An expert’s view on peace process
“Every conflict can be resolved on the negotiating table”. This is a proven and undeniable truth that several people believe that the bloody conflict in the deep South can be resolved only through negotiations.
Although no formal negotiations have ever been held between all the parties in the conflict in the strife-torn deep South, informal peace talks have been occasionally been held and at different levels in the past several years but without success.
In order to have a better understanding about peace process and how it works, Cross Cultural Foundation which is a non-governmental organization dedicated to human rights promotion and legal counseling recently invited Dr Norbert Ropers, director of Germany’s Berghof Foundation for Peace Support, to give a lecture on the topic: “How to start a peace process” and to share his experience in peace process.
In his lecture, Dr Ropers said that one needs to have a clear understanding of peace and conflict before peace building process can start. He said that most people appeared to have misconception about conflict that it has to do with violence. He noted that conflict is not all about violence, difference in opinions or wishes is also regarded as a conflict.
Peace, he added, is not the opposite of conflict. He cited the Kashmier problem in which the stationing of Indian troops in the region managed to keep violence under checks – a condition several people described as “constructive violence” while a handful claimed as “peace”.
Dr Ropers offered three theories of peace building.
The first theory is about two conflicting parties which are equally obstinate and continue to war against each other with neither side has the prospect of winning. In this case, the doomed situation will compel the two conflicting parties into the negotiating table. A case in point is the conflict in Sudan.
The second theory concerns a window of opportunity when a third party, due to an external factor, steps in to offer a helping hand to negotiate a conflict. A case in point is the conflict between Indonesia and Aceh separatists. Peace was successfully brokered by the international community in the aftermath of a tsunami devastated most of Aceh province.
The third theory is about the unification of people to put pressure on the conflicting parties to come to the negotiating table to end the conflict. In the deep South, there have been attempts by various groups of people in the strife-torn region to unite together with enough pressure to push for peace talks.
From the experience of peace process in northern Ireland, Dr Ropers outlined a number of factors before the beginning of peace process. The factors include: the peace process must involve the parties which are prone to violence; all parties must accept that violence can take place in the course of peace talks; the conflicting parties must be willing to give and take; the victims of the conflict must be rehabilitated; peace cannot be attained without justice; conflict solution must involve people who are caught in the conflict.
Asked whether he has seen any turning point regarding the situation in the deep South, Dr Ropers admitted he had not seen any clear picture yet. However, he pointed out that talk about decentralization from the government side was a good sign but there is no clear response from the “other side” yet.