This rapid literature review collates lessons from the literature on peace conditionality. This is a companion paper to Herbert (2019)1 which looks more specifically at lessons related to aid
(conditionality) and non-state armed groups (NSAGs).
While there is literature on peace conditionality more generally – e.g. being used for a range of purposes, and at different stages of a peace process and implementation of a peace agreement
– there is little literature that focusses specifically on using conditions to get and keep, conflict parties at the negotiation table. Where possible, this rapid review attempts to focus on the latter,
but most of the findings come from articles looking at the broader use of conditionality. This may also be complicated by the fact that most aid is conditional (to some degree), and the term and
understanding of conditionality are not clear and is often not used in the literature. This all complicated the search for literature for this paper, and the criteria for inclusion.
Peace conditionality was a popular focus of analysis in the 2000s, however, since the late 2000s there has been much less published on this issue. In view of this limitation, this query includes
literature from the 2000s, particularly drawing on the 2008 articles published in Conciliation Resources’ Accord. There is a range of academic and policy/practitioner literature on this subject. One gap in the literature identified by Sindre (2014) is that despite aid conditionality being used, little is known about how rebel groups respond to it and strategise to further their interests.
External actors use aid conditionality in conflict and peace contexts to try and shape the cost-benefit calculus of conflict actors by providing or withdrawing benefits upon changes in behaviour
or policy. The international community began to push for the use of aid conditionality in conflict and peacebuilding contexts following several failed humanitarian interventions from the 1990s
onwards. To some extent, most aid can be considered conditional, however, the term peace conditionality tends to refer to stricter forms of conditionality for the recipients of aid – e.g. when
formal performance criteria and monitoring are set up, and used, to ensure that the aid conditions are met.
Conditionality can be used throughout all stages of the conflict, peacemaking, peacebuilding and peace process implementation cycle. The aid used in peace conditionality can employ a range of
incentives – economic, political, and security. And typically employs a mix of persuasion, support, and pressure. Conditionality can be explained as forming a spectrum of policy approaches
alongside incentives and sanctions (Griffiths & Barnes, 2008).
Coordination/fragmentation of donors and agendas – Conditionality is more likely to be effective if it is exercised coherently by donors, yet the fragmented donor landscape and donor incentive structures complicate this. Donors are often reluctant to coordinate and cooperate, preferring to pursue their own objectives, and preferring not to implement the agreed conditions if they contradict their objectives. When donors do not have a united stance on aid conditionality, the strength of conditionality is undermined.
The conflict parties’ interests, power, and motivational structures – Conditionality is more likely to be effective when it designed according to an in-depth understanding of the conflict
parties, including their incentive structures, the decision-making processes of the leaders, and the wider socio-political context. However, donors’ lack of sufficient knowledge about the local
context is “perhaps the greatest obstacle to the effective use of conditionality” (Manning & Malbrough, 2010). Donors cannot create a peace process, they can only support one where the
key protagonists want one.
Unintended consequences – The use of peace conditionality is fraught with dilemmas and risks, particularly as groups or individuals may feign commitment just to secure benefits, or to meet
international expectations. External incentives can negatively distort the group and individual motivations for peace-making, and can trigger armed groups to fragment. Effective conditionality
requires donors to have a good understanding of the potential consequences of donor actions (intentional and unintentional), and the linkages between peacebuilding and other reform agendas (e.g. economic reforms, governance reforms, etc). The use of sanctions can lead to particularly adverse unintended consequences, as they are rarely designed as part of a strategic conflict resolution framework; due to their bluntness and inflexibility; and due to perceptions of bias and inconsistency.
(In)effectiveness – There are diverse positions within the donor and academic community with regard to the desirability, feasibility, and effectiveness of conditionalities. E.g. Sindre (2014) finds
that peace conditionalities may encourage peace talks, and ceasefires, and can encourage rebel strategies that enhance the civilian, non-military aspect of the insurgent organisation, but they
are “poor tools” in reducing rebel predatory behaviour, and in encouraging peace settlements. Barnes, et al. (2008) find that while, in theory, conditionality is thought to be useful in encouraging a peace settlement by changing the cost-benefit calculation of conflict and peace, in practice, it appears to have been ineffective, and even to have actually done harm in exacerbating conflict dynamics. While Boyce (2003) finds that conditionality affects different conflict parties in different ways – e.g. it is not very effective in influencing rebel groups that cannot directly receive aid, whereas it can be influential when used with governments with high aid-dependency.
Inconsistencies and political motivations with conditionality can exacerbate conflict – Peace conditionality in the Occupied Palestine Territories (OPT) has contributed to the breakout of conflict, the undermining of the two-state roadmap to peace, and huge reductions in the living conditions of the Palestinians (Brynen, 2008). Conditionality in Palestine has been used
sporadically and inconsistently.
Ethical considerations – Conditionality poses serious dilemmas related to ethics, neocolonialism, and sovereignty – e.g. the morality of withholding aid from communities in need during humanitarian and conflict crises