Peacemaking – How about solving Conflicts too?

May 26, 2010

The only way to solve a conflict at any level of society is to sit down face to face and talk about it.” (John W. McDonald)

A new peace mediation study , that states Finland’s accomplishment in the field of mediation and conflict prevention, was released on Thursday, May 6, 2010 by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The study recommends strengthening Finland’s peace mediation capacity. Finland has some evidence of peace mediation to show and former President Ahtisaari even got Nobelprize for his efforts on the field.“The peace mediation initiative is a starting shot; the aim is to make Finland a great power in peace mediation,” Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said and revealed two of his dreams at the event. “It would be great if Finland established a peace mediation fund from which money could be withdrawn in a pinch. The second dream would be a peace mediation institute where Finnish or international peace mediators could be trained.”

I am in favour of both opening of the debate over peace mediation issue as well with FM Stubb’s dreams. If the decision-makers take the initiative serious, so then should be considered the content for it, the strategy how to develop dreams into actions, put the issue in a broader context and, of course, resourcing the development of individual projects. While the international community is now willing to invest 200 times more to the war than peace a shift to resource peace building activities is always welcome.

Definition problems

Peace is nice word, however the definition of “peace” can vary with religion, culture, or subject of study. From same reason I think it is important define also peace mediation and different aspects of that. I think that the conflict resolution by peacemakers is an ad hock fire department activity, important but secondary question. The primary issue from my viewpoint is prevention of problems and their causes, or at least awareness of them. Also important is to put single conflicts in wider context such as game between great powers, struggle over global energy resources and their supply routes, economic profits of military-industrial-complex etc. So in my view peace mediation is one part of handling conflicts, it should be applied also before armed conflicts, also post-conflict crisis management in short term and seeking sustainable solutions in long term should from my viewpoint be integral part of peace mediation and its training activities.

Since the end of the Cold War also the conflict environment has totally changed. Earlier The League of Nations and then The United Nations were created to prevent one nation-state from invading another nation-state and going to war with that other nation-state. Today most wars are intrastate ethnic conflicts. Current peacemaking, peace-building or crisis management structures are not designed to cope with this type of conflict.

Traditional Approach

An eye for an eye for an eye for an eye … ends in making everybody blind (Mahatma Gandhi)

One popular method in peacemaking process is “Quid pro quo” meaning “something for something”a favor for a favor” or “give and take”. All meaning are close ancient eye-for-an-eye codes of justice (or mirror punishment). This approach is familiar also for “tit for tat” game theory strategy.

In peacemaking there are four traditional ways in which conflicts between two parties are handled:

  1. A wins, B loses;
  2. B wins, A loses;
  3. the solution is postponed because neither A nor B feels ready to end the conflict;
  4. a confused compromise is reached, which neither A nor B are happy with.

From my viewpoint these traditional methods have at least following shortages. Basically peace deals are made between elite’s and their (game) interests where participants are calculating are the wins due the peace bigger than the wins due the war. Many times the process is coercive based to will of outsiders not necessary local needs. From my opinion the traditional process will produce temporary – tactical – solutions and the outcome is frozen conflict. The best examples of these are maybe Bosnia after Dayton and Kosovo after Ahtisaari’s pseudo talks.

Fortunately there is also better alternatives for these traditional methods. Here three examples.

Multi-Track Diplomacy

The Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy (IMTD) is a U.S. based nonprofit organization founded in 1992 working now globally + 20 conflicts. IMTD uses a holistic and participatory approach to assess the key variables in deep-rooted conflicts and post-conflict settings. The Institute is focused on identifying and understanding the causes of conflict within a nation. Their method – sc. Multi-Track Diplomacy– is a conceptual way to view the process of international peacemaking as a living system. It looks at the web of interconnected activities, individuals, institutions, and communities that operate together for a common goal: a world at peace. Multi-Track Diplomacy is an expansion of the “Track One, Track Two” paradigm that has defined the conflict resolution field during the last decade. Track One Diplomacy is official government diplomacy whereby communication and interaction is between governments. Track Two Diplomacy is the unofficial interaction and intervention of non-state actors.

IMTD’s utilizes its “systems-based approach” by recognizing that the transformation of deep-rooted conflicts cannot be left solely to governmental entities, but must be expanded to include non-governmental actors, civil society and other informal channels. By expanding the approach to peacemaking and peace-building outside of Track One, IMTD works to ensure a holistic, comprehensive approach to conflict transformation with a greater likelihood of long-term, sustainable peace. More about Multi-Track Diplomacy in IMTD site.

Holistic Integrated Model of Peacebuilding

Since 2003 Pacific Peacebuilding Initiatives Ltd (operating as Peacebuilders International) has been working throughout the Asia/Pacific Region with the goal of establishing justpeace, a sustainable peace that allow communities to develop. Even the main stakeholders are from different churches they have applied quite holistic approach for building sustainable peace. In figure below is described the main components of Peacebuilders International approach:

More in Peacebuilders International web-site .

TRANSCEND – maybe the best Approach

Johan Galtung (born 24 October 1930) is a Norwegian mathematician and sociologist and a principal founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies. In 1993, he founded TRANSCEND, a network for Peace and Development, which is now running Transcend Peace University with a number of courses online, Transcend University Press, Transcend Media Service with material on current events, and Transcend Research Institute. Galtung himself has employed the “TRANSCEND” Method while serving as a negotiator in a number of international conflicts. He views his role as that of helping the parties clarify their objectives, and working to come up with solutions that meet the objectives of all parties. He presents them with concrete proposals that are intended to give both sides the sense that they are winners.

Galtung tries to break with these four unsatisfactory ways of handling a conflict by finding a “fifth way,” where both A and B feel that they win. TRANSCEND’s “conflict transformation” approach relies on nonviolence, creativity, and empathy to facilitate an outcome where both parties move beyond their stated positions to create a new reality in their relationship. This represents a clear contrast to competitive diplomacy and war, the coercive approaches to conflict traditionally used on the international level, which often serve only to perpetuate bitterness and asymmetry. (More background e.g. TRANSCENDand Johan Galtung: Transcend and Transform : An Introduction to Conflict Work; London: Pluto Press, 2004)

TRANSCEND mission statement defines four pillars: To bring about a more peaceful world by using action, education/training, dissemination and research to handle conflicts with empathy, nonviolence and creativity. TRANSCEND is organized in a dozen regions around the world and during last years most of the work has been on conflict mediation and violence conciliation, using Diagnosis-Prognosis-Therapy, on often very difficult and complex conflicts.

I think that “Transcend” approach hits the core question in peace-building process. First it is based to wide participation and even commitment of local stakeholders through dialogue, second it goes to the roots of conflicts and third it is future-oriented.

War costs vs. peace costs

Global military industrial consumption per year is 1.5 trillion U.S. dollars, representing a few percent of GDP and still rising. U.S. share of the cake is about 40% to the current year, 664 billion dollars. This is a good comparison of the UN budget (27 billion), which is a sum of nearly three per cent of its Member States on military expenditure. UN’s “Millennium Development Goals” are dreaming 135 billion per year, this one only a fraction of military spending.

An other comparison (dollars / year): the world’s military spending 1.2 trillion, the OECD Development 106 billion, Peace work 6 billion and 0.6 billion of conflict prevention. The international community is now willing to invest 200 times more to the war than peace. Peace Research, could help prevent conflicts, but development of tools for killing is much more lucrative. Against one peace researcher, is estimated to be more than 1100 researcher for weapon (and their use) developers.

The 2005 statistics, the light can make another comparison (dollars / year): the world’s military spending 1.2 trillion, the OECD Development 106 billion, Peace work 6 billion and 0.6 billion of conflict prevention. The difference in what countries are prepared to invest in weapons and their use is huge compared to what they use for example, poverty elimination and economic development in developing countries. And just poverty is one of the causes of violence.

The international community is now willing to invest 200 times more to the war than peace. Peace Research, could help prevent conflicts, but to kill the development of tools is much more lucrative. Against one peace researcher, is estimated to be more than 1100 researcher for weapon (and their use) developers. I think then it is clear that the State should be the main financier of peace-education, -research, building etc activities which are not attractive for private companies while war activities are producing high quarterly bonuses for owners of military-industrial-complex.

The Future of Peace Operations

Today U.S./Nato is trying a new comprehensive approach in Afghanistan and maybe in other areas in future too. This counter-insurgency – or COIN – strategy tries e.g. to work more closely with NGOs, so that their “soft power” could complement our hard power.Critics of the new focus on counter-insurgency theory claim it is a tactical gimmick, it is not a recipe for winning the war in the long run, they say; it is only for avoiding defeat in the short run. Also from my viewpoint Nato’s peace operations are missing the core aspect which by my opinion is following: Without local commitment any solution – military or civilian – is not sustainable. If local commitment or participation to “new” strategy is weak I think that it does not have any possibilities to realize. Of course if the perspective is only to next U.S. election campaign or guaranteeing the quarterly bonuses in military-industrial-complex then real solutions are not the core question.

Beginning in 2003, the European Union began deploying civilian missions under the auspices of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). prefer to see the EU remain a purely civilian power. Focusing on EU civilian capabilities may be an attractive option financially and politically within Europe.

Bottom line

I assume that intrastate conflicts will continue, they will not be only ethnic ones but economic factors will be cause too. Also global challenges e.g. struggle over energy, raw materials, water with their environmental effects will play their role in future conflicts.

From my point of view peacemaking is only secondary action by managing conflicts – a deeper holistic approach is needed to make more sustainable solutions. The main components by my opinion are the following:

  • An approach of active or creative peace-building should be applied to achieve long term solutions
  • Dialogue between local stakeholders is the key component in peace-building process as if the parties are willing to discuss the conflict and work toward reaching a holistic resolution the outcome may be sustainable.
  • Dialogue should be applied through high, middle-range and grassroots levels horizontally across the lines of division in a society. There should also be no gap of interdependence of coordinated relationships up and down the levels of leadership in a society – the vertical capacity means developing relationships between higher and grassroots levels of leadership.
  • To understand the true nature of security issues in each particular context it is necessary to apply also a non-western theoretical framework as the non-western social, political and cultural reality demands maybe different approach – or viewpoint – than normal western practice.
  • Creating an environment of lasting peace is the primary goal of peace-building. The main tool can be different creative therapies being used to create peace, within individuals, groups, and societies. Although used primarily to overcome violence, creative peace-building can also be used as a preventative measure to make the foundations of peace stronger, especially when used with children.
  • The value of civilians in post-conflict stabilization has become increasingly clear and should be appreciated at the expense of military alternatives.

Some of my related writings:

EUś unused option the U.S. cowboy-policy: Could EU lead the 3rd Way out from Confrontation

My critics due Mr.Ahtisaari’s Nobelprize:Do you hear Mr. Nobel rolling in hisgrave? and his peace mediation methods: 500.000 bodies or sign! and outcome in Kosovo: Kosovo-Two years of Quasi-State

The new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan: Will COIN work in Afghanistan?

Is Yemen the next target for the War on Terror?