The Role of the United Nations as a Peacemaker in El Salvador, 1990-92"Hovedfagsoppgave" in political science.
In this dissertation I attempt, by means of available data, to answer (1) how the UN contributed to a peaceful settlement in El Salvador and, as an extension of this question, (2) why agreement between the parties in conflict was achieved. A case study of the role of the UN in El Salvador seemed relevant because empirical studies of third-party mediation have been very rare, and because the UN helped ending a civil war – an outcome too seldom experienced by suffering populations. Juhn (1998) even describes the Salvadoran peace agreement as the most successfully negotiated settlement in recent history. If this is true, how can we explain the extraordinary result?
Guided by Bercovitch and Houston's non-recursive contingency model of mediation (1995/2000), I explore the interaction between context and process: how qualities of the mediator, the parties, the dispute, the international system and the institutional setting affected the mediation process, as well as how variables inherent to the mediation process affected the context and outcome. For each variable I relate the empirical findings to theoretical assumptions by means of a pattern-matching logic. Peace was achieved in El Salvador due to a combination of opportune factors (hard to replicate), "clever" mediation leadership, and external pressure and support. The Salvadoran civil war was largely one-dimensional, with few reinforcing cleavages. The parties had reached a mutually hurting stalemate that had made them welcome an active role by the UN. There were, moreover, no cultural, ethnic or religious cleavages to exacerbate the socio-economic dispute. There were no profitable commodities that lent themselves to becoming a factor in prolonging the war, such as diamonds have in Angola. There were no secessionist claims threatening the state. The rebels, on the contrary, only demanded to be accepted as a legitimate actor within the political system. Top UN-envoy, Alvaro de Soto, profited from his long experience as a mediator. Sharing the same culture and religion as the parties, and with extensive knowledge and understanding of the conflict, he also gained high legitimacy. By 1990, the United States changed its position from opposing any mediation efforts to supporting a negotiated settlement. This happened not as a direct result of the end of the Cold War, but because they had no further incentives to obstruct a peace settlement. The Sandinistas had lost the elections in Nicaragua, The US had invaded Panama and the Bush administration had replaced the ideological Reagan team – all irrespective of Gorbatchev's "glasnost" and "perestroika". Perhaps there was also an increasing understanding that, as David Borenstein has expressed: "One cannot subdue a man by holding back his hands. Lasting peace comes not from force."
Having scrutinized a particular case, I then (3) outline five normative criteria for the complete success of a peacemaking phase and evaluate the Salvadoran peace agreement according to these. I conclude that the peace agreement cannot be regarded a complete success. The resulting peace agreement did not fulfil all of the official purposes of the negotiations, such as laying a solid foundation for democratizing the country (the socio-economic structure remained intact, and the lack of judicial reform perpetuated impunity). Neither did all relevant parties participate in crafting the peace agreement. Nevertheless, the mediation process and its resulting agreements evidently display more "successful" characteristics than many other attempts to resolve internal conflicts.
Rune Baklien Oslo, September 2001