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
Report by Shirley Moulder to the Helsinki Conference on Reconciliation as a part of a National Dialogue Process.
In conflict resolution and peacebuilding circles, reconciliation is a notion commonly associated with transitional justice; with mechanisms like Truth and Reconciliation Commissions that are implemented after a civil war has ended, or after mass atrocities have been committed, and a nation is attempting to mend social relations within a new, post-conflict political framework. While it is something of a truism to say that parties are building relationships as they negotiate, most of us working in the conflict resolution and peacebuilding fields likely imagine something deeper when we talk of reconciliation, and we generally assume reconciliation in this deeper sense is something parties cannot be expected to achieve as a new political framework is being developed.
ND Conference Workshop D on Tuesday 17 November 2015: Building capacity for self-mediation, deadlock-breaking, consensus-building and people’s participatory processes into the change mechanisms
Experiences from Nepal’s National Dialogue Platform
Presentation on the One Text Initiative at The Second Conference on Non-Formal Dialogue Processes and National Dialogues
The Second Conference on Non-Formal Dialogue Processes and National Dialogues: Experiences from countries in transition
16 November – 18 November 2015
The House of the Estates (Säätytalo), Helsinki
Building capacity for self- mediation, deadlock-breaking, consensus-building and people’s participatory processes into the change mechanisms
Founder Chairman & Executive Director/CEO
Dr. Thusitha Tennakoon
One-Text Initiative (OTI), Sri Lanka
Presentation on the Peace and Dialogue Platform
A Victory for Deliberative Democracy
Last month’s award by the Norwegian Nobel Committee of the annual Nobel Peace Prize to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet is the first to be granted to organizers of a nationwide dialogue process. Though Tunisia’s democracy is still under great stress, the richly deserved award heralded a return to bestowing the prize on those whose peace efforts directly stabilize societies on the brink of violent conflict.
In the weeks since the prize was announced, some commentators have cited the Tunisian experience as an example of what the Arab Spring still could be, and some have cautioned that the Tunisian experience is unique, with few, if any, lessons for other countries.
Even if the Tunisian case is exceptional, its experience is well worth studying. Tunisia has peacefully managed two political transfers of power and established a new constitution in the five years since the ouster of its authoritarian ruler, Ben Ali. As the Nobel Committee noted, a core element of this transition was the launch of the national dialogue process, instigated when a substantial portion of the country’s population had no faith that existing governmental bodies could negotiate a successful and broadly acceptable new political order.
The conditions that led to Tunisia’s political crisis, and which continue to challenge its new government, are not unique. Two years after the tragic self-immolation of the young Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi ushered in the Arab Spring, escalating violence by extremists outside of the political process, social tension attributed to economic frustrations, and broad disenchantment with the new status quo led to mass protests.
At the political level, the opposition parties and the pro-government alliance led by the Islamist Ennahda Party were at loggerheads, reflecting a deep polarization among all levels of Tunisian society about many issues, including the role of Islam in the new state. Variations of these factors have been present in most of the conflicts that rippled across the Middle East, and exist in other regions as well.
In 2013, the four organizations receiving the Nobel Prize, led by the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), came together in this volatile situation to launch a National Dialogue that brought all political parties to the table. The UGTT is the country’s largest labor union, with a membership of over 400,000 in a country whose population is only 10 million.
The authority and power of the coalition it formed with the other members of “the Quartet” to which the Nobel Peace Price was awarded – the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League, and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers – arose, in part, from the fact that it presented an unusual alliance of interests among labor, business and highly-reputed civil society organizations.
Tunisians were also keenly aware of the dangers their political impasse posed to society. The murder of two prominent politicians from the secular left provoked outrage among many. With young Tunisians comprising the largest segment of foreign fighters from Arab countries in Syria, many feared that extremist elements could cause the revolution to spin out of control, as happened in Libya.
With these dangers looming, an intervention of some sort was imperative. No foreign mediator would have possessed the legitimacy, authority and skills to bring the parties to the compromises reached in Tunisia’s process. What the country needed, and what they created for themselves (with well-timed assistance and support) was an organic national process of reform that led to the passing of a new constitution, the appointment of a new Prime Minister, and presidential elections. In the words of the Nobel Committee, the Quartet’s work was nothing less than a “decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy.”
Unique as it may have been, Tunisia’s experience carries lessons for others, including the ability of civil society and business to play a complementary role in political processes and the necessity of compromise among political leaders. Houcine Abassi, the dynamic Secretary General of the UGTT, and an experienced negotiator, played a central role as both convenor and mediator/facilitator. Tunisia’s political leaders were just as central. Sheikh Rached Gannouchi, head of the Islamist Ennahda party (who willingly stepped down as president), and Beji Caid Essebsi, the secular leader (who later became president), ultimately led their parties to the compromises that were necessary.
Though Tunisia’s national dialogue process engaged diverse actors in what was essentially an outcome oriented political negotiation, participation was limited. Decisions were taken by smaller groups of leaders. Mediators and facilitators, both foreign and domestic, stepped in at key times to move the process forward. The elite nature of some discussions did not lessen the importance of participation from individuals and institutions representing diverse constituencies, such as the Al Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center.
Perhaps the most important contribution of Tunisia’s National Dialogue, beyond its contribution at a critical moment in Tunisia’s political evolution, is the attention it draws to an increasingly important strategy for political transformation – that of inclusive and carefully structured political dialogues established when existing legislative bodies are perceived as illegitimate, or simply deadlocked and unequal to the task of political reform.
We are extremely pleased to announce the launch of the Peace Appeal Foundation's Peace Changemakers Fellowship.
For the last 15 years, the Peace Appeal has been privileged to recruit and work with extraordinary young peacemakers, whose skills, insights, empathy and dedication have greatly enhanced the peace processes we have supported. These women and men continue to distinguish themselves as they progress in their careers. Several are still working diligently in their own countries peace efforts, while others have gone on to work within the United Nations system, or with respected international non-governmental organizations supporting peacebuilding across several continents.
In recognition of their contributions, we are pleased to dedicate this fellowship, that will provide financial support, mentoring and other assistance to the recipients. The fellowship will continue the Peace Appeal’s tradition of supporting and mentoring young peacemakers and build a growing circle of remarkable change agents working in peace and conflict resolution globally.The 2015 Fellowship will be awarded to Singmila Shimrah to support he work with the Naga ethnic groups participation in the Myanmar/Burma peace process.
(The Nagas, an ethnic community affiliated with several dozen tribes, live in a largely mountainous region straddling both Northeast India and Myanmar/Burma.) Singmila is a remarkable Naga woman who returned in 2014 to the region of her birth after pursuing graduate studies in conflict resolution in the United States. With support from the Peace Appeal and our partners, Singmila will travel extensively throughout Myanmar’s Naga areas to assist local communities and their leaders as they prepare for full participation in the regional and national ceasefire negotiations and political dialogue.
Author: Desmond Tutu
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Description: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Chair of The Elders, and Chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, along with his daughter, the Reverend Mpho Tutu, offer a manual on the art of forgiveness—helping us to realize that we are all capable of healing and transformation.
Harvard Divinity School, January 29, 2015
Remarks offered by Jeff Seul, Chair of the Peace Appeal Foundation
If we focus narrowly on the perspectives and actions of the Charlie Hebdo attackers and their victims on the magazine’s staff, there are few contemporary situations that seem more polarized and intractable.
Restricting our field of vision in this way, one may well be inclined to characterize our current situation as a hopeless clash of civilizations. As Nicholas Kristof of the NYT pointed out in a recent editorial, some in the West now see “Islam as inherently extremist,” and some Muslims he has interviewed around the world see the U.S. (and, no doubt, France and other Western, or Western influenced, countries) as “an oppressive state controlled by Zionists and determined to crush Islam.”
Polarized perspectives like these share certain characteristics. They are partial narratives with foregone conclusions. They are partial in two senses of that word: they exclude information and perspectives that won’t fit neatly into the narrative, and they sift and interpret the remaining information and perspectives in biased ways. These neat little stories lead to seemingly inevitable conclusions, often justifying extreme, coercive, even violent, action.
Civilizations, cultures, identity groups – whatever we may call them, and whatever their contestable contours may be – are never monolithic and static. They are internally diverse and dynamic, and the polarized narratives tend to lose their coherence and sense of inevitability as we both widen our field of vision and sharpen our focus within it.
As we open up to the true messiness of our current situation, resisting overly neat little narratives, I believe we will begin to see practical possibilities for shifting the dynamic over time; ways to begin making a seemingly intractable situation tractable.
As I’ve listened to and read many diverse voices over the past couple of weeks – religious and secular, Muslim and non-Muslim, French and non-French, liberal and moderate and conservative – I’ve realized the messiness of my own perspectives on the situation. I’ve found myself wanting to affirm many perspectives, even when they seem to diverge, when the voices sound a bit cacophonous together.
I say “no” to the violence – to the killing – of course. There is too much killing, and not only in Paris, and not only in the name of militant forms of Islam.
But I say “yes” to free speech, and “yes” to exercising that right responsibly, and even “yes” to possible curtailment of the free-speech norm in some cases. And “yes” to possible reappraisal of contemporary Islamic norms regarding blasphemy, as some Muslims intellectuals have urged.
“Yes” to not holding the vast number of moderate Muslims responsible for the actions of the relatively very small (but substantial and demonstrably potent and apparently growing) percentage of Muslims who are violently militant, and “yes” to encouraging even more reflective speech and action from moderate Muslims in response to militant forms of Islam.
“Yes” to police and military protection, and “yes” to concerns about living in a police state and exacerbating tensions and perpetuating violence through dominant Western states’ excessive show of force to extend and safeguard their interests.
One way to open up to the true messiness of our situation and to begin to learn and discover practical options for shifting the current dynamic is dialogue within and between communities. There have been many calls for dialogue following from the Charlie Hebdo attack.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls has acknowledged that he intended to spark a vigorous debate this week by saying that a “territorial, social and ethnic apartheid” exists within France.
Federica Mogherini, the EU Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, said this week that “[w]e need . . . a dialogue” to face the issue of terrorism, which she does not see as an issue between the West writ large and Islam writ large.
When asked what he thought of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons depicting the Prophet, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, mused that the world would be a nicer place if everyone respected everyone else’s opinion. He added, “Unless we learn to respect one another, it will be very difficult in a world of different views and different cultures and civilizations. We won’t be able to engage in a serious dialogue . . .”.
But calls to dialogue generally are just that. Little is offered in terms of the who and what and how and why of these proposed dialogues. And fledgling efforts at dialogue too often are ill conceived, and so fizzle or fall short. When they do occur, they often occur exclusively through highly formalized and constrained legal, political and diplomatic mechanisms.
The organization of which I’m a part, the Peace Appeal Foundation, helps stakeholders in conflicts create and sustain their own broadly inclusive peace and national dialogue processes. We think a lot about how authentic, constructive, and ultimately action-oriented conversations can begin and be sustained in highly complex, charged, usually violent situations.
I’d like to offer a thought or two about some of the qualities dialogues about our current situation must have in order to produce change over the long-run. I’ll focus on three qualities of genuine dialogue that seem especially germane to the events and controversies we’re considering tonight.
The first quality I’ll emphasize is need for honest, analytical attention to the dialogue context, including history.
The second quality is the spirit in which people must meet.
Finally, on the substance – on the principles and policies and practices at stake in any genuine dialogue – I’d emphasize the need for openness to compromise, even some compromise of principles we hold most dear when that’s required to serve other principles we hold dear, or principles others hold dear.