By René Wadlow*
As peace builders, we are particularly called to help create a climate for negotiations in good faith and to reduce tensions in tense areas. We know that violence can spread and that mutual escalation can slip out of control.
Negotiation means a joint undertaking by those in conflict with the aim of finding common interests that are acceptable to a large segment of the population. We see the difficulties of mutual acceptance by all parties in the repercussions to the agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh facilitated by Russia between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Whereas the agreement has been welcomed in Azerbaijan and reinforced President Ilhan Aliev, in Armenia the accord is seen by many as a defeat. There are continuing calls for Prime Minister Nikol Pachinian to step down.
Thus, often an agreement must be more than a compromise. It must transcend the original negotiating positions to create a situation of positive peace–an advance in the welfare of much of the populations of the parties. Such transcendence often requires fundamental structural transformations as well as deep changes in attitudes. The struggle for liberation from armed conflict, exploitation, and poverty is also an effort to create the conditions within which inner liberation is possible.
For such transcendence of conflictual situations, it is vital to have an informed public opinion that will support the effort over a long period of time. The building of such informed public opinion is an aim of peace-related journalism such as Transcend Media Service-TMS.
The recent 5 February 2021 peace agreement among parties in conflict in Libya gives us an example of the needed peace-building tools. While each conflict situation is different, we can learn from efforts made to reach a negotiated settlement and adapt them to our current needs.
Using the United Nations: The United Nations, as the most universal in membership of the inter-governmental organizations, has peace building as a central mandate. Thus there is a legitimate role for the U.N. in conflict resolution. While there are conflicts in which the U.N. can play no role given the particular geopolitical nature of the conflict, most conflicts are open to some sort of U.N. involvement, ranging from good offices of the Secretary-General to the sending of U.N. troops after a Security Council resolution. In the Libyan case, the U.N.-led mediation played a central role.
Using Non-Governmental Organizations: The U.N. is also open to peace building roles of non-governmental organizations ranging from humanitarian relief to informal “Track II” mediation efforts by NGOs. In Libya, a few NGOs kept channels of communication open among conflicting groups. The NGOs proposed possible avenues of compromise and tried to have the voices of the excluded heard, in particular women and groups in the south of the country on the frontier with Mali. NGOs also had a role in peace journalism, keeping the issues of Libya in view and underlining the complexity of the situations.
Now in Libya, there has been created an interim unity government which is to lead the administration until national elections which are planned for 24 December 2021. There is much to be done to create a stable and progressive society in Libya. We must continue to contribute to these efforts as best we can.
The experience of the conflicts in Libya highlights the need for active cooperation among U.N. bodies, peace building NGOs, and peace-oriented publications and media. Such cooperation is vital and must be usefully strengthened.
*René Wadlow is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He is President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation and problem-solving in economic and social issues, and editor of Transnational Perspectives. This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS)