Ceasing Fire?

This recent opinion piece on President Duterte’s suspension of peace talks and the military truce with the NDF insurgents has some interesting thoughts on ceasefires:


The subject of a ceasefire has always been a thorny issue in previous talks. Duterte’s demand that bilateral ceasefires be used as a precondition to a peace negotiation appears to be reasonably attractive. But our experience in the peace process tells us that using a ceasefire as a precondition carries several risks. If either of the parties lacks a strong control over its ground forces, or if the ceasefire provides spoilers with a favourable opportunity to sabotage the process, it is better to wait for a more supportive climate.

While it is true that ceasefires can lessen the human costs of war in the immediate term, the key here is to understand that the time horizon of those who engage in the peace process is longer-term. In the Philippine experience and in other countries like Colombia, spoilers have been a crucial element in the breakdown of peace negotiations. In the meantime, informal and formal agreements on exercising restraint, even if partial and temporary, could be arranged to scale down the impact of the war on civilians while the peace talks are ongoing. Landmark agreements in the peace talks like the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law were signed without any protracted ceasefire.


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