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Beyond the absence of war: the diversity of peace in post-settlement societies


This article introduces a novel way of conceptualising variations of peace in post-war societies. The most common way of defining peace in the academic literature on war termination is to differentiate between those cases where there is a continuation or resumption of large-scale violence and those cases where violence has been terminated and peace, defined by the absence of war, has been established. Yet, a closer look at a number of countries where a peace agreement has been signed and peace is considered to prevail reveals a much more diverse picture. Beyond the absence of war, there are striking differences in terms of the character of peace that has followed. This article revisits the classical debates on peace and the notion of the Conflict Triangle as a useful theoretical construction for the study of armed conflicts. We develop a classification captured in a Peace Triangle, where post-settlement societies are categorised on the basis of three key dimensions: issues, behaviour, and attitudes. On the basis of such a differentiation, we illustrate the great diversity of peace beyond the absence of war in a number of post-settlement societies. Finally, we discuss the relationship between the different elements of the Peace Triangle, and the challenges they pose for establishing a sustainable peace, as well as the implications of this study for policy makers concerned with peacebuilding efforts.

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1 Between 1989 and 2005 a total of 144 peace agreements were signed in one-third of the 121 armed conflicts active since the end of the Cold War. 43 of these agreements were comprehensive peace agreements, where the warring parties agreed to settle the incompatibility at stake. The remaining agreements were either partial agreements regulating only parts of the incompatibility or so called peace process agreements, aiming at the initiation of a negotiated settlement. See Lotta Harbom, Stina Högbladh and Peter Wallensteen, ‘Armed Conflicts and Peace Agreements’, Journal of Peace Research, 43:5 (2006), pp. 617–31. In the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) dataset, an armed conflict is defined as ‘a contested incompatibility that concerns government or territory or both where the use of armed force between two parties results in at least 25 battle-related deaths in a year’. It is limited to conflicts where at least one of the parties is the government of that state. Ibid., p. 626. Updated information and more detailed definitions are available at {}.

2 This perspective is particularly predominant in comparative and quantitative studies on war termination, see for instance, Fen Osler Hampson, Nurturing Peace: Why Peace Settlements Succeed or Fail (Washington D.C.: US Institute of Peace Press, 1996); Caroline A. Hartzell, ‘Explaining the Stability of Negotiated Settlements to Intrastate Wars’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 43:1 (1999), pp. 3–22; Caroline Hartzell, Matthew Hoddie, and Donald Rothchild, ‘Stabilizing the Peace After Civil War’, International Organization, 55:1 (2001), pp. 183–208; Roy Licklider (ed.), Stopping the Killing: How Civil Wars End (New York: New York University Press, 1993); Thomas Ohlson, ‘Power Politics and Peace Policies: Intra-state Conflict Resolution’ in Southern Africa, PhD dissertation (Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, 1998); Barbara F. Walter, Committing to Peace: The Successful Settlement of Civil Wars (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2002).

3 Such critique has for example been expressed by Paul Richards, No Peace, No War: An Anthropology of Contemporary Armed Conflicts (Athens/Oxford: Ohio University Press/James Currey, 2005); Oliver Richmond, The Transformation of Peace (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2005) and Roger MacGinty, No War, No Peace: The Rejuvenation of Stalled Peace Processes and Peace Accords (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2006).

4 The term post-conflict society is often used for the type of situations we are interested in, but many scholars see this term as a misnomer in the sense that violence and conflict tend to remain in countries that recently have experienced an armed conflict or a civil war. See, for instance, Christopher Cramer, Civil War is Not a Stupid Thing (London: Hurst & Company, 2006).

5 This term has been used to describe the situation in a set of countries in transition, such as Sri Lanka, Cyprus and Kosovo, but has also given rise to academic books, such as the volumes by Richards, No Peace, No War: An Anthropology of Contemporary Armed Conflicts and MacGinty, No War, No Peace: The Rejuvenation of Stalled Peace Processes and Peace Accords.

6 Richmond, ‘Patterns of Peace’, Global Society, 20:4 (2006), p. 372. See also Oliver Richmond, The Transformation of Peace.

7 A cogent account of the different understandings of peace would require a deep study into the many historical and contemporary sources within not only the social sciences, but also in other fields, such as for example philosophy, social anthropology, and theology, which is beyond the scope of this article. For excellent discussions on the concept of peace, see for example Richmond, The Transformation of Peace and David Cortright, Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

8 Kenneth Boulding has been credited with introducing this distinction. See Kenneth E. Boulding, ‘Toward a Theory of Peace’, in Roger Fisher (ed.), International Conflict and Behavioural Science: The Craigville Papers (New York: Basic Books Inc., 1964); Kenneth E. Boulding, Stable Peace (Austin & London: University of Texas Press, 1978). All sorts of terms and categorisations have been used to describe different variations in peace, but mainly pertaining to international conflicts, such as; stable, precarious, conditional, cold, warm, and normal. For a useful overview, see Arie M. Kacowicz, Yaacov Bar-Siman-Tov, Ole Elgström, and Magnus Jerneck (eds), Stable Peace Among Nations (Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2002).

9 Hugh Miall, Oliver Ramsbotham and Tom Woodhouse, Contemporary Conflict Resolution, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999), p. 43.

10 Most prominent data-collection programmes in the field focus on the presence or absence of different types of violence, and apply a threshold of fatalities to determine what classifies as an armed conflict or war. This data is frequently used for the pupose of determining when there is peace following a war. For a useful overview of conflict-related data programs and collections, see Kristine Eck, ‘A Beginner's Guide to Conflict Data: Finding and Using the Right Dataset’, UCDP Papers (Uppsala: Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, 2005).

11 Peter Wallensteen, Understanding Conflict Resolution: War, Peace and the Global System (London: Sage, 2007, 2nd edn.), pp. 9–10.

12 In the field of civil war termination, several authors measure the durability or success of negotiated settlements in terms of violence intensity. See, for instance, Caroline Hartzell, ‘Explaining the Stability of Negotiated Settlements to Intrastate Wars’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 43:1 (1999), pp. 3–22; Caroline Hartzell, Matthew Hoddie, and Donald Rothchild, ‘Stabilizing the Peace After Civil War’, International Organization, 55:1 (2001), pp. 183–208; Roy Licklider (ed.), Stopping the Killing: How Civil Wars End (New York: New York University Press, 1993); Barbara F. Walter, Committing to Peace: The Successful Settlement of Civil Wars (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2002).

13 Richmond, ‘Patterns of Peace’, p. 367.

14 Ibid, p. 368.

15 See Richmond, The Transformation of Peace, p. 217, for a useful overview of different ontological perspectives on peace.

16 It has been suggested that there are essentially two versions of the democratic peace: 1) the establishment of democratic institutions, which in its most minimal version equals democracy with elections, and 2) the establishment of democratic norms, where democracy and its focus on non-violence is projected as a conflict resolution tool. See for example, Michael E. Brown, Sean M. Lynn-Jones, and Steven E. Miller (eds), Debating the Democratic Peace (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1996).

17 For instance, Richmond in The Transformation of Peace, refers to ‘liberal peace’, while MacGinty in No War, No Peace, refers to ‘liberal, democratic peace’.

18 For criticism of the policy of imposing the liberal peace model by international actors in post-war societies, see for example Simon Chesterman, You, The People: The UN, Transnational Administration, and State-building (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004); David Chandler, Bosnia: Faking Democracy after Dayton (London: Pluto Press, 2000); MacGinty, No War, No Peace; Roland Paris, At War's End: Building Peace After Civil Conflict (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Michael Pugh, Neil Cooper and Mandy Turner, Whose Peace? Critical Perspectives on the Political Economy of Peacebuilding (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) and Richmond, The Transformation of Peace.

19 John Heathershaw, ‘Peacebuilding as Practice: Discourses from Post-conflict Tajikistan’, International Peacekeeping, 14:2 (2007), pp. 219–36.

20 Richmond, ‘Patterns of Peace’, p. 369.

21 Michael W. Doyle and Nicholas Sambanis, Making War and Building Peace: UN Peace Operations (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2006), pp. 18–9.

22 From such a perspective, the greatest threats to peace are threats to the implementation process, such as spoilers or incomplete DDR processes. See in particular the influential volume by Stephen John Stedman, Donald Rothchild, and Elisabeth M. Cousens (eds), Ending Civil Wars: The Implementation of Peace Agreements (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2002).

23 Fen Osler Hampson, Nurturing Peace: Why Peace Settlements Succeed or Fail (Washington D.C.: USIP Press, 1996), p. 3.

24 MacGinty, No War, No Peace, p. 5.

25 John Paul Lederach, Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies (Washington DC: USIP, 1997).

26 John Paul Lederach and Michelle Maiese, ‘Conflict Transformation’, in Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess (eds), Beyond Intractability (Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado: Boulder, 2003). Available online at: {}. Last accessed 15 August 2008).

27 Ibid; Richards, No Peace, No War; Richmond, The Transformation of Peace.

28 Richards, No Peace, No War, p. 5.

29 ‘Human Security’ is a concept that gained ground within academia and policy circles after having been introduced in the 1994 UN Development Report. Its main pillars are ‘freedom from want’ and ‘freedom from fear’. See Richmond (2005) and the Human Security Report 2005: War and Peace in the 21st Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

30 Thomas Ohlson and Mimmi Söderberg Kovacs, ‘From Intra-State War to Democratic Peace in Weak States’, Uppsala Peace Research Papers, No. 5, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala Universitet, 2002, pp. 20–1.

31 Karl Jr. DeRouen and David Sobek, ‘The Dynamics of Civil War Duration and Outcome’, Journal of Peace Research, 41:3 (2004): pp. 305.

32 Johan Galtung, ‘Conflict as a Way of Life’, in Hugh Freeman (ed.), Progress in Mental Health (London: Churchill, 1969), pp. 486–91. The Conflict Triangle has since been further developed by a number of scholars. See, for instance, Christopher R. Mitchell, The Structure of International Conflict (London: Macmillan, 1981) and Håkan Wiberg, Konfliktteori och fredsforskning (Conflict Theory and Peace Research), (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell Läromedel, 1990, 2nd edn.). The triangle has also been modified and discussed in relation to conflict resolution and peace building. See for example Wallensteen, Understanding Conflict Resolution, pp. 54–6, and Anna Åkerlund, Att omvandla konflikter och bygga fred (To Transform Conflict and Build Peace), (Stockholm, Forum Syds förlag, 2001), pp. 54–6.

33 Johan Galtung, Peace by Peaceful Means: Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization (London: Sage Publications, 1996), pp. 70–3.

34 See, for instance, Dean G. Pruitt and Sung Hee Kim, Social Conflict: Escalation, Stalemate, and Settlement (New York: McGraw Hill, 2004, 3rd edn.), pp. 199–203; Wiberg, Konfliktteori och fredsforskning, pp. 12–21.

35 Wallensteen, Understanding Conflict Resolution, p. 14.

36 Ibid.

37 Wiberg, Konfliktteori och fredsforskning, pp. 24–6. See also Mitchell, The Structure of International Conflict, pp. 29–32.

38 Ibid., pp. 29–30. See also Mitchell 1981, pp. 25–9.

39 Mitchell, The Structure of International Conflict, p. 27.

40 For more on the use of typologies and classification, see Alexander L. George and Andrew Bennett, Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2005), pp. 238–9.

41 International Crisis Group, ‘Sierra Leone: the State of Security and Governance’, Africa Report No. 67, 2003, ‘Sierra Leone: The Election Opportunity’, Africa Report no. 129, 2007.

42 Ibid., Africa Report no. 143, 2008.

43 Pierre M. Atlas and Roy Licklider, ‘Conflict Among Former Allies after Civil War Settlement: Sudan, Zimbabwe, Chad, and Lebanon’, Journal of Peace Research, 36:1 (1999), pp. 35–54.

44 Ibid.

45 Ibid. The other two incidents referred to by Atlas and Licklider is the ousting of President Hissene Habré in Chad in 1990 by members of his own armed forces, following the conclusion of several peace agreements with armed opposition movements in the country, and the break out of the armed conflict in Sudan in 1983, which had linkages to the Addis Ababa Accords of 1972.

46 See more on the function and effect of ceasefires and other violence regulating mechanisms in Kristine Höglund, Peace Negotiations in the Shadow of Violence (Leiden, Brill/Martinus Nijhoff, 2008).

47 John Darby, The Effect of Violence on Peace Processes (Washington D.C., USIP Press, 2001; Höglund, Peace Negotiations in the Shadow of Violence; Edward Newman and Oliver Richmond (eds), Challenges to Peacebuilding: Managing Spoilers during Conflict Resolution (New York, UN University Press, 2006).

48 Mimmi Söderberg Kovacs, From Rebellion to Politics: The Transformation of Rebel Groups to Political Parties in Civil War Peace Processes, PhD dissertation, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, (2007).

49 See Halvard Buhag and Scott Gates, ‘The Geography of Civil War’, Journal of Peace Research, 39:4 (2002), pp. 417–33; James D. Fearon and David D. Laitin, ‘Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War’, American Political Science Review, 97:1 (2003), pp. 75–90; Håvard Hegre and Clionad Raleigh, ‘Population Size, Concentration, and Civil War. A Geographically Disaggregated Analysis’, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 4243, (2007).

50 Hegre and Raleigh, ‘Population Size, Concentration, and Civil War’.

51 Barry Buzan, People, States and Fear: An Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post-Cold War Era (Hemel Hampstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991, 2nd edn.); Barry Buzan and Ole Wæver, Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

52 International Crisis Group, ‘Congo: Consolidating the Peace’, Africa Report No. 128, (2007).

53 Roger MacGinty, ‘Post-Accord Crime’ in John Darby (ed.), Violence and Reconstruction (South Bend, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006), pp. 101–19; Chrissie Steenkamp, ‘The Legacy of War: Conceptualising a “Culture of Violence” to Explain Violence after Post Accords’, The Round Table, 94:379 (2005), pp. 253–67.

54 This hypothesis was suggested by Dane Archer and Rosemary Gartner in ‘Violent Acts and Violent Times: A Comparative Approach to Postwar Homicide Rates’, American Sociological Review, 41: 6 (1976), pp. 937–63. Their study showed that countries which had participated in international conflicts experienced higher rates of homicide.

55 Carolyn Nordstrom, Shadows of War: Violence, Power, and International Profiteering in the Twenty-First Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006).

56 John M. Hagedorn, ‘The Global Impact of Gangs’, Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 21: 2 (2005), pp 153–69.

57 Similar trends are discernable when looking at how people in Northern Ireland perceive of community relations. Those believing that community relations have improved have decreased since 1998. See Northern Ireland Life and Time Survey. Available online at: {}. (Last accessed 15 August 2008).

58 See for example, Mohammed Abu-Nimer (ed.), Reconciliation, Justice and Coexistence: Theory and Practice (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2001); Neil J. Kritz (ed.), Transitional Justice: How Emerging Democracies Reckon with Former Regimes (Washington D.C., USIP Press: 1995); Robert I. Rotberg, and Dennis Thompson (eds), Truth v. Justice: The Morality of Truth Commissions (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).

59 Pauline H. Baker, ‘Conflict Resolution versus Democratic Governance: Divergent Paths to Peace?’, in Chester A. Crocker, Fen Osler Hampson, and Pamela Aall (eds), Turbulent Peace: The Challenges of Managing International Conflict (Washington D.C.: USIP Press, 2001), pp. 759–62.

60 After the signing of the final accord, the congress voted in favour of a law that included general amnesty provisions. However, due to strong objections from the human rights community (both domestically and internationally), the final version was amended so as not to include amnesty for some exceptional crimes such as genocide, torture, and forced displacement.

61 Desirée Nilsson and Mimmi Söderberg Kovacs, ‘Breaking the Cycle of Violence? Promises and Pitfalls of the Liberian Peace Process’, Civil Wars, 7:4 (2005), pp. 396–414.

62 Pruitt and Kim, Social Conflict, pp. 69–71. See also Mitchell, The Structure of International Conflict, pp. 56–60.

63 Wallensteen, Understanding Conflict Resolution, pp. 33–4.

64 Mitchell, The Structure of International Conflict, p. 63.

65 Stephen John Stedman, ‘Spoiler Problems in Peace Processes’, International Security, 22:2 (1997), pp. 5–53.

66 There are a number of authors in the field of conflict resolution who instead emphasis the actor perspective over structural explanations. See example William I. Zartman, Ripe for Resolution: Conflict and Intervention in Africa (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989); William I. Zartman (ed.), Elusive Peace: Negotiating an End to Civil Wars (Washington D.C.: Brookings Institute, 1995); Stephen John Stedman, Peacemaking in Civil War: International Mediation in Zimbabwe 1974–80 (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1991), ‘Spoiler Problems in Peace Processes’, and Wallensteen, ‘Understanding Conflict Resolution’.

67 Wallensteen lists seven mechanisms of conflict resolution which are all present and encouraged in a democratic system: 1) changes in priorities, 2) dividing the values, 3) horse trading, 4) joint rule, 5) leaving control, 6) conflict resolution mechanisms, 7) postponing issues. See Wallensteen, ‘Understanding Conflict Resolution’, pp. 50–4.

68 MacGinty, No War, No Peace.

69 See, for instance, Jack Snyder, From Voting to Violence (New York & London: W.W Norton & Company, 2000).

70 Anna Jarstad and Timothy Sisk (eds), From War to Peace: Dilemmas of Peacebuilding (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008); Paris, At War's End: Building Peace After Civil Conflict.

71 Karen Bronéus, ‘Rethinking Reconciliation: Concepts, Methods, and an Empirical Study of Truth Telling and Psychological Health in Rwanda’, PhD dissertation, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, (2008).

72 Kristine Höglund, ‘Violence in War-to-Democracy Transitions’, in Anna Jarstad and Timothy D. Sisk (eds), War-to-Democracy Transitions: Dilemmas of Peacebuilding, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 85.

73 In the recent literature on case study methodology, the question of disaggregating the dependent variable has gained prominence. According to George and Bennett, the way in which variance in variables is described is critical to the usefulness of research in furthering the development of new theories or the refinement of existing theories. This, they argue, is because ‘the discovery of potential causal relationships may depend on how the variance in these variables is postulated. Within the subgroup of “failures” or “successes” of a particular phenomenon, there may be several different paths to the same outcome, exemplifying the methodological phenomenon of “equifinality”’. See George and Bennett, Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences.

* The authors would like to thank the Swedish Research Council, Sida, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, and the SYLFF Endowment at Uppsala University for funding this research. We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers of this article for their constructive comments. A previous version of this article was presented at the Annual Millennium Conference on ‘Peace in International Relations’, at the London School of Economics and Political Science, London, 20–21 October 2007. We would like to thank the participants of the panel for valuable comments. We would also like to thank Peter Wallensteen, Thomas Ohlson, Louise Olsson, Desirée Nilsson and Isak Svensson at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, for useful suggestions for improvements. The authors have contributed equally to this article.

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Review of International Studies
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