Despite notable gains, El Salvador's postconflict reconstruction efforts have fallen well short of fulfilling the promise of the Chapultepec peace accords, signed 20 years ago to end a 12-year civil war that claimed more than 70,000 lives. At every turn, forward progress has been followed by steps back. Indeed, the Salvadoran case illustrates the formidable stumbling blocks to peace and democratic consolidation in postconflict settings.
After the Ink Dries: Long-Term Postconflict Reconciliation
As difficult as it may be to resolve intractable conflicts, the signing of peace accords is just the first step in a no less challenging process of reconciliation. Twenty years after the end of its civil war, El Salvador's postconflict transition remains a flawed work in progress. Northern Ireland's experience since the signing of the Belfast Agreement highlights the importance of both policy and leadership in achieving sustainable peace. And to effectively promote reconciliation, policymakers must better understand the long-term societal impact of intractable conflicts.
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The volatile co-existence between Northern Ireland's Loyalist and Republican communities highlights both how much and how little has changed since the conclusion of the historic agreement in April 1998 meant to settle a conflict that had lasted more than 30 years. Three factors help explain why the agreement was possible, how the problems plaguing its implementation were overcome and whether the peace that has prevailed in Northern Ireland for almost two decades is sustainable.
In trying to sustainably resolve intractable conflicts, the international community faces a challenge on two levels. One is related to the peaceful resolution of the conflict, while the other involves postconflict reconciliation. This latter challenge, which lies at the heart of the peace-building process, is above all a psychological process. The goal of policy should therefore be to advance the psychological processes that lead to reconciliation.