Twenty years after the Belfast agreement was signed, new research identifies an enduring legacy.
Fresh analysis of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland has revealed its lasting impact on subsequent peace deals worldwide.
Key elements of the settlement between Nationalists, Republicans and Unionists and the Irish and British governments – agreed in Belfast 20 years ago – have been instrumental in other peace negotiations, the study reveals.
Researchers say the Good Friday principle that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’ has become a common feature of many peace negotiations.
Such an approach was used in negotiations in South Africa, Bosnia and after the NI Peace Process, in Sudan and Colombia and is now framing the UK’s relationship with the Brexit process.
Researchers have developed an online resource to assess the influence of the historic agreement signed on 10 April 1998, which reached a settlement after decades of political conflict in Northern Ireland.
Researchers assessed its significance, in Northern Ireland and beyond using a new online tool that charts the progress of peace agreements since the end of the Cold War.
The database – called PA-X, a Peace Agreement Access Tool – records more than 140 peace processes, which have produced in excess of 1500 agreements aimed at resolving conflicts.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh analysed 33 individual settlements reached between 1990 and 2015 as part of the Northern Ireland peace process.
They compared the texts with other peace agreements to examine the way that the Good Friday Agreement had influenced the texts.
Central principles highlighted by the researchers include ‘parity of esteem’ – a reference to the protection of human rights – which was first used in the Good Friday Agreement was later used in three agreements in the Philippines.
The team found that referendums to decide whether the peace agreement will be implemented – similar to the Good Friday Agreement referendum in 1998 – have been used for 13 peace agreements since 1990.
Christine Bell, Director of the University of Edinburgh’s Global Justice Academy, said:
“We were really surprised to see from our research the way that the Agreement had influenced other similar texts, and where the agreement had had unusual features.
“We often focus on how the Agreement played out in Northern Ireland, but in fact it has made an important contribution to the development of peace deals globally, which we can now use our data to trace over time.”