Daring to differ? Strategies of inclusion in peacemaking

Strategies of inclusion in peacemaking practice

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Hirblinger and Landau (2020) - Daring to differ

Strategies of inclusion in peacemaking practice
This final section explores how mediation professionals directly involved in peace-process design make practical decisions about inclusion, and how their choices relate to the rationales and framings found in peacemaking theory and policy.
To this end, we asked professionals with experience in UN mediation and mediation support about their practices of fostering inclusion in peace processes and the role of policy and guidance documents therein.
Overall, the interviews suggest that the normative framework and guidance on inclusion stands in tension with the pragmatic choices of mediators and their often limited influence in a given peace process. Inclusive peacemaking is easier prescribed than done. For practitioners, there exist significant trade-offs and dilemmas when operationalizing inclusion. While inclusion discourse has led to a heightening of demands for participation in peace processes and has thus fuelled the game of enlarging the table – which had traditionally been both exclusive and elitist – seats at the negotiation table are inevitably still limited. This problem is augmented by the increasing fragmentation of armed groups and conflict stakeholders in contemporary armed conflicts.
This points to the need for inclusion strategies that do justice to the multiplicity of antagonisms that underpin conflict.

Security Dialogue 51(4)
The above-mentioned policy documents affect peacemaking practice in various ways, ranging from directive to suggestive. UNSC resolutions inform the mandates of UN peace operations and political missions, thus providing clear prescriptions for how to practice inclusion. While UNSC resolutions provide a floor, not a ceiling for inclusion, as one high-level mediator put it, they certainly shape the menu of options by putting political weight behind the inclusion of specific actors. Resolutions by the UNSC and UNGA also shape the discourse on inclusion more broadly, by rallying member states behind particular inclusion agendas that highlight specific conflict stakeholders. UN guidance documents, on the other hand, originate with the MSU’s mission to professionalize mediation (Convergne, 2016), providing advice and principles that serve as a foundation fora structured mediation practice. However, for practitioners these documents often appear too broadly worded to be readily implementable. Several interviewees also mentioned that the ambitious nature of international policy on inclusion overstates the actual influence that mediators exercise at the negotiation table. Mediators may shape the process by suggesting specific designs and making arguments for inclusion on normative or pragmatic grounds. However, they cannot impose any inclusive arrangements against the will of the conflict parties or influential stakeholders.
Operationalizing an inclusive peace for all?
While most conflict parties tend to understand inclusion as confined to those who bear arms, for mediators, inclusion beyond armed actors holds the possibility of securing a more lasting peace by avoiding elite deals that create incentives for future violence. Some mediators also consider the purpose of broadening inclusion to be about fostering public support fora peace process, in which case they concede that often a merely symbolic form of inclusion is practised, culminating in the photo opportunity, for instance with members of religious groups, civil society or women. This is because the political realities of peace processes make broad-based inclusion an ideal, rather than a realistic objective. Some mediators bemoan the fact that the UN normative framework and guidance documents ignore these realities, making inclusion appear like a largely rhetorical aspiration by the UN, rather than a method employed strategically to achieve apolitical settlement.
While mediators long-term goal maybe to build legitimate peace and inclusive political arrangements, this matters less in the short-term politics of peacemaking, and might even impede the mediators priority to end violence, requiring first and foremost that armed actors are brought to the negotiation table. Importantly, broad-based inclusion suffers additionally from the weakening of liberal approaches, and the shrinking of space for civil society across the world. Recent attempts at broadening inclusion to women and civil society in UN-mediated peace processes for Syria and Yemen have demonstrated that little room exists for ambitious normative projects (Kapur,
2017). Nonetheless, a common mediator strategy to foster inclusion is to present pragmatic arguments to conflict parties, focusing on how enlarging representation at the table beyond the conflict parties, or diversifying their own delegations, can enhance their legitimacy and strengthen ties to their constituents, increase public support for the talks and strengthen the legacy of the process.
However, the inherently context-specific nature of peacemaking is in tension with generic formulations in policy documents that frame the included in open terms, such as stakeholders or civil society, leaving mediators with difficult choices in operationalizing inclusion. In practice, stakeholders need to be mapped out – a task that requires time, resources and deep context knowledge, none of which are guaranteed features in mediation. And while the term civil society continues to convey a sense of impartiality, in practice included civil society actors have political opinions that more often than not lie on one side of an antagonistic divide. In the end, political and operational pressures on mediation teams often lead to inclusion efforts following a standard formula of consultations, giving voice predominantly to representatives of urban-based, professionalized civil

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