Learning from Failure: Tackling war recurrence in protracted peace processes (1 April 2019 - March 2021)


Lead academic: Professor Stefan Wolff (s.wolff@bham.ac.uk)

Lead academic: Giuditta Fontana (g.fontana@bham.ac.uk)


Argyro Kartsonaki (a.kartsonaki@bham.ac.uk)

Natascha Neudorfer (n.neudorfer@bham.ac.uk)

Christalla Yakinthou (c.yakinthou@bham.ac.uk)


Civil war is the most frequent and destructive form of armed conflict today. Nearly one third of societies that have experienced one civil war also experience a second or a third war, rising to fifty percent in cases of ethnic civil wars. However, there is a lack of research that studies causes and possible mitigation of war recurrence. Hence, this project will ask what factors lead to the collapse of a peace agreement and how can they be tackled to achieve sustainable peace. We will examine fifteen cases of peace processes during which war recurred at least once but that ultimately terminated the conflict successfully. We will analyse both Peace Agreement content and implementation. Our aim is, to uncover (1) how shortcomings in failed Peace Agreements were identified, (2) how relevant parties addressed them in subsequent Peace Agreements and their implementation, and (3) how these changes led to peace.

Project aims and objectives

The principal objective of the project is to enhance our understanding of the factors leading to civil war recurrence and how they can be effectively mitigated to promote sustainable peace. A further goal, directly flowing from such an expanded understanding, is to improve the capacity of policy practitioners to shape peace agreements and manage peace processes in such a way that the risk of war recurrence can be minimized.

We seek to contribute to this goal through achieving five specific objectives:

1. Establishing the current state of the art in our understanding of civil war recurrence

2. Determining the conditions under which peace agreements fail or succeed

3. Identifying the concrete processes and mechanisms that bring about war recurrence or sustainable peace

4. Offering cautious and contingent generalizations on how the risk of war recurrence can be minimized

5. Making our findings available to both scholars and policy practitioners


United States Institute of Peace (USIP)

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