Sunday, June 21, 2015
Peace talks and legitimacy of membership
For the past two years Russia has been excluded from the leadership circle know as the Group of Eight (Seven). This exclusion is due to Russian aggression in Ukraine. Such exclusions demands answers for why the Republic of the United States (RUSA) and United Kingdom (UK) were not excluded for their aggression towards Iraq in 2003? It is those situations which draw the questions of legitimacy and leadership on the global scale. As we work the question of legitimacy down to make comparisons and draw insight, we can look at the questions of legitimacy of groups in civil war zones. There are numerous of examples where violent actions of a group are linked to a political group. For example the Irish Republican Army alliances with Sinn Fein. Al Qaeda also has a political branch. In Afghanistan a similar situation took place with the Taliban. In other groups the main statement is made to be a political stance that is forced to use violence to secure themselves. The Palestinian Liberation Organization is such a group. During many civil wars there are circumstances where groups see an opportunity to grab power and legitimacy by acting violently. Such situations are often seen in more turbulent areas such as Syria, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and other conflicts of such composition. The mindset of these groups are rooted in the ideology that if they can grab and hold enough area they will gain a seat at the political table. This seat will provide power, influence and of course money. All of these scenarios bring the question of legitimacy into play as decisions are made as to who is to sit at the peace negotiation table. It is easy to understand the mindset of those that act violently to gain a seat at these tables. The payoff is seen as worth the risk. To make all of this very simple, there is a perfect cliché to use – The squeaky wheel gets the grease. The louder the squeak the more grease provided. However what is become well known is that such tactics are destructive to social cohesion. Applying the cliché will only build a society that rewards negative civil disobedience. However there are groups that will succeed in obtaining power through such actions. A recent battle of who get to sit at the table is the Syrian Peace Negotiations? This question has been one of the largest hurdles to peace in Syria. Who decides the members are to be at the table? How do you have a negotiation without the current Syrian government of Assad? How do you allow anyone from the Islamic State to sit at any peace table? Which neighbouring states and/or regional organizations get to sit at this table? Next we have to include the international actors. In the case of Russia, UK and RUSA, they are legitimate world leaders whether their actions are right or wrong. Which of them get a seat? The short answer is, everyone gets a seat at the table – EVERYONE. This is the most challenging part of peace negotiations. How do we bring that reality to the table? The answer to that question is the absolute core of each and every article that has been and will be written on this forum. Peace negotiations are truly an ongoing element of a prosperous society. In truth the negotiations never end. Yet how does such a thing begin? In Syria for example it starts with each and every person having a desire to stop the violence. Such a reality may seem impossible but that is why peace efforts can never end. The question of legitimacy has to be taken out of the debate as to who sits at the table. At the outset all we can work with are the current leaders. For Syria that is President Assad. There is no choice to be made or argued. The same would be if we needed to talk with the governments of Russia, RUSA or UK, the only option is the current people in office. The one element that is to be very clear is that peace takes time. The members who are to sit at the negotiation table will arise from community engagement sessions/ programs. These community sessions are designed to bring out legitimate actors of peace in every community. These are the people that are working to build positive communities that focus on inclusion of diversity, peace, tolerance and good governance. As such operations tend to go, there will be major upsets. Often these meetings are targets of attacks by groups such as ISIS. Car bombs, suicide bombers and/or rocket attacks have been applied to destroy these meetings and early stages of the peace efforts. Such acts only support the exclusion of such groups from the negotiation table. Sadly the debate about who is to have a legitimate seat at the negotiation table starts all over again. The spiral of arguments, finger pointing and revenge are set in motion stalling the peace process. This is the exact situation we are dealing with in Syria, Israel, Iraq, Ukraine, Libya and many other places. The question of legitimacy in terms of who sits at a peace table is a barrier to peace. The only way through the legitimacy barrier is to push it aside and focus on the coupling of the current leadership and a very determined community engagement program. This dual approach must be met with a very stoic resolve to have peace. We know that violent acts will take place, they will most likely never end. To match that vigilance, peace efforts must also never end.