Kevin Clements opens the publication by exploring why legitimacy matters for peace, reviewing the rich and long intellectual tradition of political legitimacy. He describes how legitimacy “lies at the heart of all political discourse and determines much political competition in both developed and less developed societies”, and is “by definition … determined by whether the contractual relationship between the state and citizens is working effectively or not”. He explores challenges of addressing non-state, informal, “traditional”, kin and community sources of authority, as well as state-based, formal, “modern” sources. He makes the link to current peacebuilding practice by emphasising the importance of “grounded legitimacy”, which exists “when the system of governance and authority flows from and is connected to local realities”.
Alex de Waal explains how peace processes work in the political “marketplace”. In complex conflicts involving multiple armed actors, diverse forms of violence and a breakdown in central political authority, much of politics functions through patronage. De Waal explains how external actors failed to navigate the political order in Darfur, where violence has been used not to achieve military victory but to raise actors’ status in a patronage hierarchy. International peacebuilders have not taken account of the micro-dynamics of the conflict and, as a result, peace initiatives have been unable to adjust to changing characteristics of violence, or to engage authentic sources of representation. An African Union initiative based on thorough local consultation succeeded in developing a much more accurate diagnosis of the conflict and a convincing and inclusive way to resolve it, but nobody has been prepared to back it.
Jean Arnault explores the relationship between international norms and local realities in peace processes – in particular means to build domestic support. He discusses three specific ways that domestic legitimacy was built in the Guatemalan peace process: through the participation of key constituencies, the representation of significant views and values, and the delivery of tangible dividends. Building the legitimacy of a peace process is especially important in low-intensity armed conflicts. International assistance can play a big role in helping to improve and ensure the performance of a peace process, but Arnault argues that a growing list of “universal” norms and guidelines risks constricting the space for international mediation.
This section also takes a more detailed look at the issue of inclusiveness in peace processes, especially with respect to contemporary trends regarding gender and civil society. Rosa Emilia Salamanca looks at the current peace process in Colombia, where in November 2013 two women were for the first time appointed to the government’s team to negotiate with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) at peace talks in Havana. She stresses that the urgency of ending Colombia’s 50-year-old war has lent a degree of “imperative legitimacy” to the official talks, but establishing broader legitimacy for the peace process can only come from a wider peace agenda that responds to the needs and interests of Colombian society.
Yasmin Busran-Lao tracks the increasing prominence of women in formal and informal talks in the Mindanao peace process in the Philippines. This has coincided over time with the evolving engagement of civil society in the process and the growth of the women’s movement in the country more broadly. Although women still remain underrepresented, they currently hold key positions around many of the various negotiating tables, including as Head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. The adoption of a Basic Law on autonomous governance in Mindanao, planned for 2014, can institutionalise inclusivity in the peace process.
A box by Desiree Nilsson presents recent statistical analysis of 83 signed peace agreements from 40 different civil wars between 1989 and 2004 to demonstrate significant correlation between the inclusion of civil society in peace agreements and an increase in their durability.
Tim Sisk analyses the function of elections in peace processes. Elections can either support transition to more legitimate governance or lend artificial legitimacy to coercive regimes. A convergence of global norms and local expectations means that elections are well-established elements of peace processes. He argues that elections can induce violence, and that at a minimum they must “do no harm”, but there are good examples of elections that have helped to promote peace. Experience shows that elections can contribute to more inclusive politics, and Sisk highlights the significance of matching the choice of electoral system to the local context and circumstances. However, the legitimacy of elections can be undermined if they are treated as an international exit strategy, rather than as one part of a much broader process of change.