Jus Post Bellum Symposium: Peace Agreements as a Framework for Jus Post Bellum

by Jennifer S. Easterday

[Jennifer Easterday is a researcher for the Jus Post Bellum Project at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Faculty of Law, Leiden University.]

In my chapter of this volume, I suggest that jus post bellum should be considered as a broad, holistic concept that includes different functions: jus post bellum as providing a body of norms, as an interpretive framework, as a site of coordination, and as a site of discourse. I argue that a multi-faceted concept of jus post bellum can be informed by the norms and practices associated with developing and implementing post-conflict constitutions that arise out of peace agreements (“constitutional peace agreements”). Here, I will focus on jus post bellum as an interpretive framework, and how examining constitutional peace agreements can inform that function.

Constitutional peace agreements seek to transform conflict to peace by shifting violent conflict into political discourse. These agreements shape the environment in which jus post bellum operates. They provide a legal framework for a given situation and influence how the laws and norms of jus post bellum would be applied. They can serve as useful indications of the most important issues at the root of the conflict and provide a normative framework for the transition to a sustainable peace. Moreover, the processes of negotiating, drafting, and implementing constitutional peace agreements, and the law of peacemakers—or the “lex pacificatoria”—suggest important practices that could shape jus post bellum as an interpretive framework.

Considered broadly, constitutional peace agreements attempt to transform conflict to peace by (1) transforming societal norms; (2) bargaining and negotiating over solutions to the underlying causes of conflict; (3) creating a space for peaceful discursive conflict resolution; and (4) creating new state institutions. In undertaking these transformative steps, the study of peace agreements indicates the need for common norms and an interpretive frame that can help foster sustainable peace. Constitutional peace agreements can go further in addressing wider notions of justice and issues critical for peace than international law. Using peace agreements as a guide, jus post bellum could more adequately address issues of justice, social truth, and the needs of victims of conflict.

Peace agreements translate between the different spheres and regimes that jus post bellum must navigate, including domestic/international, legal/political, and war/peace. Constitutional peace agreements navigate a “messy” middle way to peace, a tactic that could be useful for a flexible, context-specific jus post bellum. As argued by Christine Bell in the volume, it is important to leave these “messy” spaces of contestation and negotiation, in order to best maneuver what she calls the “dual commitment” of understanding both what justice requires and the evolving ideas of what justice means. In order to approach the transition from conflict to peace from a holistic point of view, jus post bellum will need to be able to accommodate changing priorities. In turn, through its holistic focus on sustainable peace, jus post bellum can provide interpretive principles or considerations as to how these priorities should be balanced throughout the transition.

Jus post bellum can also draw on our developing understanding of the shortcomings of constitutional peace agreements. Peace agreements are limited by who sits at the table and can result in counter-productive political arrangements. Indeed, the importance of inclusion is one of the biggest lessons jus post bellum might learn from constitutional peace agreements. The inclusion of multiple voices and the balancing of competing priorities can influence the potential success (or failure) of the constitutional peace agreement. In practice, jus post bellum will also face similar issues with respect to inclusion and balancing interests—peacebuilders will need to take special consideration of interests that might historically be under-represented, even if they have not been immediately party to the conflict or represented in the constitutional peace agreement.

Furthermore, constitutional peace agreements can be difficult to implement and risk being undermined by spoilers, giving rise to a fragile normative basis for peace. They also leave gaps and silences with respect to critical issues, such as gender equality, that can undermine peace efforts. (Although, as I argue in the volume, jus post bellum’s focus on sustainable peace could help fill those gaps.) With international involvement, constitutional peace agreements may reflect neo-colonialist tendencies or be further weakened by imposed timelines and competing priorities of international interveners.

This last point is a critical one, given the prevalence of international interveners in peace agreement negotiation, drafting, and implementation. According to an analysis of a UN peace agreement database, peace agreements nearly always have some type of international involvement. Studying the successes and failures of constitutional peace agreements suggests that jus post bellum should include principles for international interventions that reflect the following:

  • transparency (especially about certain non-negotiable policies that might arise during consultations, such as amnesties for international crimes)
  • accountability (e.g. adhering to the same human rights standards they are promoting)
  • having a base knowledge of the language and culture of the country
  • acting collaboratively with all segments of society
  • prioritizing the interests of society over those of interveners
  • taking a long-term, holistic view to normative and practical issues
  • taking a unified and coherent approach to balancing competing goals
  • ensuring there is sufficient time for outreach and public education about peacebuilding processes
  • maintaining a limited and legitimate international influence over the process; and
  • the inclusion of women’s interests and traditional concepts of justice as peacebuilding priorities, amongst others.

These principles could form the basis of a jus post bellum interpretive framework, in which the application of laws or implementation of peacebuilding projects is undertaken in an effort to maximize, for example, inclusion, local ownership, and coherence. They could form a practice-oriented basis for the jus post bellum “ethics of care” called for by Carsten Stahn elsewhere in this symposium.

Based on an examination of the practice and particularities of drafting peace agreements and post-conflict constitutions, it seems that rather than prescribe hard-and-fast rules for liberal institutional design, it is critical for jus post bellum to include a set of flexible standards that aim to optimize sustainable peace within a framework that can function in specific contexts. I argue that jus post bellum should not be limited to rigid rules or laws. Jus post bellum can—and should—be fluid and context-specific and involve the larger polity of a conflict state.

http://opiniojuris.org/2014/05/07/jus-post-bellum-symposium-peace-agreements-framework-jus-post-bellum/

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