The CSS Blog Network

“Normalization Under Occupation”: The Revived Arab Peace Initiative

Courtesy of Ted Swedenburg/Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 6 April 2017.

Once more, the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 is taking center stage. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas insisted during his speech before the recently concluded Arab League Summit in Jordan that the initiative is the only solution on the table; asserting that it will not be changed or even tweaked. But why is this initiative, which was put forward by Saudi Arabia 15 years ago, now infused back into the already congested Middle East political discourse, despite the fact that Israel has rejected it repeatedly and the United States has shown little interest in enforcing it?

In March 2002, the initiative, composed of a few sentences, was proclaimed at an Arab League Summit in Beirut, Lebanon. Less than half of the Arab leaders participated in that conference. Head of the PA and chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the late Yasser Arafat, was not allowed to attend. Israeli prime minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, had Arafat placed under house arrest in Ramallah. Sharon told Arafat that if Israel was to allow him to leave he would not be allowed back. Arafat died two years later, amid allegations that he had been poisoned.

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The Threat of US Cuts: Helping Peacekeeping Help Itself?

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This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 30 March 2017.

As the prospect of United States funding cuts hangs over the United Nations and its flagship peacekeeping operations like the sword of Damocles, many are asking whether the threat might in fact provide the impetus for necessary reforms. The picture will become clearer at the April 6 Security Council thematic debate on peacekeeping, which the US is organizing. If UN member states remain focused on reform and reinvest in political strategies, and if the bureaucracy helps itself by initiating real rather than merely rhetorical change, a positive outcome is possible.

Reports of proposed US cuts have generated much panic around Turtle Bay for the past couple of months. This started with a January draft US presidential executive order—never signed into action—recommending “eliminating wasteful and counterproductive giving” to the world body. It culminated in March with the release of the US federal budget blueprint for 2018, which confirmed the White House’s intention to cut 40% of the State Department’s $2.2 billion annual contribution to the UN’s overall peacekeeping budget, which comes to just under $8 billion.

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A Wary Farewell to Arms for the FARC

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This article was originally published by the International Crisis Group (ICG) on 9 March 2017.

When Colombians streamed to the polls four months ago to vote in a plebiscite to accept or reject a peace agreement with the country’s leading guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), opinion polls predicted a resounding victory for the accord. Many citizens and internationals expected that the world’s second longest continuous armed conflict and one of its oldest Marxist insurgencies would soon become an historical relic.

In Havana, the FARC leadership and its negotiating team sat with journalists to watch the votes come in. Once the result was announced – the accord was rejected by less than one-half of 1 per cent – the guerrilla group retired to a private meeting at which its leaders decided the loss was only a temporary setback. “The FARC-EP maintains its will to find peace”, declared FARC leader Timochenko that same day, “and reiterates its willingness to use words as the only weapon to build a [new] future”.

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Is Libya the New Stage for Putin’s Attempted Peacemaking?

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This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 2 March 2017.

Renewed efforts are now underway to overcome the gridlock in Libya’s peace process. The United Nations’ special representative to Libya, Martin Kobler, and neighboring states are in separate talks with the country’s various factions in an attempt to keep the peace process alive and prevent an escalation of tensions. The latest actor to enter the fray is Russian President Vladimir Putin, who could play a major role in getting key players to remain at the negotiating table.

The UN-brokered Libyan Political Agreement, which aimed to unite rival factions, appeared to be on the verge of collapse late last year. Implementation of the agreement, which was signed in Shirkat, Morocco, in December 2015, had come to a virtual standstill. The Government of National Accord (GNA) established under the agreement and led by Fayez al-Serraj still lacks a legitimate mandate to govern.

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Mediation Perspectives Blog: Applying Mediation and Negotiation Techniques at the Family Dinner

the fight scene

Courtesy of Josué Menjivar/ Flickr. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors. Each entry is designed to highlight the utility of mediation approaches in dealing with violent political conflicts. To keep up to date with the with the Mediation Support Team, you can sign up to their newsletter here

During 2016, our mediation perspectives blog covered a variety of topics. We wrote about avenues for Research on Mediation; we honoured deceased mediators; we considered the value of Early Warning/Early Response mechanisms; we looked at national dialogue in Colombia, and we even wrote about the role of meditation in mediation. As the new editor of the Mediation Perspectives blog series, I’d like to round up the year with a more every-day focused blog entry – which should be read with a healthy dose of humour. So, here is today’s question: How can basic mediation techniques help you to avoid fighting at your Christmas Family dinner? (For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, this question is of course applicable to a wide range of big family gatherings.)

The day is here, guests will arrive in a few hours, you’ve set up the table and the decorations, and now you want to sit down to watch a bit of TV and to relax while waiting. The smell of cooking from the kitchen is tempting, and why not pre-taste tonight’s dinner? You go to the kitchen where your wife is busy snipping and steering (Yes, “wife”; if we are honest, in most families it’s still the women who do the cooking, right?) and you help yourself to a spoonful of stew. You smile at your wife, say “just needs a bit of salt”, and walk back to the living room. Or so you thought, because she now starts screaming at you, calling you a lazy bum and threatens to throw the stew out of the window if “monsieur” doesn’t like it. You turn, look at her and say: “What? Throwing out the stew, are you crazy!”

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