The CSS Blog Network

Mediation Perspectives: Peace in Colombia – Turning the Rejection into an Opportunity

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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.

After almost four years of tough negotiations in Cuba, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace agreement in Cartagena on 26 September 2016 to overcome five decades of armed conflict. While celebrated “as a model for future peace negotiations around the world”, later that week Colombians rejected the accords in a referendum by a 50.2% to 49.8% margin, a difference of just 54,000 votes.

Various articles have been written on the negotiation and mediation process, and the referendum as such. This article will focus on the internal developments within Colombia’s society, with a focus on what did not go well prior to the referendum and on positive post-referendum developments.

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War Dynamics and the “NO” Vote in the Colombian Referendum

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Courtesy Grant Hutchinson/Flickr

This article was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 20 October 2016.

After six years of negotiations, the Colombian government and the leadership of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace agreement to end one of the oldest and bloodiest wars in the country’s history. Although not required to do so by law, President Santos sought to legitimize the agreement by asking Colombians to either ratify or reject the agreement in a referendum. On October 2nd, the “NO” vote (rejecting the peace agreement with the FARC) won with 50.22% of the vote, taking the world—and most Colombians—by surprise.

The leaders of the NO campaign, the international media (see here and here), and a few scholars, have privileged an interpretation of the NO vote as a cry for justice. In recent days, representatives of the NO vote made harsher penalties to the FARC one of their central demands to support a modified agreement.

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Mediation Perspectives: Seven Avenues for Research in International Mediation

Peter Wallensteen

Peter Wallensteen speaking at the 2016 International Conference on Mediation.

What are new avenues for research in international mediation? This question was discussed at the International Conference on Mediation, which took place in Basel, Switzerland, in June 2016. It was jointly organized by the Centre for Mediation in Africa (CMA) at the University of Pretoria, the Global South Unit for Mediation (GSUM) at the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, and swisspeace, which is an associated institute of the University of Basel.

The utility of the conference lay in its focus on two topics. First, trying to bridge the research–practice gap by having both mediation researchers and practitioners attend the event. Second, the conference sought to bridge the North-South gap by hosting researchers and practitioners from both the Global North and Global South, and thereby helping to rebalance the present research asymmetry that exists in the world.

By drawing on a variety of perspectives, the conference highlighted the following areas of research as being particularly relevant for the further development of the mediation field.

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Why Juan Manuel Santos Deserves the Nobel Peace Prize

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Courtesy Nicolas Raymond/Flickr

Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian President, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Price “for his efforts to bring a more than 50-year long civil war to an end.” While international observers might have chosen other candidates this year, Santos deserves this award.

First, he secretly started peace negotiations early in his first administration when political opinion was inclined to further debilitate the country’s already weakened guerrilla groups, most importantly the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Thanks to his experience as Minister of Defense in the previous government, he recognized that a military victory would have taken many more years and produced many more victims.

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To Guarantee Peace in South Sudan, Truth and Reconciliation is the Way Forward

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Courtesy of Surian Soosay/flickr

This article was originally published by the Harvard International Review (HIR) on 5 July 2016.

South Sudan is the world’s newest nation, and one of its most troubled. Rich in oil reserves and with vast fertile lands it could—if peace is assured—feed itself and much of Africa. Instead, it has been racked by internal violence. Since its independence from northern Sudan in 2011, a devastating civil war has left tens of thousands dead and up to two million displaced.

There is little doubt both government and rebel forces were guilty of atrocities during that conflict, many of them ethnic crimes. It is because of the nature of these crimes that the international community must be careful about mechanisms for ensuring peace.

History teaches us that the birth pangs of new nations can be extremely painful, and that the likelihood of violent struggle over divisions of race can be high. Many newly independent nations have subsequently fallen into internal strife. It took the United States 200 years to reduce discrimination in the law, and the country descended into a civil war in the process. Less than a hundred years ago, southern Ireland gained independence from the United Kingdom after an internal armed conflict surrounding differences of religion and a desire for self-government.

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