Most peace agreements address three main concerns: procedure, substance and organization.

  • Procedural Components: Procedural components set out the processes that establish and maintain peace. They delineate the HOW of a peace process by establishing the processes and measures that help build the peace. These include the establishment of schedules and institutions that facilitate the implementation of substantive issues such as elections, justice, human rights and disarmament.

  • Substantive Components: Substantive components are part of the agreement that define WHAT is going to change after the peace agreement is reached. Substantive components include political, economic, and social structural changes that are needed to remedy past grievances and provide for a more fair and equitable future. Substantive components, therefore, include the changes that are required in issues such as the distribution of power, the management of natural resources and the type of mechanisms to address past injustices.

  • Organizational/Institutional Components: Organizational/institutional components are arrangements/mechanisms intended to promote the peace consolidation efforts after the agreement. They address the WHO element of the agreement. These mechanisms are either directly responsible or provide oversight and guidance to other actors to carry out the activities intended to consolidate the fragile peace and lay the foundation for sustainable peace and development. There are two types of organizational components. The first, often referred to by the United Nations as "implementation mechanisms," immediately follow a peace agreement and are intended to promote agreement implementation.

    Implementation Mechanisms are designed to provide:

    Implementation mechanisms could include a United Nations or regional peacekeeping operation. They can also entail monitoring committees, chaired by the United Nations or a neutral third party, which includes parties to the conflict and other relevant actors required to help build the peace.

    The second type of organizational/institutional component is designed to resolve subsequent/future conflicts over substantive issues, such as the abuse of state power in relation to human rights and the promotion of transparency and accountability in governance. These mechanisms, often referred to in the United Nations as "peacebuilding mechanisms" help promote the culture of peaceful conflict resolution in a society and public confidence in the state's capacity to resolve future grievances systematically and impartially.

    Peacebuilding mechanisms are designed to provide:

    • A neutral monitoring capacity to ensure peace agreement commitments are honored,
    • A steering capacity which sets priorities and keeps the peace implementation on track,
    • A political forum which allows parties to resolve implementation disagreements through political negotiations.
    • A neutral structure and capacity within the state to resolve future conflicts and complaints.
    • A means for the peaceful resolution of public grievances before they become a source of conflict in a society.
    • A means for preventing future conflicts.

Peacebuilding mechanisms could include the setting up of a new office of ombudsperson, a commission on human tights and the strengthening of the judiciary with international advisory and/or monitoring capacity.

Plan for the Following Sections

This building block has laid out the basic ideas for understanding the nature of peace agreements. Much remains to be said. Other building blocks in this group add further information. The section immediately following this one covers the substantive provisions of peace agreements, specifically dealing with types of agreements that can ameliorate intractable conflicts.

In any protracted violent conflict, transgressions against justice are inevitable. Peace agreements must be structured to acknowledge these transgressions and in most cases to bring justice to the injured parties. The section on Addressing Injustice, by Michelle Maiese, lays out a framework for categorizing injustice and, subsequently, strategies for addressing injustice in the structure of peace agreements.

Sometimes, peace agreements cannot be negotiated until the involved parties can agree on some form of security guarantees. Jill Freeman addresses the value of security guarantees as an effective strategy for peacebuilding.

In many cases, when political or economic resources are scarce, political entrepreneurs will activate latent cultural or religious identities to build power bases capable of acquiring and controlling those resources. Unfortunately, those cultural roots are often used to perpetrate horrific crimes during the course of a war; crimes that only help entrench and perpetuate these identities. Whether or not these identities are real or perceived, there is a high value placed on them during intense and protracted conflicts. Thus, one of the most difficult tasks in structuring peace agreements is allowing for reconciliation in order to build trust and restore "normal" relationships between the warring factions.

Rebuilding the social fabric between states or within a state can be tremendously difficult. In some cases state building or nation-building can seem downright impossible. (The experience of the U.S. in Iraq in 2004-5 is certainly an example illustrating that it is, if not impossible, much more difficult than the U.S. Government expected!) The section on social-structural aspects of peace agreements deals with how to acknowledge and resolve some of these issues.

It is important to focus on strategies for power sharingelection monitoring, and nation building for a complete understanding of structuring peace agreements after civil war. While each issue by itself may seem small, the success or failure of any given intrastate peace agreement usually turns on the success of these provisions.

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By Nita Yawanarajah

Nita Yawanarajah is a UN Political Affairs Officer and the Project Manager for the UN Department of Political Affairs Peacemaking Databank Project: UN Peacemaker (http://www.un.org/peacemaker). UN Peacemaker is a publicly available website on the United Nations' experience in peacemaking and mediation. www.beyondintractability.org