Peace settlements are agreements which determine how a country will be governed after civil war. They contain multiple dimensions including political institutional, security and economic components. Between these components peace settlements always involve trade-offs or compromises, which are usually decided on by elites, such as politicians and negotiators. The citizens affected by the agreements tend to be left out of the decision-making process. One of the reasons for this is that so far it has been difficult to identify the public opinion on the aspects of these trade-offs. Referendums and existing survey methods are not able to detect which dimensions of peace settlements are the most important to the public and which trade-offs citizens would prefer. However, public opinion is an important prerequisite for successful peace settlements. Including the preferences of citizens into the agreements enhances their legitimacy and stability.
In compliance with the primary goal, which is to determine how the design of peace settlements most effectively secure citizen support, the CPIDEPS project aims at four objectives. First, it seeks to find the most effective way of designing peace settlements, which are based on citizen support. Second, it involves the conduct of two survey experiments using conjoint analysis in Northern Ireland and Cyprus and the analyse of the results. Third, this project aims to provide the elites and decision-makers with a basis for the understanding of citizen preferences in peace settlements, specifically in the cases of post-conflict Cyprus and post-conflict and post-Brexit referendum Northern Ireland. The last objective is to develop a transferable set of methods, which can be applied to other post-conflict settings.
The two survey experiments are focused on Northern Ireland and Cyprus because they represent cases of ongoing peace settlement processes embedded in very different contexts. They are at two ends of a continuum in terms of peace settlement development. In Cyprus there has been a long cease fire, but no peace settlement, whereas in Northern Ireland there is a peace settlement, but it must be adjusted to cope with the consequences of Brexit. Northern Ireland is often viewed as a model for peace settlements yet the settlement in Northern Ireland is under significant pressure following the UK’s decision to leave the EU when as a majority in the province voted to remain. Moreover, the Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended for over a year and no government currently represents Northern Irish citizens in Brexit negotiations. There is great deal of uncertainty as to how the regulation of the boarder will be organised. In these circumstances, the project can help to identify the opinions and preferences of Northern Irish citizens with regard to new arrangements for sustaining peace. In the case of Cyprus, extensive time has been devoted to negotiating individual dimensions of the peace settlement, but there is no agreement on the overall settlement package. Nor have mechanisms to create linkages between the different dimensions been identified. The CPIDEPS project has the potential to help identify ways out of the current stalemate in the negotiation of a peace settlement by identifying possible links and compromises.
The comparative nature of the design allows for the operationalization of concepts in ways that are meaningful in the contexts of Northern Ireland and Cyprus and at the same time provide a basis for generalization. The surveys are based on conjoint analysis, which enables the identification of the preferences of citizens concerning the various dimensions of peace settlements. Conjoint analysis entails respondents ranking or rating two or more hypothetical settlements that have multiple dimensions and different values across these dimensions. Thereby, it is possible to measure the importance of the dimension to the respondent, as well as their preferred range of outcomes on this dimension. The analysis of the data will indicate the ideal settlement, that is the most preferred option by the majority of individuals; the most preferred option by each group; and the zone of possible agreements between groups.
The findings of this project will be disseminated through impact workshops in Nicosia, Belfast, and Washington D.C., newspaper articles in key news outlets, policy briefs for parties and parliamentary assemblies, presentations at international conferences and academic articles submitted to major political science journals. Thereby, information about the project and its findings will be received by policymakers, different national communities, international partners and scholars.