Sunday, September 19, 2010

Imperfect Bridges To Peace

National Peace Structures Study: Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Israel/Palestine
Berghof Foundation/ Peace Appeal Fdn: 2006-9

Introduction by Hannes Siebert

Core Elements, Approaches and Trends:

Peace Structures by its nature are vulnerable and imperfect instruments that have the burden of helping a society cross the bridge from war or serious conflict, to a shared space that promises a sustainable or acceptable peace. To the leaders in a process that carries this burden to deliver peace on behalf of the people or the ideals they represent, these structures are temporary symbols of hope. We have seen in both Nepal and Colombia that the structures changed constantly as the needs of the peace process evolves and the working relationships between the parties mature. We have also sadly seen that when the relationships between the stakeholders further erode, in countries such as Sri Lanka, the “peace” instruments become self-serving and destructive to the very process they were suppose to sustain. These instruments are constantly vulnerable to be exploited for power-politics.

It is evident from looking at the different peace processes, that each conflict and peace process demands its own unique set of mechanisms and structures to meet the needs and address the dynamics of that specific process. Although we try to explore and define trends and common approaches from the experiences in each of these processes, the most important observation is that you cannot transplant models from one country to another. Both the advisors and stakeholders in each of these processes learned the hard way that such assumptions and quick fixes cause problems later in the peace process. It is essential that each process, structure and mechanism is authentic and designed by the stakeholders themselves, or in close collaboration with all stakeholders. Without the buy-in, agreement and ownership of all keys stakeholders of such structures, the mechanisms will inevitably fail – maybe not initially, but eventually. Such failures could lead to the breakdown of an entire process.

Stakeholders facing serious conflicts and process challenges often want to explore models that worked in other countries. Good “models” can be deceptive as we don’t always know how it evolved or the nuances of its context. Sometimes we would be better served learning from our own and other’s failed models. Most cultures in the world have practices, rituals and inherent assets that they drew on for centuries to survive. Building on and strengthening the good cultural assets in societies in conflict, is as important as finding best practice models from relevant international experiences. But the structural models are as important as the design and ownership of the process. Good structures and stakeholder intension can suffer greatly in bad processes, and the reverse is similarly true. It is therefore important to learn from the successes and failures from each process and structural models, and integrate these lessons into future designs.

Generating appropriate structural options for specific processes goes hand-in-hand with adapting or changing such structures to meet the political culture(s) of the stakeholders. The characteristics of the most sustainable processes and structures were ones created through collaborative process design where stakeholders, facilitators and advisors: (1) acknowledged the context and history of each process; (2) compensated and understood the limitations and strengths of the parties to the conflict; (3) accommodated levels of trust and miss-trust between the conflicting parties and their readiness to collaborate; (4) defined how the structures should create an environment and a reasonable possibility for the implementation of agreements – including local ownership and participation in national processes; (5) mobilized people and resources that could sustain the implementation of agreements and functioning of the structures; (6) created joined structures where former enemies could work together and share the responsibility and ownership of their agreements and the implementation thereof; (7) and lastly, recognized communication breakdowns and misunderstandings and found ways to enhance effective communication and collaboration based on the strengths and weaknesses of that specific political culture.

Although the design and composition of these structures differ from country to country, their purpose and roles are generally the same. The structures are created to establish conditions for political normalization and active, inclusive participation in the peace process; set up mechanisms that will protect the negotiations from the ongoing conflict; create joint implementation mechanisms; addressing the worst effects of political conflict at local level; create and maintain mechanisms that will investigate the causes of violence and intimidation, and actively combat the occurrence of violence and intimidation; implement mechanisms to settle differences and resolve conflicts; create a safe and acceptable space for change and more specifically, the negotiations process, and improve local monitoring capacity.

Core Elements of Peace Structures

Based on the 5 case studies (Nepal, Colombia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Israel/Palestine) and the comparative worldwide survey of 15 national peace structures we cover in this study, we identified the following core elements, roles and functions of these structures:
Facilitate Dialogue and Communications between Stakeholders; Coordinate and Administer Negotiations Process; Implementation of Negotiated Agreements; Creating Joint Structures for Monitoring and Implementation; Communicating Peace, Negotiations Process and Managing Media Relations; Securing Peace at Community Level; Monitoring of Agreements and Implementation; Promoting Common Values and Process; Drafting and/or Supporting Agreements and Legislation; Coordinating and managing IDP’s and Conflict Victim’s Resettlement, Compensation and Rehabilitation; Redressing the Past and Investigating the Disappeared…

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