Categories
Conflict

Mediation Perspectives: “Infrastructures for Peace” – Useful Jargon?

The Peace Bridge in Calgary AB, Canada
Peace infrastructure? The Peace Bridge in Calgary AB, Canada. Photo: /Wikimedia Commons.

Every academic and professional field has its jargon. While often criticized, jargon has its uses. It serves as a kind of shorthand, allowing us to communicate complex or multiple concepts in short phrases or single words. But it does have its downsides. Excessive use of jargon renders meaning incomprehensible to non-specialists. Even between specialists it may lead to misunderstandings when users and audiences have different conceptions of what the term refers to. Worse, it can be used as a kind of tick-box or name check, allowing users to communicate the sense that they are engaging with the concepts underlying the jargon without necessarily genuinely doing so. We are therefore rightly wary when a new term comes along; asking ourselves whether there is a need for it in our vocabulary.

Categories
Conflict

Colombia – A Long Way to Peace?

Colombian Armed Forces. Photo: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/flickr

In the early hours of New Year’s Day, the Colombian Armed Forces launched [es] an air strike on a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) camp located near Chigorodó, northwestern Colombia. The air strike was called after Elda Ramírez (aka ‘Mayerly’), considered a senior member of the FARC hierarchy, called a man who she believed was a drug dealer interested in buying cocaine. Instead, the dealer turned out to be an undercover police officer, and the consequent air attack claimed the lives of fourteen guerrilla fighters belonging to the FARC’s fifth front.

The air strike also occurred against the backdrop of negotiations between the FARC and Colombian government that have been ongoing since September 2012. To support the peace talks, the FARC announced a ceasefire on November 20. However, Colombia’s armed forces have continued military operations against the organization. On January 20, FARC announced that it had suspended the ceasefire and instead proposed a bilateral truce.

Categories
Government Security Human Rights Conflict

Colombia at Peace?

Parade in Colombia
Parade in Colombia. Photo: Lucho Molina/flickr.

BOGOTÁ – The Framework Agreement for the End of the Armed Conflict in Colombia that has just been announced by President Juan Manuel Santos is a historic landmark for his country and all of Latin America. It is also a tribute to diplomatic resourcefulness and negotiating skill.

The agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as the FARC, came after long years of failed attempts by Colombian governments of all political shades to reach an accommodation with the last, and among the most odious, guerrilla movement to have operated in Latin America. Never before has the FARC – a monumental apparatus of terror, mass murder, and drug trafficking – agreed to discuss disarmament, its fighters’ social and political reintegration, victims’ rights, an end to drug production, and participation in “truth and responsibility” commissions to examine the crimes committed during a half-century of conflict. But now it has.

Categories
Security Foreign policy

Fund Peace, not War

Tunnel, courtesy of twicepix/flickr
Tunnel, courtesy of twicepix/flickr

Back in the days when I was practising for my driving test came the moment to overcome my first tunnel. There are lots of these in Switzerland, and they tend to be rather long… My teacher warned: “Don’t look at the wall, or you’ll crash right into it; focus on the middle of the lane instead”.

Indeed, one of our many cognitive biases is to focus too much on immediate dangers, while losing sight of the way out.

The US Congress was contemplating the wall and forgot about the lane when it voted to cut all of the funding for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on 17 February.

If you aren’t familiar with USIP yet, I recommend you take a look at their excellent publications series, or at this praise of their field work by Anthony C Zinni, a former commander in chief of the United States Central Command.

Meanwhile, a wave of support for USIP’s work has spread in the hope of persuading the Senate to vote otherwise. Two senior staff members argue here that it makes a lot of economic sense to invest in peace and conflict prevention rather than pay for the wars these efforts contribute to avoid. As Anthony Zinni puts it, “the institute’s entire budget [$43 million] would not pay for the Afghan war for three hours“.

Last autumn, a study by Media Tenor and the Institute for Economics and Peace measured peace reporting in international media. Their detailed case study of Afghanistan demonstrates that media coverage has been focusing on defence and crime, while neglecting news of progress in critical areas needed to build lasting peace.

Lack of visibility is a real problem when it comes to persuading busy non-experts to give you money. On the face of it, “I trained 20 people in negotiation skills this month” doesn’t sound quite as decisive for national security as “I killed an insurgent today”.

Building peace is not spectacular. It’s slow and a lot hard unrewarding work. But it’s still the most efficient way out of the tunnel. Good luck and a lot of courage to our colleagues at USIP!

Categories
International Relations Culture Religion

Interreligious Dialogue: A Way Toward Peace?

Religijne_symbole0
Religious Symbol, Wikicommons

On Thursday 3rd of December, the Parliament of the World’s Religions opened the doors of its 5th parliamentary session in Melbourne, Australia. The first session took place on 1893 at the World Exposition of Chicago.  The parliament waited 100 years to host its second parliamentary session and since 1993, the inter-religious body has met every 5 years.

At its first meeting, the assembly wanted to promote a better understanding of different cultures and already called for peaceful relations between all religions. They also called for a common understanding of faith, exemplified by Indian Hindu delegate Swami Vivekananda’s call: “if there is ever to be a universal religion, it must be one which will hold no location in place or time; which will be infinite, like the God it will preach; whose Son shines upon the followers of Krishna or Christ, saints or sinners, alike; which will not be the Brahman or Buddhist, Christian or Mohammedan [Muslim], but the sum total of all these”.

After 100 years of inactivity, the assembly has started to play a proactive role in what is called para- or indirect diplomacy; ensuring that different religions and populations exchange views and opinions on global affairs with a religious perspective; the final goal being peace.  For example, in 1999 the assembly focused on HIV/AIDS. This year, the parliament will focus on the rights of indigenous people and on climate change.