Discussion with Dr. Faten Ghosn Analyzing Peace Agreements in Identity Conflicts

Analyzing Peace Agreements in Identity Conflicts

March 8, 2016 5:00 PM–6:30 PM
Nicol Hall 222, Beirut campus

The Institute for Social Justice and Conflict Resolution hosted a discussion with Dr. Faten Ghosn on Analyzing Peace Agreements in Identity Conflicts.

Faten Ghosn Discussion.jpg

Ghosn received her B.A. and M.A. from the American University of Beirut, and her Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. Her research and teaching interests focus on the interaction of adversaries, be they conflictual or cooperative. In particular, she has been interested in how such actors handle their disagreements. A common theme running throughout her professional interests is the importance of the choice of strategy that is picked by the adversaries to manage their conflicts. Her articles have appeared in Conflict Management and Peace Science, International Negotiation, International Studies Quarterly, as well as Middle East Journal.

This event is part of Associate Professor Imad Salamey’s graduate seminar titled “Comparative Political Systems”.

Responses from Audience

Dr. Faten Ghosen gave a very insightful and valuable presentation about the importance of identity politics in peace agreements. Since 1945, conflicts are being viewed as intra-state rather than inter-state. Moreover, since 2008, 100% of the intra-state conflict are identity based. With the rise of these conflicts, peace agreements increased in order to end them. However, they were mostly unsuccessful. Peace still seems to be illusive in many cases. Dr. Ghosen through a comparative study, tried to answer why some peace agreements failed while others where more successful. Based on her study on Rwanda and Northern Ireland, she came up with a conclusion that unless basic needs such as participation, security and recognition are met, the agreement would fail. Hence, in order to obtain an endured peace agreement there must be acceptance of each side’s recognition, participation and security. In addition to that, her other comparative studies show that ethnic polarization leads to civil war which in turn lasts longer. Thus, negotiation is hard to attain and it is more likely to break down. The reason to this is that identity conflict didn’t receive much attention in peace treaties. She asserts that most peace treaties didn’t include security issues which would ensure collective security to different parties. Moreover, it lacked the issue of participation which insures that all parties participate fairly in the public sphere, thus refraining particular identities dominating the other. Lastly, these treaties lacked identity recognition. All parties should be politically recognized, dismissing the matter of us versus them. The failure to include all these needs would result the recurrence of the civil war. Therefore, identity acceptance in agreements is essential. Her findings suggest that agreements tend to address one of the issues while ignoring the others. The combination of the three needs in an agreement can bring peace in a country with deep ethnic cleavages. Her presentation gave an insightful knowledge that could be correlated to what is happening today in the Middle East. Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya are all facing these sectarian identity problems. Policy makers ought to take into consideration identity politics if they want to end the brutal identity based conflicts. Her presentation was an example of a comparative study about peace agreements. Comparing different peace agreements based on identity politics would be essential to show the drawbacks of each, thus, suggest a successful peace agreement that would accommodate the country. In conclusion, Dr. Imad Salamey asked a very interesting question “ How will a peace agreement in Syria recognize which group would participate and will a power-sharing model be relevant?” Another interesting question revolved around the Ta’if accord adopted in Lebanon. This leads me to ask a question “ By institutionalizing identities, don’t we further harden and reproduce them?” That was the case in Lebanon where identities become hardened and further sectarianized rather than ameliorated. Moreover, How could we ensure inter-ethnic accommodation? It was my pleasure to attend this presentation since it raised many new questions that are worth exploring.


We have received among us today via skype Dr. Faten Ghosn— a PhD holder from Pennsylvania State University— who has attempted to discuss with us peace agreements in identity conflicts. According to our speaker and in most recent years, most intrastate conflicts have been identity based, constituting protracted social conflicts. In fact, and for the past two decades or so, 70% of all civil wars around the world have been mostly ethnic-related, but that percentage keeps on exponentially growing. And although we have witnessed an increase in the number of Peace Agreements decreed that have been mainly inclusive of all actors involvement and cease-fires, peace still seems to be elusive. So what seems to be the missing elements of an ideal and enduring Peace Agreement? By actually resorting to a comparative analysis of the frail Arusha Peace Accords of the Rwandan conflict VS The unwavering Good Friday Agreement of Ireland, Dr. Ghosn has raised awareness to the vitality of having efficient Peace Agreements addressing pivotal elements such as all parties recognition (cultural, birth rights, religious), identity preservation and power-sharing, as well as clauses asserting collective security. However, it has been interestingly highlighted to us, during this discussion, that it wasn’t until 1989 to 1997 that we have started seeing identity recognition (through acknowledgement of customs, language, and culture) as well as collective security mechanisms being increasingly integrated in Peace Agreements! what has been furthermore interesting is that conflict-resolution accords which did not include such clauses had failed in approximately 9 months on average, acording to observations communicated to us by our speaker. Some of the questions that have been asked and which I have personally deemed helpful were 1)Nour’s question: “Do you think you can have a Peace Agreement which could tend to the needs of all parties involved in the Syrian conflict?”, to which Dr. Ghosn had answered: “identifying main parties involved in the Syrian conflict, we can pinpoint the civil society, the rebels, the regime, as well as other ethnic groups. When we talk about needs it is surely not a need to want to establish an Islamic state, as this is an interest and not a need. One of the main needs on the other hand is to ensure the Sunnis equal opportunities as Alawites, that political participation is not rigged in any way, and yes, surely a good Peace Agreement can include the needs of these parties, to ensure that all their human rights are respected”. As to the one question I would have liked to ask but didn’t is whether our speaker could see a Peace Agreement such as the Daytona of Bosnia working out for the current Syrian conflict. I honestly have no recommendations to present, I thought the discussion had went well except for the many fascinating things our speaker had stated that I would’ve liked to document on paper, but did not find the time as she is one hell of a fast speaker :)

I absolutely loved Dr. Faten Ghosson’s presentation on identity conflict. She made me more aware of the prominence of ethnic conflict, and intra-state conflict, versus inter-state conflict. I learnt that, regarding ethnic conflict resolution,  peace agreements do not necessarily end the conflict, unless they are done the right way.  I also learnt that, a certain group’s interest does not necessarily correspond with their need, and the two concepts are two separate things. I thought this distinction was very interesting. Someone asked about the relevance of transitional justice. Whereas, I have always believed in the need for the establishment of tribunals in conflict resolution, the speaker made me very aware of the fact that sometimes, these tribunals exacerbate tensions. I reallly wanted to ask the following question, and I regret not doing so: Regarding provision of cultural freedoms and rights, would you say that sometimes these may hinder the construction of a national identity? It was a very interesting topic, especially since it is very relevant to this region of the world. I would have wanted her to speak longer, if possible. 

Dr. Ghosn’s discussion at LAU was about analyzing peace agreements and identity conflict. She started her discussion by identifying the term conflict since the end of the cold war where interesting conflicts were identified. Dr. Ghosn mentioned that of the 128 conflicts identified in the conflict data set as a comparison between 1989 and 2008, 72% were internal conflicts and only 6% were interesting conflicts. Besides she mentioned that a number of these conflicts can be considered identity based or using the famous Lebanese-American scholar Edward Azar “Protracted Social Conflicts”. Afterwards she revealed that some in the 2008 peace found that the majority of the civil wars between 1945 and 2008 were 57% ethnic in nature and 17% were mixed or ambiguously ethnic. Moreover she stresses that the ethnic conflicts is increasing overtime by mentioning that between 2000 and 2008 count 100% of the conflicts. She also gave an example of today in the MENA region where one cannot deny the role of identity in these conflicts. But on the other hand the number of peace agreements to sign the end of the civil war is increasing too as conflicts increase and Dr.Ghosn in this case revealed the example of UCDP where 140 peace agreements were signed between 1989 and 2005 in order to end civil conflict, however none of these agreements happened to be successful and in many cases peace makers have utilized several resources to make the agreements work .For example, they included all actors, they set ceasefire to build up confidence and divide the issues and deal with them one at a time but also despite all these issues peace don’t seem to be elusive in many cases based on Dr. Ghosn’s study.  As such Dr.Ghosn proceeded her discussion by giving other examples/cases on different countries and comparing the conflicts and analyzing the peace agreements.

Moreover, my fellow classmates raised several questions that were very helpful; one of the questions was tackling the issue of basic needs. “ In Syria hundred groups are fighting, do you think it is possible to provide the needs for all of these different groups in order to reach an agreement?”

To sum up, throughout her discussion Dr. Ghosn made us acquire new lessons regarding peace making and identify conflicts, which is utterly needed in this part of the world. This discussion was very interesting, beneficial and a great example on a comparative study.

Dr Faten Gosn discussed analyzing the Peace agreements in Identity Crisis ; I highly enjoyed the dialogue and believe it was very educational. It is interesting to see that though there is an increase in peace agreements, they are not always providing a solution. For example in Rwanda’s case, the Arusha Peace agreement, which was signed in 1993, broke out in one of the deadliest conflicts 8 months later. On the other hand, The Good Friday Agreement in Ireland was only 35 pages long and yet it was a success. The difference between these 2 peace agreements was that Rwanda failed to identify identities of each group involved. It is also interesting to understand how many agreements don’t have all the variables needed to be succesful ; 30% of agreements address only the issue of security while only 28% of the agreements include security, recognition and empowerement. A questions I found educational was Khalil’s question about the Palestinian-Israeli case. According to Dr Gosn, 2 obstacles need to be taken into consideration: the first one being to Identify the problem (as the Isreali government doesn’t believe in a 2 state institution thus there is nothing to negotiate) and the second one being that all their agreements have been ambigious making it difficult to identify who is violating the agreement. A question I would have liked to ask is what peace agreement do you consider to be an ideal example that should be held amongst other peace agreements and why? I would definitely like to hear Dr Gosn again however hopefully at a slower pace to be able to capture all the detailed informaiton.

During yesterday’s session in the Comparative Politics course, Dr. Imad Salamey invited a guest speaker to speak about peace agreements and identity politics. The guest was Dr. Faten Ghosn, an AUB graduate and current instructor at the University of Arizona. Dr. Ghosn started her presentation (that was conducted via Skype) by talking about “peace talks” especially during the Cold War era (1946-1991) while focusing mainly on the 1993 Rwanda crisis. The rest of Dr. Ghosn’s presentation focused on 8 main points: Human Rights, Security, Identity lines, The Good Friday agreement, Negotiations, Rights of minorities, Participation and finally, Disarmament.
Dr. Ghosn highligted on the fact that civil wars of ethnic background usually last much longer than other forms of wars (an average of 6 years) which was new and interesting information to us . Finally, it was time for the Q&A session that started with Dr. Salamey asking a few questions aout Lebanon, followed by questions from classmates. Khalil asked a couple of questions regarding Palestine and Iraq while Marie Ann asked about the Genocides and the transitional justice concept. I was also interested in asking more questions regarding disarmamentof WMDs and the stance of both the IAEA and the NPT signatory states.
Overall, the presentation was nice and informative, though a bit too quick (I clocked her pre-Q&A presentation and it turned out that she tackled all points in 28 minutes only! Definitely a record). We’d also like to thank Dr. Salamey for securing quality speakers every now and then to inform us more about topics in comparative politics :)

The speaker’s presentation on topics and research concerning identity politics and peace agreements was highly instructive and informative. For students of international affairs and comparative politics in particular, I think, such issues as conflict resolution and conflict management processes are of huge importance to learn about and understand. Many noteworthy and impressive points were made by the speaker, such as comtemporary conflicts being more likely to rise within a state than internationally, because majority of those conflicts would be primarily based on identity struggles. An interesting observation was made, based on research of international peace agreements, that the written and signed part of the peace process does not necessarily correspond with an actual reality of the ongoing crisis and the conflicting communal groups may not agree with implementing the signed peace agreements, therefore continue to fight. And the reason mentioned was that in many cases the peace agreement may partialy ignore identity issues, therefore causing the conflicting groups to become even more defensive. To sum up, the issues of conflict resolution continue to be intensily relevant and the presentation was indeed useful for all the students who are interested and continue to research international politics and the prospects of power-sharing in the post-conflict states.