Jeff Feltman, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, on the urgency of The Berlin Moot


The Berlin Moot is convening in the context of some striking collapses of peace processes, provoking horrific civilian casualties.

The catastrophic explosion of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, starting with Hamas’ barbaric attack on October 7 and continuing with Israel’s military pummeling of Gaza, has definitively revealed what many long suspected, the utter failure of the Oslo process to end the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. In Sudan, the military generals tossed out the civilian-military transition plans and turned on each other, creating the world’s largest hunger crisis. While the November 2022 Pretoria agreement between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the Tigrayans is largely holding, fighting has escalated in the Amhara region and violence is spreading elsewhere in Ethiopia, posing a risk to the integrity of the state.

These cases, while particularly dramatic, highlight common challenges in implementing peace agreements: Foot-dragging by reluctant leaders who never fully invested in the agreements they signed. Waning attention from regional and international supporters once a peace process is signed. The refusal of peace process sponsors to apply real leverage on the one-time belligerents they dragged to the table – or on the belligerents’ outside sponsors. Insufficient or sluggish delivery of resources available for implementation of essential elements, such as DDR. Diminished domestic confidence in agreements, especially when transitional justice and accountability are sidelined. Disputes over interpretation of language intentionally left ambiguous to facilitate an agreement that then becomes harder to implement. Domestic and international spoilers exacerbating residual problems and concerns. And once a domestic civil conflict has become internationalised – Sudan, Syria, Eastern DRC, Libya all come to mind in an admittedly non-exhaustive list – the challenges of developing a process or agreement to stop the violence and then making that agreement stick grow exponentially.

Sudan is an especially sad example where multiple processes and agreements successively failed, from the Comprehensive Peace Agreements from 2005, the 2006 Abuja and 2011 Doha Darfur Peace Agreements, the 2019 Juba Peace Agreements, to all the efforts designed to promote a civilian-led transition after the ouster of Omar Bashir. Different tracks, conferences and agreements reduced political violence in Libya, but were not able to end it permanently.

Yet bright spots in the international landscape remain. Despite some setbacks, delays, and challenges regarding its implementation the historic agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC has significantly reduced violence. The Maputo accord ended the decades-long conflict between the government of Mozambique and RENAMO, with successful DDR of some 5,000 combatants.

The Berlin Moot will explore lessons learned and best practices from both failed and successful examples, to develop practical, innovative approaches to boost peace process implementation. The Moot will consider what is applicable from the Maputo accord for other processes, learn from a conflict party perspective and focus on how new technologies, often viewed as contributing to mistrust and conflict, can in fact contribute to successful peace process implementation.

We are now witnessing the emergence of what is becoming a multipolar world, with renewed proxy fights among great powers and regional states. The two-decade decline in armed conflicts after the end of the Cold War has been replaced with escalating violence. At the same time, the reliance on, and effectiveness of, traditional peace process tools such as United Nations peacekeeping are increasingly questioned, and UN mediators struggle to end conflicts in Syria and elsewhere. In this changing global landscape, the Moot provides a timely opportunity for peace process practitioners from across the world to consider what elements today are most effective for successful peace process implementation.

Jeff Feltman is a moderator for our PeaceLab “Making Peace Agreements Work” on 18 April.


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