The CSS Blog Network

France, Italy and the Reawakening of Historical Rivalries

Image courtesy of M Woods.

This article was originally published by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) on 28 August 2017.

The leaders of France, Italy, Spain and Germany met in Paris on 28 August for a summit hosted by President Emmanuel Macron in the latest indication of France’s efforts to assume a key leadership role in the post-Brexit EU. Yet, the event is also an occasion for the French president to smooth ruffled feathers among EU partners, particularly in Rome, after a series of diplomatic spats led to a plummeting of relations and the resurrection of old grievances between the two countries. A second, and arguably more important bilateral summit between France and Italy is also scheduled for 27 September in Lyon, another indication of the need to patch up relations and promote an outward image of cooperation between the two EU neighbours.

Tensions between France and Italy soared in July following the French government’s decision to nationalise shipbuilder Stx/Chantier de l’Atlantique rather than give Italy’s Fincantieri a majority stake, thus reneging on an agreement between Italy and France’s previous government. Diplomatic relations had already been tested earlier that week when President Macron organised a peace conference on Libya without inviting the Italian government that considers itself a key player on the Libyan dossier. The two events, which are unrelated, created a perfect storm among Italians, resulting in some public spats and a queue of French ministers flying to Rome to patch up relations. Joint declarations and photo ops have not healed the wound, however, and tensions persist.

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Buddhism and Mediation Resources

The author and Buddhist leaders from different schools gather at the White House in 2016 for a Vesak Day celebration.

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.

As part of the CSS Mediation Perspectives Blog Mini-Series on the use of religious resources in peace mediation (part one on criteria and part two on Christianity), I look at how, throughout the Buddhist world, peace practitioners have drawn on the religion’s ideas, stories, and practices in order to shape, legitimize, and motivate their efforts to resolve disputes and build peace more broadly. The 2500 year old tradition, born in India and now practiced throughout the world, is ripe with material to support such efforts. Indeed, any attempt to distill such a huge and diverse corpus into key points for the purpose of a blog is a challenge. After all, the Buddhist tradition lacks a core canon that’s considered authoritative for all Buddhists. Rather, thousands of Buddhist scriptures circulate in an ongoing conversation. A vast number of commentaries on these texts are also considered influential, including those written by the 5th century CE Buddhagosa. Moreover, chronicles such as the 6th century CE Sri Lankan Mahavamsa, stories surrounding key historical figures like the 3rd century BCE Emperor Asoka, the jataka tales that recount the Buddha’s myriad previous lives before his incarnation as the historical Buddha, and local stories and teachings that have been incorporated into the Buddhist imagination all constitute wells from which one can draw Buddhist teachings that might apply to mediation. Finally, different teachings, practices, and ideas resonate within different schools of Buddhism – from the Zen of Japan to the Vajrayana of Tibet to the Theravada Forest Tradition of Thailand.

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The Macedonian Crisis – A failure of EU Conflict Management?

Courtesy of Birmingham East Mediterranean Archive/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) on 5 May 2017.

In the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy, there is a chapter devoted to “An Integrated Approach to Conflicts and Crises”. It sets out a ‘multi-dimensional’ approach through the use of all available policies and instruments aimed at ‘conflict prevention, management and resolution’. The difficulty of transforming such lofty aspirations into reality couldn’t be more evident than in the ongoing and deepening crisis in Macedonia – an EU candidate country in the heart of the Western Balkans.

The eruption of violence on April 27th was a tragedy waiting to happen. The Parliament building was stormed by an angry mob, which proceeded to viciously attack several MPs from the main opposition Social Democratic Union for Integration (SDSM) party, injuring many, including the party’s leader Zoran Zaev. The attack was preceded by weeks of deep tensions following the early elections that took place in December. It was also the latest in a series of crises and violent incidents that have marked the past years of the government led by the ruling Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) party under its leader and former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, in power since 2006. Under his leadership the government has pursued an ethno-nationalist and populist agenda resulting in one of the worst reform records in the Western Balkan region.
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Community-based Approaches to Early Warning and Early Response: Re-thinking Violence Prevention

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.

As a U.S. citizen living abroad, I have watched social media recently expose deep divisions in my country between particular communities and the authorities. (The documented and high profile killing of several black American men by law enforcement agents exemplifies the point.) What strikes me about this mutual estrangement is the parallels it has with communities around the world that suffer from weak or absent governance. In both cases, it is not surprising that individuals and communities would want to prevent further violence. One consensus-building tool they could use is the Early-Warning/Early Response (EWER) framework, which is designed to address tensions that might escalate into overt violence.

In a contribution I made to this blog series last year, I looked at top-down/bottom-up approaches to EWER. In today’s blog, I would like to elaborate on my CSS Mediation Resources publication, Preventing Violence: Community-based Approaches to Early Warning/Early Response, which provides a ‘best practices’ resource for communities, practitioners, policy makers, and researchers, looking at the successes, pitfalls and promises of EWER mechanisms. At its heart, the publication affirms the essential role of building relationships and trust within communities, and between them and the authorities that should ideally serve them.

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The ICJ as an Effective Conflict Prevention Tool in Latin America

Courtesy of Siobhan Rohlwink-Coutts/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by E-International Relations (E-IR) on 4 April 2017.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has made a name for itself as various governments across the world resort to it to rule on inter-state disagreements. There are certainly valid criticisms about how the ICJ, the chief judicial body of the United Nations, operates, particularly as African governments have accused it of imposing Eurocentric international law. Some of its rulings on controversial cases have even been denounced as ‘step[s] backwards’.

Despite these criticisms, Latin American governments have regularly turned to ICJ rulings on border disputes and other inter-state disagreements.  Over the past decades, the Court has ruled on numerous cases between Latin American states and enjoys a positive record so far in this region, given the generally peaceful compliance of Latin American states to the Court’s rulings. Nevertheless, the complexity of one particular case, ‘Obligation to Negotiate Access to the Pacific Ocean’, a historically-charged territorial dispute between Bolivia and Chile, may prove to challenge the credibility of the ICJ in Latin America in the near future.

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