The Conflict Research Society congratulates Valerie Sticher, winner of the Cedric Smith Prize 2021. Valerie successfully defended her dissertation at Leiden University in May this year. The Cedric Smith Prize is awarded annually to the best article or thesis chapter in peace and conflict research by a PhD student.
Valerie’s winning article “Negotiating Peace with Your Enemy: The Problem of Costly Concessions” is published in the Journal of Global Security Studies and adds an additional explanation for why negotiated agreements to end civil wars are so hard to achieve even if the leaders of all sides would prefer to settle. To do that, Valerie modifies bargaining theory to account for an important insight from social psychology: Individuals and groups sometimes discount their own gains from an agreement if the gains to the out-group (concessions) are deemed too high. What Valerie shows here using formal modelling may not surprise adherents of either bargaining theory or socio-psychological peace research, yet bringing together insights from both these fields is creative, and immensely policy-relevant. Valerie illustrates the usefulness of her framework for the 2012–2016 peace negotiations between the government of Colombia and the FARC.
The CRS received 15 excellent submissions for the prize from all over the world. Special mention goes to the runner-up for the prize, Marc-Olivier Cantin from the University of Montreal, Canada. His article “Pathways to Violence in Civil Wars: Combatant Socialization and the Drivers of Participation in Civilian Targeting” is published in International Studies Review and presents an impressive and excellently written theory synthesis to explain why individual rebels (the rank and file) come to kill civilians in civil war, starting from the premise that such violence is not easy to carry out.