Incremental inclusivity in peace process design

The quest for inclusive pathways to peace has become one of the cornerstones of the international peacebuilding agenda in the past few years. However, due to a lack of conceptual clarity, the scholarly literature on how to design, manage and support such inclusive processes is still inconclusive.

By conducting a comparative case study of recent and ongoing peace processes in Afghanistan, Colombia, Mali and Myanmar, this project seeks to gain an improved understanding of the concept of inclusivity in peace processes and post-war political settlements.

In collaboration with four local research institutions, we analyse both the pathways to and the effects of ‘incremental inclusivity’ of non-state armed groups and social movements. We look at the stages of negotiation, codification and materialisation of political, economic and social transformations. In doing so, we seek to provide targeted, evidence-based political recommendations to inform strategic understandings of effective peace process designs that bring about an inclusive materialisation of post-conflict political institutions and ultimately provide the basis for durable and sustainable peace.


January 2019 – December 2019

Given the fact that up to 50% of peace agreements break down within 5 years, there is growing awareness that the effectiveness of a peace process means more than bringing about a negotiated settlement. To prevent violent relapse, peace processes need to provide spaces for post-war societies to effectively deal with political, social and economic exclusion, as these are all factors that contribute to conflicts. Therefore, the quest for designing, managing and supporting inclusive pathways for peace has become one of the cornerstones of the international peacemaking and peacebuilding agenda in the past few years.

However, while there is an increased awareness that peace processes need to address political exclusion, we still know little about what type of inclusion, of whom, and at what stage of peace processes, would effectively help to bring about sustainable, legitimate and equitable solutions to complex protracted armed conflicts. In addition, while process inclusivity seems to be positively correlated with long-term sustainability, legitimacy and structural transformation, the multiplication of actors with divergent interests at the negotiating table may make an initial settlement harder to reach and lead to an unworkable compromise.

This project will contribute to bridging both gaps by exploring the intricacies and implications of ‘incremental inclusivity’ in peace processes, based on a comparative assessment of relevant experiences and lessons learnt from four case study countries: Colombia, Mali, Afghanistan, and Myanmar. More specifically, it will look at the sequencing of inclusion or exclusion of two types of non-state actors during peace negotiation and implementation processes, namely non-state armed groups and key (unarmed) societal stakeholders.

Case selection and Methods

In collaboration with local research partners, the project will conduct a comparative empirical assessment of the following recent or ongoing peace/ceasefire agreements:

  • the Algiers Accord for Peace and Reconciliation between the government of Mali and two coalitions of (pro-state and opposition) armed groups (June 2015)
  • the National Ceasefire Agreement between the government of Myanmar and eight ethnic armed organisations (October 2015)
  • the Havana peace accord between the government of Colombia and the FARC guerrilla group (August-November 2016)
  • the Kabul agreement between the government of Afghanistan and the rebel group Hezb-i-Islami (September 2016)

The four case studies allow a meaningful comparison of the various trajectories pursued by the respective peace negotiation and implementation processes. All four cases represent formal political settlements that are characterised by various degrees of exclusiveness. They are currently in a phase of codification and materialisation of the agreed commitments while trying to (1) broaden horizontal inclusivity to other armed groups that are still active and whose exclusion might derail the implementation of the agreed deal, and (2) broaden vertical inclusivity by involving larger segments of society into the design of structural reforms and reconciliation mechanisms.

For all four case studies, we will partner with local research organisations or consultants who are closely involved in providing advice to the ongoing conflict transformation processes in their own country, and who have privileged access to relevant decision-making arenas. This collaborative dimension of the project will provide insider knowledge and additional information based on local languages, and in turn will help to improve existing local research capacity in the four contexts.

Depending on the context and stage of the post-accord implementation or follow-up negotiations, the researchers will rely on a triangulation of methods, including:

  • interviews and focus group discussions with negotiators, mediators and experts, as well as with members of non-signatory armed groups and grassroots social movements beyond the primary parties to the peace(building) process;
  • content analysis of key documents pertaining to the negotiation, codification and materialisation of the political settlements under scrutiny;
  • participant observation in ongoing implementation and follow up dialogue and decision-making arenas.

Objectives and Outcome

The project will allow a retrospective examination of the dynamics of inclusion during negotiations in the run up to the four peace/ceasefire accords. It should provide an active, conceptually sound and empirically-based observation of ongoing attempts to broaden the inclusivity of the signed deals to non-signatory armed groups and social movements by adopting participatory implementation formats. Ultimately, the project will produce forward-looking recommendations based on case-based experiences and comparative lessons-learned. This will allow the research results to be directly transferred to political stakeholders and peacebuilding agencies in the form of targeted policy advice in each country, improving their strategic understanding on how to make peace process design more effective in providing long-term peace dividends. 

The project results will be shared in two publications: a comprehensive research report and a policy brief summarising the main recommendations for local and international mediators and peacebuilding agencies. In addition, we will hold four local dissemination events in the case study countries (Colombia, Mali, Afghanistan, and Myanmar). Berghof Foundation staff will also transfer the research results into its ongoing practice-related projects, so that the findings can directly influence current peacebuilding practices.

This project is carried out in collaboration with:

  • Afghanistan: Farhadullah Farhad, Research and Analysis Unit of the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC)
  • Colombia: Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular / Programa Por La Paz (CINEP/PPP)
  • Mali: L'université des lettres et des sciences humaines de Bamako (ULSHB)
  • Myanmar: Pyidaungsu Institute (PI) for Peace and Dialogue

The project is funded by the United States Institute of Peace.

  • March 2019: Researchers’ conference in Berlin
  • October/November 2019: Four local dissemination events in the case study countries (Afghanistan, Colombia, Mali, Myanmar) to present and discuss overall findings and recommendations.

Dudouet, Véronique, and Stina Lundström (2016). Post-war Political Settlements: From Participatory Transition Processes to Inclusive State-building and Governance. Research Report. Berlin: Berghof Foundation.

Sy, Ousmane, Ambroise Dakouo and Kadari Traore (2018). La Conférence d’Entente Nationale: Mise en œuvre et leçons apprises pour le dialogue national au Mali. Berlin: Berghof Foundation.

Rahim, Mushtaq Muhammad (2018). “Peace Prevails: A Review of the Process to Peace and Reconciliation between the Afghan Government and Hezb-e Islami.” Berghof Transitions Series No. 13. Berlin: Berghof Foundation.

Dudouet, Véronique (2017). Powering to Peace: Integrated Civil Resistance and Peacebuilding StrategiesInternational Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) Special Report, ICNC, Washington, DC.

National Dialogue Handbook (2017). A Guide for Practitioners. Berlin: Berghof Foundation.