Book reviews - Role of Non-Governemental-Organisations.

Real Peace, Real Security: The Challenges of Global Citizenship
(Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008, 128 pp.).

Sharon Welch, Professor of Religion and Society at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago has written a very useful analysis of peacemaking with an emphasis on the ethical dimensions and the insights which can be provided by religious traditions. She divides her presentation into three categories outlined by the then UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in An Agenda for Peace: Peacebuilding, Peacemaking, and Peacekeeping.

Although the term peacebuilding in UN circles these days is often used to mean post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation, peacebuilding is basically the creation of a culture of peace and is most closely related to the functions of civil society. Peacebuilding is nicely summed up in the mission statement of the American Friends Service Committee:
We nurture the faith that conflicts can be resolved non-violently, that enmity can be transformed into friendship, strife into cooperation, poverty into well-being, and injustice into dignity and participation.

All societies have techniques of dispute settlement which function much of the time. However, traditional forms of dispute settlement and the techniques of cooperation can break down or become overtaxed as we saw with the Tutsis and the Hutus in Rwanda and eastern Congo and among tribes in Darfur, Sudan. Peacebuilding requires spotting when tensions are growing and then finding ways to reweave forms of cooperation by calling upon individuals and groups that are not playing an adequate role in creating a spirit of cooperation. Such under-used resources - to stay with African examples - can be clanic elders, women, teachers, religious movements, youth, cultural movements, economic forces, political figures who have an interest in pushing cooperation rather than tribal division. However, there needs to be peacebuilders who analyse the tensions, who see which groups can be empowered to take positive steps and who provide some of the means for action. Coalitions do not come together automatically. The warning signs of growing Hutu-Tutsi tensions were evident several years in advance of the genocide of 1994. There had already been large-scale killings in 1958 at the eve of political independence so that new violence was a real possibility, though few thought it would reach the scale that it did in 1994. Unfortunately, the government, the radio and press, religious groups, and cultural associations were used to increase rather than decrease tensions. Finally, the killing of the Rwandan president served as the spark that set off the fire. The United Nations had peacekeeping forces in place in Rwanda but no mandate to protect civilians. The UN did not have the cultural peacemakers who might have been able to counter the trends.

Likewise in Darfur: in 2000 Darfur intellectuals and civil servants had written The Black Book setting out the difficulties of the socio-economic situation in the area and pleading for action. The Sudanese government and others took no notice, and so three years later began an armed revolt which the Darfur leaders thought was the only way to be heard.

Drawing upon the writings of John Paul Lederach, Welch sets out some of the goals of peacebuilders:
1) to minimize the destructive effects of social conflict and to maximize opportunities for well being;
2) to understand the fears and hopes of the parties to the conflict, an honest appraisal of the ways in which groups are interdependent, and a recognition of the ways in which their decisions effect each other, for good or ill.
3) For the society as a whole, there are the structural goals of redressing the economic and political root causes of conflict, rectifying inequitable patterns of political participation, and reforming economic structures when they fail to meet basic human needs.
4) People need to see cultural patterns that lead to violence, identifying destructive perceptions of enmity. People may also discover alternative cultural resources that acknowledge the ways in which peoples are connected and that embody respect for the traditions and histories of others.

It is necessary to see 'the handwriting on the wall'. Thus in the Darfur situation, the government was already in the 1990s organizing militias from Darfur to fight against southern insurgencies in Bahr Al Ghazal. The Darfur militiamen were armed by the government, but they were not paid. They had to pay themselves by loot and taking people into slavery. Since there was neither internal nor much international outcry at these methods, the pattern became the basis for the pro-governmental Janjaweed once the Darfur fighting started in 2003. Had more people, especially those in Darfur, protested the use of such militias, the government might have hesitated to use them on a much larger scale.

Once violence breaks out 'peacemaking' becomes an important function, and there is increasing attention being given to techniques of mediation. Mediation and negotiations are sometimes divided into 'Track One' - carried out by governments and the UN and 'Track Two - carried out by non-governmental organizations or academic institutions. The techniques of mediation are largely the same on both tracks but non-governmental groups have fewer 'carrots or sticks' to help them. However, Track Two negotiations have a lower profile and less is expected of them; thus they can take risks and try new ideas, difficult for political leaders.

Once a political agreement - or at least a ceasefire is reached - a third step can be 'peacekeeping forces' used by the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the African Union (AU). Welch traces the evolution of the role of UN peacekeeping forces and the recent resolution on the Responsibility to Protect which should provide guidelines for the use of UN forces. (For a good overview of the way in which the concept of Responsibility to Protect has evolved, see the book by one of the principal architects of the idea, Gareth Evans. The Responsibility to Protect (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2008, 349pp.).

There are limits as to what peacekeeping forces can do when there is no clear ceasefire line as we see in the Darfur and eastern Congo cases. UN peacekeeping forces, originally created to separate Arabs and Israelis who fought in limited space with regular armies, are at their best in interposition efforts - to prevent the crossing of a frontier or a ceasefire line. When situations are more complex, when there is no 'front' and where fighting can take place most anywhere but never in a constant fashion, it is much more difficult to act. These difficulties were well described by Conor Cruise O'Brien in To Katanga and Back, a somewhat forgotten book which merits re-reading.

Sharon Welch has highlighted the challenges of security at the local, the national and the inter-state levels. She warns against easy solutions or quick judgements but stresses our need to take well-thought out action. "In our world, serious threats to security are not just posed by conflicts between states. Rather, we are facing, and will likely continue to face, dire threats to human security caused by natural disasters, international conflicts, and governmental repression. These problems demand the best of us all as citizens of an international community, our hearts touched by suffering so far away, and well aware that our own security and national interest are imperilled by insecurity throughout the world."

Rene Wadlow