A peace treaty is an agreement between two hostile parties, usually countries or governments, which formally ends a war or armed conflict. Treaties are often ratified in territories deemed neutral in the previous conflict and delegates from these neutral territories act as witnesses to the signatories. In the case of large conflicts between numerous parties there may be one global treaty covering all issues or separate treaties signed between each party. In more modern times, certain intractable conflict situations, especially those involving terrorism, may first be brought to cease-fire and are then dealt with via a peace process where a number of discrete steps are taken on each side to eventually reach the mutually desired goal of peace and the signing of a treaty. Some ceasefires, such as the one following the American Revolution, may last a number of years and follow a tortuous process. "Though a wide ocean separates the United States from Europe, yet there are various considerations that warn us against an excess of confidence or security ... Politicians have ever with great reason considered the ties of blood as feeble and precarious links of political connection. These circumstances combined, admonish us not to be too sanguine in considering ourselves as entirely out of the reach of danger."
The peace treaty signed at the Appomattox Courthouse, formally ended the American Civil War. The United States went through a process of nation-building after the Civil War to reconstruct the South. This process lasted close to a century, only finally culminating in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
The Treaty of Versailles, formally ending the First World War, is possibly the most notorious of peace treaties, in that it is blamed by some historians for the rise of National Socialism in Germany and the eventual outbreak of the Second World War. The costly reparations Germany was forced to pay the victors of the war, the fact that Germany had to accept sole responsibility for starting the war, and the harsh restrictions on German rearmament, were all listed in the treaty and they caused massive resentment within Germany. Whether the Treaty of Versailles can be blamed for starting another war or not, shows the difficulties involved in making peace.
Peace efforts necessitate the cooperation of all parties involved in a conflict together with the international community. Cease-fire agreements facilitate this cooperation at different levels. The content of peace agreements affects the durability of peace, whether the aim is to resolve a political or a military problem or even when agreements take the form of armistices. A treaty's content usually depends heavily on the nature of the conflict being concluded. There are many possible issues which may be included in a peace treaty. Some of these are formal designation of borders, processes for resolving future disputes, access to and apportioning of natural resources, status of prisoners, status of refugees, settling of existing debts, settling of ownership claims, defining of proscribed behavior and the re-application of existing treaties.
The number of international treaties and obligations United Nations member states are involved in which they seek to limit and control behavior during wartime, has possibly made the idea of total war less tenable. This has meant that formal declarations of war are frequently not undertaken, and therefore a peace treaty does not follow the end of conflict. The Korean War is an example of a war which was suspended with a cease-fire but never closed with a treaty.
The peace process describes efforts by interested parties to affect a lasting solution to long-running conflicts, such as in Northern Ireland, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. In the Middle East, various solutions have been offered, and some tried. Jimmy Carter, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat worked together to create an official peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, which ended the formal state of war between the two nations as a result of the Camp David Accords in 1978. The Oslo accords were a later framework between the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel. In 2000, when American, Palestinian and Israeli leaders met at Camp David to attempt to bring peace to the current hostilities, the social critic Noam Chomsky recalled the history of hostilities in region. He remarked: "Any discussion of what is called a 'peace process' - whether the one underway at Camp David or any other - should keep in mind the operative meaning of the phrase: by definition, the 'peace process' is whatever the U.S. government happens to be pursuing."
Analysts of civil war have focused their attention on the negotiation of peace agreements and paid little attention to the implementation process. They assumed that a contract between state and insurgent leaders would remain binding in the post-agreement phase. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, negotiated agreements in such countries as Angola, Cambodia, Liberia, and Rwanda collapsed and resulted in new deadly violence. In some cases more blood was shed after the failure to implement a peace accord than before the peace negotiations began. Several hypotheses have been put forward to explain the challenges faced and the failure to implement peace agreements in civil wars: security dilemmas of the warring parties; inadequate international involvement; the presence of spoilers whose commitment to peace is only tactical; vague, incomplete, or expedient peace agreements; and the lack of coordination among implementing agencies.
Implementation of a peace agreement requires establishing the rule of law, which includes holding elections, promoting human rights, and reforming the judiciary. Winner-take-all elections can generate a polarization that could undermine the efforts to build peace. Unless there is some form of compensation for those who lose at the ballot box, they will always have a strong incentive to take up arms again and resort to force to achieve their objectives.
Most civil conflicts leave a country unable to perform even the most basic administrative functions. Third parties, including international organizations and nongovernmental organizations, can contribute to reestablishing a more stable political order by temporarily taking over these functions, while being careful not to compromise local sovereignty and authority. The lack of state institutions and governing capacity places great demands on peace implementers. In addition to bringing fighting to a close, the implementers must create and build up a modicum of state capacity in order for the peace to have a chance to sustain itself.
The difficulty of implementation increases when there are more than two warring parties.
Strategies become less predictable, balances of power become more tenuous, and alliances become more fluid. In Cambodia, for example, any action that the United Nations might have taken against the Khmer Rouge had to be weighed against the effects such action would have had on Funcinpec, which relied on the Khmer Rouge to balance against the State of Cambodia.
In cases where a proliferation of warring parties occurred, as in Somalia and Liberia, implementers constantly found it difficult to craft solutions that would address the concerns of all the warring factions. Where any factions found themselves excluded, the peace agreement faced their violent opposition.
Peace agreements are also jeopardized by the absence of a peace agreement signed by all major warring parties, with a minimum of coercion, before intervention. The United Nations has usually required a detailed peace agreement among the warring parties as a sign of their consent to a peace mission as a precondition for its involvement. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, the United Nations intervened in many ongoing wars and, in several instances, either it, or a regional organization, or a state intervened in the hope of using force to compel a peace agreement: the UN in Somalia, ECOMOG in Liberia and Sierra Leone, India in Sri Lanka, NATO in Bosnia, and Syria in Lebanon. Intervention in the absence of a peace agreement likely will trigger violent opposition by parties who value the pre-intervention status quo. The absence of a peace agreement implies a lack of problem solving, trust, and confidence building among the warring factions, thus producing a more difficult implementation environment.
The presence of spoilers in peace agreements poses daunting challenges to implementation.
One critique of the spoiler concept, however, is that spoilers are only recognized after the fact. This criticism can be addressed by attempting to gauge whether prospective implementers judged that they were likely to face violent challenges during implementation. A more sophisticated criticism of the spoiler concept is that potential spoilers are always present and whether an actor actually engages in spoiling behavior depends on the existence of a special opportunity structure.
Another factor important to success is demobilization, disarmament, and restructuring of the armed forces. At some level, numbers matter. High numbers of soldiers pose greater demands for verification and monitoring and, hence, a greater potential for successful cheating. Moreover, greater numbers of soldiers require more personnel for monitoring and more resources for demobilization. Foot soldiers in civil wars become a problem quickly if implementation does not include provisions for their employment.