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Peace Processes


The Political Settlements Research Programme at the University of Edinburgh has created a new dataset of over 1500 peace agreements, the PA-X database. Below are some of the important aspects of peace agreements and how they fit into wider peace processes. We hope this tool can facilitate research on peacemaking so that new ways of attempting to resolve intractabl e conflicts in deeply divided places can be developed in a way that maximises social justice.

Peace Processes theme - animated thumbnail

Peace negotiations are one of the most common ways of ending conflict.

Locations of Peace Processes around the World

Number of Peace Agreements around the World

Types of Agreement
Peace Process Peace Agreement Ceasefire Pre-negotiation Substantive-Partial Substantive-Comprehensive Implementation Renewal

This category contains agreements which provide in their entirety for a ceasefire, or association demobilisation, or an agreement that is purely providing a monitoring arrangement for, or extension, of a ceasefire

Agreements that aim to get parties to the point of negotiating over the incompatibilities at the heart of the conflict. Note that 6 these agreements can happen at any time in a process (even after a comprehensive peace agreement has been signed), if parties have moved back into ‘talking about how they are going to talk’. Therefore, this characterization does not imply temporal precedence

Framework-substantive, Partial. Agreements that concern parties that are engaged in discussion and agreeing to substantive issues to resolve the conflict, but only deal with some of the issues in ways that appear to contemplate future agreements to complete.

Framework-substantive, Comprehensive. Agreements that concern parties that are engaged in discussion and agreeing to substantive issues to resolve the conflict and appear to be set out as a comprehensive attempt to resolve the conflict.

Aiming to implement an earlier agreement. Note that this category does not include ceasefires.

These are short agreements (typically of just one page), which do nothing other than ‘renew’ previous commitments. Note that this category does not include ceasefire renewals which are contained in the ceasefire category

There have been around 140 different peace processes globally between 1990 and the end of 2015. Often, international organisations such as the United Nations play a role that means they are a signatory on some of their agreements.
Not all conflicts end through a peace process. Occasionally they are also ended by one side simply 'winning' the conflict outright, but even then negotiations and agreements may be needed to deal with the aftermath
Map visualisations - Lucy Havens and Sarah Schöttler

A 'handshake moment' of a peace agreement between the main warring parties receives attention, but is only one moment in a longer peace process.

Processes seldom unfold in a straightforward line from violence to peace. Often talks are started, breakdown and restart.
Peace Process Trajectories (click dots to see agreement-type)

Afghanistan: 2000s Post-intervention process

Northern Ireland Peace Process

Burundi: Arusha and related peace process

Most of these agreements deal with conflict within states. Some deal with conflicts between states.

Increasingly conflict can be multilevel and requires multilevel peace processes.

Increasingly complex conflict systems need peace processes and agreements at local, national and international levels.

Breakdown of agreements by type:

Agreements between states relating to international conflict: 4% (63 of 1518)

United Kingdom and Argentina: Joint Statement of Confidence-Building Measures, including an Information and Consultation System and Safety Measures for Air and Maritime Navigation, 15/02/1990

Agreements between states relating to conflict within one of the states: 14% (206/1518)

Joint Declaration Issued by The Prime Minister Rt John Major MP and the Taoiseach Mr Albert Reynolds TD (Downing Street Declaration), 15/12/1993

Agreements related to a conflict within a state's borders: 82% (1249/1518)

Intercongolese Negotiations: The Final Act ('The Sun City Agreement'), 02/04/2003

Agreements between states relating to conflict within one of the states: 14% (206/1518)

Joint Declaration Issued by The Prime Minister Rt John Major MP and the Taoiseach Mr Albert Reynolds TD (Downing Street Declaration), 15/12/1993

Many local agreements have been signed in: Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Syria.
See research on local peace processes

If we count peace agreements since 1990, there have been over 1500 signed in around 150 different peace processes over 35 years

These include agreements:

An agreement that primarily agrees to end fighting, either entirely or in a particular area.

In an average peace process, the number of agreements to establish ceasefire is 1.9.

An agreement resulting from ‘talks about talks’, that are a plans for a more comprehensive negotiation.

In an average peace process, the number of agreements to get into talks is 3.4 Pre-negotiation.

An agreement in which some major issues are agreed upon but there is an expectation of further talks to resolve other important outstanding issues.

These are the major, high profile agreements that aim to resolve the conflict in a complete way.

In an average peace process, the number of agreements about how to resolve the conflict is 2.6 substantive-partial and 0.7 substantive-comprehensive.

An agreement that sets out how previous issues agreed upon previously are to be executed in the real world.

In an average peace process, the number of agreements to implement previous agreements is 2.1 implementation and 0.2 renewal.

Multiple sequenced small steps tend to be the norm, rather than one giant strike to end military conflict

The One Third of peace processes saw a comprehensive agreement
followed by another comprehensive agreement,
being followed by more than 6 more agreements on average.

Peace processes normally include 3 CEASEFIRES.
There were 68 CEASEFIRES reached during the Bosnian conflict in 1992-1995 alone.

See further what ceasefires contain in our quick guide (1 MB PDF)
ICAN’s video on how ceasefires can address women’s needs (6 min)

See further peace process examples below.

This was a complex conflict largely fought between the government of Papua New Guinea and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army who sought the island's succession. Their peace process included 35 agreements, 18 of which were pre-negotiation agreements.

  • Ceasefires: 1
  • Pre-negotiation: 18
  • Substantive Comprehensive: 1
  • Substantive Partial: 9
  • Implementation: 5
  • Other: 1

On the 1st January 1994, indigenous rebels in the Chiapas region launched an uprising against the central Mexican government following the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Their peace process granted a some regional autonomy for indigenous peoples as well as a level of political power-sharing within the autonomous area.

  • Pre-negotiation: 1
  • Substantive Partial: 4
  • Implementation: 1

Civil war broke out following Angolan independence in 1975, between the two main armed independence movements, the (then government) Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). Additionally, in the Cabinda enclave, the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) fought a guerrilla war against the MPLA government, but by the early 2000s, FLEC had lost significant operational power and in 2006 the group eventually declared a ceasefire. Due to the complexity of forces involved there were 2 separate peace processes.

  • Ceasefires: 2
  • Pre-negotiation: 2
  • Substantive Partial: 4
  • Substantive Comprehensive: 2
  • Implementation: 3

After suffering a near election defeat by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the 2008 elections, the ZANU-PF launched an intimidation campaign against the unarmed opposition, which lead to numerous Human Rights violations, widespread torture and disappearances. Under strong international pressure Mugabe entered negotiations with the opposition, a Global Political Agreement was signed by him and the representatives of the two major wings of the MDC in September 2008.

  • Pre-negotiation: 1
  • Substantive Comprehensive: 1
  • Substantive Partial: 1

Northern Ireland had 33 different agreements, 11 before the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, and 21 after it dealing with unresolved issues.

  • Ceasefire: 2
  • Pre-negotiation: 10
  • Substantive Comprehensive: 1
  • Implementation:20

Even comprehensive deals can unravel

There have been 11 CASES SINCE THE COLD WAR where a comprehensive deal had to be revisited when fighting re-ignited, or because key groups had not been included: such as Bosnia, Burundi, DRC, India, Somalia and Sudan.

Inclusion makes peace more durable

There is mounting evidence that inclusion of a wider set of actors beyond the warring parties helps sustain peace across implementation 'bumps'.

Inclusion of non-dominant groups, particularly those who were not conflict participants, is of value in it's own right. In the case of the inclusion of women, this is mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security."

International agreements: address intra-state conflict (14% of all agreements)

States and international organisations involved in the

Agreements can give a wide range of organisations beyond state and non-state actors some responsibility for post-conflict state-building.

Commitments to include those involved in fighting in a new political settlement, may be in tension with a

Sometimes agreement signatories can be accused of carving up power following conflict, while sustaining peace requires a broader social contract to be built.

10-Peace Processes: Tension Elite Pact Social Contract


Only 21% of agreements mention women or gender in some way

Also, non-dominant groups are rarely addressed in settlements, leaving them at risk of further exclusion. Try guessing the percentages for these other ten groups (click your answer).