A recent paper from the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue reports on the success of mediation in Liberia. It reads, in part:
Liberia’s destruction diverted through dialogue
H.E. Madam Olubanke King-Akerele, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liberia, thanked those who made sacrifices for peace in Liberia in a statement to mediators in Oslo, Norway on 16 June 2009.
In her speech, which marked the opening of the seventh Oslo forum meeting of conflict mediators from around the world, H.E. King-Akerele highlighted lessons from Liberia’s conflict resolution, or so called peace-making experience. She emphasised the important role of dialogue through negotiation and diplomacy to preserve the nation.
“It soon became clear that the country would self-destruct, and that unless some intervention occurred, there would be catastrophic consequences.” she said
. . .
It is our conviction that the Liberian experience of engagement, cooperation, and understanding is a lesson that is worth learning in future negotiating and peace-making exercises. For unless the people are willing to reconcile and work together, no expertise in negotiation and diplomacy, and no application of force can compel them to accept any peace terms.”
My concern is whether the lessons – and optimism – there, can be translated into the dire political situation in Sri Lanka. At least one of the variables in the success of mediation, where there has been intense conflict, high levels of fatalities etc, is the political support for the process: Aceh is a prime example of this.
But there’s reason to be less optimistic in Sri Lanka where – as noted in an earlier entry – the government has determined that its military success marks the start of a new phase of political unity “under Buddhism”, which seems to miss the point of the preceding decades of conflict.
Recent commentary on Groundviews, which is not a radical or partisan site (http://www.groundviews.org) reinforce the enormous challenge of beginning the process of negotiation and mediation – especially the latter given the government’s resistance to international mediation after the conflict. See Visantha Raja on the deadlock – and on the prospect that dire economic and humanitarian crises rather than political will might break the deadlock:
The question: how can the successful lessons of mediation in Aceh and Liberia be translated into wider experience, so that the purely military strategy and success in Sri Lanka is not seen as the preferred option. At the recent Oslo forum on mediation the comment was made:
“This year’s Forum was organised soon after the victory of the Sri Lankan armed forces against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The Sinhalese-dominated government of President Mahinda Rajapakse found a military solution to Sri Lanka’s 26-year-old ethnically-driven civil war by defeating the Tamil Tigers and eliminating their leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and 18 senior rebel commanders. The choice of military force over mediation and its success was something that haunted the proceedings at the Forum, as it was felt the Sri Lankan experience would encourage other countries and governments to go the same way in tackling rebels.
“There is no doubt that the recent events in Sri Lanka and the increased tendency by countries and governments to employ military force to resolve conflicts has had a dampening effect on peacemakers and all those seeking peaceful solutions to politically-rooted problems. This was evident at the Oslo Forum, with some participants conceding that the failure of the peace effort in Sri Lanka was heartbreaking.”
First published, Tuesday, June 23, 2009 in The News International