The CSS Blog Network

Mediation Perspectives: Reframing the Charities and Terrorism Debate

Headline: Charity millions 'going to Syrian terror groups'

A recent headline in The Daily Telegraph. Photo: Howard Lake/flickr.

The UK’s Daily Telegraph ruffled a few feathers earlier this month by building a story around a few out-of-context remarks by the head of the UK’s Charity Commission to suggest that millions of pounds raised to assist victims of the conflict in Syria were being diverted to terrorist groups. The Charity Commission reacted swiftly to correct the story, pointing out that they possessed no evidence of any such diversions and that they work very closely with charities to minimize the risk that any could occur.

Fears of charitable donations being diverted away from their intended recipients are nothing new. Nor are accompanying fears that diverted money is ending up in the hands of people with less-than-good intentions. What is relatively new is how these fears are being addressed since the launching of the “global war on terror” in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US.

Humanitarian organizations have long recognized that they have a responsibility towards both their donors and their beneficiaries to ensure that aid reaches the people it was intended for. Many organizations have developed their own systems of checks and balances to ensure that it does. However, it has long been recognized, both by donors and charities, that in conflict and emergency situations no system is perfect and there is always a risk that some aid is diverted or ends up in the wrong hands. What has changed with the dominance of a counter-terrorism discourse is that this risk of diversion has been defined as a security threat due to the fear that those wrong hands are terrorist hands. » More

Mediation Perspectives: Broadening Participation in Peace Processes – From “Why” to “How”

A boy waving a Yemeni flag in front of a group of protesters, courtesy of Al Jazeera English/flickr

“This is the first time in history that a body that is inclusive, with all representatives from Yemeni society, got together […]. Instead of the politics of closed-door meetings, what we see here is a very transparent, inclusive process.” Jamal Benomar, UN Special Envoy to Yemen, about the Yemen National Dialogue Conference

Why Participation is Needed

Much has been discussed and written in recent years about the importance of broadening participation in mediation processes. There is a general consensus amongst practitioners and academics that the inclusion of actors beyond the warring parties is desirable. This is not just a normative question: inclusive processes can certainly lead to more durable, legitimate and locally owned processes. Influential actors (including ‘those with guns’) need to be represented because they have the power to end the conflict, and if sidelined, they will block the process. Affected actors (such as civil society), should also participate in one way or another, as any peace agreement will directly affect their lives and the future of their country. A recent statistic study indicates that inclusion of civil society actors in peace settlement indeed increases the durability of peace. Among many other actors, the United Nations underlined the value of the inclusion principle in its ‘Guidance for Effective Mediation’. So if it is that important, why are many processes today still far from inclusive?

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Mediation Perspectives: Preventing Clashes over Religion and Free Speech

Protest March in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

A protest march organized by the Nabaviyyah Islamic Youth Organization in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 24 September 2012. Photo: Vikalpa | Ground Views | CPA/flickr.

September marks the first anniversary of Muslim outrage over the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims. The furor over the crude video clip depicting Muhammad as a womanizing buffoon was the latest installment in a series of disputes over Western depictions of the Prophet. As some liberal secularists think that Muslims who are reluctant to accept the principle of free speech are best dealt with by habituation – constantly exposing them to (possibly offensive) free speech -, further explosive incidences of giving and taking offence can be expected.

Irreconcilable Differences?

The problem of giving and taking offence is probably best illuminated by the ongoing struggle over blasphemy and hate speech in the legal arena. For over a decade, members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation have attempted to introduce binding legislation against the defamation of religions at the United Nations, only to be blocked by Western states. Muslims in Western countries have frequently lodged complaints against offenders under hate-speech or blasphemy laws, but have rarely scored a legal victory. The reason for their respective failures boils down to one major factor – competing values of free speech and respect for religion. » More

Mediation Perspectives: How to Prevent the Clash of Narratives from Undermining Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

Erkat, Kerry, Livni

Erkat, Kerry, Livni. Photo: U.S. Department of State/flickr.

“I can assure you that in these negotiations it is not our intention to argue about the past but to create solutions and make decisions for the future.”

– Chief Israeli Negotiator Tzipi Livni

Any third party mediator dealing with the Israel-Palestine conflict is burdened with a 130-year-old dilemma: insoluble disagreements between Palestinians and Israelis over the causes of the conflict continue to obstruct peace-making efforts today.

There is no easy way out of this dilemma, but a few observations may be useful in pointing the way forward for any future mediation.

Reconciling narratives is not possible

Because many third parties can see the validity of both sides’ perspectives on the causes of the conflict, they may be led to believe that the parties themselves can ‘bridge’ their conflicting narratives. Such bridging appears necessary since issues such as the Palestinian right of return and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state inevitably force history onto the negotiating table. » More

Mediation Perspectives: Six Women Building Peace in Myanmar

Three women engaged in peacebuilding in Myanmar

Three women engaged in peacebuilding in Myanmar, here during a training session on peace negotiations by swisspeace and the Shalom Foundation in Yangon, Myanmar, in October 2012. Photo: Rachel Gasser.

When we think of efforts to bring peace to Myanmar, the main picture most of us have in mind is that of Aung San Suu Kyi. Even if today she is still an essential element of the Myanmar transition, the road to peace and democracy is paved by many other female characters whose faces are less familiar to us.

At the Negotiating Table

As in many other contexts around the world, it is mainly men who sit on both sides of Myanmar’s negotiating table. However, the recent dialogue between the government and the Karen National Union (KNU) was an exception in that it was the first time talks were headed by a woman: Naw Zaporah Sein, the current Vice-Chairman of the KNU. In addition to the head of the delegation, several members of the KNU peace negotiation team are also women, among them an influential legal expert. Additionally, several women sit in the negotiation room as observers and provide feedback to both sides after negotiations. » More

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