Institute for Conflict Research, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Ending an armed conflict and establishing a just, peaceful and orderly society is a complex process. There is a normative acceptance of the key stages in building the peace that is largely focused on an elite political process and which involves a declaration of ceasefires, multi-party negotiations, signing a peace agreement, holding elections to establish a new government with a degree of popular legitimacy, beginning the process of reform of key institutions and perhaps addressing issues of accountability for the violence and meeting the needs of the victims. This work usually focuses on ensuring the involvement of local political leaders and the various key parties to the conflict, and is often dependent on the support of sections of the international community. Sometimes the process involves the active involvement of wider sections of the community, but often these are treated as relatively passive actors, and it is (questionably) assumed that benefits of peace will naturally trickle down to the wider population. Having held elections, established a new government and begun the process of reform it is assumed that the bulk of the work has been achieved. At this point the international community generally turns its gaze elsewhere and assumes that the process of peace-building will continue under its own momentum.