As 2008 draws to a close, conflicts continue in Somalia, the eastern DRC, Darfur, Iraq and Afghanistan, among others. A new book - entitled Beyond Settlement - examines ways to start the peace process and then continue those efforts long after civil conflict ends.
In the forward to Beyond Settlement, former British Deputy Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe writes that conflicts can occur between nations, ethnic groups, cultures, philosophies, religions, communities and individuals. But he says that despite “this inevitable diversity,” two components are needed for peace. First, there must be a framework for parties to start “speaking and listening, rather than shouting.” And second, individuals with courage must participate before, during and after peace negotiations.
Nicholas Baldwin, dean and director of operations at Wroxton College of Fairleigh Dickinson University, is co-editor of the book – a collection of writings from about 20 experts and analysts.
“If you look around the world, there are so many problems, so many violent conflicts, if one were to look at conflicts that have been solved or in the process of being solved, and also look at conflicts that solutions are proving very difficult, maybe there are lessons to be learned, both positive and negative, that can be applied in other conflict situations. And if they can, we thought that was worthwhile in getting out there to a wider public,” he says.
Baldwin says perhaps too much emphasis has been placed on military force in recent years instead of diplomacy.
“Yes, I think that’s so. I’m not saying that military solutions are never part of the picture. And sometimes one needs to get through military conflicts in order to bring the sides to the table. But a military solution is never a solution in and of itself. There always has to be other facets to it,” he says.
He says the peace process must begin from a desire for peace.
“It comes down to a will on the part of those involved or enough of those involved and facilitating it from other forces or other actors, if you like. That’s why I say you need internal and external. And, of course, sometimes the internal needs a degree of encouragement, both the stick and the carrot, in that sense. And that’s where I think the book shows that the international community, governments and other external players can come into the picture,” he says.
Baldwin and co-editor Vanessa Shields write, “Political, ideological and ethnic conflicts have resulted in countless deaths, the creation of millions of refugees and untold human suffering.” One area examined in the book is institution building, which includes elections, an executive and a legislature.
“You’ve got to have an element of representation in a system and there are more ways than one of providing that. But the man and woman in the street, and quite literally sometimes in the street, have to believe, have to be shown, that their goals, their needs, their aspirations can be met, not through the barrel of a gun or stones in a slingshot, but through the principles of representation,” he says.
One successful example in moving beyond settlement is South Africa, but problems remain in Somalia and the eastern DRC, for example.
He says, “One can look elsewhere in Africa and one can get, of course, deeply discouraged. But that shouldn’t prevent attempts at trying to move, as I say, to settlement and beyond to offer a better future to the peoples of all the countries you mention.”
He says that even if there’s a peace agreement, parties to the settlement must never assume all issues have been resolved. It’s an ongoing process that may take many years.
“Northern Ireland is a case in point. It used to be a dispute that there was no solution to it. Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that we’re through all of the difficulties, but my heavens above, we have made progress in Northern Ireland, which most people thought impossible,” he says.
Baldwin adds that it wasn’t all that long ago when even Spain was a “very troubled society” under the Franco dictatorship. So, he says despite current circumstances, there is always hope.
“There should always be hope. Yes, always,” he says.
Beyond Settlement: Making Peace Last after Civil Conflict is published by Fairleigh Dickinson Press.