Violence in the Midst of Peace Negotiations : Cases from Guatemala, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Sri Lanka

University dissertation from Uppsala : Institutionen för freds- och konfliktforskning

Abstract: Why do peace talks fall apart as a result of violence? The present study addresses the question of why and how violence sometimes changes the dynamics of peace negotiation processes. Incidents of violence may produce friction between and within parties. As a result, violence can make parties reluctant to continue peace negotiations if it increases the risk and fears of reaching a peace agreement with the enemy. Twelve high-profile incidents of violence, including political assassinations, massacres, and bomb explosions, are analysed with the aim of probing the causal patterns that emerge in the aftermath of violence. Cases are selected from four intra-state negotiation processes: Guatemala, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and Sri Lanka. The patterns of actions and responses, indicate that violence often symbolises a breach of faith between the parties. This is a main reason why violence is sometimes followed by a crisis. In addition, low intra-party cohesion regarding the peace negotiations, constrains the efforts of the decision makers to pursue peace. The study underlines the relationship between the parties, within each party, and the interaction between the two levels of analysis. The research further suggests that the destructive effect of violence can be counteracted by mutual certainty about where the negotiation process is heading, by confidence-building measures by the parties themselves, and through actions by third party mediators and monitors. Peace negotiations are also driven forward by the fears the parties have about continued armed conflict, a fear that commonly is exacerbated by the continued existence of violence.

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