In the Shadow of Settlement: Multiple Rebel Groups and Precarious Peace

Project Leader Desirée Nilsson, Ph.D.

Project Period

September 2000 - July 2006

Project Description

How can durable peace be achieved in the wake of a civil war settlement? Previous quantitative research on this topic has, so far, mainly focused on two parties – the government and the opposition – thereby failing to consider the complexity that may arise in conflicts where the rebel side involves several groups.

This dissertation addresses this gap in the study of durable peace. It demonstrates theoretically and empirically that three aspects are of significance for lasting peace: (1) the number of warring parties, (2) the inclusion of rebel groups in peace agreements, and (3) the military strength of the signatories.

The study applies a bargaining perspective where uncertainty about the parties’ capability and resolve serves as a key explanation for why peace prevails or breaks down following a settlement.

The empirical analysis is based on a unique set of data covering 82 peace agreements in internal armed conflicts during the post-Cold War period. Employing statistical methods, it is found that, with an increasing number of warring parties, peace is less likely to endure.

It is also found that more inclusive deals, contrary to a common view, do not increase the likelihood that peace prevails. However, inclusion can make a difference for some parties, as signatories are more likely to stick to peace than parties outside of an agreement. This suggests that no particular formula, in terms of the number of signatories, is required for peace to last.

Peace is also shown to be more fragile if the signatory rebel group is strong rather than weak relative to the government, indicating that military power is of importance.

In sum, the present research demonstrates that it is pivotal for our understanding of durable peace to consider the complexities that come with a multiparty setting.


Nilsson, Desirée, 2006. “In the Shadow of Settlement: Multiple Rebel Groups and Precarious Peace”, Dissertation, Report No. 73, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University.

"Rebels, Resolve and Resolution: Conflict in the Shadow of Settlements". Paper prepared for the 46th Annual International Studies Association Convention, Hawaii, 1-5 March 2005.

"The Rebels on the Outside: Power and Uncertainty after Peace Agreements". Paper prepared for the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA), 2-5 September 2004, Chicago.

"The Significance of Signing: Who Fights After Peace Agreements in Civil Wars". Paper prepared for the International Studies Association, 45th Annual Convention, Montréal, Canada, 17-20 March 2004, and the ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops, Uppsala, 13-18 April 2004.

"Who Returns to War and Why? Spoilers to Peace Agreements in Intrastate Armed Conflicts in Africa, 1989-2001". Paper prepared for the International Studies Association, 44th Annual Convention, Portland, Oregon, 26 February - 1 March 2003.

Other Project Activities

Predoctoral Visiting Fellow with CISAC (the Center for International Security and Cooperation) at Stanford University, January –June 2003. Financed by STINT.

Main Financial Support

The Faculty of Social Sciences, Uppsala University.
STINT (The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation and Higher Education).

Useful Links

Center for International Security and Cooperation CISAC