Research shows that conflict parties engage in ceasefires in pursuit of a variety of objectives, some of which reduce while others fuel violent conflict. This article provides a framework that links these objectives to a larger process. Building on bargaining theory, three distinct bargaining contexts are specified for intrastate conflicts. In the Diminishing Opponent context, leaders believe that a military solution yields a better outcome than a political settlement. In the Forcing Concessions context, they recognize the benefit of conflict settlement, but expectations about a mutually acceptable agreement still widely diverge. In the Enabling Agreement context, expectations converge, and leaders seek to pursue settlement without incurring further costs. In line with these readings, conflict party leaders adapt their strategic goal, from seeking to set up a military advantage, to boosting their bargaining power, to increasing the chances of a negotiated settlement. They may use ceasefires in the pursuit of any of these three goals, shifting the function of a ceasefire as they gain a better understanding of bargaining dynamics. A comparison of violence and ceasefire patterns in six contemporary peace processes and a congruence test conducted on the 2012–16 peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the guerilla organization FARC offer support for the theoretical framework. The findings highlight the important, and shifting, role ceasefires play in the transition from war to negotiated peace.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.