Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States
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Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States

Edited by Graham K. Brown and Arnim Langer

The Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States brings together contributions from a multidisciplinary group of internationally renowned scholars on such important issues as the causes of violent conflicts and state fragility, the challenges of conflict resolution and mediation, and the obstacles to post-conflict reconstruction and durable peace-building.
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Chapter 17: Transitions from war to peace

Caroline A. Hartzell


El Salvador, the site of a civil war from 1979 to 1992, has not experienced any recurrence of fighting since the end of that conflict. The country has become more democratic in the ensuing years, recently electing a member of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, the former mass-based guerrilla group’s political party, to the presidency, and its economy has registered steady economic growth following a period of post-war recovery. El Salvador’s transition from war to peace can be contrasted with that of Chad. Six civil wars have been fought in Chad since that country’s independence in 1960. Although opposition parties were legalized following the end of one of Chad’s armed conflicts, the last set of presidential elections was boycotted by the opposition. The country, which is plagued by corruption, has consistently been ranked as one of the poorest in the world. How much do we know about why some countries, such as El Salvador, have been able to make the transition from war to peace while others, like Chad, struggle with serial civil wars? An overview of the growing literature on civil war termination indicates that although scholars have identified some factors that can facilitate the shift from war to peace–for example, the presence of peacekeeping forces–there is much we still must learn in order to be able to provide useful advice to countries emerging from civil war. In particular there is a need to revisit what has been the central argument of theories regarding the ability of countries successfully to move from war to peace–that is, that the means by which a country ends its civil war plays a central role in determining whether the peace will prove stable or war will recur. If, as evidence now suggests, these outcomes do not have the type of impact on the peace they traditionally have been thought to exercise, researchers will need to develop new models to help us understand why some countries are more readily able to build peace after civil war than are others.

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