"Managing Complexity, Breaking Deadlocks and Building Consensus "
A Background Paper for the Third Conference on National Dialogues, April 5-6, 2017
Perhaps the most outstanding characteristic of National Dialogues, as seen from a planning and facilitation perspective, is its bewildering complexity. In Burma the Panglong conference that met for the first time in January 2016 consisted of 900 representatives from the government and army; ethnic minorities and 18 armed groups; and more than 90 democratic parties/groups. In Yemen, the National Dialogue Conference had 565 representatives, representing political parties and movements, ethnic representatives, women and youth, 50% to represent the South and 30% women. Not only is the sheer size of such meetings intimidating, but more so the range of political interests, the depth of distrust, the seeming irreconcilability of competing interests and issues, and the fragility of the arrangement that must hold all together.
It is accepted that, given the homegrown quality of National Dialogues, there will and should be no one-size-fits all answer to the above questions. There seems to be an almost naïve assumption that dialogue will be successful if only protagonists can be brought into the same room (or hall). This is not the case, as the list of National Dialogues that did not have any lasting impact is considered, as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Togo, Yemen, Bahrain, Swaziland, Sudan – to name but a few.
The following dynamics regarding planning for and managing National Dialogues deserve ongoing attention:
1. Many National Dialogues fail because of political capture. This happens when the ruling party or external actors seek to control the outcome of the process by exerting undue pressure on who to include, the formulation of the agenda, and the procedures adopted. What options are available for facilitators when faced with political capture? What rules of engagement need to be in place to ensure a level playing field?
2. The inclusion of the military, armed or highly radicalized groups that may resort again to armed resistance or violent disruptions, is a particularly complex and important issue. It is important to understand the drivers and root causes behind radicalization, but also how to engage in dialogue with radicalized groups given circumstances of international policies and sanctions. It is equally important to understand the dynamics of changing the “instruments” of dealing with existential conflicts (from military tools to dialogue tools). This is an acute dilemma faced by facilitators of dialogue. Ongoing reflection and research is very critical.
3. The process of fostering confidence in dialogue as a viable option needs much attention. Military actors in particular must be convinced to move their conflict from the battlefield to the dialogue table. It implies the existence of a “table” that inspires confidence and promises better alternatives to military strategies. But what precisely does confidence-building entail? What does confidence-building mean in a context of terror attacks, drones and clandestine or open external support for military options? Is a “mutually hurting stalemate” indeed a precondition for successful talks?
4. Interference in or pressure by external actors add to the stress placed on National Dialogues. The management of external actors therefore poses considerable challenges to the facilitators of National Dialogues. At the same time, few National Dialogues could take place without some form of external support, whether political, technical or financial. It is important to develop a better understanding of risks associated with undue external interference, but also of international indifference. It may also imply the development of codes of conduct for INGOs who seek to provide support, but without consideration of what is already in place and without respect for the principles of collaboration and national ownership.
5. Essential elements that need to be agreed on in the initial dialogue framework agreement that precedes the start of the National Dialogue, include: criteria for inclusive participation; mandating of dialogue structure and outcome, and establishing formal links to constitutional, governance and change instruments; inclusive political managing structure(s) and accountability mechanisms; decision-making procedures; core principles and values; agreement on its purpose, objectives and what it is intended to change and agree on – developing an inclusive broad agenda framework; appointment of a multi-partial, non-stakeholder-driven secretariat and management; financial and administrative responsibilities; etc.
“Self-mediation” procedures and design elements in National Dialogues
One of the many consistent patterns in failed or weak formal National Dialogue processes is the absence or under-development of deliberate, integrated and coherent designs of “self-mediation” components and procedures. We will outline a few here for discussion:
a. The strategic process, dialogue roadmap and facilitation strategy that is implemented has been shown to have a determining impact on the outcome of dialogue processes. There are various matters in need of ongoing discussions and joint learning in this respect, including:
• The most appropriate and contextual infrastructure for the talks, including the formation of management and facilitation task teams, the structure of the table (or conference room), facilitation strategies, committees, expert panels, and procedural rules.
• Consistent and structured practices regarding the generation of options (research, consultations, comparative studies, stakeholder proposals, hidden messages, technical committees, drafting committees, etc.)
• The procedures, techniques and structures for decision-making, deadlock-breaking and consensus building (One Text, technical experts, options generation, indabas, dialogue circles and trees, interactive multi-track processes, etc.).
• Decision-making arrangements (full consensus, sufficient consensus, voting for consensus, 2/3 majority, or a scale or combination of options).
b. The role of shared knowledge creation to enable dialogue participants to operate from a basis of credible and jointly owned knowledge is increasingly recognized. Attention to this aspect would include:
• identify information gaps;
• Structured and systematic ongoing mapping of stakeholder proposals, positions, interests; their common ground and differences (to feed into the facilitation strategy design and One-Text decision-making process)
• enable joint knowledge creation and “fact discovery”;
• move from “facts and perceptions”, to “facts and facts” — acknowledging and seeing each other’s realities;
• technical information and common understanding of conceptual frameworks and systems;
• jointly developing inclusive agenda frames that acknowledge the needs, hopes, brokenness and expectations from all sides;
• Ongoing joint conflict assessment and facilitation strategy development by Secretariat, Facilitation Task Groups, Technical Committees and Consensus-building bodies.
c. The National Dialogue should also enable people’s voices to be heard. This includes linking tracks 1, 2 and 3; welcoming and respecting submissions from the public; and ensuring a constructive media policy.
Working towards a working definition of formal National Dialogues – evolving common understandings from past two conferences:
Following the discussions and reports from the Helsinki National Dialogue Conferences in 2014 and 2015, some shared understandings have emerged that we cover in this section. There remain, however, significant areas that needs joint reflection and research to capture the extent of these instruments’ extraordinary complexity. The recent publication of the Berghof/Swisspeace handbook for practitioners, the HD publication for third parties support, and the ongoing development of the Peace and Dialogue Platform have all contributed significantly to the evolving body of knowledge emerging from these processes.
In order to define formal National Dialogues a number of distinctions were made during the past conferences. First, a National Dialogue is a highly inclusive process involving, as far as is possible, the complete spectrum of political diversity in a society. It is therefore to be distinguished from processes, often conducted by external mediators, that engage only with armed actors or the most prominent protagonists.
Second, the objective with National Dialogues is to arrive at a new constitutional dispensation or a fundamental re-organisation of the political and statutory landscape. It can therefore be distinguished from, for example, international mediation interventions that have the intention to achieve a very specific political or military settlement (such as, for example, SADC’s mediation of the crisis in Madagascar) that do not necessarily require a substantive revision of the constitutional foundation of a society.
Third, these dialogues, as in Myanmar, South Africa, Yemen and Lebanon, have a formal character, meaning that they are set up in order to impact on the statutory landscape and that have, therefore, to feed into formal legal procedures. They are therefore to be distinguished from informal or Track Two dialogue processes.
Fourth, formal National Dialogue processes, especially those that have been successful, may not be restricted to a once-off event, but may evolve through different formats and conclude in a constituent assembly. In both South Africa and Nepal the National Dialogue took a decade to produce a new constitution, relying on different iterations of the dialogue platform across this period. In some countries, such as Lebanon, a National Dialogue platform has been established to pursue ongoing dialogue in the aftermath of a political settlement.
Fifth, and very important, National Dialogues are homegrown and self-managed processes. In Myanmar 5 stakeholder groups from more than 90 parties, government, army and armed groups designed their own dialogue frameworks. Collectively, they spent the last two years negotiating the final dialogue and change instruments. While national stakeholders may accept external support in some or other form, a National Dialogue is not mediated by external actors nor designed to meet international interests or concerns. It is, first and foremost, a national attempt at solving its own contradictions. Part from its formal constitutional role, the National Dialogue also becomes a shared space for reconciliation and to develop common visions for their future.
A working definition of a National Dialogue is, therefore, that it is a formally mandated process of political dialogue that is inclusive, self-mediated and aimed at forging broad consensus in a highly diverse and polarized society on the values, principles and rules that should govern peaceful co-existence. A National Dialogue may take place at various stages of a peacemaking process and need not take place in the same format. It is therefore an open, adaptive process that should be defined by its broad objective and thrust and not by the particular format it takes.
The questions and considerations for this session include:
- what are the planning, management, facilitation, shared knowledge and procedural measures that must be in place in order to manage the complexity of National Dialogues?
- what are the key structural and “self-mediation” elements that needs to be built-into formal National Dialogues to enable consensus-building, common understanding of issues, and deadlock-breaking?
- National Dialogues as third-party instruments for mediation; and National Dialogues as sovereign “self-mediation” instruments;
- comparing negotiation, mediation and dialogue across tracks.
Two-thirds of U.S.-based nonprofit organizations working abroad are facing problems accessing financial services, according to a comprehensive report released by the Charity and Security Network. (The Peace Appeal Foundation is a member of the network, and serves on its Executive Board.) The study illustrates a growing challenge to peacebuilding and humanitarian relief organizations working in conflict zones globally. Though focused on US-based organizations, the challenge to US organizations is part of a broader trend restricting the operations of civil society organizations globally.
The report, Financial Access for U.S. Nonprofits, is based on the first-ever empirical study of the global phenomenon known as “derisking,” as it relates to U.S.-based NPOs. Derisking refers to financial institutions terminating or restricting business relationships to avoid rather than manage risk. The report also reflects information from numerous focus group sessions and interviews with stakeholders over the last year. It outlines and analyzes the scope, frequency, and prevalence of various financial access problems, including delayed wire transfers, account refusals and closures, and unusual additional documentation requests. The report also provides recommendations to address these challenges. Author Sue E. Eckert of the Center for New American Security noted, “At a time of unprecedented need in regions of conflict, humanitarian crises, and natural disaster, American charities’ efforts to save lives and prevent the further erosion of democracy and human rights are being stymied unnecessarily. The data are clear: there is a serious and systemic problem that must be addressed.”
Among the major findings:
These challenges have made it difficult for nonprofits to access the financial services necessary to provide life-saving aid to people in global hot spots where the need is greatest. For example:
Because nonprofits contribute to peace and security around the world, “finding a solution to the problem should be a priority for the U.S. government,” said Kay Guinane, director of the Charity & Security Network.
Regulators are tasked with ensuring the safety and security of the banking system,” explained Scott Paul, senior humanitarian policy advisor at Oxfam America. “In doing so, they impose steep penalties for undercompliance but none for overcompliance.”
To read the report, go to charityandsecurity.org/FinAccessReport
The Peace Appeal Foundation is pleased to announce that Kristiina Rintakoski has joined the organization’s Board of Directors. Kristiina brings a wealth of experience in peacebuilding globally. She presently works as a Director for Peacebuilding and Advocacy at the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission, one of the largest Finish civil society organizations working in global development. She has over 15 years of experience in policy analysis and programme planning in mediation support, peacebuilding and national dialogue processes. Regionally much of her work has focused on Myanmar, Syria and Nepal. Before joining FELM, she served as Programme Director at the Crisis Management Initiative for 10 years, leading the development of CMI’s crisis management, conflict resolution and peacebuilding projects and activities. Prior to that, she worked at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. She holds Master’s degrees in International Relations from the University of Tampere, Finland and in Human Rights from the University of Padova, Italy.
In this season during which people of many cultures and faiths celebrate renewal, we share with you a poem written by Fr Michael Weeder, a board member of the Peace Appeal Foundation. Michael is Dean of St. George's Cathedral in Cape Town, a church once led by Archbishop Tutu. The poem was written in Helsinki, Finland at a conference on the role of dialogue in peace and national change processes. It was started in the hours after the attacks in Paris and Beirut.
Michael's poem echoes the work and values of many, including Aung San Suu Kyi's recent remarks on the need to reach out to Myanmar's former rulers, as well as to the words of Archbishop Tutu and his daughter Mpho, in their powerful recent book, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World. Its theme of forgiveness is central to the work of peacemakers everywhere, to the possibility of renewal more broadly, and to hopes for peaceful coexistence in our tumultuous world.
When We Forgive
When we forgive,
the shrapnel of the bombs -
assigned to Paris, today
every other day
will never pierce
will never pierce
our soft, invincible hearts
when we forgive.
(Helsinki, Monday, 16 November 2015)
The Very Reverend Michael Weeder
Wishing you a peaceful and blessed new year filled with hope.
In the days following the tragic suicide bombings in Beirut and the horrific attacks in Paris in mid-November, peacebuilders from 12 countries met in Helsinki to share and jointly reflect on their peace and dialogue initiatives. The common thread was their creation of safe spaces and safety nets – known as “Common Spaces.” These spaces serve multiple purposes, from hosting confidential dialogues among leaders in deeply divided societies to supporting formal negotiations in peace and constitutional reform processes. With the emergence of these sustained dialogue initiatives following long periods of civil war or during intractable conflicts, we are witnessing the creation of groundbreaking joint mechanisms that simultaneously help catalyze, accompany and support fundamental political and social change processes in divided societies.
This past month the people of Myanmar finally secured a “Free Burma” by giving Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), an overwhelming electoral mandate to govern the country – ending more than six decades of military rule. In the week following her party’s historic achievement, Suu Kyi announced that, despite winning the vast majority of the open seats in Parliament, her party will not govern alone, but will form a unity government that will include her former “enemy,” the Myanmar Military, as well as leaders from the country’s ethnic minorities.
A confident Suu Kyi has since urged the NLD’s newly elected MP’s to join hands with those once responsible for persecuting members of the party. For Suu Kyi, forgiveness is a necessary step toward national reconciliation: “Whatever mistake they have made in the past, we need to give them the chance to change, instead of seeking revenge. If they are doing nothing wrong at the present time, they can join hands with us.”
The Military Government of U Thein Sein that opened the “democratic space” over the past four years did not expect such a dramatic defeat at the polls. And, the provisions of the current 2008 Constitution provide that the Military still holds 25% of the seats in Parliament and will keep control of the defense, home affairs and border affairs ministries when the NLD takes over the reins in April of next year. Suu Kyi’s relationship with Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing will be the center of attention for the months to come. Thus far, their relationship is off to a promising start. In their first meeting after the elections, both leaders expressed their willingness to cooperate. The military assured her that it will no longer play a “political” role.
On the international front, the NLD will face critical choices. Whereas the Military Government maintained close relations with China, the NLD is much closer to the West. The challenge for the NLD-led unity government will be to manage its engagement with the West and at the same time strengthen its relations with China. The NLD believes it would be a fatal mistake to choose between the West and China; rather, it should work hard to maintain good relations with both.
To meet the future challenges of Myanmar/Burma’s political transformation, the NLD will need to expand, strengthen and consolidate the peace process. Here are some key goals: bringing all of the ethnic armed groups who have been at war with the central government for decades into the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement; creating an inclusive National Dialogue process bringing together all the groups and people of Burma to jointly agree on a future vision and a new constitutional foundation for the country; working towards national reconciliation; creating a strong judiciary that will root-out corruption and ensure justice, fairness and equality for all; and restructuring the economy to ensure that the country’s rich natural resources benefit all its people.
Whereas outgoing President U Thein Sein’s government focused on ending the civil war, the challenge for the new NLD government will be to build a sustainable and just peace process. This peace process must address the deep structural challenges and societal divides in the country. The next phase will have to go beyond the agreements of the past four years and build on the achievements of the democratic movement and the ethnic struggle of the past six decades.
Author: by Michael Lund (Editor), Steve McDonald (Editor)
Publication Date: December 31, 2015
Description: Through a comparative analysis of six case studies, this volume illustrates key conflict-resolution techniques for peacebuilding. Outside parties learn how to facilitate cooperation by engaging local leaders in intensive, interactive workshops. These opposing leaders reside in small, ethnically divided countries, including Burundi, Cyprus, Estonia, Guyana, Sri Lanka, and Tajikistan, that have experienced communal conflicts in recent years. In Estonia and Guyana, peacebuilding initiatives sought to ward off violence. In Burundi and Sri Lanka, initiatives focused on ending ongoing hostilities, and in Cyprus and Tajikistan, these efforts brought peace to the country after its violence had ended.
Edited by Rami G. Khouri, Karim Makdisi, Martin Wählisch
Publication Date: March 2016
Description: This collected volume presents reflections from prominent international peacemakers in the Middle East, including Jimmy Charter, Lakhdar Brahimi, Jan Eliasson, Alvaro de Soto, and others. It provides unique insights and lessons learned about diplomacy and international peace mediation practice based on real life experience. The personal stories offer a critical analysis of successful and unsuccessful peace processes, as well as the chances and limits of solving the most intractable conflicts in the region and other parts of the world. The talks in this edited volume were part of the Bill and Sally Hambrecht Distinguished Peacemakers Lecture series of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon.
The Burmese “Framework for Political Dialogue” (FPD) was finally agreed upon yesterday, December 16th, by the Union Peace and Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) in the country’s capital. The Framework was handed over to the President who will publicize the Framework and call for a political dialogue in mid-January 2016. The UPDJC will be mandated to hold the upcoming political dialogue with the participation of 700 representatives from the government, parliament, defense services, ethnic armed organizations, political parties, ethnic leaders and special invitees.
The final framework was drawn from the 5 frameworks developed by the main stakeholders over the past three years – military, NLD, political parties and ethnic armed groups. Over the past 8 months the representatives from each of these groups developed a common framework draft that formed the basis of this agreement. The meeting in January will be an initial meeting to comply with the provisions of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement signed on 15th October this year. The formal dialogue process will start in late 2016 with the aim to develop a new constitutional framework guaranteeing equality to all the diverse ethnic groups, addressing the shortcomings in the current 2008 constitution and addressing the deep-rooted causes of conflict of the past 6 decades.
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