Rethinking Ripeness Theory: Explaining progress and failure in civil war negotiations

  • PhD Candidate
    Walch, Colin
    Uppsala University, Suède
    Department of Peace and Conflict Research


How can ripeness theory be extended to explain when and why parties remain at the negotiating table? Existing ripeness theory is crucial to understanding when conflicting parties consider negotiation as preferable to continued fighting. However, the factors that explain why parties stay at the negotiation table after the start of the negotiation process — that is, how the ripe moment is sustained until an agreement has been reached — are not well-elaborated. This article revisits and seeks to extend ripeness theory by identifying factors which influence parties’ decisions to remain at the negotiation table. It does so with reference to civil war negotiations, which typically involve a government and a rebel group. Two factors are particularly relevant: (1) The internal cohesion of the rebel group and (2) the prospects for political participation.

A structured focused comparison of the peace negotiations in Colombia and in the Philippines with communist rebel groups is used to examine the roles played by these factors. Existing ripeness theory explains well the onset of peace negotiations between the Government of Colombia (GoC) and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) as well as between the Government of the Philippines (GoP) and the National People’s Army (NPA). However, as this article shows, an extension of the theory is needed to explain the continuation (or not) of negotiations and the quality of the outcome in these cases. In seeking to do so, the discussion explains why the negotiations in the Philippines failed completely after two years while those in Colombia are still ongoing and making progress.


Civil war negotiation, ripeness theory, rebel group

Download the Paper