Obtaining and supervising a ceasefire that will hold.

This page does not pretend to be a scholarly work but just wants to remind some truths for those who hope to obtain a ceasefire that will hold. There are many studies on the subject, but the purpose of this page is not to go through what we know but to define a minimum of method that has a chance of success.

In business life, there are generally as many business leaders with diplomas as there are without. The diploma is not a guarantee of success for the entrepreneur. For the cease-fire, it is the same thing. You may know a lot of things but they may be of no use to you. On the other hand, if you have a strong determination and a bit of method, you may be able to do it, without anyone being able to guarantee you with certainty that you will succeed.


Ceasefires can be unilateral, bilateral, with or without concrete measures. Their implementation and compliance depend on multiple factors.

Beyond the negotiations, which assume that there is an acceptable framework at the beginning of a settlement, even if it remains unclear, the main factor to be taken into account is the time it takes to transmit the ceasefire order on the ground, as well as its effective transmission at all levels. If a ceasefire is announced with immediate application, it will generally never be implemented, unless it is a unilateral ceasefire by a military component party to the conflict, and that component is patient enough to admit mistakes for some time. If a ceasefire is passed on to only a few combatants or without specific restraining orders during the first few hours of the ceasefire, it will not result in a complete ceasefire.

 There is therefore a necessary delay between the announcement of the ceasefire and the time of its effective application. This gap is all the greater because the components of the conflict are broken down, multiple, unstructured, with no coherent and unique hierarchy. A delay of 12 hours may be necessary. Beyond that, there are other problems.

Preliminary documents ? It is not the fact of solemnly signing a ceasefire document that makes it better respected.

It is usually not the pre-ceasefire document that makes it stick, but the mechanism that accompanies it.

In the case of two militarily structured states, a simple negotiation at the highest level may suffice, even without a ceasefire monitoring mechanism, provided, however, that the order is properly relayed through the military hierarchy and that it is agreed that for a certain period of time there will be no response to blunders.

When there is on the one hand a set of more or less controlled groups with no real hierarchy or with poorly defined means of communication, a supervision and control system is necessary. There are relatively simple systems that can be put in place. These systems make it possible to compensate for the absence or inadequacy of hierarchy.

What is very important is to be able to recognize whether they are two military hierarchies controlled on either side or a set of combatant actors whose leaders are nowhere to be seen to be obeyed, if only to enforce a ceasefire. We can do both, but we are not going to do it in the same way.

In short, to sum up, a ceasefire can be unilateral, bilateral, with or without a system of observation, monitoring and supervision. It may have been formalized or it may have no record at all.
So there can be completely different ceasefires that hold, albeit different. Don’t think that if you have understood why a ceasefire has held, you will simply have to do the same thing again, the parameters to be taken into account may mean that a ceasefire that has worked in one context will not work in another.

There are official bodies that are only capable of managing one type of ceasefire. Their organization and their unfolding is always the same. But their “psycho-rigid” behavior is often inappropriate and unfortunately the ceasefires they hope to put in place are often all different from the one they are prepared for. There is therefore no ceasefire that holds and they continue to recommend and implement a system that is not adapted to reality. This can go on for 6 years without bothering them. And when the ceasefire finally comes into being, almost by chance, they proudly say that thanks to their method there is finally a ceasefire that holds (don’t laugh, they are well established).

Pour avoir une petite chance il faut passer par quelques étapes:

  • obtain a ceasefire
  • Preparing the ceasefire
  • Implementing the ceasefire
  • Define a ceasefire monitoring and control body (if necessary)
  • Monitor the ceasefire and initiate corrective action in case of violations
  • Adapt and evolve the system

We will therefore briefly develop these few steps.

Obtaining a cease-fire

The first quality to obtain a ceasefire is determination. This is not enough, but if you don’t have it, nothing will happen. It’s best to have an idea of what the future settlement will look like. The more the settlement proposal is accepted by both parties, the more likely it is that the ceasefire will make sense.

There are extremely simple techniques. There is one that I call the Boumediène method. One day Anwar Sadat’s Egypt unleashed a war against Libya. The president of Algeria made the trip to Cairo and stayed with Sadat until a ceasefire was reached. There were no further negotiations or ceasefire monitoring: the war was over. Simple, but one must have the determination to obtain a cease-fire from the interlocutors and have the nerve to impose its presence until the complete end of hostilities.

In all cases, the negotiation must be done directly with the leaders of the countries fighting

At this stage and before obtaining the ceasefire, it is necessary to know whether a ceasefire supervision and monitoring system is needed.

  • if the forces on the ground are already interlocked, yes there is a need for a ceasefire supervision and monitoring system capable of deploying on the ground
  • if one of the components is unstructured or composed of a multitude of groupings without a unified command and respected by all groupings, a system of supervision and control will also be required
  • if they are two well-structured and disciplined armies, one can consider dispensing with a system of supervision and control, at least initially, if the ceasefire order is actually relayed on both sides of the conflicting armies and if an initial disengagement or ceasefire line is defined

Preparing the ceasefire

Ence the ceasefire was obtained and the ceasefire began a few hours ago (between 6 and 24 hours ago). These hours should be sufficient to transmit the cease-fire order to all levels of the military hierarchy. Announcing a cease-fire several days before is useless. This is a sign of other problems, starting with the lack of control over the fighting parties and the lack of real will to implement a ceasefire.

In general, it is this first point that poses a problem. Leaders have agreed to a ceasefire but have not transmitted this order to all levels, or the order is not accepted and does not go down to all levels.

Ideally, from this phase of preparation, there should be some special advisers at the level of the two staffs to ensure that the ceasefire order is properly transmitted and that the military operations planned for the hours following the entry into force of the ceasefire are cancelled..

It is also necessary to indicate to each camp that there will be blunders and that even if there are blunders it will not be necessary to restart military operations, hoping that in this way the ceasefire will gradually come into effect.

It should be anticipated that the ceasefire may take a few days to take effect and provide a minimum mechanism for dealing with violations.

This minimum arrangement is two third-country teams that are with the military leadership of each side from the beginning of the ceasefire and that will manage all violations. For each violation reported by each camp, it is necessary to make contact with the team opposite and obtain the correction or re-routing of the cease-fire order where it seems not to have been respected..

At the beginning of the cease-fire there will generally not yet be any deployment of cease-fire observers and monitors, so it will be necessary to launch and relaunch the two military hierarchies that will use the other side’s blunders as an excuse to restart military operations.

Implementing the ceasefire

This begins in the preceding hours to ensure that the ceasefire order is relayed on both sides and continues after the actual ceasefire time with the management of violations. It will be exceptional that there are none. That is why there must be a minimum mechanism in permanent contact with the two military hierarchies and, if necessary, direct follow-up with the leaders.

Each camp will use the other camp’s blunders and violations as an excuse to restart military operations. Each camp will not recognize its blunders without the minimum system of checks at the level of the military hierarchies.

The possibility of having a reliable intelligence device at this stage is useful to be able to objectively point out to each camp its blunders.

When one side alleges violations by the other side, the team on the ground is quick to ask for details and then pass them on to the other team to ensure that the ceasefire order has been received and retransmit it again if there has been a miscarriage.

At this stage, two teams of about ten people can help establish the ceasefire by preventing the first violations from relaunching the war machine on both sides.

Define a ceasefire monitoring and control body (if necessary)

The ceasefire monitoring and control body must be able to:

  • A – be informed of all violations
  • B – make a periodic report on the status of the situation
  • C – do a regular debriefing
  • D – initiate actions to stop violations
  • E – to develop the rules in force and the monitoring and control system
  • F – evolve the military systems of each camp to consolidate the cease-fire and prepare for the future

A good compromise must be found between observing violations and taking corrective action. There are systems that spend their time observing without ever acting (example: the OSCE SMM in Ukraine). They are passive. They need to become active. They only work if they are compensated by another system. The ceasefire in Ukraine of July 27, 2020 delegated the task of monitoring the ceasefire to the JCCC which is a joint body of the military components of each camp. This made the system active and more efficient. But for other reasons, it will be deadlocked later.

It is important to understand that violation information that is not used within minutes and hours to correct the source of the violation is of little use.

The monitoring and control system only works if it has permanent relays in each fighting camp. The monitoring and control system cannot be imposed by force but by persuasion and relays in each camp.
The advantage of having former military personnel in the monitoring and control system is that they do not hesitate to make contact with the combatants or work with liaison officers from each side. A monitoring system made almost exclusively with civilians (as is the case with the OSCE SMM) merely observes and out of fear of what they do not know has no influence on the fighting parties, simply because they have no contact with combatants and even refuse them almost systematically: they lock themselves into a passive system that cannot end up being effective without relying on another system that complements their own.

If we take the example of the Ukraine, the SMM does correctly only points A and B, the JCCC does C and D and the TCG intends to do E and F. It is a non-integrated system with 3 heads that do not really coordinate and each one pulls the cover to himself to assert himself without worrying too much about a collective vision.

With a lot of aplomb, the OSCE SMM, by doing A and B, pretends to do everything. Same for the JCCC by doing C and D. Same for the TCG by doing E and F.

If this began to work in July 2020 by delegating tasks not carried out (and refused by misplaced dogmatism) by SMM to the JCCC, the system is non-integrated and will be unable, in its current form, to change the security situation satisfactorily, without reconsidering all the stakeholders and their roles.

Monitoring the ceasefire and initiating corrective action in case of violations

It seems self-evident that depending on the violations, the necessary corrective actions must be initiated. System adaptation must be done in real time. There may be structural adaptations, but a system will never work if it takes several weeks for corrective actions to be taken.

Here again we return to the bad example of Ukraine. For 6 years, there was on the one hand the OSCE SMM observing system which observed and reported and on the other hand corrective actions launched by the TCG which meets from time to time, rather once a month than every day.

This did not work until they changed both the behavior of the fighting forces and the way they initiated some corrective actions.

Did they understand? Obviously not. At the last news, the actors (including the OSCE) are asking for more than 1,000 SMM observers. It is not observers that should be added but inspection patrols that are active. When an SMM observer patrol passes in front of a prohibited weapon, the patrol notes it, transmits it to its hierarchy who makes a nice report 24 to 72 hours later. At that time, even if it is communicated to the combatant hierarchies, they are unable to do anything with it and to evacuate the weapon, which has probably already left and been installed elsewhere. An inspection patrol, when it sees a prohibited weapon, must report to the weapons officers that they must evacuate their weapon in the designated area and be assisted by liaison officers to evacuate them. The inspection patrol shall remain in place until the weapon is removed and moved to a verifiable location. An SMM observer patrol never initiates any corrective action following its observations, the inspection patrols are made to immediately exploit the observations made with the help of liaison officers from each camp who can be integrated into the inspection patrols to gain efficiency and not wait hours and hours for a JCCC representative to arrive and take care of evacuating the weapon (which they usually never do).

Today in Ukraine there are 0 inspection patrols. At least 200 to 300 would be needed. The local actors have apparently not understood, neither why the ceasefire did not hold before July 2020, nor why the ceasefire of July 2020 is still holding.

In contrast to Ukraine, you can look at the ceasefires between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. There is officially no observer or monitoring and control system. It would take one, even a simple one, to make their ceasefire less fragile, but the virtual absence of an institutionalized system of supervision and monitoring has only a limited effect.

November 12, 2020