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On the Importance of a Long-term Approach to Peace Processes

On the Inadequacies of Zartman's „Ripe Moment“ to overall Conflict Resolution and the Social Psychological Dimensions of Ethnic Conflicts

Essay 2011 14 Seiten

Politik - Internationale Politik - Allgemeines und Theorien


Table of Contents


On the Importance of a long-term Approach to Peace Processes
On the Inadequacies of Zartman's „Ripe Moment“
The Social Psychological Dimensions of Ethnic Conflicts




This paper is set out to give a possible account of why so many peace processes concerning intra-state ethnic conflicts have produced „no war, no peace“ situations, hence states of negative peace where risks for resumed fightings are high, rather than an actual resolution fostering mutual understanding and recognition involving society at large.

The first section of this assignment is designed to point out the necessity to resolve conflicts by peaceful means as well as of conflict transformation and, thereby, deals with the wide-spread assumption first introduced by Zartman that conflicts require a “ripe moment” as the ideal entry point for eg. mediators to reach a peace agreement among the belligerents which I will argue only leads to a peace settlement and thus, more often to a flawed peace than to the conflict's resolution. John Paul Lederach's approach of cultivating peace and Ramsbotham's ideas of conflict transformation both stressing the cruciality of a long-term approach to peace processes shall underline my argumentation.

The second part then explores the fundamentals of the social psychological aspects of ethnic conflicts reflected upon so well by Herbert Kelman who builds upon Burton's research concerning the dimension of deep rooted conflicts - as ethical conflicts usually can be described! - emphasising human needs and fears over interests, since they can be seen as the root cause for the inadequacy of Zartman's theory of the “ripe moment”. Moreover, the concept of work-shops designed by Kelman as a feature of track II diplomacy in conflict resolution shall serve as a successful example for an alternative in a long-term approach to peace processes.

Altogether, it is to notice that the paper is based on the constructivist assumption of the ethnic concept in contrast to the primordialist thought. Furthermore, Zartman's “ripe moment”, should not in anyway be discredited in its contribution to conflict resolution as it can serve as a valuable turning point. However, it should not be seen as the solution but rather as an initial/accompanying step in a long-term process that is essential for a sustainable peace.

Finally, when taking these considerations in mind the core element needed in addition for a successful peace process is political and societal will in order to really overcome “no war, no peace” situations on the long-term!

On the Importance of a long-term Approach to Peace Processes

On the Inadequacies of Zartman's „Ripe Moment“

Intra-state ethnic conflicts reaching an international dimension can be considered a phenomenon of the 20th as well as 21st century often threatening the maintenance of international peace and security. The UN Charter, therefore, stresses decisively in Chapter VI the importance of pacific settlements of disputes whereby Article 33(1) points out that “The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.”[1]

Conflict resolution to solve ethical conflicts has taken many forms so far but has most often lead to what we would describe as a flawed peace. Roger Mac Ginty argues that these “no war, no peace” situations occur in three forms: 1. where “[...] a violent conflict has largely been contained in a geographic region of a larger state” (eg. the “two Ugandas”), 2. “[...] where a peace accord has been reached between the main antagonists in a civill war but the implementation of the accord becomes stalled and fails to move towards a truly transformative peace”, 3. where “[...] a peace process becomes established through a ceasefire and a routine of inter-group meetings.”[2]

Hence, the obvious inadequacies can be seen in the mere achievement of a peace settlement through ceasefire agreements and with it the lack of conflict transformation as such, as well as through separating warring ethnic groups rather than integrating society by fostering mutual understanding and recognition.

At this point I would like to argue that Zartman's so often applied theory of a “ripe moment” as embodied by a hurting stalemate is a causation factor for such an “no war, no peace” situation if not accompanied by a long-term overall approach to establishing peace. Zartman claims that conflicts can best be tackled when an opportunity in form of a “hurting stalemate” in terms of eg. a change in power relations, a military setback or the failure to impose a unilateral outcome, presents itself. This is usually referred to as the “ripe moment” where most often mediation efforts set in.[3]

So why is it that Zartman's exclamation for the need of a “ripe moment” can be considered insufficient? Most of all, this concept experiences as pointed out above practical limitations. John Lederach remarks that ripeness is more a rearview mirror rather than a forward-looking skill orientation suggesting linearity of process and a predictive capacity. Usually it is only in retrospect that we define situations as ripe ones.[4] The second implication of this assumption is that ripeness pretty much is in the eye of the beholder as “[...] ripeness is more often than not something perceived by outsiders with the luxury of dispassionate facts and factors. In the midst of week-to-week and month-to-month emergencies people rarely see their situations as 'ripe' for peace.”[5]

Furthermore, Lederach claims that ripeness focuses more on the mediator as the actor than as mediation as a process involving multiple people, functions and roles which resembles more a harvest whereby the negotiated agreement represents the fruit rather than a cultivation involving real changes in people and perceptions.[6] This very well can be linked to Mac Ginty's argument in point 2. on the previous page as then “[…] local actors have difficulty achieving a sense of ownership of the peace accord: its implementation becomes something that is done to them rather than a process in which they are full participants.”[7]

In this respect, Ramsbotham et al. argue as well that the “hurting stalemate” model is too focused on the power relationship between the parties and does not sufficiently consider changes within the parties nor the context. Moreover, they point out that there often are situations which represent “hurting stalemates” but do not lead to successful negotiations/outcomes like it has been the case during the Cyprus conflict. Also the authors stress that we need to distinguish between ripeness for negotiations to begin and ripeness for them to succeed initiating the idea of a “ripening process” rather than the requirement for a “ripe moment” as a sudden event.[8]

Considering this argumentation I particularly want to emphasise the idea of ripeness as “[...] a complex process of transformations in the situation, shifts in public attitudes and new perceptions and visions among decision-makers.”[9] which goes together with the approach of conflict transformation besides conflict settlement and conflict management as tools of conflict resolution, embodying in my opinion the most crucial task to accomplish a positive peace.

In this view, Burton, Azar and Curle define five generic transformers of protracted conflict whereby context transformation relates to the social, regional and international context in which conflicts are embedded and that often lead to their continuation. Probably the most often cited example for such a transformation is the end of the Cold War. However, local structures might be resistant to change on a regional or international level so that a change in the set of actors and their incompatible goals is required (eg. shift from an asymmetric to a symmetric relationship).[10]


[1] Charter of the UN. “Chapter VI: Pacific Settlement of Disputes”, , June 2011

[2] Mac Ginty, R (2010) “No war no peace: Why so many peace processes fail to deliver peace.” International Politics Vol. 47(2), p. 147/148

[3] Bercovitch, Jacob (1997). “Mediation in International Conflict” In: William Zartman/Lewis Rassmussen, “Peacemaking in International Conflict”, Washington, p. 145

[4] Lederach, John Paul (1999), “Cultivating Pace: A Practitioner's View of deadly Conflict and Negotiation” In: Preparing for Peace. New York. p. 31/32

[5] Ebd., p. 33

[6] Ebd., p. 33/34

[7] Mac Ginty, R (2010) “No war no peace: Why so many peace processes fail to deliver peace.” International Politics Vol. 47(2), p. 152

[8] Ramsbotham, Oliver et al., “Peacemaking” In: “Contemporary Conflict Resolution”. Cambridge. p. 167

[9] Ramsbotham, Oliver et al., “Peacemaking” In: “Contemporary Conflict Resolution”. Cambridge. p. 167

[10] Ebd., p. 163


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ISBN (Buch)
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Universität Wien – Politikwissenschaft
importance long-term approach peace processes inadequacies zartman ripe moment conflict resolution social psychological dimensions ethnic conflicts




Titel: On the Importance of a Long-term Approach to Peace Processes