Daring to differ? Strategies of inclusion in peacemaking



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Hirblinger and Landau (2020) - Daring to differ

Security Dialogue 51(4)
Importantly, this essentialism is not strategic in its effort to empower women as asocial group, but seems to associate gender expertise with women as a fixed category, while offering technical fixes to women’s struggle for access to political power.
In addition to women, other closed terms, such as youth or religious groups also feature in the policy documents, albeit far less prominently. These are more strongly represented in the mediation guidance documents than in the international normative framework. In contrast to women, the participation of these groups is not justified by protection or empowerment rationales. While youth and religious groups are often subsumed under civil society (UNSG, 2017: 28), in some cases they are singled out as actors with a distinct role, for instance when youth are identified as possible spoilers to an agreement (MSN, b 47) – which speaks to their potential role as antagonists in the conflict. As the interviews discussed below illustrate, references to different closed categories in policy documents can lead to competing claims for inclusion in light of the ultimately limited seats available at a negotiation table.
Relational framings: Marginalized and vulnerable versus powerful actors
Finally, relational framings feature relatively weakly in the policy documents. Their use is largely confined to mediation guidance and a few sections of UNSG reports. One plausible explanation for this pattern is that relational thinking stems mainly from the practice of mediation, and enters the policy discourse via reporting on best practices and lessons learned. The most striking examples of the use of a relational term are references to marginalized groups or actors, sometimes in relation to the more open term stakeholder (UNDPA and UNEP, 2015: 34; UNSG, 2012: 9). Other relational terms, such as minorities, powerful actors or vulnerable groups are largely absent from
UNSC and UNGA resolutions, while featuring strongly in mediation guidance. The latter discuss marginalization, for example in relation to decisionmaking in negotiation processes, which should safeguard marginalized interests vis-à-vis the most powerful stakeholders (MSN, b 76;
UNDPA and UNEP, 2015: 34). While sometimes reference is broadly made to social, demographic, religious and regional minority identities (UNDPA, 2017: 10), some statements limit the focus to specific groups such as women (UNDPA, 2017: 10; UNITAR and UNDPA, 2010: 14), indigenous people (UNDPA and UNEP, 2015: 8, 36) or youth (UNDPA, 2017: 10; UNDPA and
UNEP, 2015: 8, 36), thus merging relational and closed terms.
Relational framings thus situate the objects of inclusion within their social and political relationships, and often hint at structural inequalities and power imbalances as underlying causes of armed conflict. Importantly, they require either the identification of binary pairs, such as the marginalized and the powerful (or marginalizing, or the location of the included in a web of relationships characterized by difference. They thus ask to identify the antagonisms in need of transformation, resulting in the combination of closed and relational terminology employed with a view to transforming conflict. The focus on the relationship between conflict parties is complemented by an open conception of the community in which conflict transformation has to take place. This reasoning can also take instrumental forms inclusive mediation is portrayed as a prerequisite to prevent marginalized groups [. . .] ending up with the desire to undermine any agreements reached (MSN, b 75). This is particularly visible in statements about the necessity of including marginalized regions in which armed conflict has occurred, such as Darfur (MSN, b 50).
Complementary or conflicting framings of inclusion?
The review of international peacemaking policy demonstrates a tension between efforts to empower and protect specific groups, which requires naming and defining them, and the urge to stress their


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sociopolitical construction, and thus malleability. The latter would allow fora context-sensitive and dynamic practice of inclusion that avoids the pitfalls of essentialization, while the former maybe necessary to combat the longstanding exclusion of certain actors from peacemaking and politics more broadly. The policy documents at times acknowledge this tension. For instance, the UN Guidance on Gender and Inclusive Mediation Strategies recognizes that it maybe difficult to engage interest groups that are not easily defined or lack clear leadership, such as social movements, youth, and women’s groups while at the same time asking mediators to put a premium on stakeholder mapping, planning and management of the process (UNDPA, 2017: 21). Interviews with mediation practitioners indicate that such stakeholder mapping is often beyond their capacities, leading them to fallback on inclusion strategies that rely on closed terms and a ‘box-ticking’ mentality. Efforts to avoid essentializing understandings of the included are also evident in the guidance, which stresses that the call for inclusion [. . .] is not limited to women, but applies to social, demographic, religious and regional minority identities as well as to youth and to organized civil society and professional organizations (UNDPA, 2017: 6). However, the document justifies the focus on the gender dimension by reference to the fact that women and girls tend to be identified first and foremost as victims of violence, which is why ‘rights-based attention to their needs is of paramount importance (UNDPA, 2017: 6–7). It also argues that while women are frequently part of movements demanding change, they tend to be excluded from peace and transition processes, and further makes the case that women’s inclusion can have broader positive effects as it is more likely to generate broad national ownership and support, by expanding the range of domestic constituencies engaged in a peace process (UNDPA, 2017: This and other policy documents are thus characterized by an intermingling of two functional arguments. On the one hand, specific groups such as women merit particular protection, which their inclusion in peacemaking is posited to enhance. On the other hand, these groups are included for their substantive contributions to peacemaking and in order to contribute to broader participation. However, it often remains unclear how exactly inclusion, practised in open or closed framings, relates to the antagonisms that fuel violence. In practice, promoting broad-based inclusion through closed categories can highlight specific struggles, but will likely fall short of accounting for the most important fault lines that run through society. In contrast, relational framings that focus on the material, social and cultural relations between groups may transcend this tension and offer an avenue for context-sensitive and transformative inclusion practices.

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