Peace enforcement – the rebirth of a difficult term


Welcome back!

For quite some time, at least for the past 20 years, the term ‘peace enforcement’ has been largely left out of the conflict resolution debate. Understandably, it is difficult to define what it exactly is, and once we know what it entails, it may not sit comfortably with the conflict resolution adept in terms of ethical boundaries and the Do No Harm approach.

The debate is still hot, especially with new wicked problems, the multitude of war and peace actors, the diminishing projected power of the few stalwarts of intelligence technology and the rise of non-state armed actors sitting at the negotiating table. The conflicts in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq/Syria speak for themselves and the debates among mediators has not been fruitful as to which approaches or policies to adopt. Some argue for the mediator being the guarantor for ceasing the violence, while others argue that mediators need to be capable of projecting real peace building value, incl. human rights and justice.

I remembered a time during the early nineties, when I was myself involved in UNOSOM, UNPROFOR, IFOR even, when peace enforcement was the recurring concept before making use of a new term, emerging with the failures of UNAMIR in Rwanda, which is the R2P-concept. At that point, peace enforcement was largely understood as a concept of operations that involves a combination of political strategy and the use of military command and control capacities. Subsequently, and certainly after the Dayton agreement of 1996, the concept of peace enforcement was morphed into the notions of conflict containment, settlement and management. And then, it largely faded away, only to resurface again since the Taliban are advancing again in Afghanistan and ISIS has installed its caliphate. In the past 2 months, the concept of peace enforcement is now largely used in scholarly work and intelligence strategists openly discuss the term.

While I trust that the ethical philosophies of Do No Harm and Do Maximum Good are still valid paradigms for nowadays mediators, I also believe that mediators need to refocus their attention to wicked and complex problems in conflict zones. Training and knowledge sharing needs to be adapted to new realities. The canon of the past 30 years, largely confining mediators to binaries (although there is mounting research on multi-party dimensions), is still being applied to mediation trainings with a focus on ideological root causes of conflict, models of ripeness, and problem-solving approaches that, increasingly, do not work in current contexts.

Some solutions and suggestions:

More immersion in wicked problems, more trained women, better understanding of the conflict transformation spectrum, more financial contribution to peace building contexts, better linkages between peacemaking and peace enforcement efforts, better coordination between mediation actors and military actors, and cohesive strategies based on political analysis and conflict prevention programming is needed. The old term ‘conflict resolution’ may have to be questioned in its validity and new discourses with the young people need to be included in the discussions.

The world has already been changing for quite some time now, but it is apparent that mediators are stuck in the old ways of binary diplomacy and Two-Powers-narrative.

We need a new crop of seasoned mediators, and I hope that the conversation will start sooner than later.



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Political mediation – working on a new book

Dear reader.

Welcome back! And welcome to a new year of adventures, insights, and harnessed difficulties.

Since the calls have multiplied themselves to the point that I can no longer ignore them, I have decided to launch myself into a new venture: the publication of a book on political mediation. Though I will be leaving out the name of the publisher and the date of the launch, I can share that it is close to a peer-reviewed process.

It is supposed to place itself in the category of action learning, thereby increasing the availability of books in the field of mediation and international relations that link the personal experiences to a body of literature and qualitative research. Thus, it will be accessible for professionals and students alike, while not entirely leaving out some relevant domains of research and future scenarios.

I am excited about the opportunity and I will keep you abreast of the developments as soon as something tangible is coming your way.

All the best,


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The UN Peacebuilding Fund

Welcome back.

I wanted to share with you an interesting institutionalized funding mechanism to assist on special missions and occasions.

The United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) is currently supporting more than two hundred projects in 27 countries by delivering fast, flexible and relevant funding. Countries on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) receive funding. Countries that are not on the PBC agenda may also receive funding, following a declaration of eligibility by the Secretary-General.
The PBF allocates money through two funding facilities, the Immediate Response Facility (IRF) and the Peacebuilding Recovery Facility (PRF). Both facilities fund initiatives that respond to one or more of the following four criteria:
Respond to imminent threats to the peace process and initiatives that support peace agreements and political dialogue
Build or strengthen national capacities to promote coexistence and peaceful resolution of conflict
Stimulate economic revitalization to general peace dividends
Re-establish essential administrative services
The PBF is managed, on behalf of the United Nations Secretary-General, by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, supported by the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO). The UNDP Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office (MPTF Office) is the PBF fund administrator.
The PBF relies upon voluntary contributions from Member States, organizations and individuals.

More on the PBF, please click UN PBF

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Syria: Beyond war, a new concept of peace

Dear Reader.

Good to see that you are checking back in with me. It has been quite some time since my last blog entry, yet the time wasn’t wasted – rather, it was spent on observing, reflecting, and formulating new thoughts on how to see peace.

This curiosity for a new concept of peace comes from the bleak score sheet when it comes to donor and diplomacy driven peace processes. If you really take a closer look at it, it seems that the prevailing discourse is to see peace as a singular event or endeavor, which takes either place on the local, small scale level (argued by many peace building scholars and the liberal haute volee of the peace building community) or it can only be achieved as a whole package, whereby the dividing notion is that to transit from ‘negative peace’ to ‘positive peace’. Developed by Johan Galtung, the ‘father’ of Peace Studies, ‘positive peace’ is the absence of structural violence, i.e. social structures with life-shortening consequences. Established in 1958, the thought has been widened 20 years later by adding a third notion, the concept of ‘cultural violence. i.e. the ideas used to legitimize both direct and structural violence. Positive peace, Galtung (1996) now argues, is the absence of both structural and cultural violence. Ironically though, even in Galtung’s ‘positive peace’, peace is defined by what it is not.

Then, we find the technocratic definitions of peace, reflected in policy papers and briefs, and squeezed into language bubbles formulated by diplomats, reducing peace to a simple equation of liberal measures and evidence-based products. Others argue that peace can only be achieved on the small scale of the local, while another cohort seeks to add peace writ large, which encompasses the state as the ultimate peace infrastructure.

With McConnell, F., & Williams, P. (Critical geographies of peace. Antipode, in press, doi:10. 1016/j.geoforum.2011.01.007), I would also like to introduce the idea of ‘peace in spaces’, i.e. how peace is differentially constructed, materialized and interpreted through space and time.

Williams and McConnell (in press) “propose a more expansive and critical focus around ‘peace-full’ concepts such as tolerance, friendship, hope, reconciliation, justice, humanitarianism, cosmopolitanism, resistance, solidarity, hospitality, care and empathy”. But do these words stand in for peace?

Especially the horrendous case of the war in Syria pushes us to think about new concepts of peace, because the old thoughts and ontologies certainly didn’t work nor yield any substantive results. Peace therefore is not just ‘not-war’, but more than that. Peace, meanwhile, can be experienced as both intimate and global. Peace can be created at an individual, family, neighborhood, community, and other scales, and using the term can foster seeing these scales as intertwined and mutually constitutive.

Thus, we need to take into account the different discourses and actions of peacemaking rather than peace building and we need to understand and invite a range of experts to allow for new thoughts on peace to be developed. Syria will need it, beyond the riff raff and Turkish bazaar style negotiations that are ensuing upon UNSCR 2254. Syria has shown us that locally negotiated peace agreements can hold and can be valid. Now it is up to the communities to take care of not falling into the ethnicity trap or Balkanization of the territory. Those working on the peacemaking front have an immense responsibility toward the dead, the displaced and the damaged but still living people to make this work, to initiate a contact group consisting of donors, allied and coalition forces and NGOS, and to bring in those facilitators who have always and will always work on the frontier of peace.

And, some reading material, if you like:

Agnew, J. (2009). Killing for cause? Geographies of war and peace. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 99(5), 1054e1059.

Agnew, J., Mitchell, K., & Toal, G. (Eds.). (2007). A companion to political geography. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Cuéllar, J., & Cho, Y.-S. (Eds.). (1999). World encyclopedia of peace. New York: Oceana Publications.

Dietrich, W., & Sützl, W. (1997). A call for many peaces. Burg Schlaining, Austria: Peace Center.

Foucault, M. (2003). “Society must be defended”: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975e1976. New York: Picador.

Gallaher, C., Dahlman, C., Gilmartin, M., Mountz, A., & Shirlow, P. (2008). Key concepts in political geography. Los Angeles: Sage.

Galtung, J. (1996). Peace by peaceful means: Peace and conflict, development and civilization. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Goetschel, L., & Hagmann, T. (2009). Civilian peacebuilding: peace by bureaucratic means? Conflict, Security & Development, 9(1), 55e73.

Gregory, D. (2010). War and peace. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 35(2), 154e186.

Groff, L. (2010). Evolving views of peace. In N. Young (Ed.), Oxford international encyclopedia of peace. New York: Oxford . entry=t296.e241 Accessed 13.05.11.

Haraway, D. (1992). The promises of monsters. In L. Grossberg, C. Nelson, & P. Treichler (Eds.), Cultural studies (pp. 295e337). London: Routledge.

Holloway, S., Rice, S., & Valentine, G. (Eds.). (2003). Key concepts in geography. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Katz, C. (2001). Vagabond capitalism and the necessity of social reproduction. Antipode, 33(4), 709e728.

Koopman, S. (2011). Alter-geopolitics: other securities are happening. Geoforum, . Kurtz, L. (Ed.). (2008). Encyclopedia of violence, peace. Conflict: AeF. Oxford: Elsevier.

McConnell, F., & Williams, P. Critical geographies of peace. Antipode, in press, doi:10. 1016/j.geoforum.2011.01.007.

Ó Tuathail, G., Dalby, S., & Routledge, P. (Eds.). (2006). The geopolitics reader (2nd ed.). New York; London: Routledge.

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Press article, O Globo, August 24th, 2015 – Page 2

Dear reader.

Today, I made it into Rio’s press:

It is a brief interview about my work and about the trade of being a mediator! And enjoy the flowers!

See you soon!

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LL#2 – The Darfur and Doha Peace Talks 2009 – 2014

Dear reader.

Good to have you back.

Today, let us take a brief look at the follow-up to the failed Darfur Peace Agreement (2006) and the Doha Document for Peace (2009-2011).

Background: Based on an initiative pushed by Qatar in 2010, the leaders of the major movements went to Doha for ceasefire talks[1]. Negotiators for most of the movements are in Doha, Qatar, for peace negotiations that are mediated jointly by the UN/AU. However, a key movement, SLM/A-Wahid is not participating, while the JEM pulled out in May 2010 despite signing a ceasefire agreement with GoS in March 2010[2].

In 2014, both the UN under UN Special Representative of the Secretary General, Haile Menkerios, and the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), under the leadership of President Thabo Mbeki have attempted to revive the Doha process[3] and to unite the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF)[4] in order to proceed to a first cease-fire agreement.

Process: In 2009, the Doha talks began mediated by the AU/UN Joint Mediation Support Team (JMST) chaired by Ambassador Djibril Bassole, former foreign minister of Burkina Faso. Initially Bassole invited only the JEM; other rebel groups were allowed to join later, with some initially refusing because of the venue in an Arab state. By 2011, most of the secular rebel groups had also joined. Libya and the U.S. also held meetings with the rebel groups, the outcome of which was the unification of the groups previously associated with the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM). In July 2009, talks began between the JEM and the GoS at Doha. These talks led to trust-building agreements that were not honored. Shortly after these rounds of talk, bombing and fighting broke out in 2010 in Darfur. The humanitarian situation continued to decline as the number of IDP’s rose and food shortages increased. Then in January 2011, the government looked to strengthen its hand by negotiating with a new rebel group, the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) led by Tigani Seisi, former governor of Darfur. At the talks held in Doha were also Thabo Mbeki, Djibril Bassoule and Scott Gration. These talks were seen by the other main Darfur rebel groups – the JEM and SLA – to be an attempt to divide and weekend Darfurian opposition and leaders of both groups spoke out against the talks, most notably on a visit to Juba to gain recognition from the Government of South Sudan. This in turn made the Government of Sudan fear that the SPLM might support the Darfur rebels .However, a draft agreement was signed by LJM and the GoS in January 2011. This was followed by a joint statement by the JEM and LJM reiterating their commitment to the Doha peace process. The Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdel Wahid did not participate .

Context: The pressure exerted by mediators and international actors on the parties at the Doha peace process was much softer than at the Abuja talks that led to the DPA. The focus at Doha was on building trust between the two parties and the mediators worked to make sure the environment was a safe space for that trust to be built. The mediators also did not draft a document to impose on the other parties as had happened at Abuja as the deadline drew near. Instead, mediators drafted initial documents in 2011 that were sent back and forth to all parties, ultimately resulting in a draft peace agreement in June 2011. However, even though the mediators focused on making the process inclusive and uniting the rebel groups, the JEM refused to sign this peace agreement, which became known as the DPA 2011. The AUHIP also initiated a Darfur Political Process with the goal of conducting Darfur-wide consultations leading up to a Darfur conference to draft a permanent settlement. The process was meant to come up with a settlement that had the mandate of the people because arriving at an inclusive peace process with all armed groups (the aim of Doha) proved very difficult. The lack of local support for the DPA could also have been a motivation for devising a process of canvassing Darfurians about the peace process. The DPP was not meant to overrule Doha or distract from it, and the Doha negotiations continued to focus on arriving at an agreement that would be accepted by all armed groups.

Outcome: On January 15th 2011, the AUHIP, Sudan, the United States, and the UNAMID held a meeting chaired by Mbeki. According to a statement released by the AUIP, the four parties discussed how to expedite the Darfur Political Process and move into the Darfur conference. The parties decided to initiate a Darfur Political Process on the ground to be carried out by the AUHIP and UNAMID In April the AUHIP met again to discuss the Darfur Political Process and concluded that it should begin on May 1, “in a manner concurrent with and complimentary to the Doha talks.”

To this day, this initiative has not succeeded in producing a sustainable outcome and durable peace.

[1], accessed August 6th, 2015

[2] For a critical appreciation of the Doha process, see Williams and Simpson, 2011, 41 ff

[3], accessed August 2nd, 2015

[4] The Sudanese Revolutionary Front is a composite of 3 main armed groups: SLA/Minni Minawi, SLA/Wahid, and JEM.

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LL#1 – The 1996 Guatemala Peace Accords

Dear reader.

Good to have you back for our first Lesson Learned. This time, we are looking at the milestones of the 1996 Guatemala Peace Accords.

The negotiations for the Peace Accords were remarkable in the sense that the negotiating parties agreed on a complex agenda which also included the sincere and honest undertaking to address the underlying root causes of the conflict. The agenda entailed a range of themes and topics, from security sector reform, agrarian reform and the role of indigenous people and their cultural identity in a democratic society. Through a first agreement (Agreement on the Procedure for the Search of Peace with Political Means, Mexico, April 26 1991), parties decided on the content of the agenda. substantive issues first (democracy; human rights; refugees; truth commission; indigenous rights; economic, social and agrarian situation; role of the army; strengthening of civil authorities and institutions; constitutional reforms) and procedural issues afterwards (cease fire, demobilization of the insurgents and their rejoining of legal life). They also agreed in the nature of functions to be fulfilled by the mediator (called “conciliator”) Monsignor Rodolfo Quezada Toruño and those of the UN observer. While the parties agreed on defining the terms of democracy and the role of the rule of law (Agreement of Queretaro, Mexico, July 25 1991), the negotiating parties fell into a 2-year negotiation deadlock, mainly due to internal governance issues, the clinging on to power by spoilers from the military and further human rights abuses which posed a predicament to all parties involved. In 1994, parties resumed talks with the UN as the moderator of the talks and with the previous conciliator, Monsignor Quezada as the Go-To person to interact between the negotiation parties and Civil Society through the ASC (Framework Agreement to Resume the Negotiations between the Government of Guatemala and UNRG, Mexico, January 10 1994). Another innovation of the Framework Agreement is the decision to call upon the governments of Colombia, Spain, the United States, Mexico, Norway and Venezuela in order to constitute a “group of friends” of the Guatemalan peace process with the aim to give the necessary support to the UN moderator in view to speed up the process and to give it “security and firmness,” acting -at request of the parties- as “witnesses of honour” at the signature of the agreements, which -by the way -they did only at the signature of the final peace agreement held in Guatemala City last 29 of December, 1996. Following the Calendar Agreement (March 1994), parties engaged in comprehensive talks to tackle the first set of identified, substantive issues. The negotiation of this accord took more than two years and it provoked -along with the attempt of a coup d’ état by former president Jorge Serrano in May 1993- the paralyzation of the negotiations for almost six months in 1993. It also calls for the UN verification of the provisions and clauses of the Agreement, that allowed the installment since November 1994 of the UN mission for Guatemala, called MINUGUA. Following a range of other substantive and procedural accords, the final Peace Accord was signed in Guatemala City in December 1996 (Accord for a Firm and Lasting Peace, Guatemala City, December 29 1996). The Central American case of Guatemala clearly demonstrates that UN intervention in internal armed conflicts both as mediator and as monitor of the peace accords in order to verify the fulfillment of the agreements is a fundamental role of the UN that, as we have already mentioned, must be enhanced and promoted in the future. In other words, peace making – peace through negotiation and mediation- and peace building –peace through development and democratization- must be emphasized in internal armed conflict resolution.

The case also emphasizes the need to properly understand and map out the conflict dynamics and structures taking place at the state level in order to allow for the state to rethink its role as a guarantor of security and the enabler of a conducive peace building environment. Furthermore, the innovative regional cooperation and the range of agreements brought about an effective conflict prevention mechanism, ensure the protection and rights of the indigenous minorities and populations. Finally, special attention must be given to power-sharing arrangements if the analysis of the conflict reveals that at the core of the conflict it has been the contested space and power of the state in the first place. Without addressing these issues at the state level, institution-building will rather be ineffective in the sense that actual peace dividends and benefits are not felt.

Thank you for checking in today!

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