Legitimacy and peace processes: from coercion to consent
Publication date: 
2014
Issue number: 
25

Legitimacy is about social, economic and political rights. It is critical to political order, stable peace and development.

Kevin Clements, Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, New Zealand

Legitimacy matters for peace. It is the basis of the social and political deals between states and citizens, and local leaders and their communities. Legitimacy transforms coercive power into political authority and is the bedrock of peaceful societies. 
 
The legitimacy of a peace process refers to the extent of public support for it. The legitimacy of the process affects the legitimacy of its outcome, and peacebuilders need to pay attention to both. Putting people first can help make peace last.

Colombian society wants more than an elite negotiation. It wants a profound transformation of the structural conflict drivers. This is the difference between the Havana negotiations and a peace process for Colombia.

Rosa Emilia Salamanca, Executive Director of Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económica (CIASE), Colombia

There is no such thing as universal legitimacy: it is specific to the circumstances and communities of a particular conflict. It is fiercely contested in situations of violent conflict, where perceptions of the acceptability of political authority are radically opposed.
 
Recognising that legitimacy is context-specific stresses domestic ownership of a peace process, so that it responds to local realities and priorities. By acknowledging that legitimacy is disputed, peacebuilders can support processes that accommodate diverse and divergent interests.

One of the scarcest commodities in violent conflict is legitimate representation for peace processes –  “who has the right to represent whom?”

Ken Menkhaus, Professor of Political Science at Davidson College, USA 

The 25th edition in our Accord series focuses on legitimacy and the practical ways that it can contribute to building more sustainable peace. It looks at 15 country case studies at various stages of conflict, including the Philippines, Syria, Afghanistan, the Basque Country, Somaliland, Yemen and Burma. 
 
These case studies focus on four types of peacebuilding activity: national dialogue, constitutional review, local governance and transforming coercive actors. 

Including civilian-led grassroots structures in the proposed transition process is a strategic necessity – to give negotiations credibility and legitimacy inside Syria and to convey an accurate representation of the Syrian “street”

Doreen Khoury, Middle East Liaison Officer, Hivos International