Timothy D. Sisk

Power-Sharing in Civil War: Puzzles of Peacemaking and Peacebuilding

Civil Wars, 15, 2013, 7-20

Syria's slide into sectarian civil war in 2011 raises a new fundamental knowledge question about the conditions under which power-sharing pacts can be clinched as an approach to war termination. When intrastate conflicts escalate into violent sectarian struggles, power-sharing is a likely basis of an eventual political settlement in situations where partition is off the table. This article contends that there remain two puzzling knowledge gaps about power-sharing as the basis for peace agreements to end civil wars: first, the specific conditions under which elites find it in their own interest to share power with bitter adversaries rather than fight on the battlefield, and second, how war-ending elite-negotiated pacts may evolve into more enduring social contracts. These puzzles, critical for policymakers and still unresolved in the scholarly literature, suggest the need to develop more contingent- and context-specific knowledge if research findings are to more capably contribute to peacemaking efforts.