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.
In Burma, 7 Common Spaces have evolved in its various ethnic estates since 2013. They serve as informal dialogue spaces to engage the various levels of society in the peace process, provide support to regional dialogues and negotiations, and will support the upcoming formal National Dialogue. The evolving common spaces together with national facilitators facilitated the drafting of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, the Deed of Commitment and the common elements of the Framework for Political Dialogue.
The Pyidaungsu Institute for Peace and Dialogue (PI) in Burma has an important role in developing shared knowledge and the tools for facilitation, such as the single text document on NCA (Nationwide Ceasefire) or on the FPD (Framework for Political Dialogue). PI analysis, mapping and knowledge tools are the facilitation documents used in facilitation, or in supporting facilitation strategies for key negotiations between the various Burmese stakeholders. PI has also been working systematically for almost two years on the thematic and technical files identified on the negotiation agenda by the stakeholders. It links this work with the 7 ethnic and regional Common Spaces.
This info-graphic captures some of the dialogue and mediation mechanisms in the anatomy of an overall change process. It is a diagram to facilitate discussion on developing open frameworks for shared understanding of complex and evolving processes. It is not simply a linear continuum, but rather a complex, multi-layered and -dimensional process in which the different stages, presented below, can recur or take place simultaneously. The change process includes the non-linear processes prior and following the national dialogue. Various forms of mediation shown as third-party mediation, self-mediation structures, inside mediation and local/national peace structures, augment the change process at critical points. The process is also continuously reinforced by multitrack dialogue in various sectors and processes displayed below functioning as safety net mechanisms and support dialogues to break the political deadlocks.
A tribute by Dean Michael Weeder, December 5 2015
For a moment in our post-apartheid history we lived in the Camelot-like days of Nelson Mandela who had “showed us the way to freedom”.
Perhaps this moment, like a dream come true with its grand narrative of messianic proportions lulled us into a passive observer distance from the heart of ongoing and permanent revolution.
We forgot that Madiba did not free himself. We forgot that he, of whom we sang, had walked through the prison gates that we - the organised, freedom-loving South Africans – had helped to open.
It was part of a grail-like quest for one who “shall execute justice and righteousness in the land”. But the angels of such virtues are elusive, occasional creatures of our collective imagination fired into flight by our longing.
We contribute to the messianic complex when we joyfully allocate our social and justice responsibility to political parties and its leadership.
Was it all worth it? The long struggle against the systemic stripping of our dignity, the deaths in detention, the banning orders, the countless detentions? Our answer is determined by our wounds and the scars of the battles we deemed worth fighting for.
Freedom will always have to be in our hands. It extends beyond the securement of democracy which, we can see, is easily up for sale and commandeered by elites skilled in framing (but never really delivering on) our expectations.
The anniversary of the passing of Madiba stands at the end of a week wherein two significant events were observed. The first is specific to the history of South Africa’s slave-descendant community. On the eve of Emancipation Day, Monday 30 November a few hundred Capetonians gathered in the Strand Street Quarry.
We have done so over these past 9 years with minimal capital and without political patronage. In the process we have reclaimed our freed selves and in so doing bulwarked our understanding of freedom and the power that secures it: the people organised along with its vanguard of servant leadership.
The other event speaks to a bondage that is ongoing, the impact of which is experienced in all our communities - World Aids Day. On December 1 we are especially aware of the pain and suffering of HIV and the particular way it is evident in the lives of women and children.
There is no Great Chinese Wall between the narratives associated with the communities affected by these events. Those who bear history’s weight of suffering – whether from the savagery of our colonial past or the immediacy of a betrayed hope - are most susceptible to HIV.
Yet we find humbling evidence of great faith amongst our families and friends affected by the Aids pandemic, amongst our loved ones confronted by the invasive illnesses such as the presence of cancer in their lives.
Saint Augustine, writing in the 5th century, summons us to secure the fullness of freedom when he reminds us that "God without us will not; we without God cannot". Or, in a more contemporary expression, “We are the ones whom we have been waiting for”.
PRIO conducted a seminar on "the many facets of dialogue processes – with regards to Tunisia as well as elsewhere." The seminar focused on the following points:
The key contributors were Hannes Siebert, Ghazi Gherairi, and the chair was Kristian Berg Harpviken, PRIO Director.
The event was conducted at PRIO, Oslo.
By Hannes Siebert
Published on the PRIO Blog
In the last century, peace was far more likely the product of victory on the battlefield than a negotiated settlement. From 1940 until 2002, the world witnessed more than 370 state-based conflicts. At any point in time over the last decade, the world hosted nearly 30 armed conflicts simultaneously — many of them “check book wars,” with external powers funding and supplying arms to different internal factions in order to enhance their access to the beleaguered state’s resources.
In this “post-post-colonial” era we are witnessing the post-colonial government incarnations of the colonial “strong man” being replaced by new democratic forces. These new movements are re-defining democracy; they are innovating new forms of representative government; and many are re-considering the nation-state concept. As each of these countries attempts to cut the umbilical cords from their former colonial powers, we see a reduction in external foreign mediation and an increase in mass people’s movements and national dialogues as tools of political transformation. With these significant phenomena, local and national peacemakers and concerned parties work together to resolve their conflict through the creation of joint “self-mediation” instruments, different types of national dialogues and various forms of supporting peace infrastructures that emerge out of these local contexts.
National Dialogues have become a common part of many post-conflict and post-crisis transition processes. These broad-based stakeholder dialogues are usually mandated to define key aspects of the political or constitutional future of a country and are commonly the center-piece of post crisis transitions. In countries with multiple political, non-state and governing stakeholders – varying between 7 and 94 in number – national dialogues are emerging as the only mechanism that can manage and facilitate large complex political transformations and change processes. Some are supported by the United Nations and regional organisations, but most formally mandated National Dialogues have been designed, managed and implemented by the national stakeholders themselves – such as in South Africa, Nepal, Tunisia, Lebanon and Burma.
The composition and management of National Dialogues present extraordinary complex challenges in terms of constructing and managing dialogue between multiple delegations representing a variety of social formations. Their development and design is determined by the dynamics of the past conflict, the depth of the broken relations between groups, the multiple layers of inequality and loss of human dignity, and the failures of existing constitutional and governing instruments.
If one takes a closer look at the change narratives or agenda of their committees and structures, these mandated dialogue structures not only provided new constitutional frameworks, addressing the root causes of the conflict or constitutional failures; they served a much broader function. They also served as spaces and instruments for reconciliation, developing joint visions between former enemies, and slowly evolving an understanding of the needs, perceptions and perspectives of the “other”.
As change and “self-mediation” processes, National Dialogues have been highly undervalued, mainly because they are often insulated from the outside (and less susceptible to international intervention), and also because they usually take an extraordinary amount of time and effort. National Dialogues are also less directed towards the conclusion of agreements (only) than is international mediation. Rather, they aim at establishing an environment for long-term stability, improved relations between state, community and non-state actors, and open communication between all of a society’s major actors on issues that divide them or are of common national interest. The strength of National Dialogues is that they establish a consistent structure deeply rooted in that society that becomes the mechanism to address and agree on fundamental structural change.
Evolving Common Spaces: Building common understanding and develop consensus through knowledge-based dialogues, the creation of shared knowledge, and the evolving of permanent safe spaces -- A presentation by Hannes Siebert at the Rotary Peace Fellowship 10 year anniversary in Thailand, 2015
Over the past 15 years we’ve witnessed the emergence of several unique Track 1.5 initiatives following long periods of civil wars, governance system failures, political instability, or during intractable conflicts. They served as “safe spaces ” for confidential dialogues or as support mechanisms and safety nets for formal and constitutional change processes.
The development of each of these common spaces was determined by the dynamics of the conflict, the depth of the broken relations between groups, the failures of existing constitutional and governing instruments, competing interests and the breakdown in communications. In this presentation he briefly look at five of these dialogue spaces in Cyprus, Lebanon, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Burma/Myanmar