- Date published:
7:29 am, November 16th, 2023 - 12 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, International, israel, Palestine, Peace, Politics, Russia, uk politics, Ukraine, uncategorized, war - Tags:
We are further away from peace in parts of the world than a decade ago. But pessimism about peace isn’t a foregone conclusion.
Since there appear so many apparently intractable international conflicts occurring now, it is worth reminding ourselves of what successful peace processes have occurred in the last 30 years. All are specific to their own internal context, but they really have worked.
It is surely amazing that Israel has managed to wilfully repeat the folly where the United States and NATO allies occupied Afghanistan for 20 years, by occupying Gaza and expecting a different result. Same for Russia in the Ukraine and its own experience in Afghanistan.
But there is no fate but what we make.
Where has durable peace been achieved with good process in the last few decades?
South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation process
This peace process was created to investigate gross human rights violations that were perpetrated during the apartheid regime from 1960 to 1994.
These included abductions, racist laws, killings, and torture. Its mandate covered violation by both state and liberation movements and allowed the commission to hold special hearings focused on specific sectors, institutions, and individuals. It granted amnesty to perpetrators who confessed their crimes truthfully and completely to the commission.
The TRC took the testimony of about 21,000 victims with 2,000 appearing in person in public hearings. There were 7,112 amnesty applications, and refused in 5,392 cases.
It didn’t have the remit to try to reverse a couple of centuries of extreme wealth inequality, but it did a sound job giving years for the wronged to have their day, point the finger, and allow the guilty to confess.
It started in 1995 and was wrapped up in 2002. Further historic crimes are no longer pursued.
Northern Ireland Good Friday Peace Accord
Some point to the origin of this accord as the Armalite and Ballot Box initiative by Sinn Fenn deep in the early 1980s, in response to the election of Bobby Sands to Westminster in 1981. Then came the Anglo-Irish Accord signed by Ireland and Britain in 1985. Then came a further set of hard won discussions and agreements: the Downing Street declaration of 1993, the Framework Documents of 1995, leading to the Propositions of Heads of Agreement in 1995.
Notably all of these multi-year efforts were not just exchanges of drafts between elite negotiators, but were also the result of community initiatives often street-by-street and parish-by-parish within the overall peace process effort that contributed to its longevity and overall success. For this context peace is made both from top-down representation and deep and thorough social preparation bottom-up and middle-out.
And now for the kicker: as of September this year, historic crimes stemming from The Troubles are explicitly no longer pursued.
The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act became law on September 18th this year. It calls for setting a commission to deal with the hundreds of killings that remain unresolved to this day, and offer conditional amnesty to those who cooperate with the commissions’ investigations.
A dividend of sustained peace is the greatly improved relationship between the United Kingdom and Ireland, where it is now a critical trade gateway to the European Union following BREXIT. But again for much of the worst, further historic crimes are not being pursued.
Waitangi Tribunal Processes
It is more usual to conceive of the Waitangi Tribunal processes as one of numerous examples of treaties and negotiated agreements mediated between indigenous peoples and states or settlers, and New Zealand’s Treaty of Waitangi tribunal processes are one of the best known. But it is also a process that reconciles the effects of major internal war towards reconciliation and peace. For a summary of what it does, see here.
It was set up in 1975 and continues. The results of its work have been powerful not only for the redress provided to Maori, but also to its deep and abiding impact upon the entire public service, armed forces and NZ Police.
While its modern form came into strong focus after a claim by Taranaki Te Atiawa Maori following the destruction of coastal fishing grounds by the Motunui urea plant in 1983, it evolved in the 1990s into a vast process by which each tribe has been able to hold the state to account for war crimes from a massive civil war dating back over a century.
There is no specific end date to its work, but almost all historic grievances have been completed.
There is a full colour-chart of kinds of monitored and enforced peace existing in the world today. We only hear of the failures because they are in the news. Peace is otherwise boring. But there will be a peace process to most of them. It was not until the mid-1970s that the term “peace process” became widely used. In Israel’s case the phrase stuck, and as one author noted the phrase “… has been synonymous with the gradual, step-by-step approach to resolving one of the world’ most difficult conflicts. In the years since 1967 the emphasis in Washington has shifted from the spelling out of the ingredients of “peace” to the “process” of getting there … The United States has provided both a sense of direction and a mechanism. That, as its best is what the peace process has been about. At worst, it has been little more than a slogan used to mask the marking of time.”
There have been multiple peace treaties with Israel that have worked well including the 1949 armistice agreements, the Geneva Conference of 1973, the Camp David Accords of 1978, and the Egypt-Israel peace treaty of 1979 when eventually Israel handed back the whole of the Sinai. History says peace agreements are possible and can work, albeit imperfectly. Check out Peace Now if you want some practical encouragement.
And a peaceful future is possible for Ukraine too. Just last week, the European Union endorsed making Ukraine a full member of the EU.
In a whopper 1,200 page report released last week on future enlargement of the 27-member bloc, the EU said it’s ready for formal talks once further work is done by the Ukraine on corruption, adopting a law on lobbying in line with EU standards, and strengthening national minority safeguards. They also put Georgia into candidate status which is a step to accession that will piss off Russia no end but is a very hopeful moment.
There is no inevitability to pessimism about peace. There will be processes that get around both the Ukraine and Israel wars. They will likely work if they follow the successful precedents.