Operational-level agreements are a crucial part of the peace process in any conflict. These are agreements that govern operational level activities between groups, essentially reducing trust and risk at the strategic level, so actors can focus on their respective strategic goals. Operational-level agreements are challenging to negotiate and implement for many reasons. There is often little trust between parties, which means each side has concerns about the other party not abiding by the agreement. Operational-level activities comprise a large portion of most conflicts, making them an obvious target for peace agreements. Here we’ll look at three tips for creating successful operational-level agreements in your peace process.
Be realistic about what is achievable
When creating an operational level agreement, first be realistic about what is achievable. This is important because it shapes the expectations of all parties involved. If parties are cautious and feel their concerns are not being taken into account, they can become mistrustful of the whole process. If you do not achieve what you set out to, it can be damaging to the whole process. In some cases, if the parties are not satisfied, they may walk away from the negotiations entirely. Therefore, it is important to be flexible and consider different options depending on the situation. You should aim to find an agreement that is feasible and is acceptable to all parties involved.
Ensure clarity on your actors’ strategic goals
Actors’ strategic goals are a crucial part of drafting an operational level agreement. These are aims that actors have at the strategic level and can include things like reducing violence, ending a blockade, or demobilizing. While drafting the agreement, it is important to understand each side’s strategic goals. Otherwise, the agreement may be too vague, or it may try to achieve too many things at once. For example, if one of your strategic goals is to open a road for trade, the other side may have the goal of demobilizing a certain group. However, if the agreement requires the other side to reopen the road, it may not be achievable. If actors’ strategic goals are not clear, they may not be able to implement the agreement, making the whole process unsuccessful.
Negotiate an effective monitoring and verification mechanism
A monitoring and verification mechanism is an important part of any operational-level agreement. This is a system that allows parties to monitor the agreement and verify if the other side is adhering to the agreement. If actors do not have an effective monitoring and verification mechanism, they may be unable to hold the other side accountable for their actions. This can open the door for the other side to breach the agreement without consequences. Negotiating an effective monitoring and verification mechanism can be challenging, especially because monitoring and verification mechanisms are so varied. They can include using data from the United Nations, using third-party observers, using radio communication, or simply having a trusted liaison.
An operational level agreement is a crucial part of the peace process in any conflict. Creating a successful operational-level agreement is challenging because there is often little trust between parties and actors are trying to establish clear strategic goals. An effective operational-level agreement will help parties reduce trust and risk at the strategic level, so they can focus on their respective strategic goals. This can include things like reducing violence, ending a blockade, or demobilizing. To create such an agreement, it is important to be realistic about what is achievable, ensure clarity on your actors’ strategic goals, and negotiate an effective monitoring and verification mechanism.