ‘separatist forces’ and ‘rebel forces’ interchangeably. The term separatist does come with negative con-notations; it is used by central governments to suggest a lack of legitimacy and even illegality. It is therefore unsurprising that the self-proclaimed authorities (another value-laden term) in Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine declared: ‘we are not separatists’ (Walker, 2014) and prefer to be known as rebels. I therefore agonized over whether or not to use this term and use it without any value judgement implied. Linguistically, ‘separatist’ often works better as an adjective than ‘self-determination’ and ‘rebel’ can suggest that what is at stake in the conflict is the nature of the government. And these forces are of course separatist in the sense that they are trying to separate from the central government and achieve at least extensive self-rule.

Plan of the Book

The first part of the book examines the content of the agreements. It analyses how they have addressed contentious issues relating to territory, security, power and justice; discusses advantages and disadvantages of these approaches; examines how these mechanisms are affected by the conflict context, such as the degree of violence experienced; and finally analyses how the different mechanisms interact. Chapter 1 focuses on territory and finds that autonomy is clearly the dominant solution, even if this is sometimes an interim solution and may include attempts to fudge sovereignty. Such attempts are constrained however by dominant conceptions of sovereignty. Chapter 2 examines security provisions found in the agreements; it argues that rather than a centralized monopoly of force, which is typically recommended in the literature, we find complex compromises and frequent creation of autonomous coercive forces. Legitimacy as well as effectiveness matters and this helps address the commitment problem often emphasized in the literature, and helps explain why a robust third party guarantee is not always needed. Chapter 3 focuses on power and finds that (political) power-sharing is much less frequent than we might expect; instead what we see is territorial and military power-sharing. It discusses the limitations of the dominant power-sharing approaches and suggests that a hybrid model may provide a way forward, although this does necessitate third party involvement. Chapter 4 examines if the ‘core deal’ found in these agreements, with its emphasis on territorial autonomy and rights for the dominant groups, leaves any space for justice and rights for individuals and non-dominant groups. It finds that human rights are much less emphasized than what the ‘liberal peace’ literature would lead us to believe; these agreements may be written in the language of human rights but are lacking in substance. Chapter 5 sums up this analysis and asks if we can identify a post-Cold War blueprint for peace. It argues that there are commonalities but the agreements also respond to the conflict context and we are therefore at most dealing with blueprints, in plural. The chapter emphasizes the importance of viewing agreements as a package, when examining the effect of specific provisions; the sometimes destructive impact of ambiguity; the importance of intra-communal dynamics and sub-state capacity; and the difficulty of moving beyond the initial agreement.

The second part of the book focuses on the interaction between the conflict context, the peace process and the content of the peace agreement. Chapter 6 addresses the internal dynamics of the conflict: the balance of power between the two sides and the intra-communal balance between hardliners and moderates. It stresses that both ripeness and the existence of (effective) spoilers are, at least in part, a product of the peace process and the content of the agreement, and proposes an enriched concept of ripeness, which takes into account intra-communal dynamics and is focused on the sustainability of a negotiated settlement. Chapter 7 examines the external side of the equation and discusses the effect of third party involvement. It emphasizes the positive contribution that third parties can make, even if the involvement is not ‘robust’. But there are clear limitations and one of the main constraints is the content of the settlement. The conclusion summarizes the findings and discusses policy implications.



. See for example the oft-used UCDP Peace Agreement Dataset v. 2.0, 1975–2011,


. For a similar analytical framework, see Wolff (2011).


. See for example the Peace Accords Matrix,

and the UCDP Peace Agreement Dataset,

. Bell (2000, p. 25) uses the term ‘framework or substantive agreement’ to refer to essentially the same type of agreement.


. This is more similar to the Minorities at Risk Project (2009) whose database also includes arrangements established in non-armed conflicts.


. I have not included the 1991 Ethiopian Transitional Period Charter, since it does not specifically mention Eritrea, even if it did pave the way for its independence. I have also not included the 2003 Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period (TAL) or Iraq’s 2005 Constitution. It contains similar mechanisms to the peace agreements listed above, but the main driving force was not a separatist conflict, even if it did address largely undeclared separatist sentiments in Kurdistan. However, I do make a reference to this case in chapter 3.

Part 1Content


Self-determination conflicts are above all about territory. Even if they do not involve an outright demand for independence, but simply for internal self-rule, the demands made and the rights they invoke are either directly or indirectly linked to territory. Questions such as ‘Whose homeland is it?’ and ‘Who has the right to govern this territory?’ fuel these conflicts and are used to mobilize popular support. In the case of Crimea, Sasse (2002, p. 3) points out that the territory ‘had multiple ethnic claims to it, all of which were plausibly historically grounded’. Even conflicts that are not initially about territory, but rather about the nature of the regime, can take on a territorial dimension. Rebels may abandon the idea of reforming the joint state and may indeed see the potential, for their community and for themselves, in having a separate state. The Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) for decades fought for the creation of a reformed ‘New Sudan’ and only later came to demand an independent South Sudan (see e.g. Rolandsen, 2011).

The importance of a territory does not depend simply on its material value. Territory is symbolically important as the home of the imagined community. As Toft puts it, ‘no matter how barren, no territory is worthless if it is a homeland’ (2003, p. 1) and even barren territories can become the object of intense, violent struggles. For the central government, one of the main concerns is to maintain the (de jure) territorial integrity of the state and ensure that no territory is beyond their control. Territory goes to the heart of statehood; it matters both for legitimacy and identity, and for security and political power. If a group controls its own territory it is much more likely to feel secure, especially following a bloody intra-state war, and control of territory comes with power; this provides guarantees for the group as a whole and significant privileges for its leaders. It is therefore unsurprising that territory is one of the most contentious issues in peace talks, and the territorial solution agreed on significantly impacts on other parts of the peace agreement.

The International Community has generally promoted solutions that maintain the existing state, and although there have been some movements towards negotiated secessions in particularly protracted conflicts, the preferred option remains for self-determination to be realized through various forms of autonomy arrangements. The merits of autonomy are however contested. Proponents argue that autonomy offers a viable compromise between demands for separate statehood and for a unitary state (Ghai, 2008, p. 245). Critics however see it as an unstable solution which empowers separatist forces and risks causing the break-up of the state (see e.g. Roeder, 2009).

This chapter analyses post-Cold War trends in territorial solutions and identifies common problems encountered in the twenty cases. The analysis focuses on how these territorial solutions interact with the external and internal context, including dynamics and competition within the communities. It focuses particularly on the position of the separatist movement, which is often under-analysed in the existing literature. It finds that autonomy is at the core of almost all the peace agreements, either as a permanent or an interim solution. Somewhat surprisingly, these agreements typically do not include power-sharing provisions and the dominant model can be described as ‘simple autonomy’. The overall track record is better than argued by the critics of autonomy, but the specific form of autonomy is crucial and the chapter points to two under-analysed factors that have led to serious tensions and even the collapse of settlements: the capacity of the autonomous territories and the ambiguity of autonomy provisions, especially in relation to the delineation of internal borders and the extent of autonomy. When it comes to the survival of autonomy arrangements, the devil is in the detail. The chapter finds only limited support for Bell’s (2008) argument that we are witnessing the emergence of a ‘new law of hybrid self-determination’. Although we do find some attempts to blur sovereignty, including trans-border dimensions and postponed independence referenda, the fudging of sovereignty is extremely difficult to sell to the parties and to implement. It will be interpreted in terms of centralization or secession. This is compounded by the prevailing dichotomous view of sovereignty: you are either sovereign or you are not; sovereignty cannot be divided, it cannot be shared. ‘Simple autonomy’ does not require the state to be fundamentally redefined and the fudging of sovereignty is limited, but it does address many of the demands made by separatist leaders. This helps explain its popularity, but also points to its limitations.

The Popularity of ‘Ethnic Autonomy’

Wolff observes that ‘territorial self-governance has been included in a very significant number of actual and proposed settlements’ (2009, p. 28). Roeder agrees that ‘ethnofederalism’, in which the constituent units are homelands for ethnic minorities, is now embraced with enthusiasm as a solution to intra-state conflicts (2009, p. 204). He points to calls for a federation of autonomous ethnic regions in Iraq; the Boden plan for Abkhazia, which suggested making Abkhazia ‘a sovereign entity … within the State of Georgia’; and the ‘Dual federation’ once suggested for Nagorno Karabakh, which would have linked the disputed entity to both its de jure parent state, Azerbaijan, and its kin-state, Armenia (ibid., pp. 203–4). More recently, a federal solution has been mooted for Syria (Reuters, 2016) and extended autonomy for Eastern Ukraine is also envisaged in the vague, and as yet unimplemented, Minsk II Accord (Sasse, 2016).

Why is territorial self-governance, in its various forms, such a popular response to separatist conflicts? As Wolff points out, the rationale is that it allows ‘the different segments of diverse societies to realize their aspirations for self-determination while simultaneously preserving the overall social and territorial integrity of existing states’ (2009, p. 28). Ghai (2008, p. 245) similarly argues that autonomy constitutes a mid-point of competing claims; that of separate statehood and a unitary state. It therefore presents a possible compromise in a situation where compromises are hard to come by and where zero-sum rhetoric dominates. For the separatist movement it offers self-rule and a degree of protection against the central government. For the central government it ensures the survival of the state within its existing border. This is particularly important in states with more than one potential separatist region. Autonomy may reduce the level of control exercised by the leaders of the central government, but it does not significantly undermine their power and privileges.

Autonomy, moreover, covers a variety of solutions. At one extreme, we find cultural autonomy which affords minorities self-rule over education, media and cultural affairs. Cultural autonomy does not have to be territorial and it does not come with wider legislative, executive and judicial powers. At the other extreme, we find solutions that maintain only on paper the sovereignty of the central government over the disputed territory. For all intents and purposes the autonomous region acts as an independent state with its own parliament, government, courts and security forces. In between these extremes we find various degrees of territorial self-rule; the extent of exclusive powers varies and the degree to which the arrangement is guaranteed for the future also varies. In some cases self-rule is combined with shared rule, for example in a federal system, whereas in other cases the ties to the centre are minimal. It is therefore not a blueprint as such, and as a solution it is clearly adaptable to the conflict situation (Hannum, 2004, p. 275).6

Its proponents may concede that autonomy, especially in the form of ethnic federalism, has a ‘terrible track record’ (Snyder, 2000, p. 327), but they counter that the major federal failures, such as the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, were largely ‘sham or pseudofederations’ which therefore provide limited lessons for today’s mediators (McGarry & O’Leary, 2009, p. 9). The very idea of solving intra-state conflicts by giving autonomy to separatist groups has however been strongly criticized as a misguided and dangerous strategy. Roeder (2009, p. 206) argues that ethnic federalism or autonomy is ‘particularly imprudent after civil wars’ and Lake and Rothchild (2005, p. 112) find that ‘warring factions have never realized full political decentralization along territorial lines as part of a civil war settlement’ between 1945 and 1999. Ethnically-defined autonomy is criticized for reifying divisions; instead of addressing the divides that caused the conflict, it actually exacerbates them. As Erk and Anderson (2009, p. 192) point out, the paradox of group recognition is that it ‘perpetuates the very divisions that it aims to manage’. But not only that, it also creates proto-states which reduces the cost of secession, thereby making it a realistic option (ibid.). Roeder (2009, pp. 212–13) similarly argues that the ‘balance of coercive and defensive capabilities is likely to shift to the advantage of the secessionists’ and they can therefore force deadlock. Ethnic autonomy traps politics ‘between two perils – centralization and dissolution – with no stable equilibrium between these two extremes’ (ibid., p. 208). The resulting system will therefore be unstable with constant attempts to move it either closer to secession or closer to recentralization, with the accompanying creation of mistrust and risk of renewed violence.

But autonomy can mean different things and be more suited to some situations than others. The question is if it is possible to construct successful autonomy arrangements that respond to and address the dynamics of specific conflicts. According to Roeder, the problem is with the ethnic basis of the system, not with the specific institutional design. However, a number of authors suggest that we have to look at different types of autonomy and the conditions under which they risk exacerbating the conflict (see e.g. Bakke, 2015; Brown, 2009; Cederman et al., 2015; McGarry & O’Leary, 2009; Wolff, 2011).

Autonomy Trends

The preference for autonomy arrangements is clearly pronounced; the large majority of the peace agreements analysed in this book include some form of autonomy and this is in most cases territorially defined (see table 1.1): of the twenty agreements, nineteen offer some form of autonomy. Even agreements that include provisions for an independence referendum, have autonomy arrangements in the interim period (Bougainville, Montenegro, South Sudan) or autonomy is one of the choices available to voters in the referendum (East Timor). The only exception is Senegal’s 2004 General Peace Agreement, which does not include any form of territorial self-government for the region of Casamance, or any non-territorial autonomy. This agreement however failed to ensure peace. Two agreements only include non-territorial autonomy. The 1995 Erdut Agreement which reintegrated Eastern Slavonia into Croatia offered only cultural autonomy to the Croatian Serbs.7 But this was essentially a capitulation: the Serb statelet Republika Srpska Krajina had collapsed and the local Serb leaders had very limited bargaining power. The more moderate faction which had become dominant consequently insisted that they were not asking for political autonomy, ‘that is in the past, a finished matter’ (Hedl, 1997, p. 18). The 1998 Belfast Agreement for Northern Ireland also provides only cultural autonomy within Northern Ireland, which can be explained by the lack of territorial concentration of the two communities. But Northern Ireland itself enjoys a significant level of autonomy within the United Kingdom.

Non-Federal Autonomy

While the popularity of autonomy seems unabated, what we may be witnessing is the death of federalism as a solution to intra-state conflicts (see also Weller, 2008, p. 145). If a federation is understood to include a bicameral legislature, with the second chamber representing the regional units, and a constitutionally guaranteed distribution of power between the two (or more) levels of government (Keil, 2013, pp. 14–15), then there are only two examples of new federations and one of these even departs from the federal model in important ways. The Dayton Agreement for Bosnia created a federation of two entities, while Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement created a complex asymmetric federation with southern Sudan as a ‘federal type entity’ with ten states, its own constitution, institutions and legislation (Weller, 2005a, p. 169).8 However the arrangements for southern Sudan were expressly designated as an ‘autonomy’ arrangement, thereby maintaining – at least on paper – Sudan as a unitary state, and the southern Sudan entity was not matched by a second unit (the North) (ibid.). In addition two agreements were based on existing federal systems: Serbia & Montenegro’s Belgrade Agreement and the Treaty between Russia and Tatarstan.9

The recognition of federal republics from the former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union as independent states has set a precedent in international law that appears to have made central governments wary of this solution. In the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the separatist forces along with their backers in Moscow are demanding federalization (Goncharenko, 2014), but some clearly view this as a step towards independence, or indeed unification with Russia. The Government in Kiev on its part has strongly opposed a federal solution, with President Poroschenko describing it as ‘tantamount to breaking apart the country’ (Herszenhorn, 2015). Kiev instead prefers to talk about autonomy and decentralization (Goncharenko, 2014), although even this is severely contested (Sasse, 2016). In the cases of Sudan and Serbia & Montenegro, the threat of secession made little difference as the right to independence had already been recognized, while the continued territorial integrity of Bosnia was guaranteed by the international presence. The landlocked position of Tatarstan made secession an unlikely prospect, the federal system was already in place, and the Russian Government had in any case demonstrated in Chechnya how it would respond to renewed separatist threats. This helps explain why federations were still adopted in these cases. The Annan Plan for Cyprus, with its proposed federation of two constituent states, would therefore appear to be going against the grain, but this structure has so far not proved acceptable to the Greek Cypriot side who complain that too many Turkish demands are conceded, for too little in return (International Crisis Group, 2005a, p. 6).

An additional problem with (new) federal solutions is that they entail the reorganization of the entire state and the central government may therefore fear further fragmentation. This was one of the reasons for the Indonesian Government’s insistence in the Aceh peace talks on maintaining a unitary state (Stepan, 2013, p. 241). A compromise solution was modelled on the Åland Islands in Finland and offered the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) extensive autonomy that could not be altered unilaterally,10 but allowed the unitary Indonesian state to be maintained (Stepan, 2013). As will be further discussed below, the problem with autonomy arrangements, however, is that implementation often falls short and the asymmetrical structure offers little recourse.

Simple, Ethnic Autonomy