Negotiating States of Emergency

Peace agreements, as documents produced to end conflict, often display levels of ingenuity and creativity, often in extraordinarily complex and uncertain contexts. Provisions on such issues including when, how, why and where states of emergency can be declared, are also often ways of limiting the state’s recourse to violence which protects civilians, and the quid pro quo for a non-state armed group’s agreement to ceasefire.

This report draws on Version 3 of the PA-X Peace Agreement database, which contains approximately 1832 peace agreements, found in more than 150 peace processes between 1990 and the end of 2019. The report focuses specifically on how peace agreements include provisions on states of emergency, and proceeds to a question and answer-based structure guided by the following enquires:

  • Under what circumstances do peace agreements stipulate an emergency be declared?
  • Do peace agreements delineate powers that authorities have under states of emergency?
  • According to peace agreements, whom has the power to declare a state of emergency?
  • Do peace agreements specify where states of emergency apply?
  • What role do peace agreements give to Parliament/legislatures?
  • Do peace agreements include a role for courts?
  • How do peace agreements include temporal limits on a state of emergency?
  • Do peace agreements provide for the extension of a state of emergency?
    In what ways do peace agreements seek to limit the actions of authorities during a state of emergency?
  • What might we learn from peace agreements?

By examining how peace agreements, and particularly peace agreement constitutions (see Bell and Zuelletta, 2016), have addressed this issue, this report intends to deepen understanding about what is meant by a state of emergency and the various components and considerations that attach to them.

As states across the globe adopt a state of emergency approach in response to COVID-19, this report helps inform consideration of COVID-19 dynamics by asking how countries emerging from periods of conflict have sought to include commitments regarding the various parameters of states of emergency in peace agreements. At the end of a conflict, when and how do governments scale back states of emergency and what types of restraint do they put in place to counter their excessive use? These measures tell a story of the link between states of emergency and conflict, and what confidence-building regarding removing states of emergency looks like. This indicates possibilities of how the COVID-19 states of emergency relationship to conflict and peacemaking might play out.