We asked EIP experts how to make peace in the 21st century and what sort of approaches we need to develop in the future. This is what they had to say:
“We need to reinvent peace-making and make peace processes more inclusive” – Martin Griffiths
Peace-making has never been so important. It has never been so examined, so scrutinised and so discussed. However, we – the community of peacemakers and mediators - have been unable to meet the anguished demands of people in conflicts around the world. Of course no peace process is a perfectly designed operation. Peace processes are based on compromises and have been skilfully shaped by mediators. However, many peace processes fail to build peace. Understanding the reasons for failure is a key step towards making mediation and peacebuilding more effective. Only if we manage to increase ownership of peace processes will we have a chance to resolve the conflicts of the 21st century.
“We need to professionalise mediation” - Stine Lehmann-Larsen
Mediation is often described as an art that lacks quality, accountability and consistency. What can we do about it? We need to rethink our standards and learn the right lessons. A continued professionalisation of the field of mediation is vital to challenge existing practices. We need to identify good practices and find new and better ways of operating in the field. Most importantly, it is necessary to set standards for more systematic practice - both when conflict is merely looming and when it is peaking. We need to think about how and when external actors should engage but also how mediators approach and structure their interventions.
"Making preventive diplomacy work is a key challenge for the 21st century” - Ivan Shalev
Preventive diplomacy should be considered not only the key tool for peace in the 21st century but also of this very decade. In Europe, we are experiencing the consequences of a lack of anticipation; in our near and far neighbourhood, people are living and suffering them acutely. Sadly, there is not enough of it – preventive diplomacy is hailed in theory but difficult to recognise or to undertake in practice.
Preventive diplomacy can avert or limit human suffering. It is much cheaper than deploying international missions during a war or rebuilding after one. If a conflict has not yet escalated, preventive diplomacy offers the greatest possibilities of influencing the parties to restrict its impact. This is why governments and institutions should invest in preventive diplomacy. We need to understand and apply it better; we need to act timely upon early warning signals; and we need to focus beyond the crisis of today. When this is difficult through formal channels, impeded by political considerations, let us utilise the capacities of non-governmental organisations.
“Peace begins at home” - Delphine Michel
In Europe we need to find answers how to deal with narratives of fear. Right wing extremism and radical Islam have created a self-perpetuating cycle of fear that has been spreading throughout Europe. How can we address this issue? Social divisions and a lack of opportunities are widely perceived as the drivers of extremism. So, there can only be one answer: Peace begins at home - in our communities, in our neighbourhoods. Europeans need to invest time and money to build trust and create more resilient communities. Yes, it will take time but it is the only way to create a peaceful and more prosperous Europe.
“Talking to all conflict parties” - Evan Tyner
Talking to all conflict parties may sound like a no-brainer but in practice it’s a huge challenge for mediators. For example, engaging with armed groups may be instrumental in putting an end to violence, yet it comes with a number of risks. It is very likely that there will be a strong view in the international community that any contact with the armed group is a form of inappropriate recognition.
Mediators need to learn from failed or poorly executed mediation efforts as they can have major repercussions for governments and peace processes. Political backlash can be severe for governments accused of ‘talking to terrorists’, while mediation efforts tend to attract spoilers when publicly visible, which can ultimately lead to more violence. The question of how to engage with armed groups will not disappear – the opposite is true: we need to refine our approaches and learn from failures and mistakes.
“We need empower local mediators” – Stine Lehmann-Larsen
Insider mediators or local mediators support locally driven and managed dispute-resolution activities. It’s one of the oldest means of mediating – and arguably one of the most important. Local mediators conduct their work through trust and confidence-building as well as through mediation. This work is essential at all stages of a peace process – for information, for contacts, for support, and for holding communities together when society is collapsing.
However, formal actors are currently not sufficiently incorporating this work into their strategies. The emerging practice of utilising insider mediation in formal peace processes is still in its early stages. While some good practices applicable to both the work of insiders, as well as those supporting them have been developed, they are still rather nascent and rarely transferred into practice. Furthermore, ideas and strategies for formal actors on how to link up formal and informal processes constructively still need to be developed.
“Don’t talk about them without them” – Maria Challoub
With hundreds of thousands killed, and millions displaced, the war in Syria has become one of the most intractable conflicts of our times. The failure to resolve the conflict despite collective international efforts, has and will continue to generate a range of lessons learned for mediators and peacemakers.
One of the lessons is likely to be the question whether top-down models to resolve a conflict are effective if a conflict is first and foremost internal. In the case of Syria, mediators have strictly relied on the negotiation parameters of the Geneva Communiqué, which is an agreement made completely in the absence of Syrian parties. Looking back, would the predominant roadmap to peace in Syria have faced greater likelihood of succeeding if the main Syrian parties in fact had taken part in creating it?