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Solving the Moro problem: legalizing the Bangsamoro peace process

Gene Carolan (Department of Law, National University of Ireland Maynooth, Kildare, Ireland)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 11 July 2016




The purpose of this paper is to highlight the structural features that are proving central to the stability of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and those features that were detrimental to its predecessors.


This paper adopts a legalization framework derived from the model presented by Abbott et al. The simplicity of Abbott et al.’s theory allows for variation in the agreements’ text to be easily measured and compared. The inherent advantages of this model offset the difficulties in characterizing peace agreements under traditional legal methodologies, and reiterate the importance of legalized agreements in a conflict resolution context.


This paper finds that a more highly legalized approach to peace-making has resulted in greater agreement stability in the Philippines. More precise in detail and inclusive in scope, the legal nature of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement has made it more responsive to the root causes of the conflict, and resilient to incidents that threatened to derail the peace process.

Practical implications

This case study bears valuable lessons for conflict zones the world over, particularly the troubled negotiations on Syria, and the crisis in Ukraine. The study: lends tentative support to Gopalan’s claim that agreements that exemplify hard legalization are much more sustainable in the long run; stresses the advantages of inclusivity in agreement sustainability and stability; reiterates the importance of addressing the key issues relevant to the conflict if the process is to be sustainable, and; notes the limitations of the legalization framework, but presents the Philippine example as a blueprint for addressing various aspects of the Syrian and Ukrainian conflicts.


This is the first peer-reviewed analysis to explore the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement as a highly legalized conflict resolution instrument, and an adaptable template for peace agreement design generally.



With thanks to Dr John Reynolds and Dr Noelle Higgins at Maynooth University for their invaluable advice and assistance, and the comments of the reviewers, which will be very helpful in refining the broader research from which this paper is drawn.


Carolan, G. (2016), "Solving the Moro problem: legalizing the Bangsamoro peace process", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 212-223.



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