Is the strategy of integrating former rebels into a new national army the way to sustain peace agreements? This study, by Yale University, provides the first systematic study of rebel-military integration agreements. It analyses the conditions under which such agreements can be reached and implemented, and considers if and how such agreements can help build peace. It suggests that rebel-military integration has not been an effective peacebuilding mechanism, but this is often due to poor implementation of the agreements.
Civil wars are far less likely to end in peace agreements than are international wars, and more than a third of civil wars restart within a few years. This may be due to the fact that when rebels demobilise after peace settlements, they lose bargaining power and the government can renege on its promises. This makes rebels reluctant to stop fighting and quick to remobilise. A self-enforcing agreement could prevent this, but such agreements are difficult to create. Recent efforts to structure self-enforcing agreements after civil wars have involved the integration of former rebels in a new national army. In principle, this mechanism should make unilateral defection from peace settlements more costly.
Military integration agreements are increasingly popular strategies to end civil wars. The assumption underlying their use is that military integration provides a credible security guarantee that reassures the parties. However, it is not yet well understood. It appears that:
- there is no significant effect of military integration on peacebuilding in the short or long term;
- part of the problem is that agreements are poorly structured and not fully implemented, so they cannot offer credible security guarantees;
- the term ‘military integration’ is a catch-all phrase that describes a wide array of policies, which work in very different ways and, therefore, can be expected to have different effects under different conditions;
- military integration could address security and economic concerns, depending on how it is structured and executed. Agreements may do better if there is external assistance;
- although external actors often can do nothing in the face of remobilising combatants, they can provide financing and monitoring that helps build trust while peace agreements are being implemented; and
- external intervention that is consent-based and builds economic capacities may be more effective in building trust and supporting different mechanisms for peacebuilding, including military integration.
It is important to study the interactive effect of military integration agreements, exploring how they work in conjunction with peacekeeping, powersharing, or other elements of peace agreements. It should be understood that:
- military integration operates more as an economic mechanism rather than a security mechanism;
- pursuing military integration outside of the context of a political settlement is unlikely to work;
- military integration should be promoted as a peacekeeping strategy only as a part of a multidimensional approach to peacebuilding;
- it is not yet clear whether military integration is a complement to or a substitute for other economic interventions, such as demobilisation and civilian reintegration; and
- the difficulty in designing and implementing military integration programmes makes it hard to determine their potential efficacy.