New collection highlights the significance of local peace processes

A new collection of essays published by the British Academy offers insights into the role of local peace agreements in international peacebuilding.

The collection, Local Peace Processes, brings together expert contributions from policy specialists and academics in the humanities and social sciences. Co-edited by Christine Bell and Laura Wise of the Political Settlements Research Programme and Jan Pospisil of the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, the publication issues a number of policy recommendations and key findings for engaging with local agreement-making.

In recent years, the difficulties and failures of national level peace processes have prompted increased attention on ‘the local’ as a space of conflict resolution. The papers presented in this collection suggest both the existence of local peacemaking, and the impossibility of delimiting what is merely ‘local’ about it. This in turn points to a need for a new political imaginary for peace processes, which would go beyond the idea that it is about brokering elite pacts reached in a comprehensive peace agreement.

The contributions to this Collection all conclude that local agreements deserve greater attention as a peacemaking tool. They also demonstrate variation in how local agreements are used within and across contexts, and indicate significant involvement of international actors in many contexts.

This collection of studies emerged from a series of roundtables on Local Peace Processes that were convened as part of the British Academy’s Conflict, Stability and Security programme, which supports research into conflict and insecurity overseas, together with the University of Edinburgh and the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR), as part of the Political Settlements Research Programme funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, UK AID.

The collection also draws on the PA-X Local Database, an open-access database of written local peace agreements from across a global set of conflict-affected contexts.

Professor Christine Bell FBA FRSE, co-editor of the collection and Director of the Political Settlements Research Programme, says:

Local peace processes have the potential to reduce levels of conflict at critical moments when national peace processes are forestalled or delayed. Written and oral local agreements – often brokered in minority languages, and other non-written, non-verbal forms such as rituals and property exchanges – are often hugely significant at this local level.

Insights from the humanities and social sciences help to broaden our understanding of different forms of trust-building and decision-making processes, in particular the importance of local peace negotiations. The wealth of multi-disciplinary research and evidence in this collection broadens our understanding of what it takes to build peace successfully in different contexts. It should be considered further by international actors, international donors and the research community.

Read the full collection and the key policy findings.