Mediators of Chad's military and opposition groups launch national peace talks in Doha Mediators of Chad's military and opposition groups launch national peace talks in Doha  (AFP or licensors)

39 ongoing peace processes challenge wars across the globe

A comprehensive report by the Autonomous University of Barcelona analyses multilateral efforts that seek to end armed conflicts through peaceful mechanisms. The Church is currently involved in eight negotiations in Africa, America and Europe.

By Felipe Herrera-Espaliat

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi's visit to Kyiv on 5 and 6 June lasted less than 48 hours. But during those two very intense days, the Italian prelate held important meetings, listened to harrowing testimonies and learnt, firsthand, about the barbarity caused by the armed violence that has pitted Ukraine and Russia against each other for the past 16 months. Zuppi travelled to Ukraine as Pope Francis' special envoy to explore the possibilities of establishing a dialogue leading to peace, and to this end he met with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. These efforts are part of the diplomatic and humanitarian actions that the Holy See has been carrying out since the beginning of this war, but they are not isolated or unique acts. In fact, there are currently thousands of people participating in 39 different peace processes in different latitudes of the planet, challenging violence as a means of conflict resolution. These are complex initiatives that, in addition to the parties to the conflict, involve third-party actors working together to reach a ceasefire and achieve sustainable solutions.


One instance where negotiations were successful was on last 2 November, when the government of Ethiopia signed an agreement for a lasting peace with the Tigray People's Liberation Front, a militant group in the northern Ethiopian region, where a violent conflict had been raging since late 2020. The pact involved a permanent cessation of hostilities and an executive plan to implement the commitments made by both sides.  Representatives of the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and US diplomacy contributed to reaching this point and pledged to accompany the fragile peace process.

These and all other diplomatic, political, military, social and humanitarian efforts taking place in the world today are described in detail in the report Peace Talks in Focus 2022. Report on Trends and Scenarios. It is a comprehensive compendium prepared by researchers from the Escola de Cultura de Pau (School for a Culture of Peace) of the Autonomous University of Barcelona. The document offers an overview of conflicts by country and continent, describing the different scenarios in which they take place. Thus, for example, the report analyses the Tigray war from the perspective of the 15 active processes and negotiations in Africa, which account for 39% of the total global efforts.  Asia accounts for 26% of active cases (ten peace processes), Europe for 15% (six peace processes), and the Middle East and America for four cases each, or, taken together, 20%. The text also points out that the progress of a considerable number of peace negotiations in 2022 was affected by Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

The analysis of the 39 peace processes included a gender perspective, to understand whether these processes take into account the different consequences of wars on men, women and sexual minorities. According to Ana Villellas, one of the researchers, this data makes it possible to observe "gender inequality of power in the underlying and dynamic causes of wars and their impact. Moreover, it is a type of analysis that pays attention to how peace processes in their design, implementation, participation mechanisms, resulting agreements, post-agreement mechanisms and other spheres, can reproduce or transform gender inequality in power relations".

Solutions through peaceful methods alone

The effort of the six researchers who contributed to this report is not limited to the academic sphere, but “one of its main objectives is to place information and analysis at the service of those actors who, on different levels, participate in the peaceful resolution of conflicts, including parties, mediators, civil society, among others”, explains Jordi Urgell, director of the Escola de Cultura de Pau.

Of course, experts point out, not all initiatives that seek to bring the positions of the conflicting parties closer together can be considered peace processes, but only those that are aimed at resolving conflicts and transforming their underlying causes through peaceful methods. Fundamental to this are the so-called peace negotiations, i.e. those “processes of dialogue between at least two opposing parties in a conflict, in which differences are addressed within a concerted framework in order to put an end to violence and find a solution that meets their demands”. “These dialogues are generally preceded by exploratory phases that allow for the format, location, conditions and guarantees, among other aspects of the future negotiation to be defined,” explains Josep Maria Royo, an academic who contributed to the report, specifically addressing the situation in Africa.

Josep Maria Royo
Josep Maria Royo

Everything to gain, nothing to lose

The comparative case study of peace processes reveals that there are a number of factors that favour their successful outcome, the first of which is to reach the conviction that armed struggle is not needed to achieve the objectives and, therefore, that dialogue is the best, if not the only, option. But Royo adds that all this also entails a willingness to make concessions with respect to one's own positions so that everyone gains a lot and no one loses everything.

"Other issues that can create a favourable climate for a peace process are the so-called windows of opportunity, domestically and/or internationally. This could take the form of a historical event, such as 9/11 or the end of the Cold War, a regime change in a country or an institutional crisis. Pressure, threats and ultimatums of sanctions applications by the international community also play a role. Other windows can open with the visit of a high office or international figure to a region, such as a president, or as Pope Francis did in his visits to the Central African Republic and Cuba in 2015,” Royo points out.

The role of third parties

Another element to speed up the peace process is the intervention of third parties who, first of all, must be recognised as legitimate by the parties to the conflict. These actors, which are usually international institutions or bodies, must be provided with security so that they can contribute to the dialogue and facilitate a negotiated exit from the conflict. According to the report, 90 per cent of the 2022 negotiating processes could count on the active presence of third parties, such as the UN, which participated in 60 per cent of the processes that included at least one third party.

Josep Maria Royo emphasises that these agents strengthen and give balance to the actors in the conflict, lead and unblock the dialogue, establish order and priorities of the topics on the negotiation agenda, as well as observe and guarantee the commitments they make. With the authority they are granted, they can also put pressure on those involved in the conflict to make concessions or open up to proposed solutions. In fact, according to their own areas of experience, third parties bring a greater technical capacity to the negotiations.

Listen to Prof. Josep Maria Royo

The Catholic Church is collaborating in the peace processes in Cameroon, Mozambique, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Colombia and Haiti, and now its contribution is officially added to the others to facilitate dialogue in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The ecclesial presence takes the form of the participation of agents of Vatican diplomacy, the mediation of various Bishops' Conferences or the missions of communities such as Sant'Egidio. In the case of Ukraine, for example, the results of Cardinal Zuppi's talks with religious leaders, as well as his first-hand experience of the suffering of the invaded people, “will certainly be useful in assessing the steps to be continued both on the humanitarian level and in the search for paths to a just and lasting peace,” says the Holy See Press Office.

These actions of the Church, as well as of the various NGOs, international agencies and intergovernmental organisations, among others, do not reflect all the permanent efforts being made for peace to prevail over war. Indeed, despite its comprehensiveness, the report recognises that "the issues on the negotiating agendas were diverse and the details on the various elements and status of discussions of each round were not always public".

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21 June 2023, 15:11