The Language of Peace database has helped mediators negotiate peace settlements around the world, from negotiating a peace plan for Syria to addressing the crisis in Yemen and brokering the independence of Kosovo.
About the research
Professor Marc Weller at the University of Cambridge leads the ESRC-funded ‘Legal tools for peace-making’ project in collaboration with the United Nations Mediation Support Unit. The project examines the underlying issues that affect peace negotiations and settlements, and as part of the research he created a comprehensive database of all known peace agreements since 1945.
The first legal search engine of its kind, the award-winning Language of Peace database gives all sides of a conflict – including governments, opposition movements and international peace negotiators – immediate access to around 1,000 peace agreements, as a potential resource for ongoing negotiations. Each entry in the database includes guidance on how to address common problems in peace negotiations, and suggests language templates that could be used to draft new agreements. Users can search for specific words or refine searches by type of conflict, country/territory or issues such as ceasefire agreements, reconstruction and development, and the names of political detainees.
In addition to the database, Weller and his team also wrote a number of case studies, based on the analytical digest of the database, examining specific peace agreements and their impact, identifying good practice and providing advice. These have been used to produce short ‘how-to’ guides that have been distributed to negotiators, facilitators and opposing sides in conflicts.
"Professor Weller's contributions have been of particular high quality because he has been able to draw on the best comparative knowledge of language and concepts via the 'Legal tools for peace-making' project. This has ensured that the mediators tackling Syria are able to draw on cutting-edge advice on developing frameworks and conducting peace talks." (Mr Robert Dann, Principal Political Affairs Officer, Office of the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria)
- The Language of Peace database and wider research by Professor Marc Weller has been instrumental in the United Nations-led effort to achieve a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria. The database and a case study about the treatment of people arbitrarily detained in conflict were used by the UN secretariat in the 2017 Geneva peace talks on Syria.
- The United Nations Security Council resolutions 2118 (leading to the Framework for the Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons) and 2254 were informed by his work, particularly through the Guidelines and Principles for a Syrian-led Transition which he drafted as a peace settlement for Syria that was endorsed by the UN Security Council in September 2013. The source materials in the database were used to help design the road-map for the proposed transition in Syria.
- Professor Weller was the principal drafter of the peace and transition agreement for Yemen in 2011, which led to the departure of President al-Saleh from office, and drew upon the database and case studies when designing the transitional process for Yemen during 2012 and 2013.
- The project findings helped Professor Weller draft the legislative framework for the Moldova/Transnistria peace process. He advised on constitutional reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and also advised the Kosovo Government throughout its campaign for independence.
- In Myanmar, Professor Weller advised the government from 2015 onwards on how to negotiate a settlement with the ethnic insurgent groups within this country. Three of the project's handbooks have been translated into Burmese and are being used to support this negotiation.