Peace processes and dialogue

Peace processes and dialogue are essential approaches to addressing conflict. The foundations for a just and sustainable peace are laid when those in conflict agree on how to resolve the issues that have divided them and how they will live together peacefully in the future.

In addition to formal negotiations peace processes include efforts to help parties to conflict and conflict affected communities to change the way they think about the conflict, increase understanding and improve inter-communal relationships.

Creating space for dialogue

Much of our work centres around peace processes. We work with the different sides involved in a conflict to help them develop an understanding of what can be done differently and we create opportunities for the people involved in the conflict to come together to discuss the issues. All this is done with a view to bringing those involved closer to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Our Youth Dialogue work in the South Caucasus for example, connects young people from either side of the Georgian–Abkhaz conflict divide, in order to discuss issues surrounding the conflict.

In many conflict areas we arrange workshops to enable different groups to analyse the conflict together, discuss what are often difficult subjects, deal with issues connected to past actions and explore possible solutions.

Our media projects aim to raise awareness of issues around the conflicts, challenge stereotypes of the other side and facilitate discussion between different groups. In Fiji, we support the Citizen’s Constitutional Forum to undertake media activities aimed at increasing public understanding of good governance, human rights and multiculturalism.

The role of the international community

Whilst peace processes must focus on creating space for dialogue between those most involved in and affected by the conflict, international support is often critical to achieving this.  It can help create the political space for dialogue to take place, and can provide support in terms of finance, logistics and expertise.

Our policy brief Ending war: the need for peace process support strategies (2009), explains how external actors can give greater priority to supporting peace processes by placing them at the centre of a shared international strategy for countries in conflict. Too often, mixed or contradictory policies undermine the positive role external actors can play. International responses to specific conflicts are shaped by a number of priorities, including economic interests, counter-terrorism and humanitarian concerns.

We regularly engage with international policymakers to explore ways in which they can offer coordinated and cross-governmental support to peace processes. A recent example of this has been our engagement with the British government over their 2011 Building Stability Overseas Strategy.

Incentives, sanctions and conditionalities

International policymakers often turn to incentives, sanctions and conditionality in the hope that these tools can alter the dynamics of armed conflict and positively influence behaviour.

We have produced a number of publications that look at this topic and make recommendations for policymakers and the international community. Powers of persuasion: incentives, sanctions and conditionality in peacemaking (Accord issue 19, 2008) suggests that while these instruments have in some cases helped tip the balance towards settlement, in many others they have been ineffective, incoherent or absorbed into the dynamics of the conflict.

The difference we make

It is often extremely difficult for people from either side of a divide to communicate. As an organisation not directly involved in the conflicts, Conciliation Resources is able to help overcome logistical and political difficulties to bring different people together, and to include stakeholders or parties who are otherwise excluded from dialogue..

We are also able to present topics in a new light and challenge assumptions held about ‘the other’ – provoking debate around concerns central to the conflict. Our experience of other peace processes means we bring the learning from different contexts, as we are currently doing as part of the International Contact Group in the Philippines.

We use films such as the Dialogue Through Film series relating to the Nagorny Karabakh conflict, Talking Borders about difficulties faced by border communities in West Africa, and Journey through the River Vitasta about Kashmir, to successfully bring everyday issues to the attention of decision-makers in those regions.

For me the most important thing is when people make an effort to go beyond the propaganda and to try and understand something for themselves.

Harout Mansurian, outreach moderator for Dialogue Through Film, Armenia

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