Peace Polls

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Peace Building Problem.

Implementing an agreement can be as difficult, or even more difficult, than reaching the agreement itself, especially when the agreement required significant compromises to be made by all the parties involved. Those opposed to the agreement do all they can to frustrate its implementation by employing the strategy of 'death by a thousand cuts'.

Northern Ireland Experience

The Belfast Agreement had a two-year transition period built into it designed to allow for all the institutional and social changes required under the terms of the settlement to be implemented. But after 30 years of the 'Troubles' and arguably a civil war that hadn't been properly brought to a close since the 1920s a two-year transition period was just not quite long enough. Everyone started to relax after the deal was cut, most of the people involved with the negotiations were exhausted and the critiques of the deal started to 'sharpen their knives'. There were not meant to be any more polls but when it became clear that the agreement was starting to unravel some parties asked for them to be run again. Unlike previous polls these ones included a series of questions that asked people how they felt about the peace process and how satisfied they were with the implementation of the different parts of the agreement. They were worried about a return to violence and specific failures with implementation were clearly identifiable. The politicians got a bit of a 'cold shower' and points requiring urgent action were plainly visible in the statistics. On the one hand it was hoped that the politicians would have been able to work the agreement through their new institutions without the support of more polls. However, with the benefit of hindsight and four more polls done, it would probably have been best to keep the process going with a poll run about twice a year during the early years of implementation. In this way problems could have better been identified and dealt with before they reached crisis point.

Public Opinion Poll Action

Periodically run public opinion polls after an agreement is reached to monitor levels of satisfaction with the implementation of its different parts and the social impact of the peace process in general. Require the relevant parties to take both timely and effective political action to address critical points of discontent and failure.

Israel and Palestine

Most of the peace agreements in the Middle East have not been fully implemented, the most prominent of these failures being the Oslo Accords. There is no regular testing of public satisfaction with its various provisions, in both Palestine and Israel, as a part of a collective responsibility for their implementation. Inevitably trust has broken down on both sides and without an effective remedy for these omissions entry into a new peace agreement will be significantly more difficult. A rigorous public appraisal of all past agreements using the same research instruments in both Israel and Palestine might be a good place to start.