Proscribing peace

How listing armed groups as terrorists hurts negotiations

"Proscribing peace is the first book to take a systematic look at the impact of proscription on peace negotiations based on deep empirical research. With rare access to actors during the Colombian negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia People’s Army (FARC for its Spanish acronym), the book argues that proscription has made pre-negotiations harder and more prolonged.

The book critically revisits and extends central concepts of the pre-negotiation literature: vilification, symmetry and ripeness. It develops a new concept, the ‘linguistic ceasefire’, to understand how negotiations still take place in an age of proscription. The ‘linguistic ceasefire’ has three main components: 1) recognize the conflict, 2) drop the ‘terrorist’ label and 3) uncouple the act and the actor. It removes the symbolic impact of proscription, even if de-listing is not possible ahead of negotiations.

With relevance for more than half of the conflicts around the world in which an armed group is listed as a terrorist organisation, this concept can help explain why certain conflicts remain stuck in the ‘terrorist’ framing while others emerge from it. International proscription regimes criminalise both the actor and the act of terrorism. The book calls for an end to this amalgamation between acts and actors. By focussing on the acts instead, international policy would be better able to consider the violent actions both of armed groups and those of the state. By separating the act and the actor, change -- and thus peace -- become possible.

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