The Elusive Art of Negotiating Peace: Q&A with Lise Howard

The relatively short period from the end of the Cold War until the September 11 terrorist attacks was something of a golden age for using negotiations to end international conflicts such as civil wars, according to Lise Howard, associate professor of Government at Georgetown University.

“We had a rise, a statistical rise that’s really quite clear, in negotiated settlements in civil wars,” Howard said, contrasting this with what had until then been the more common conclusion to such conflicts—the complete political defeat or expulsion of the losing side.

Speaking with Global Observatory Editor Marie O’Reilly, the author of UN Peacekeeping in Civil Wars said this new norm led to a decrease in the number of civil wars observed around the world, though the tide started to turn back after September 11, when the emphasis on eschewing negotiating with terrorists spread to other areas of conflict resolution.

“In other words, we [now] see it as normatively appropriate to seek to defeat rebels, to seek to defeat terrorists, rather than talk to them,” Howard said, noting that all peacekeeping missions were now authorized to use force under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.

The conversation was part of a series of interviews done on the sidelines of the inaugural retreat of the Independent Commission on Multilateralism (ICM) on February 20-21. It followed a session on the changing nature of conflicts.

Listen to interview: