On August 6th, 2015, the Global South Unit for Mediation (GSUM) was glad to welcome its Fellow, Dr. José Pascal da Rocha (Columbia University) and Dr. Renata Giannini (Instituto Igarapé) for the colloquium “Legitimacy and resilience in national dialogue processes”. Researchers and practitioners of the field, as well as graduate and undergraduate students participated in the event, which took place at BRICS Policy Center, Rio de Janeiro.
Dr. da Rocha’s presentation was guided by the question of why so many national dialogue processes have proven to be ineffective in post-conflict settings. Understanding national dialogue as processes, such as roundtables and conferences, to foster integration, inclusion and sustainable peace, through wider political participation and active citizenry, Dr. da Rocha approached this question by looking at three key variables: legitimacy, resilience, and effectiveness. The underlying hypotheses for this perspective are that legitimacy of political actors enables effective national dialogue processes, and that resilience to external shocks leads to sustainability within this dialogue.
The intuition for investigating national dialogue through the lenses of legitimacy derives from the finding that many peace processes lack broad popular support, making them often an unstable and insecure enterprise. In Dr. da Rocha’s understanding, legitimacy is conferred not only through a set of pre-defined legal norms, but through the popular acceptance of authority, governance, and accountability, manifesting itself through diverse stated and unstated commitments.
Turning to resilience, Dr. da Rocha defines as the capacity to absorb negative events, to be able to make rapid adjustments to shocks, as well as the ability to create new structures in order to make the system sustainable. For effectiveness, Dr. da Rocha defines the ways that parties experience the outcome of a peace process as in accordance with procedural justice, as well as human rights, social outcomes and other standards of rule of law conduct, fostering security and preventing harm and being able to make a positive change to the wider social, political, or economic conflict dynamics in the local context.
On the examples of Mali, Yemen, and Nepal, Dr. da Rocha showed the shortcomings of these national dialogue processes in terms of effectiveness, legitimacy, and resilience. In the peace process of Mali, for instance, the criteria for effectiveness were not met, since the ceasefire agreement was written by external mediators and nor rights-based outcomes, such as the implementation of basic services, jobs or justice were achieved. Also in terms of legitimacy and resilience, the agreement is flawed, since parties from the periphery of the country were not adequately represented in the peace process, prioritizing the restoration of order, but ignoring the needs for change of many populations. Also in Nepal and Yemen, similar problems prevail: particular parties remain excluded from the negotiation table, and poverty and gender-based exclusion make the countries vulnerable to future conflicts.
In his conclusion, Dr. da Rocha argued that the creation of an enabling environment is directly linked to the creation of an enabling peacebuilding environment. Therefore, peacebuilding initiatives should target the countries’ institutional capacities, in order to stimulate the development of local human capacities and collective social institutions, so that societies are better able to manage social change.