Power Sharing and Democratic Governance

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Power Sharing and Democratic Governance

Below are a few questions to begin this conversation thread:

How can structural inequalities be addressed to ensure the satisfaction of a society’s needs and the prevention of future conflict?

How can constituencies locked out of power be given a voice in forming a new democratic society??

How are needs (wealth, resources, education and access to governance) considered in reconciliation processes?

What role do CSO’s play in transitional justice and reconciliation?

Importance of power to local groups vs centralized government?

Share your thoughts, experiences, questions, challenges and ideas by replying to the comments below.

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Engaging and Empowering Constituencies

We have been thinking a great deal about some of these issues, recently, as they relate to the crisis in Libya and the UN-sponsored Libyan dialogue process. This process is critically important to ensure stability is restored, and nation building can restart.

Bringing the leadership of Libyan factions together is an important first step, and needs the honest brokerage provided by the UN.  But, dialogue among leaders must be complemented by involvement of key opinion makers and community mobilizers within each constituent group – so that they can also engage and offer informed support for the conditions for stability.

Formal consensus building is a process related to developed and legitimate institutions.  It is difficult therefore, for leaders to contain constituents who are ready to take up arms if they misunderstand or do not accept the urgency or priority of dialogue and reconciliation.

Creating and maintaining stability requires that diverse and, often, opposing communities understand and support decisions made by political leaders in negotiations. The leaders engaged in conflict resolution need to empower their constituents to participate in the dialogue process in parallel to official-level negotiations.  These parallel processes, while requiring some coordination and facilitation, do not need to be complicated or always formally structured, but they do need to be grassroots led and inclusive of all interests. 

What role do CSO’s play?

In addition to the important role CSOs can play in communicating priorities and supporting decisions of leaders made in negotiations, CSO activists are often the only people on the ground functioning during times of crisis and conflict.  They are usually the front-line providers of humanitarian assistance and the networks they maintain during the conflict can be invaluable in the process of reconciliation.  

The Role of Women

I want to raise the role of women in conflict and note that, while they often make up the majority of activists who provide assistance during conflict, they are usually the first group of activists marginalized during political reconciliation and negotiation.  Conflict – particularly violent conflict – often opens space for women to engage in new, non-traditional activities as a response to the conflict.  In addition to humanitarian assistance, women are often thrust into new roles such as head of household, breadwinner and political activist.  In these roles, women develop leadership and political skills, which should be called upon in post-conflict state-building.  In Bosnia and Herzegovina, women were – and continue to be – leaders for reconciliation and justice.    The extensive role played by Libyan women during the revolution in 2011 is well documented, yet how many of them are involved, now, in the official and formal dialogue process? 

Very Good Point

In Libya women led NGOs started as support groups for the revolution.  They provided abulance services, processed IDPs, even supplied the front lines.  They emerged as some of the best organized groups after the revolution.  Operating with high levels of consensus building they  were among the most capable NGOs, once they made the decision to continue their work - if they continued after the conflict.  Many of these revolutionary period groups disolved after the conflict, going back to their "traditional roles", school or work.  Very few entered political life, which became a violent arena.  One phenominal activist, Salwa Bughegis, lost her life.  She was one of a small handful of human rights lawyers who protested the arrest of a colleague, which began the 2011 uprising. 

Post conflict violence deterred many capable and important women from continuing their activism. 


Challenges for CSOs

One of the challenges for CSOs in post-conflict reconciliation and state building is their own survival and neutrality.  Conflicts often mean you have to “take a side” and CSOs can become viewed as oppositional or captured by governing elites.  They can fall victim to violence and intimidation. It takes a unique set of skills – not to mention courage – for CSOs to maintain neutrality, which is sometimes seen as “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”.  The international community and international donors can offer CSOs the protection of western governments and a profile, but this protection can also be a curse if national CSOs are labeled as “foreign agents” or succumb to realpolitik pressures of international agendas.


Discussions among some national NGOs in the MENA region are ongoing about the need to create an international/regional network or community of CSOs that would offer the same protections of the international donor community but remove the notion that civil society is beholden to foreign governments.  Even if such a network can be established, CSOs will still continue to face difficulties in places like Egypt where governments use red herrings of international terrorism and internal instability as opposition to limit effective voices of accountability, even if neutral. 

Does anyone have specific

Does anyone have specific examples of women organizing reconciliation activities across lines of hostility existing from the time of the conflict? Gender in transitional justice initiatives has been extensively written about and criticized as failing the needs of women, but for reconciliation activities beyond the justice angle--for example, in working to make official institutions trustworthy, transparent and able to serve all citizens (vertical reconciliation between citizens and the state)--I haven't seen many examples. Would love to find out about examples others know about or have been involved in!! The discourse on women and reconciliation seems to be based on the assumption that women are naturally "peaceful" and concerned primarily about their families and communities so specially able to be peacemakers, but this is a stereotype that may not be always true, plus, again, the discourse seems to be short on concrete details!

Lili, I agree - we need to

Lili, I agree - we need to get away from the stereotypes.  One of the best examples I can think of for you is the role of the CEE Gender Network (based in Budapest) and women's NGOs from Bosnia in getting a seat at the table of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe in 1999 (a "Marshall Plan" of sorts).  As 50 governments and international organizations were about to convene in Bosnia to launch the Stability Pact, women realized that gender equality wasn't even a talking point.  With the help of the OSCE, the women demanded that one of the pillars of this new international peace building initiative be dedicated to gender issues so that economic, employment, political participation could be included in official action plans.  Two weeks of frantic organization paid off and the Gender Task Force was considered one of the more successful pillars of the Stability Pact.  Many of the women's NGOs involved had previously worked to achieve electoral quotas in post-war Bosnia.  The best description of the Stability Pact process has been documented by Sonja Lokar (who was chair of the CEE Gender Network and instrumental in the two-week lobbying process).  She writes about it in "Women Can Do It" here: http://www.paixbalkans.org/contributions/lokar_women%20can%20do%20it.pdf

some case studies on women working for reconciliation

Our "conversation" may have formally ended, but I wanted to let everyone know about a resource I discovered today on the question of how women are working in the post-conflict reconciliation space, from Conciliation Resources. It's their 2013 Accord publication: http://www.c-r.org/accord-article/expert-analysis. Case studies: Sierra Leone, Northern Uganda, Northern Ireland, Indonesia/Aceh, Cambodia, Angola, Papua New Guinea, Sudan, and Somalia. Conciliation Resources bases its publications on action research that includes its programmatic work, partners and resources in the field, and are of very high quality.