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.
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.
An article by PAF Executive Director Derek Brown appears in the Stanford Social Innovation Review Winter 2014 issue.
Hannes Siebert, co-founder and Senior Technical Adviser for the Peace Appeal Foundation spoke with fellow South African and Peace Appeal Foundation board member, Shirley Moulder on peacemaking and recent developments in the Middle East and Burma. These interviews are part of an ongoing research initiative into the role of peace and dialogue structures in peace processes internationally.
Q: What have been the important changes in peacemaking in the last two decades?
Hannes Siebert: We have seen an extraordinary increase in the number of people and institutions entering the field. When new conflict breaks out in a region or new peace processes emerge, one witnesses a huge international competition between major INGO’s and international agencies staking-out a role and space for them- selves. While there are positive aspects to this trend—new people with energy and more resources that can be deployed for peace— the trend sometimes has a
negative impact on national and local peace processes.
It is scarce in this competitive environment to find “peacemakers” who take time to understand all the human dynamics and the essential core of each process. Few are willing to stand in (or create) those spaces in the “middle” where the conflict is most intense, but the potential for conciliation the greatest. Far too many in this “field” have become part of an armchair industry where peacemaking or peace building is just another contract or project in which we trade in generalizations and second hand knowledge.
But despite the prevalence of project based peacemaking, we have also seen the emergence of courageous peace activists, professionals and leaders in these conflicts who mediate and negotiate ceasefires, access to food, basic services etc. against all odds and at great risk of to their own lives. It is immensely encouraging and humbling to see and read of many such cases in Syria right now. Many of the “inside peacemakers” are getting abducted or arrested, but their numbers are
growing and they have become much more effective over the past years. It is common that when international agencies withdraw their people from wars because of the security risks, local leadership and activists increase their work and efforts to stop the conflict.
In the last 20 years there has also been a tremendous increase in the levels of education and understanding of various countries and conflicts around the world by international peacemakers and those on the inside. These individuals have advanced their education, they have studied their own and international conflicts, and they have dedicated themselves to peacemaking.
Q: How are conflicts themselves changing?
Hannes Siebert: We are now in a “post post-colonial” era where the governments and leaders that replaced colonial era governments, are being replaced by new democratic forces. The old guard now being replaced was for the most part an incarnation of the strongmen who preceded them. These new movements are re-defining democracy, they are innovating new forms of representative governments, and many are re-considering the nation-state concept. But as each of these countries is trying to cut the umbilical cord from its former colonial powers, we see an increase in civil wars, some of which have become proxy conflicts exacerbated by the interests of new international powers.
With the increase of internal conflicts and “checkbook wars” (wars over natural resources and their transport), we have seen a reduction in external foreign mediation and an increase in national dialogues as tools of political transformation. With this
significant phenomenon, local and national peacemakers and communities work together to resolve their conflict by creating joint instruments, national dialogues and supporting peace infrastructures out of these local contexts.
Q: Where do you see national dialogues, and other types of joint peace instruments having an impact today?
Hannes Siebert: What we are witnessing now in Burma/Myanmar is the emergence of a national dialogue, including plans for a national conference after 60 years of civil war. This is a hugely significant development and is an authentic expression of the Burmese parties coming together to design their own framework for a peace process. This process does not negate the importance or value of mediation; for instance, mediation is being used in specific intrastate conflicts between the government and the Kachin and the Shan. These specific conflicts often still require mediators. However, if you consider the situation as a whole, you are dealing with more than 18 armed groups and 16 ethnic political parties in addition to the mainstream opposition parties, democratic forces, the government and the army. You are potentially sitting with almost 50 political actors, all of whom are significant. The complexity in this sort of conflict is too multifaceted for mediation. It requires the creation of new structures and mechanisms that include all relevant actors.
Another example is Yemen, where the Yemenis, with the support of international stakeholders, have created a very good national dialogue conference that is in the end phase of what is really the ”first phase” right now. They will probably move on to the next phase early in the new year. They have made substantial progress on many issues, but there are still many issues remaining, e.g. the issue of the South’s status and the issue of how many regions they will divide the country into in
a federal framework. But they have created the mechanism of a national dialogue to resolve conflicts and, despite tensions heightening in Yemen, people are determined to resolve their differences and build a new country!
Q: What do you see as the challenges for the international community in working to support these efforts?
Hannes Siebert: With the rise of new democratic and people’s movements and related national processes throughout the Middle East, in Egypt, Tunisia, here in Lebanon and now Libya, which has just appointed a national dialogue council, the big challenges for the international community is to re-define and re-visit its role as “mediators”. Our biggest contribution to each other is to walk these peace journeys together with the credible, emerging leaders and peacemakers in each country.
We need to be very careful that we do not see or use national dialogues as instruments of intervention (in the hands of external third parties or international agencies). International agencies and INGO’s role must be to support local parties as they create their own authentic processes and instruments.
Q: What then should be the focus of international assistance?
Hannes Siebert: The key challenge is to create an inclusive, legitimate, and focused process that is disciplined and systemic. With a strong national peace and dialogue process in place or developing, it is clearer for international agencies how to provide meaningful support. National players need to carefully manage their international resources and ensure that the agendas of the “resources” do not manage them in the end.
Q: Tell us more about how these processes are developing, particularly the work in Lebanon?
Hannes Siebert: In Lebanon, the main stakeholders, government institutions and resource organizations addresses each of
the main root causes of the conflict through the Common Space Initiative—a research and dialogue mechanism and structure they jointly created. The key areas they work on include political, judiciary, and economic reforms, Lebanese-Palestinian relations (with almost 500,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon), and the development of a national defense strategy. The need expressed by the main stakeholders was to create a knowledge-based dialogue process that would produce policy options and new reform frameworks. We are fortunate to witness this evolving process at the Common Space and how it contributed to creating an environment for substantial political reform discussions and served as a deadlockbreaking
The support from Lebanon to the Syrian peace initiatives is at an early stage, but the urgency to respond to the needs of inside peacemakers is a strong driving force. The fires of conflict burned very high for very long, and are still burning very high, but we have begun to see encouraging signs of key individuals who are starting to work together, and more cooperation between UN Agencies and individual organizations. Unlike much of the work with refugees, which is coordinated mainly by the UN, the peacemaking work is led by the Syrians themselves and is gaining support from the international community.
Q: How best can we support these peacemaking initiatives?
Hannes Siebert: We need to support the peacemakers and mediators inside each country. They are the oxygen of every process. They need support for their processes, structures and survival. Some of them might need capacity support, to be exposed to other experiences that can help them in their strategy development, or simply need support to re-kindle hope and re-discover their own value in desperate situations.
If we look at the Peace Appeal Foundation’s work over the last decade, and reflecting on the processes from which it was born (South Africa, Northern Ireland and Argentina), our commitment to support national stakeholders and peacemakers and their emerging processes and structures remains the most constructive and valuable contribution one can make to assist the creation and building of peace. Our support in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Lebanon, Burma and Syria will always be guided and driven by the stakeholders’ and partners’ needs and the nature of our collaborative/peer relationships in each country.
Q: So the support mechanism serves to nurture local peacemakers, allowing them the space to create their own paths?
Hannes Siebert: Yes. These mechanisms, this support process, its central focus must be to aid local peacemakers, supporting the innovations that address the needs of their people, their conflict. That is where our support is quite critical. It is about supporting the creation of environments and common spaces that allow innovation and creativity in a peace process. It is not about coming up with models. For a long time, many people have been asking us, “Can we get the Common Space model?” Our consistent message is be wary of models, we are against them! It may sound counter-intuitive, but it is not. Yes, there are principles and lessons we learn from each process, there are many characteristics of the processes we have worked in that are similar, and each can learn from the other. But fundamentally you cannot short-cut the hard work of developing the framework for a process, of developing the structure and mechanisms and innovations for each of these processes. What is absolutely critical is that the emerging mechanisms, innovations and processes are deeply rooted within the context of the conflict, including the political culture, history, structure, past failures as well as current challenges and assets that they have. For national stakeholders, that context is where the innovation comes from. That’s the wonderful part of it – if we can play a constructive supportive role, we can contribute to their innovation. In essence what we contribute to is to enrich the creation of open frameworks of innovation for peace processes, mechanisms, structures and thematic solutions.
Q: Your description of the work reminds me of the wonderful quote from the Spanish poet, Antoni Machado, “Traveler, there is no path, The path is made by walking….”
Hannes Siebert: Yes, it is a step by step process of mapping the footsteps of the peacemakers in each country.
The role of Padma Ratna Tuladhar as an insider mediator in the conflict between the Nepalese Maoists and the parliamentary political parties has been characterized by the constant engagement to generate dialogue between the parties, which can be labelled as a ‘messenger role’. Tuladhar received the necessary legitimacy mainly due to his background as a human rights activist and as an independent leftist member of the parliament in the beginning of the 1990s. During this time, he had been involved to alleviate the emerging conflict between the Maoists, the democratic forces and the Royal regime. After this successful engagement, he was appointed by the government to act as a formal and informal mediator.
Nobel Laureates call for Making Peace with the Earth
By James Michael Wine
Thanks to the Nobel Prize, peace is not simply the absence of war. The work for peace is not simply the prevention of war or the resolution of conflict. Peace has been equated with new strains of grain to help feed the world; with planting trees to stimulate resiliency in the land, in people, in society; with micro-credits for development. Poverty, hunger, disease, indignity, segregation and apartheid, humanitarian help in a world without borders. All the work for peace.
Now the Nobel message is about making peace with the Earth. We are a world at war. The consequences are now and for generations to come. In the words of another Peace Laureate Kofi Annan, “We are all in the same boat.”
It was no surprise that the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2007 prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."
We are all more aware of the intensely systemic problem known as climate change thanks to their combined efforts in science and communication. 2007 will be remembered as the year we got the message. "We all agree. Climate change is real, and we humans are its chief cause. Yet even now, few people fully understand the gravity of the threat, or its immediacy," wrote UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently in the International Herald Tribune, adding: "I have always considered global warming to be a matter of utmost urgency. Now I believe we are on the verge of a catastrophe if we do not act."
The IPCC is the largest group of scientists ever to work together for the benefit of the whole planet. Their research findings make it clear that it’s not natural, it’s us. The message is simple: we must stop emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere before tipping the planet in a dangerous phase that will last for centuries.
Al Gore is not a scientist, but a tireless ex-politician and slide show lecturer turned Oscar winning movie star, who managed to create a profoundly effective form of communication out of an impossibly complex subject. Gore studied and spoke the inconvenient truth. We got the message. More than 75% of the world’s population are now aware and concerned.
Yet it is not surprising that a recent survey showed that concern is higher in the developing world than at the source of the problem, the developed world. Study after study show it will the poorest who will suffer first and most. Witness the fallout from Katrina. When you have little, you can lose the most.
Underscoring the sudden urgency is the fact that both the IPCC and Gore vastly underestimated the
speed of climate change. This year’s dramatic Arctic meltdown came decades ahead of their predictions.
Nature, it seems, has its own time schedule and we must accommodate. Increasingly, the issue of climate is linked to global security. The consequences of forced migration, water and food shortages, storms and droughts, financial and market instabilities all point to conditions that have led to war before. Though now on an altogether different scale. Soon the world gathers in Bali to hammer out the framework for a new deal. Essentially it comes down to climate and equity, but this makes the complexity of the Doha Round seem like simple arithmetic.
Still, climate is just the tip of the ecological iceberg that is melting away. Water, fisheries, land-use, pollution, species extinction - the problems are everywhere. New technologies will play essential roles in the solution. But old “new” technologies also caused many of the problems. They will not solve the deeper crisis.
William James’ essay, “The Moral Equivalent of War,” is given the credit for such US projects as the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Peace Corps, enlisting youth in the work for the commonwealth. However, his was an “army enlisted against Nature,” so that these young people could have “done their own part in the immemorial human warfare against nature.”
This human warfare has wittingly and unwittingly been the consistent strategy of civilization. It defined progress. It produced wealth. It carved out sovereign territories on a borderless planet. Now this cumulative warfare has brought us to the brink of Mutually Assured Destruction - and this too is mad. If we are to understand the meaning of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Peace, we will not find it in the historical tomes of statesmen or the metaphorical tombs of unknown soldiers. We must look to ourselves.
Thanks to Rachel Carson, we have a better understanding: "We still talk in terms of conquest. We still haven't become mature enough to think of ourselves as only a tiny part of a vast and incredible universe. Man's attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature. But man is a part of nature and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself. I truly believe that we in this generation must come to terms with nature, and I think we're challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves."
We have less than ten years to change course, to gain maturity and prove this mastery. To mitigate
climate change will demand an end to poverty. Conflicts will play out in a new context. It will alter forever how we live with each other and with the Earth. We have a choice. Do we sustain this immemorial human warfare against nature and against ourselves - or do we choose to bury all of our hatchets, heed the human wisdom which has whispered from the edges of every culture and choose the path of peace?
The work for peace has usually seemed a thankless task at the periphery of Business as Usual. Now the task has never been so challenged, or so critical to the survival of humanity. We live in a world at war. At war with nature and with ourselves. We cannot negotiate a settlement with nature, not even an orderly truce. But we can bring the work for peace into every home, every school, every church, every business, every nation - everyone.
In the United States everyone celebrates Thanksgiving, the great family gathering. Most Americans have some vague idea of the tradition, a picture Indians and Pilgrims sharing a meal. But the real history dates back a thousand years to the beginning of the Iroquois Confederacy when the Peacemaker brought the five warring nations together, buried their hatchets under the Great Tree of Peace, and instructed the people in the rite of Thanksgiving for all of creation, all of nature, of which they were a part, in peace.
So today let’s thank the Iroquois Peacemaker and these Nobel Peace Laureates. Thanks, too, to Pogo who shouted: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” And thanks to Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, whose insight echoes the indigenous wisdom that leads to peace: “We are the earth’s.”
Give thanks for peace.
James Michael Wine, a Tallberg Forum adviser and poet, is one of the founding members of the Peace Appeal Foundation and Peace Tools. His father was one of John F Kennedy’s principle speech writers.
By Hannes Siebert
Can you separate the journalist as a person from the message that he or she sends? We are hopefully coming out of an era where those who control the media believe a journalist should stand in the no-man's land of objectivity - always standing outside an event, never getting involved, never openly embracing one's own and others' humanity, remaining the passive observer without asserting one's values. 'Holding up a mirror to society' - but showing little understanding of the larger context. I am not sure why the supporters of the 'mirror' argument prefer to ignore the shapes or angles of these mirrors. Working in different media contexts - community, national and international - it is difficult not to observe how the shape of one's mirror affects the content of the message.
These shapes are determined by one's worldview, one's understanding of a specific situation/event or conflict, one's capacity to capture the complete picture, one's sense of responsibility towards the people one reports on or for and, very importantly, by the medium one uses - whether it is television, radio, print or the Internet.
We cannot escape the fact that the BIG O (objectivity) is always influenced by ongoing subjective decisions - decisions of what issues are important, who to interview, who NOT to interview, what facts to include in a story or to exclude, what quote to use, how we create the context of the story, our language, the pictures we use - all very subjective choices. It is within this context that media coverage of conflict takes on a very different shape for me, and cries out for a re-look at our conventional attitudes towards and reporting of conflicts.
Working in numerous conflicts on the continent over the last ten years, it has become very clear that we, the media, impact on conflict whether we intend to or not. We impact in spite of ourselves. A critical factor of this impact is our own perceived role and where we stand in a conflict. Michel Warschawski, a veteran journalist and media activist in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, uses the powerful metaphor of the border - the line of deepest conflict between two peoples, but also their greatest opportunity for reconciliation and relationship. He suggests that the journalist stand on this borderline of conflict - where the conflict is most intense. He also argues that we journalists can never stand outside a conflict and not be affected by it; nor can we claim that we don't want to influence the conflict ( i.e. Òwe want to be objectiveÓ). This passive form of journalism also impacts on conflicts or policy making, whether or not we admit it.
We need to better understand our impact, and make better use of it. From our experience in and reporting on the South African communities of Crossroads and Thokoza, as well as conflicts in Sri Lanka, Burundi, Angola, Liberia and the Middle East, it is clear that our roles as communicators, reporters or filmmakers in conflict change, as the anatomy of the conflict changes. Just three short observations:
As almost all of these conflicts indicated, the media becomes the only medium of communication between warring/conflicting parties in the absence of formal or informal negotiations processes. We become the messenger between people who are unwilling to enter dialogue or meet with one another. We communicate the parties' hatred, anger, fears and frustrations to each other - a dangerous enterprise unless, as we have tried to do, one uses this phase not just to vent emotions, but also to break down stereotypes, decode 'hate-speech', generate options to violent conflict and reflect the ordinary person's desire and need for peace.
During the second phase of conflict - the negotiations process - the media becomes a channel for opinion and information sharing between the negotiators and their constituencies. Mediators and power-brokers often underestimate the value of communicating the process of negotiations to the constituencies involved. This often causes great frustration for the journalist. But more importantly, securing a free flow of accurate and constructive information at this stage can help ensure sustainable agreements and prevent leaders from manipulating such negotiations to secure their own power and position.
In the post-agreement phase of conflicts the media forms a critical part of monitoring such agreements - our conventional watchdog role - and provides a forum for ongoing dialogue. We also become a critical tool to help ensure long-term accountability from leaders to the people. The paradigm shift suggested here entails re-visiting media stereotypes and assumptions about our traditional roles (which may not be so homogenised as we think, if we look at media in different societies). It also suggests that, as journalists, we are ultimately accountable to our sources - the media subjects and consumers - within the context of universally accepted human rights and social democratic values.
Hannes Siebert is Director of the Media Peace Centre and
Executive Producer at Ubuntu TV and Film Productions,
This post was published in December 1998