GSUM hosts colloquium on legitimacy and resilience in national dialogue processes

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.

Colombia’s path to peace – part 1

When negotiations between the Colombian government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC guerilla (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) began on Oct. 8th, 2012, both parties to the negotiations and the general public displayed a healthy amount of distrust and skepticism. Government representatives weren’t quite sure if the revolutionaries were sincere in their wish and will to conduct an honest dialogue and not to use the talks as an insincere tactical motive to rally once more against the government. On the other side of the table, the revolutionaries couldn’t possibly count on the government willingness to provide sustainable solutions and to work toward compromise. And there is a rich history of failures: FARC used the negotiations with the government of Patranas (1998-2002) to reorganize its combat units (Frentes). During the days of the Gaviria government (1990-1991), both sides used to overextend their demands to the point where any suggestion or demand was deemed unacceptable by the other side. The dialogue between the rebels and the Betancur government (1984-1986) failed as the military didn’t cease hostilities.
The killing of thousands of members of the Union Patriotica party, whereby many FARc rebels organized themselves into one party during the negotiations with the Betancur government is not forgotten by the FARC. And this lack of trust and confidence in the motives of the other side is mirrored in the attitudes and negotiation behaviors of the current Havanna Talks: no official cease fire has been brokered or announced and the agreement on negotiated items is only valid when and if there is a complete and comprehensive agreement – called single undertaking in peace agreement terms.

However, the negotiations are quite time consuming and lengthy. Hence, the most icky points have not been talked about yet and President Juan Manuel Santos has invested its entire political capital into the dialogue process, yet he is becoming increasingly impatient and unnerved by the slow progress of the talks. Though both sides had announced a truce which didn’t hold, and the upcoming municipal elections are perceived as a braking pad since FARC isn’t confident that the safety and livelihoods of its disarmed and demobilized fighters can be secured. In many of the rural areas, the government and military lacks presence and therefore it cannot make guarantees as to the security of demobilized fighters since local and regional elites do not feel tied by any of the ceasefire provisions between the government and the FARC. And rightly so: the perception and general question is that this is a peace process for the sake of the government yet the general population in both urban and rural areas and in the region at large needs to support the peace process. Beyond the population, important stakeholders such as the military, economic and political elites need to be tackled as well so as to not become spoilers to the national dialogue process.

Beyond the actors mentioned above, the question still remains as to the role of a smaller rebel group, the ELN (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional), and its current exclusion from the talks. It can be argued that it would be a stretch to assume that it would automatically and without preconditions accept any agreement brokered between the two major parties in the Havanna Talks.

in the next post, I will give an appreciation of the current negotiation results

Central African Republic reaches historic national reconciliation pact and agreement with armed groups on disarmament | HD Centre

As I am continuing my research across a range of examples from the Global South, the agreement reached in CAR is worth exploring in regards to its variables and to assess its impact.

Central African Republic reaches historic national reconciliation pact and agreement with armed groups on disarmament | HD Centre.