Fostering Peace After Civil War: Commitment Problems and Agreement Design


  • Authors’ note: The order in which the authors’ names appear was determined alphabetically and does not reflect any degree of hierarchy in terms of theoretical or methodological contributions to the project. A previous version of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the Peace Science Society International, Columbia, SC, November 2–4, 2007. The authors thank Qing (Maria) Yang and Mingyan Li for their research assistance and David Bearce, Charli Carpenter, Chuck Gochman, Michael Goodhart, and Ashley Leeds for their helpful comments and suggestions.


Lasting peace after civil war is difficult to establish. One promising way to ensure durable peace is by carefully designing civil war settlements. We use a single theoretical model to integrate existing work on civil war agreement design and to identify additional agreement provisions that should be particularly successful at bringing about enduring peace. We make use of the bargaining model of war which points to commitment problems as a central explanation for civil war. We argue that two types of provisions should mitigate commitment problems: fear-reducing and cost-increasing provisions. Fear-reducing provisions such as third-party guarantees and power-sharing alleviate the belligerents’ concerns about opportunism by the other side. Provisions such as the separation of forces make the resumption of hostilities undesirable by increasing the costs of further fighting. Using newly expanded data on civil war agreements between 1945 and 2005, we demonstrate that cost-increasing provisions indeed reduce the chance of civil war recurrence. We also identify political power-sharing as the most promising fear-reducing provision.