Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa
ISSN: 1647-7251
Vol. 7, Nº. 1 (May-October 2016), pp. 55-72
Madalena Moita
Ph.D. in Political Conflict and Processes of Peace-making at the Complutense University of Madrid
(2015, Spain). Course focused on analysis and support of the formulation of policies on
governance, peace-building and development for different entities (governments, European
Commission, United Nations, international think tanks). Currently an external consultant for the
European Commission, providing support to both headquarters and delegations on matters
related mainly with human rights, civil society participation and conflict resolution
The insistence of the return of violence in countries where the UN has intervened to promote
peace has fuelled a debate about the effectiveness of international instruments for conflict
resolution. This article reflects on the progress that these instruments were having in
response to the recurrence of violence in light of what has been an approach to the concept
of positive peace of Johan Galtung. From two case studies (Guatemala and Haiti) marked by
changes in the discourse and practice of the United Nations that this approach inspired, it is
argued that the UN instruments for peace would be so much more effective when they
respect the author's proposal, not only with regard to results they intend to achieve, but
also in the way positive peace is operationalised on the ground. Analyses − as difficulties in
implementing more comprehensive, local and inclusive processes that would affect the
promotion of more sustainable peace also contaminate the mechanisms used to assess
their effectiveness.
Peacebuilding; Positive peace; Evaluation of effectiveness; Guatemala; Haiti
How to cite this article
Moita, Madalena (2016). "Think positive peace in practice. Evaluating the effectiveness of
the United Nations in the implementation of a comprehensive peace". JANUS.NET e-journal
of International Relations, Vol. 7, Nº. 1, May-October 2016. Consulted [online] date of last
consultation, observare.ual.pt/janus.net/en_vol7_n1_art4
Article received on 15 February 2016 and accepted for publication on 11 March 2016
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
ISSN: 1647-7251
Vol. 7, Nº. 1 (May-October 2016), pp. 55-72
Think positive peace in practice. Evaluate the effectiveness of the United Nations
in the implementation of a comprehensive peace
Madalena Moita
Madalena Moita
Conflict resolution practices conducted by the United Nations have evolved significantly
in recent decades, trying to respond more effectively to the recurring return of violence
in post-conflict situations by searching for instruments that aim at more sustainable
solutions. Especially from the 1990s, this effort has been made to a large extent, and
there has been conformity to these instruments for a concept of peace that surpassed
its minimum size of non-war and the resolution of conflicts by the containment of
This conceptual expansion of peace, evident in the evolution of the United Nations
discourse in recent decades, appears to be an appropriation of the concept of positive
peace proposed by Johan Galtung, which has been realised in the evolution of
peacekeeping for instruments of a much broader spectrum already associated with the
concept of peacebuilding. This materialisation has come to assume more resources
both human and financial as well as a much greater coordination of various actors
from security to humanitarian spheres, which include liaisons with all development and
state strengthening actors with a more long-term perspective that addresses the
structural causes of conflict.
This new configuration of the United Nations conflict resolution architecture has not
always presented effective results.
In this paper, we argue that this theoretical approach brings with it a propitious
approach for more sustainable peace solutions. With respect to the proposal of Galtung,
this would be much more effective for the results desired as well as the processes to
achieve them.
The evaluation of the effectiveness of the UN in promoting peace is still mainly focused
on results rather than evaluating procedures. The United Nations may have a difficulty
in its implementation, considering that problems extend beyond intentions or
objectives. We therefore suggest a review focused more on processes, providing more
significant contributions to the debate about its impact on the ground.
1 The translation of this article was funded by national funds through FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e
a Tecnologia - as part of OBSERVARE project with the reference UID/CPO/04155/2013. Text translated by
Thomas Rickard.
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
ISSN: 1647-7251
Vol. 7, Nº. 1 (May-October 2016), pp. 55-72
Think positive peace in practice. Evaluate the effectiveness of the United Nations
in the implementation of a comprehensive peace
Madalena Moita
There has been a transition of the United Nations narrative to that of positive peace
(consecrated as well on the ground) through greater attention and involvement of the
organization in political processes for the resolution of armed conflict, in particular, by
integrating UN mediation teams. How this involvement takes place may be a more
effective conditioning factor on the ground, a dynamic that we have tried to verify
through comparing two case studies.
Positive peace in the discourse of the UN
In 1964 in the first issue of the Journal of Peace Research, Johan Galtung, regarded as
one of the founding fathers of studies for peace, alluded to an alternative concept of
peace that would mark a rapture in the way of conceptualising and making peace. Its
reflection had been generated by concerns about the vicious cycle of violence that
returned to previously interventions (Galtung, 1964).
Contrary to the dominant tendency to see peace from the point of view of the study of
war, which deeply conditions conflict resolution practices on the ground, Galtung
proposed an autonomisation of the debate on peace.
He called this perception of peace “positive” (in front of its minimum negative version
associated with the absence of war) and suggested a more comprehensive itinerary of
social construction that could provide a creative transformation of political, economic,
cultural, religious conflicts as well as other forms of social renewal and proximity that
come out of the variants of violent opposition. Galtung conceived a process of collective
construction that sought balance and social justice, denying violent structures that
were the basis of more visible violence that assumes, in its limited shape, the contours
of war.
The most significant validity of its proposal, beyond offering a new analytical category
to understand the phenomenon of peace, is its new understanding about violence,
which moves towards a more direct observation of it as well as the structure from
which it originates.
The concept of structural violence that Galtung associates with economic exploitation,
political repression, social injustice and inequality, suggested that to reply to direct
violence (of a more episodic character) it is essential to resolve the deeper causes of
conflict in view of invisible violence that exists in a continuous form in whole social
structures (Galtung, 1969)2.
More than suggesting a goal of a fairer, more-balanced society, Galtung proposed a
guide a response to conflicts that achieves a profound transformation in the structural
causes of violence, which uses in-depth knowledge of its context, actors, dynamics and
incompatibilities. This guide suggest that, instead of a dissociative approach to
resolution of conflict that breaks relationships among parties, the containment of
violence, A associative approach that advocates the bringing together of parties in a
collective and integrative effort to construct peace.
2 Galtung works later on a third concept of violence called cultural violence, which is inherent in the
previously stated dimensions. This involves the symbolic aspects of everyday life that are manifested in
the systems of norms, religion, ideology and language, which legitimise direct and structural violence
(Galtung, 1990).
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
ISSN: 1647-7251
Vol. 7, Nº. 1 (May-October 2016), pp. 55-72
Think positive peace in practice. Evaluate the effectiveness of the United Nations
in the implementation of a comprehensive peace
Madalena Moita
The holistic view of positive peace is not only associated with the end of direct violence,
but also the transformation of structural causes of violence that come to have
considerable impact on the discourse and international practices for the resolution of
conflicts after the cold war.
In the 1990s we watched the exponential multiplication of interventions for peace led
by the United Nations in intra-State conflicts. These new interventions are the
combination of new approaches to peace that articulated peace-keeping through
military intervention to contain violence, which is more cantered on peace-making. This
is related to political reconciliation and peace-building, which integrates measures of
social reconstruction and development (Woodhouse; Ramsbotham, 2000). The United
Nations has taken a leading role as a mediator in several internal conflicts, and has
coordinated this function with new peace missions that have mandates far broader than
their predecessors.
The implementation of discourse in the practice of building peace
Transition in the dominant discourse of the United Nations, as shown in particular by
the inclusion of a version of peace in key documents such as the Agenda for Peace3 of
1992 and its addendum in 1995, came to transform practices on the ground. However,
this functionality does not necessarily demonstrate greater effectiveness in resolving
violent conflict, and there has still often been returns to violence in situations that had
already experienced interventions.
This inefficiency is reflected in the history of peace-keeping operations, the United
Nation's mechanism of excellence in this area.
There are 17 ongoing peacekeeping missions of the United Nations4. A closer
observation enables us to divide them into two main subgroups. The first would
correspond to missions with long durations (in some cases for the last 40 years, e.g.,
UNTSO5, the first UN peacekeeping operation in the Middle East), being almost all first
generation operations prior to the transition that here we treat as the 1990s. More than
half of all current peace-keeping operations are deployed in countries that have
experienced previous missions, a second subgroup that corresponds to replica
The characterisation of each subgroup itself calls into question the effectiveness of
these instruments in achieving sustainable peace, whether imposing an international
presence over time or whether military forces return to previous situations.
Of the 54 peace missions already completed6, a vast majority have the same objective
as previous or current missions, or centred in neighbouring areas that still present large
regions of instability (as would be the case of the missions in the Great Lakes or in the
Middle East, which saw violence move to surrounding areas). From these completed
missions, we can highlight a small set that is treated in the literature as successful
3 Full text available at http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/47/277, accessed on 11
February 2016.
4 See data provided by the Department of UN Peacekeepers at
http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/operations/, accessed on 11 February 2016.
5 The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/untso
6 See data provided by the Department of UN Peacekeepers at
http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/operations/, accessed on 11 February 2016.
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
ISSN: 1647-7251
Vol. 7, Nº. 1 (May-October 2016), pp. 55-72
Think positive peace in practice. Evaluate the effectiveness of the United Nations
in the implementation of a comprehensive peace
Madalena Moita
resolutions to conflicts such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Mozambique, East Timor and
Cambodia, which share a common theme of strong involvement of the UN in the
conflicts' political resolution.
The apparent sustainability of peace processes in these cases, and therefore the notion
of the UN being more effective in solving these armed confrontations, suggests the
need for an evaluation framework. This would therefore make it possible to understand
the implemented procedures that have made certain peace models more successful.
Reflections on the effectiveness of international mechanisms of conflict resolution are
the preoccupation not just of study centres, but also the decision-making spheres of
the UN, which have developed a debate on new concerns about indicators and
successful results.
The evaluation of multi-dimensional and complex processes of peace are not without
difficulties. Because of this, the UN itself has experimented with different routes to
success. Internally, the organisation has formed structures able to stimulate this
reflection through the creation of working groups that set clearer objectives, and an
institutional framework able to retrieve lessons learned from various stages of action.
An example of this is the creation in 2005 of the Peace Building Commission, which is
an inter-governmental advisory body that coordinates between the General Assembly
and the Security Council the instruments of peace keeping and peace building. The
Commission has a specific working group to compile lessons learned and evaluate
processes of the projects that their Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) has financed. The
evaluation of the UN’s performance focuses on the analysis of results, which is more of
a micro-project than an assessment of a set of the instruments that the organisation
uses on the ground.
Although the PBF looks to fundamentally overcome the separation between efforts for
the promotion of political peace of the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) and the
Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the functioning of the two
departments have separate mechanisms of evaluation.
The UN Peacemaker was created under the DPA in 2006 and included a Mediation
Support Unit. It aims to facilitate the work of UN, supporting political transitions and
trying to achieve peace agreements. This tool compiles information on previous cases,
integrates documents with lessons learned and guides texts for dealing with situations
on the ground.
Within the framework of the DPKO's peacekeeping operations, and given its evolution in
recent decades, its assessments have become increasingly more complex. For example
the 2008 Capstone Doctrine7, the fundamental doctrinal document of peace operations,
contains principles and guidelines for actions on the ground, as well as a framework for
broader indicators of success (see table).
In 2010, the United Nations also published a guide to monitoring the consolidation of
peace (United Nations, 2010). Demonstrating an increasing concern with the claimed
needs of national actors in the definition of criteria and monitoring indicators, it
continues to be by nature a general guide that offers a standardised framework for
7 Available in English at http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/documents/capstone_eng.pdf, consulted on
11 February 2016.
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
ISSN: 1647-7251
Vol. 7, Nº. 1 (May-October 2016), pp. 55-72
Think positive peace in practice. Evaluate the effectiveness of the United Nations
in the implementation of a comprehensive peace
Madalena Moita
following ongoing processes. However, it serves to provide information to the UN in
order to better update its strategy rather than critically and effectively analysing the
impact of the UN on the ground (Stave, 2011).
Benchmarks suggested by the Capstone Doctrine for new peace operation mandates,
The absence of violent conflict and human rights abuses on a large scale and
respect for the rights of women and minorities
Compliance with the demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) of ex-
combatants (men, women and children) and progress in the restoration of
institutions of State security
Capacity of national armed forces and the national police to ensure security and
maintenance of public order under civil observation and respect for human rights
Progress in establishing an independent and effective legal system
Restoration of state authority and the working of public services throughout the
Return or resettlement of internally displaced people generating disturbance or
conflict in resettlement areas
Successful formation of legitimate political institutions after free and fair elections,
where women and men have equal rights to vote and political office
This picture shows how the United Nations itself has chosen to extend the indicators of
success to more extensive factors in a clear move towards the materialisation of the
concept of comprehensive peace. This effort has, however, replicated the dispersion of
instruments of conflict resolution within the framework of the United Nations without
having a centralisation of the analysis on the ground. It does not, therefore, assess, in
a given context, how all the instruments available to the organisation (in its full
spectrum) have been effective in the consolidation of peace as a whole.
But more significant still is the fact that these mechanisms favour, above all, an
analysis of the effectiveness of UN action in the light of indicators established by the
organisation itself, without favouring peace indicators that conform to a peace model
locally, and neglect accountability led by recipient countries.
Each of these mechanisms allows a more complete reading of the UN's action than
about an intervention as such. Mechanisms to broaden the UN‘s knowledge and
particularly for its employees on the contexts in which they act are needed as they
lack critical assessment of what the UN is doing right and wrong on the ground. In
some way, the uniform action of the organisation for promoting peace is accepted,
because based on a framework of universal values and on external and technical
projects of State construction, it can overcome political and local versions of the model
of peace that it wants to advance.
In this context, rarely local players enjoy oversight mechanisms of international action
in accordance with their own needs and often go beyond essential steps of national
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
ISSN: 1647-7251
Vol. 7, Nº. 1 (May-October 2016), pp. 55-72
Think positive peace in practice. Evaluate the effectiveness of the United Nations
in the implementation of a comprehensive peace
Madalena Moita
political dialogues, because it is accepted as a single procedure to achieve a stable
peace, a prescriptive UN-driven model.
Evaluating peace beyond results
Considering that several cases of relative success of UN intervention in promoting a
stable peace may have coincided with a greater attention to political reconciliation, we
wanted to investigate the potential of this factor as a more effective generator to
prevent a return to armed political violence.
Assuming that the legitimising narrative of the UN’s interventions in the framework of
the promotion of peace has moved towards the concept of broad peace, we look at
evaluation mechanisms that allow the consideration of the effectiveness of the UN with
regard to their conformity with the proposal of positive peace, both in goals as in the
We emphasise the missions that were linked to political reconciliation processes
through mediation. Mediation is an instrument of conflict management that is
particularly relevant, since it facilitates and influences the design of procedures that
shape dialogue on the one hand, and the agenda of the negotiations on the other.
Without impinging with the central actors of a peace process, the mediator has the
power to shape a series of variables that, taken together, are the model of peace that
comes out of a negotiating process, and have a significant impact in post-conflict
We rely on a recent investigation8 which tried to design an evaluation framework that is
as near as possible to Galtung's concept of positive peace. This, as we mentioned
initially, offers a goal to reach as well as a process to reach this objective.
We decided to test this evaluation framework by reviewing two case studies that were
consistent with new framework of action post-1990s. One case coincidences with new
framework of values and principles that the United Nations has absorbed, and the other
with reconciliation arising from a more political intervention (although with a military in
nature), with a peace operation mobilized to support the implementation of their peace
The comparison served to contrast a concluded UN intervention, which integrates the
framework of past missions with the subgroup that is associated with relative success
(as no return to political violence in post-conflict was observed), with another less
successful intervention where the violence and military presence did return and still
remains on the ground.
The two cases chosen Guatemala and Haiti - demonstrate two types of intervention
that have a similar genesis but differ dramatically in their implementation, which
translates into profoundly different results.
An attempt was made, in this comparison, to associate an evaluation of the results of
each intervention to the very process of reaching a positive peace, a process that
should be broad, transformative, integratory and primarily local.
8 Moita, Magdalene (2015) La ONU y la Construcción de la Paz en Haití y Guatemala, Tesis doctoral,
Universidad Complutense de Madrid.
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
ISSN: 1647-7251
Vol. 7, Nº. 1 (May-October 2016), pp. 55-72
Think positive peace in practice. Evaluate the effectiveness of the United Nations
in the implementation of a comprehensive peace
Madalena Moita
First we tried to lay out a framework of indicators with information and data available in
the two countries that correspond faithfully to the idea of peace and national
perspectives collected by interviews in accordance with the expectations generated
nationally by peace agreements9. This presupposes an extension of indicators of
success beyond the minimum framework for elections, a ceasefire and minimal
democracy and
inclusion policy
Democracy index (including electoral process, functioning of
government, political participation and political culture)
Deterioration of public services
inclusion and
Poverty and economic deterioration
Uneven development
Social indicators, including spending on education, years of
schooling, literacy rate, life expectancy and infant mortality
Human development index
peace process: the
absence of
Scale of political terror
Respect for civil liberties
Number of years passed until the return to armed conflict
Degree of State autonomy: official development assistance
State fragility index
A local perspective was favoured, enriching the international vision of the peace
process and complementing more cross-sectional indicators that respond to national
In the combination of results and process, we looked to also open an analysis about the
coherence among various instruments of conflict resolution used by the UN, particularly
the links between policy instruments such as mediation with additional instruments that
included military and peace operations established in another country.
An evaluation framework of the OECD was used that focuses on mediation. We
considered this to be particularly useful for being, on the one hand, the primordial point
of UN intervention in each study stage, and on the other, for having marked the
evolution that each peace process made in each of the countries. Lanz, Wählisch,
Kirchhoff and Siegfried (2008) tried to adapt the OECD evaluation framework
associated with projects that develop conflict resolution processes, which is presented
in the following table.
The combination of complementary evaluation frameworks of a more quantitative
character with qualitative indicators that use a mediation framework reached
conclusions that are relevant to the effectiveness of UN instruments in the promotion of
lasting peace and sustainable.
9 The comparative table below also added some specific indicators for each country with particular issues
related to the peace process, such as sample data to investigate the greater presence of indigenous
people and women in the Guatemalan political framework, given these are very relevant themes within
the mediation process.
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
ISSN: 1647-7251
Vol. 7, Nº. 1 (May-October 2016), pp. 55-72
Think positive peace in practice. Evaluate the effectiveness of the United Nations
in the implementation of a comprehensive peace
Madalena Moita
From the quantitative comparison, all indicators showed that Haiti was in a more fragile
situation than Guatemala, in relation to the successful implementation of a
comprehensive peace model.
Politically, government instability in Haiti was manifested in several political crises,
from a coup in 2004 to several long periods without an executive branch of
government, contrasting with party rotation in the Guatemalan government, with
various presidencies complying with full terms.
How did the mediation process relate to the context of the wider
Effectiveness and
What were the direct/indirect, intentional/unintentional and
positive/negative effects of the mediation process?
To what extent have the benefits of the mediation process
continued after its ending?
How do the costs of the mediation process relate to its benefits?
coordination and
What were the relationships between the process of mediation
and other conflict management activities?
How were the actors’ mediation process, issues and more
relevant regions included/excluded?
Consistency with
Was the mediation process consistent with the values of the
mediators and the international community, for example, with
regard to confidentiality, human rights and the impartiality of
the mediator(s)?
Data from the components of the Democracy Index of the Economic Intelligence Unit10
(including, for example, the functioning of government or the electoral process) as well
as detailed data of the State Fragility Index11 (that includes figures on the
deterioration of public services) were analysed. All these data show a significant
difference between the performance of Guatemala in relation to Haiti, especially when
considering the years of exponential increase of international financial and technical
support for state-building in Haiti. Also in terms of economic development, the two
countries showed disparities in post-intervention years, which are very evident on the
charts that follow.
10 Available at www.eiu.com/democracyindex, accessed on 11 February 2016.
11 Available at http://global.fundforpeace.org, accessed on 11 February 2016.