The CSS Blog Network

Mediation Perspectives: Empathy versus Realpolitik?

Image courtesy of the US government

Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry that’s 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 Mediation Support Team, you can sign up to their newsletter here.

Personal qualities and “micro skills” in peace mediation[1]

“So many people want to join mediation teams without having worked on the micro-techniques of mediation. These may seem far removed from bringing warring factions together. It relates more to the normal management of human interaction in conflict. These techniques have to do with the way you hold yourself; the way you listen; and the way you recognize where people have a common interest (…)” Nicolas ‘Fink’ Haysom,[2] South African mediator in Burundi and Sudan and former UN Special Representative for Afghanistan. » More

Studying Conflict and Practicing Peacebuilding

Image Courtesy of Fated Snowfox/Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 20 July 2017.

What can one say about the academic study of violent conflict and its implications for the practice of peacebuilding? There is no reason to assume a necessary relationship between these two spheres of activity; the study of armed conflict may or may not have any practical significance for peacebuilding. Of course many scholars in this field are motivated in part by the hope and expectation that their findings will make a contribution, however slight, to the building and maintenance of peace. The editors of Journal of Peace Research articulated this same expectation when, in the inaugural issue of the journal some 50 years ago, they expressed the view that ‘[p]eace research should … concern itself with [the] reduction of violence and [the] promotion of integration.…and should, preferably, have relevance for peace policy’ (Editorial 1964, 2,4). There are two aspects to this question: one is the relationship between the study of war and the study of peace, which other scholars have addressed (Gledhill and Bright 2017); the other is the relationship between the study of war and the practice of peacebuilding. This essay is concerned with the latter aspect and, more specifically, with how the academic study of armed conflict may be able to further enrich the practice of peacebuilding.

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Rwanda’s Election Signals Risk to Recovery from Genocide

Image courtesy of Dean Terry/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on 6 July 2017.

President Kagame, Facing Weak Opposition, Should Renew Peacebuilding Efforts

Rwanda has been hailed by observers as a model of post-conflict recovery following the atrocities in the early 1990s that left hundreds of thousands of Rwandans dead and many more displaced. In many respects, the praise is well-deserved. But, when held up against key benchmarks for reducing state fragility and the risk of conflict, signs are growing that peacebuilding efforts may be falling short. Fortunately, this election isn’t expected to stoke violence, but to sustain Rwanda’s remarkable progress, particularly its development gains, it will be critical to heed these warning signs early, before tensions build or another deadly wave of violence emerges.

Consensus is growing among experts in foreign policy, development and defense concerning the definition of state fragility; it’s now widely understood as a lack of institutional capacity or legitimacy that weakens the social contract between citizens and their government, increasing the risk of conflict. In fragile conditions, particularly following a violent conflict like the one that tore apart Rwanda’s social fabric and destroyed its economy in 1994, peacebuilding efforts there and anywhere else should focus on five objectives that are critical to sustaining progress.

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A Year of “Sustaining Peace”: What Was Learned from Burundi and The Gambia?

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This article was originally published by the International Peace Institute (IPI) Global Observatory on 27 April 2017.

A year ago today, the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly adopted dual resolutions on “sustaining peace.” With this framework, the UN embraced a prevention approach in its peacebuilding efforts, with continuous attention of the international community from early warning to post-conflict recovery. Sustaining peace emphasizes inclusive dialogue, mediation, accountable institutions, good governance, access to justice, and gender equality. It encourages utilizing existing societal mechanisms and capacities to build resilience and drive positive peace. Yet there is still confusion over what this means in practice. Two recent case studies might shed some much-needed light on the matter: The Gambia and Burundi.

The resolution of The Gambia’s potential political crisis following an election in December last year has been hailed as a success story for preventative action on the continent. The UN was quick to commend the work of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in preventing the outbreak of conflict by helping to peacefully remove President Yahya Jammeh. Earlier this month, The Gambia held successful National Assembly elections, with the United Democratic Party winning the majority of seats. The party and its newly elected President Adama Barrow now control both the legislative and executive branches of government and there is hope that they will usher in a peaceful period with respect for democratic rule.

Sentiments directed toward the situation in Burundi have been vastly different. Efforts from regional, continental, or international actors have been either insufficient or ineffective in attempting to resolve the crisis triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s subversion of constitutional rules and democratic norms to gain a third term in power.

The sustaining peace framework offers options for international actors to keep The Gambia transition on track and also to prevent a worsening of the situation in Burundi. » More

´Social Cohesion´ in Deeply Divided Societies: Five Findings for Peacebuilding

Courtesy El Bingle/Flickr

This piece was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 30 August 2016.

Majlinda Kelmendi of Kosovo’s Olympic Gold Medal won in judo was doubly significant for her young country. First, Rio was Kosovo’s first-ever Olympics – it became controversially independent in 2008 and its Olympic Committee was not recognized until 2014 (conveniently, after the now much-maligned Sochi Winter Games); Kelmendi, already a champion in judo, carried the Kosovo flag first into the Olympic stadium. Second, by default, her gold medal was the country’s first-ever Olympic medal of any kind.

Back home, Kosovo remains deeply divided along the essentially ethnic lines that emerged during its mostly successful secessionist bid from Serbia (Kosovo’s independence is still not fully recognized, and tensions remain with a small Serb minority along with important Orthodox sites). July, for example, saw tense but mostly peaceful marches by Kosovo’s minority Serbs to holy sites.

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