Sean Molloy is an Associate of the PSRP and Research Associate at Newcastle University. This post introduces a research report which follows the workshop on Assessing and Influencing Progress in Peace Processes held in Barcelona on 30 May – 1 June 2018. The workshop was organised by Conciliation Resources and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and further supported by the Catalan Development Agency; the UN Colombia Multi-Trust Fund; the Catalan International Peace Institute; the School for a Culture of Peace of the Autonomous University of Barcelona; Political Settlements Research Programme, Global Justice Academy, University of Edinburgh; the Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution; and the Barcelona International Public Policy Hub.
In this post for PSRP, Dr Molloy reflects on the discussions from the Barcelona workshop, and outlines the key questions that are posed around monitoring and measuring peace agreement implementation.
Peace agreements have the potential to perform multiple functions. They can serve as documents that formally end an armed conflict. Beyond this, peace accords can act as roadmaps for the reconstruction of the post-conflict state, seeking to address multiple underlying causes and subsequent consequences of conflict. Moreover, recent research has helped to demonstrate a number of additional benefits that flow from the successful implementation of a peace accord. This includes contributing to foreign direct investment (Joshi and Quinn, 2015)and lowering infant mortality rates (Joshi 2015).
Nevertheless, the potential of peace agreements to facilitate these outcomes is often hindered by a range of factors. While varying from context to context, common obstacles include the presence of spoilers, ambiguous provisions, changing governments with different agendas and, perhaps most significantly, limited trust between the parties to the agreement. All of these can undermine efforts to translate peace agreement provisions from the paper they are written on to practise.
For these reasons and others, third party actors are often involved in helping to ensure the implementation of peace accords. These actors, which can include international, regional, and sub-regional organisations, alongside national, sub-national, local constituents and civil society groups, or some combination of some or all of these actors, perform a range of functions. The various roles can include monitoring and verifying implementation, providing technical and financial support to assist the implementation process, and settling disputes if and when they arise. The salience of third party actors and the role that they play is evidenced by a body of research that draws parallels between their involvement and successfully implementation achieved.
Pushing these parameters
However, beyond highlighting the relationship between third parties and implementation, relatively little is known about the inner workings of third mechanisms, how, when and why they do or do not affect implementation, or their ability to influence the peace process in ways that extend beyond ensuring the implementation of accords.
To this end, a workshop organised by Conciliation Resources and the Kroc Institute, University of Notre Dame, and supported by an array of leading research organisations (including PSRP), sought to consider in greater detail the role of one particular type of third party actor: those that monitor peace agreement implementation. As spelled out below, a number of themes and questions guided the workshop and are reflected in the full workshop report.
Monitoring and Implementation?
How do third-party monitoring parties ensure that an agreement is implemented? What are the processes and tools that they adopt to do so? Do they prioritise issues to implement? If so, how? How do monitoring mechanisms respond to non-implementation or implementation that does not adequately reflect the spirit of an agreement?
What accounts for successful/unsuccessful implementation? How is this measured? How, if at all, does measuring implementation differ in respect of short-term objectives, such as decommissioning weapons and disbanding paramilitary forces and rebel groups, with longer-term objectives of development or post-conflict reconstruction? What are the indicators and measurements adopted?
Inclusion in Monitoring Mechanisms?
What is the basis for third-party actor involvement in the implementation process and who decides on their composition and mandate? How does the composition of monitoring mechanisms influence what gets implemented? For instance, will the inclusion of women in a monitoring mechanism influence the extent to which women-focused provisions are implemented?
Monitoring Mechanisms as a means of promoting inclusion?
Do monitoring mechanisms have a role to play in helping to include excluded groups? If so, can we understand the implementation phase as a space for ongoing negotiation and if so, how do monitoring mechanisms contribute to broader inclusion? What are the political risks? These questions emerge when we consider that the potential impact of third-party actors is arguably limited by the agreement they seek to assist in implementing. Thus, for instance, if, as a result of exclusive negotiations, an agreement excludes in its content previously marginalised groups, even successful implementation will be limited in its ability to be transformative.
Measuring the Impacts of Implementation?
A final question relates to the impact of implementation on peace more generally. This particular focus extends the initial discussion of measuring implementation in order to ask what material impacts implementation has on the ground.
This broader focus does, however, raise a number of additional difficulties and further questions. For instance, what is peace and who defines it? Relatedly, what are the measurements adopted and who conceptualises the indicators used? How do these measurements reflect the context in question? How inclusive of local needs are they?
Rather than offering definitive answers to these questions, the workshop report serves as an introduction and initial mapping of issues that emerge when we delve deeper into the role of third party monitors in the implementation process. It also offers a number of recommendations, the majority of which are outlined below.
- Implementing, Monitoring and Measuring Peace Agreements
The main findings include:
Monitoring bodies perform crucial roles in overseeing technical aspects of the implementation process.
These include monitoring and providing information on areas of successful implementation and lags in the implementation process.
Alongside these technical contributions, third-party monitors also play a range of additional roles, which include:
- bridging knowledge gaps and trust between parties;
- identifying emergent positive and negative patterns;
- detecting issues of concern and catalysing greater efforts in implementing lagging areas;
- drawing on comparative experiences to help offer solutions to difficult implementation issues;
- providing public spaces for ongoing dialogue; and
- championing areas of successful implementation.
Monitoring bodies also face a number of difficulties and limitations, which include:
- power disparities at the negotiation table, which can undermine the inclusiveness of provisions being implemented and monitored;
- implementation processes are fluid, thus subject to ongoing (re)negotiation and change; and
- limitations associated with what can be assessed (i.e. the impacts of implementation)
- Benchmarks and indicators of peace beyond implementation
The main findings suggest that existing measurements of peace are limited in a number of fundamental respects. Problems include:
- the pitfalls of defining indicators which operate on an assumption that social change can be mapped in a linear cause-and-effect way;
- the limitations of benchmarks, particularly the failure to connect different indicators to each other in order to give a better appraisal on the state of peace in a given setting;
- the problem of dominant narratives when defining indicators and choosing and excluding which ones to use;
- the restrictiveness of quantitative measurements, which can fail to capture matters such as intercommunal and personal relationships;
- organisational bias, namely the use of indicators to justify external interventions; and
- the lack of context reflected in indicators.
- Potential Solutions
This section outlines a number of proposals to improve the implementation, monitoring and measuring of implementation, and measuring peace more generally.
The main recommendations are addressed in two parts:
a. Implementing and Measuring Implementation
- there is a need to better understand the varieties of peace that can emerge from conflict, and the circumstances that are more likely to influence these varieties;
- there is a need to embrace and construct non-linear, adaptable and flexible indicators;
- multiple narratives and perspectives should be included when defining indicators and benchmarks approach;
- indicators and benchmarks should be context-specific, and should include different benchmarks and indicators for different territorial levels , such as national and sub-national and local; and
- defining priorities and short / long term implementation goals can help to manage expectation.
b. Measuring Peace
- inclusive negotiations can lead to inclusive outcomes, thereby increasing the relationship between implementation and durable peace;
- carefully designed implementation mechanisms can improve prospects for successful implementation, while also providing a dynamic mechanism for responding to implementation;
- inclusive implementation mechanisms can increase legitimacy and safeguard gains for minority groups during negotiations;
- increased implementation and monitoring mechanisms at sub-national levels can support and improve implementation at sub-national levels; and
- feedback loops between those implementing agreements, monitoring agreements and the wider public can help to increase public buy-in and legitimacy.