Since the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka, representatives of the island’s Muslim minority and Buddhist majority have increasingly clashed violently. Attacks and counterattacks between the two communities have challenged the hope for peace on the island. Peacebuilding approaches to deal with the clashes between the religious communities require a better understanding of human non-material needs as motivation for political action. Considering the rationality of seemingly irrational acts such as self-immolation helps in understanding both these needs and the contentious issue at hand.
In many cultures, the winter holidays are symbolized by shedding light onto darkness: Bright Christmas lights shine in dark alleyways and Hanukkah menorah candles are placed on windowsills of Jewish households. Scandinavian girls put a crown of candles on their heads; Iranians celebrate the triumph of the sun god Mithra over darkness on the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere; while Peruvians celebrate the sun god Inti on the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.
John Bercow, who stepped down as “Speaker” of the House of Commons in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament on 31 October 2019, catapulted the otherwise obscure role into the public eye on an international level. This is due to the controversy over the Brexit parliamentary debates, his forthright manner, distinctive cry of “Or-derr!” whenever proceedings became rowdy – but I argue here that it is also due to his understanding of the role of speaker as mediator. In this blog post, I explore this understanding, and highlight what speakers of parliaments as well as mediators can learn from it.
Resolving local conflicts between non-state armed groups, or between communities, is key to reducing violence against civilians. The United Nations is often involved in supporting local peace processes and seems to enhance the prospects for local conflict resolution. One major obstacle to a successful local peace process, however, is that local conflicts are often integrated into higher-level, national or transnational conflicts. A holistic approach to peacemaking is therefore necessary, which could allow peace to trickle down from the transnational or national level to the local, ultimately reducing violence against civilians.
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.
Ongoing efforts to professionalize the field of mediation have focused upon the collection of lessons learned and good practice to better inform mediation strategies. My recently published study on “Peace Agreement Provisions and the Durability of Peace” seeks to contribute to this effort by analyzing quantitative research on the empirical relationship between the content of civil war peace agreements and the subsequent duration of peace. In my experience, this is an area of direct practical relevance to mediators, who can and do influence the design of peace agreements through introducing options from comparative cases, making bridging proposals or even occasionally drafting texts.