Special Issue Article

Trust and Treason: Social Network Structure as a Source of Flexibility in Peace Negotiations

  • Jannie Lilja


To reach a negotiated peace settlement, the parties to the conflict have to show flexibility in their negotiation positions. This article examines why some rebel groups are flexible on the main issue of contention, whereas others are not. The study explores rebels’ social network structure as a source of negotiation flexibility. The proposition that a rebel group structured as a “trust network” can manage the risks of peace making through a “trust mechanism” of information sharing, verification, and mutual influence between rebel negotiators and non‐negotiating rebel leaders, is consistent with a procedural justice logic. The proposition is analyzed for negotiations between LTTE and the Sri Lankan government, and Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM) and the Indonesian government. The findings support the proposition, and highlight the potential of social network analysis to further the understanding of conflict resolution. Policy wise, the evolution of network structure implies that the likelihood of negotiation success varies over time.

Keywords: rebels, ethnic conflict, trust, network analysis, negotiation

How to Cite:

Lilja, J., (2012) “Trust and Treason: Social Network Structure as a Source of Flexibility in Peace Negotiations”, Negotiation and Conflict Management Research 5(1), 96-125. doi: https://doi.org/10.34891/jhhn-ym05

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Published on
15 Jan 2012
Peer Reviewed