The Logic of Ceasefires in Civil War

Article by Govinda Clayton, Valerie Sticher

Ceasefires play a role in almost all civil war peace processes. Yet existing studies undertheorize the ways in which different logics drive the design of ceasefire agreements, and the effect this has on violence suspension. Building on bargaining theory and existing ceasefire literature, we identify different bargaining problems conflict parties face over the course of a conflict, and three classes of ceasefire design they use to address these problems. We argue that the effect of ceasefires is driven both by these underlying logics and by the provisions they contain. Building on the PA-X data to capture the provisions included within all written civil war ceasefires between 1990 and 2019, and using Uppsala Conflict Data Program georeferenced event data, we estimate models of ceasefire survival, with conflict deaths as the main measure of whether a ceasefire remains in place. We find that definitive ceasefires (i.e., agreements with demobilization and incompatibility provisions), followed by preliminary ceasefires (i.e., agreements with compliance mechanisms), are associated with longer periods of violence suspension than cessation of hostilities agreements that lack such provisions. We discuss the implications of our results for conflict parties and third parties seeking to facilitate the transition from war to peace.

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