Who participates in peace deals?

When a long running conflict is finally brought to “closure”, is the deal only an arrangement between elites on each side?  The question is prompted by the Northern Ireland peace process, where great progress in reducing violence and devolving powers has not been matched by more harmonious relations at the community level.  And apparent puzzlement among many as to why Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley can seem to get along so well after being so implacably opposed.  Was it just about personal power all along?  

Likewise, we could look at the Balkans and see a problem that in sense of war has been “solved” and yet wonder whether the people in BiH and Serbia are any more reconciled to the apparent implications of the peace deals for their countries.  But most of all, we could look at Israel-Palestine and see clear evidence of Tony Blair’s famous bicycle metaphor at work (“you have to keep going forward or else you fall over”) — meaning endless photo-ops between Olmert, Abbas, Bush, and the regional heads of state and assurances from Condi Rice that lots of negotiating work is being done behind the scenes.  But is there any evidence that the Arab people are more reconciled to a long-term deal that would almost certainly see no right of return for Palestinians?  Indeed, this is one of the paradoxes of Bush’s push for democracy in the Middle East — he’ll need exactly the power of authoritarian Arab leaders to ensure acceptance of any peace deal that will almost certainly be a bitter pill for their populaces.

Perhaps AFOE readers have good examples were conflict resolution was truly a bottom-up process.  But it’s not easy to think of one.

3 thoughts on “Who participates in peace deals?

  1. Isn’t this because they’re precisely the people who are fighting? It was impossible to end the war in Northern Ireland without engaging the people who wanted war and profited from it; the Sunningdale and Peace People experiences tell us that very clearly. Probably a majority of Northern Irishmen, to say nothing of Irishmen , wanted peace throughout; but all you need is a critical mass of people committed to war, their social networks, their war economy.

  2. Very interesting article; you’re right, it’s a challenge!

    One I can think of is the Mexican “conflict” in Chiapas between the Indians of mayan descent and the PRI government, followed by the PAN government, which was more or less resolved through greater integration of the Indians at a local level. Although this was not a full blown conflict and there were discussions with the government, upper level political discussions are still ongoing but are not the key to conflict resolution in this case (as the real problem is with local politicians and local hacienda owners).

  3. Do your readers have any examples of truly bottom up conflicts? Conflict generally seems to require leaders to harness existing potential for conflict.

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