With the decline of formal peace settlements as the prevailing mode of terminating wars in the period since World War II, studies of peacemaking have shifted to the analysis of peace processes: the factors influencing parties in a conflict to move toward peace, procedures to facilitate the process, methods and techniques to bring about cessation of hostilities and implement cease-fire terms, and approaches to peacebuilding for the longer term. In these processes, the United Nations has been called on with increasing frequency to play a central part, yet often sidestepped to suit great-power interests.
In his 1992 report An Agenda for Peace, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali spelled out the multiple roles that the United Nations has taken in regard to peace, under the rubrics of preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, peace enforcement, and peacekeeping. It may be noted that "peacemaking" appears here in a specific sense as one of a series of stages in the peace process, though the term is still widely used to denote the entire process, and the designations cover actions and procedures that are overlapping and interrelated.
"Preventive diplomacy" refers to efforts to resolve disputes before violence occurs. Such efforts may be conducted by the secretary-general or other offices of the United Nations, or by diplomatic engagement of others such as neutral states or regional associations, or by multitrack diplomacy involving both public and private parties. These may lead to a variety of steps to encourage resolution of the disputes without armed force, such as confidence-building measures, fact finding, early-warning systems, preventive deployment, and demilitarized zones. As Gareth Evans notes, in some circumstances "the preventive diplomacy techniques—negotiation, enquiry, mediation and so on—which are aimed at averting armed hostilities, are also appropriate if fighting does break out."
"Peacemaking" in the specific sense used here refers to efforts to bring together parties already engaged in hostilities to seek agreement for peaceful resolution of their conflict. The United Nations role in this context is spelled out under chapter 6 of the UN Charter, which specifies the options of mediation, negotiation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, sanctions, and "other peaceful means." Mediation, negotiation, arbitration, and judicial settlement have been central to the theory and practice of peacemaking over the course of history and have been treated in numerous historical, legal, and political works. Two noteworthy contemporary examples are Paul R. Pillar, Negotiating Peace: War Termination as a Bargaining Process (1983), and I. William Zartman and J. Lewis Rasmussen, eds., Peacemaking in International Conflict: Methods and Techniques (1997). Peacemaking efforts in the last decades of the twentieth century sought less to arrive at any comprehensive peace agreement than to achieve a cessation or pause in hostilities in the form of a cease-fire, truce, or "suspension of arms." The processes of arriving at a cease-fire have been somewhat neglected in the existing literature, but have been addressed particularly by James D. Smith in Stopping Wars: Defining the Obstacles to Cease-fire (1995).
Sanctions, which are conceived in this context as an inducement to bring parties to the negotiating table, have also been invoked to bring international pressure on a state in favor of internal change, as in the case of sanctions imposed upon South Africa to end its apartheid policies. Here it can be argued that the combined impact of economic, strategic, social, and cultural sanctions imposed by the international community played an important peacemaking role in promoting an end to a violent system. On the other hand, sanctions used as a form of peace enforcement can become punitive action, amounting to a weapon of war. Sanctions imposed upon Iraq in conjunction with the Persian Gulf War of 1991 were maintained (though with some modifications) for over a decade at the insistence of the United States, with devastating consequences for the Iraqi people.
"Peace enforcement" under United Nations auspices is authorized under chapter 7 of the UN Charter. This provides for the use of any measures deemed necessary by the Security Council, including the use of armed force, to "maintain or restore international peace and security." In general, the United Nations has been somewhat reluctant to resort to this provision of the Charter, the main exceptions being the two major military enforcement actions spearheaded and directed by the United States in Korea and the Persian Gulf. In contrast, the efforts of Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali in 1994 to assemble a peace enforcement mission of five thousand troops to prevent the genocidal violence that eventually claimed over half a million lives in Rwanda were rebuffed by the United States and other powers. The United States also spearheaded the military enforcement action against Yugoslavia in 1999, under the aegis of NATO, declining to take the matter to the United Nations.
"Peacekeeping" refers to intervention by unarmed or lightly armed forces of the United Nations or other intergovernmental bodies, to monitor or supervise implementation of cease-fires, troop withdrawals, or other agreements reached through preventive diplomacy or peacemaking efforts. Peacekeeping bodies may include military personnel, police forces, or civilians and, as Evans points out, their presence usually presupposes "that the governments or parties involved in the conflict are willing to cooperate and are able to reach and maintain agreement." In the decades since the establishment of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization for Palestine in 1948, the United Nations and other international bodies have accumulated extensive experience with scores of peacekeeping operations around the world. A large body of works reporting, analyzing and assessing these operations has appeared, ranging from individual case histories such as Connor Cruise O'Brien's To Katanga and Back: A UN Case History (1964) and overviews such as The Blue Helmets: A Review of United Nations Peacekeeping (United Nations, 1990, 1996), to collections of scholarly and interpretive studies such as Tom Woodhouse et al., eds., Peacekeeping and Peacemaking: Towards Effective Intervention in Post-Cold War Conflicts (1998), and Olara A. Otunnu and Michael W. Doyle, eds., Peacemaking and Peacekeeping for the New Century (1998).
"Peacebuilding" is a newer concept, emerging from a growing recognition that termination of armed conflict is no guarantee of "peace," which depends on underlying social, political, and economic conditions. Peace studies as a field has moved away from an exclusive focus on "negative peace," conceived simply as the absence of organized warfare and other forms of armed violence, to the study of "positive peace." In the context of peacemaking, this means going beyond cease-fire or even peace accords to address underlying issues of justice and the structural violence of exploitation, racism, patriarchy, and other forms of oppression and dominance relations. This is sometimes described as a process of "conflict transformation," designed to build "cooperative, peaceful relationships capable of fostering reconciliation, reconstruction, and long-term economic and social development." John Paul Lederach, in Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies (1997), sets out to provide "a set of ideas and strategies that undergird sustainable peace." As summarized in the foreword by Richard H. Solomon, a president of the United States Institute for Peace: "Sustainable peace requires that long-time antagonists not merely lay down their arms but that they achieve profound reconciliation that will endure because it is sustained by a society-wide network of relationships and mechanisms that promote justice and address the root causes of enmity." Peacebuilding thus expands the field of vision in peacemaking to encompass a broad range of individual, group, and societal and international problems and action.
It may be that there is no better symbol of the paradoxes in the history of United States peacemaking than dubbing the Colt .45 gun "the Peacemaker." Yet it may be hoped that the voices will be heard of those other peacemakers who hold with Jane Addams that peace cannot be secured merely by the temporary conclusion of fighting, but "only as men abstained from the gains of oppression and responded to the cause of the poor; that swords would finally be beaten into plowshares and pruning hooks, not because men resolved to be peaceful, but because the metal of the earth would be turned to its proper use when the poor and their children should be abundantly fed," and when peace came to be conceived "no longer as an absence of war, but the unfolding of worldwide processes making for the nurture of human life."