13 May 2015

Implications of CCDP Research Project on Participation

Peacekeeping - UNMIS

Conclusions of the three-phase project Broadening Participation in Political Negotiations and Implementation have just been released by the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP) at the Graduate Institute and are already in high demand by policymakers and practitioners.

Started in 2011, and motivated by the fact that inclusive peace processes are slowly replacing the traditional exclusive peace deals negotiated solely between two or more armed groups, this project has focused on better understanding how the inclusion of additional groups next to the main parties to the conflict/negotiations – such as civil society groups, political parties or women’s groups – works in peace processes and political transitions and what the impact of that broader inclusion has been on the quality and sustainability of peace and transition agreements and their implementation.

The first phase of the project (2011–2013) found that inclusion takes place not only at the negotiation table. A broad variety of possible inclusion modalities were identified both at the table and alongside it, taking place during all phases of peace processes. Inclusion/participation is therefore defined empirically as taking part in an inclusion model, as opposed to a normative value. This allowed the project to shift the focus of debate away from the inclusion/exclusion dichotomy characteristic of previous research and policy debates, and address instead when, how, and under what conditions inclusion can work effectively. The second phase of the project (2013–2014) applied a comparative case study approach to the negotiation and implementation of 40 peace and political transition case studies, analysing the functioning of the inclusion models identified in phase 1. The third phase of the project analysed the data, applying qualitative and quantitative research methodologies.

Dr Thania Paffenholz, senior researcher at the CCDP and lead investigator of the project, shares some conclusions and gives insights into the consequences for policy and practice.

Working with 40 cases studies presupposes a very rigorous methodology. How did you work?

The qualitative case study research was built around a comprehensive framework rigorously applied by 24 case study authors from three universities (Graduate Institute, Tufts University in the US and Bilkent in Turkey) delegated a total of 40 case studies. Cases were selected to maximise the variety of regions, time periods and negotiation types covered. The framework was subject to pilot testing in a few cases and comments by an external review panel. Case study researchers were trained in two workshops to apply the framework. After completion, cases were subject to several rounds of internal feedback and an external review process followed by qualitative and quantitative coding. The assessment of the coded data was again subjected to quantitative (frequency and correlation) and qualitative analyses along the research framework. Data analysis was complex as we had so many variables and data from the 40 in-depth case studies.

Could you give us three major findings based on the data analysis?

Yes, of course. The first one is related to actors. When additionally included actors were able to influence the quality of agreements (defined as addressing the causes of conflict), and/or the implementation of those issues, there was a statistically significant higher rate of peace agreements being reached and implemented. Interestingly, when women’s groups had an influential role in a process, the positive impact was even stronger. This shows that what matters is not merely the quantity of actors included, but the quality and influence of their contributions.

The second finding concerns the process. How the negotiation process is designed is crucial to enable and constrain the influence of included actors. Whatever the inclusion modality, rules and procedures can negate the benefits of inclusion. For example, in almost all national dialogues, despite apparent broad participation, ultimate decision-making power rested with a small group of already powerful actors. Selection is key: who is included or not is essential. Quotas and transparent selection criteria and procedures have proven useful. However, there has been a tendency to often invite only like-minded groups, often civil society groups close to the parties, or else, peace-oriented change actors. When mediators were inclusion friendly and knew how to manage inclusion strategically, this helped groups to assert influence. Finally, preparedness and support structures prior to, during and after negotiations can substantially enhance the influence of civil society and other groups.

The third finding deals with power matters. Inclusive processes challenge established power structures, and resistance by powerful elites is to be expected. However, the case studies show that local civil society groups and the international community have been ill prepared to handle elite resistance. Public buy-in for an agreement or constitution is also important and is influenced by the political climate in the country and the attitude of powerful actors. However, public buy-in can also be created. In Northern Ireland, in the run-up to the referendum over the Good Friday Peace Agreement, a massive civil society campaign managed to push for a positive outcome of the referendum. Regional powers also matter. The latest developments in Yemen are a sad example of how the lack of buy-in by major elites and regional actors can destroy a very inclusive process.

Can we imagine concrete implications of your work for policy and practice in Geneva or in the world?

The project’s results have tremendous implications for policy and practice as they fundamentally challenge the reasoning and practice of negotiations. As a consequence, they are already in high demand by policy and practitioner communities. The project has just given substantial inputs into the three ongoing high-level UN review processes on peacebuilding, peace support as well as “women, peace and security” (review of resolution 1325). Together, these policy processes will play an important part in shaping UN-supported peace processes into the future. Moreover, we continue to give advice on how to design inclusive processes in a number of ongoing peace processes such as those in Colombia, Mali, South Sudan, Myanmar or Ukraine. Inputs into training courses have also been given, including two UN high-level courses. In Geneva, I have recently given inputs at the Human Rights Council on inclusion and civil society peacebuilding in Syria and we actively cooperate with a number of Geneva-based human rights and mediation organisations, such as the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) or the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). as well as a number of international missions.

A briefing paper with conclusions can be found here.