A Ceasefire How-To: New Guidance Helps Chart the “Path Out of Conflict”

The United Nations and peacemakers the world over have accumulated a wealth of experience on mediating or facilitating ceasefires. Much of that valuable know-how is now available for the first time in one place, in a Guidance produced by the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA).

An ex-combatant holds up munitions in Attécoubé, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. He is one of several to have participated in a Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) operation conducted in the area by the UN mission, UNOCI. UN Photo/Patricia Esteve

O n 14 September, DPPA launched its Guidance on Mediation of Ceasefires, drawing on the extensive knowledge of ceasefire experts and mediation practitioners, both from the United Nations and beyond.

While, as the Guidance notes, “every ceasefire mediation is unique,” it presents a set of standard tools and approaches that can be deployed to strengthen such agreements in any setting, from temporary and definitive ceasefires to humanitarian pauses. As Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo notes in its introduction, the Guidance can be used as a reference “when seeking a path out of conflict.”

The document includes vital information from ceasefire mediators on terminology and typology of ceasefires, offering a variety of cases and illustrations from around the globe. For example, it highlights the 2015 unilateral ceasefire of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which specified the group would not attack infrastructure such as pipelines and ports, or national security forces; in response, the Government of Colombia announced a unilateral suspension of bombardments on FARC camps. This helped build mutual trust, and was followed in 2016 with a bilateral, definitive ceasefire.

FARC ex-combatants readying for assembly process, Colombia, 2017. Credit: United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia.

It goes on to describe the geographically focused ceasefire brokered by the UN in 2018, when the Agreement on the City of Hodeidah and Ports of Hodeidah, Salif, and Ras Isa was signed by the Government of Yemen and the Houthis; as well as the United Nations Security Council resolution 2401 (2018), through which the Council demanded that all parties to the Syrian civil war suspend hostilities for a 30-day period to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The document also shares a wealth of information and guidance on preparing for ceasefire negotiations; mediating inclusive ceasefires; mediating the contents of a ceasefire agreement; mediating a ceasefire monitoring and verification mechanism; and preparing for implementation.

The Guidance was launched at a high-level hybrid event held at the International Peace Institute, which opened with welcoming remarks from Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, IPI President and Chief Executive Officer. Speakers included Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan and Head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS); Karin Landgren, Executive Director of Security Council Report and former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Nepal, Burundi, and Liberia; and Jeffery Mapendere, Chief Security Arrangements Advisor of Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC), South Sudan.

As noted by Ajay Seth, Senior Advisor on Ceasefires and Security Arrangements in the Department’s Policy and Mediation Division, “What worked to quiet the guns in country X won’t necessarily work in armed conflict Y. We’re convinced it’s useful for mediators to have such a resource at their fingertips, these basic building blocks that can be adapted to any given ceasefire process. Among other benefits, this can save time and resources and, ultimately, perhaps even lives.”

To read Guidance on Mediation of Ceasefires, click here.

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The online magazine of the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs