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Designing Transitions from Civil War Barbara F. Walter Demobilization, Democratization, and Commitments to Peace Why do some civil war negotiations succeed in ending conºict whereas others fail? Combatants in seventeen of the forty-one civil wars that occurred between 1940 and 1990 initiated formal negotiations designed to end their ªghting.1 In eight of the seventeen cases (47 percent), the adversaries signed and implemented successful peace settlements. In nine other cases (53 percent), however, they returned to war. (See Table 1 for the list of cases.) The fact that combatants were almost as likely to resume hostilities once they initiated negotiations as they were to sign and implement a settlement is striking for two reasons. First, despite all the impediments to cooperation, combatants involved in almost half of all peace negotiations did succeed in ending their conºict off the battleªeld. Second, despite the high costs of ªghting, including the possibility of elimination on the battleªeld, more than half of all combatants involved in negotiations chose to return to war. To date, most scholars and policymakers have assumed that civil war negotiations fail because the combatants have no interest in working together, they International Security, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Summer 1999), pp. 127–155© 1999 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Barbara F. Walter is Assistant Professor, Graduate School of International Relations and Paciªc Studies, University of California, San Diego, and Research Director for International Security at the Institute on Global Conºict and Cooperation, University of California. The Ford Foundation supported this work through a grant to the Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University. A version of this article will appear in Barbara F. Walter and Jack L. Snyder, eds., Civil Wars, Insecurity, and International Intervention (New York: Columbia University Press, forthcoming). The author wishes to thank James Fearon, Henk Goemans, Peter Gourevitch, Robert Jervis, David Laitin, David Lake, John McMillan, Jack Snyder, Richard Tucker, Barry Weingast, Christopher Woodruff, the participants of the 1998 John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies’ seminar series, and especially Zoltan Hajnal for helpful comments on earlier drafts. 1. I coded civil wars as having had “negotiations” if factions held face-to-face talks and issues relevant to resolving the war were discussed. These qualiªcations eliminated scheduled talks that never took place, meetings where no substantive issues were deliberated, and talks that excluded key participants. I also attempted to apply a “good faith” proviso and exclude those meetings where one or both participants were obviously unwilling to yield on important issues. Although sometimes difªcult to determine, certain actions did signal whether or not faction leaders honestly wished to cooperate. Their readiness to accept supervision, make public announcements of important concessions, discuss the details of a transfer of power, and participate in lengthy negotiations all generated costs to the groups involved and indicated more than a tactical interest in appearing to be cooperative. To say that a civil war experienced “negotiations,” however, does not imply that groups would not willingly defect if they could beneªt from cheating. “Negotiations” simply indicate that they were willing to consider an alternative to war. 127 Table 1. Civil Wars Ending between 1940 and 1990 In Which Peace Negotiations Were Initiated. Civil Wara Negotiationsb Signed Settlementc Outcomed No Settlement Was Reached or Signed Vietnam (1960–75) Yes No Decisive victory Nigeria (1967–70) Yes No Decisive victory Jordan (1970) Yes No Decisive victory Nicaragua (1978–79) Yes No Decisive victory A Settlement Was Reached or Signed but Not Implemented Greece (1944–49) Yes Yes Decisive victory China (1946–49) Yes Yes Decisive victory Laos (1960–75)e Yes Yes Decisive victory Chad (1979–87) Yes Yes Decisive victory Uganda (1981–87) Yes Yes Decisive victory A Settlement Was Signed and Implemented Colombia (1948–58)e Yes Yes Successful settlement Lebanon (1958) Yes Yes Successful settlement Yemen (1962–70)f Yes Yes Successful settlement Sudan (1963–72) Yes Yes Successful settlement Dominican Republic (1965) Yes Yes Successful settlement Zimbabwe (1972–79) Yes Yes Successful settlement Lebanon (1975–76) Yes Yes Successful settlement Nicaragua (1981–89) Yes Yes Successful settlement a Conºicts were...


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