The fighting in Syria, Libya or Yemen provides compelling evidence of the growing complexity of current violent conflicts, which feature the clashing interests of a multitude of local, national, regional and international actors. This evolution calls for increasingly complex responses from peacemakers. Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General and head of the UN Office to the African Union Hanna Tetteh – keynote speaker at the 10th UN High-level Seminar on Gender and Inclusive Mediation Strategies in November 2019 in Helsinki, Finland – advocates for building broad constituencies for peace, by making mediation processes as inclusive as possible. Mediation strategies that systematically include women, and civil society more broadly, are more likely to generate broad national ownership and support for a negotiated settlement, says Tetteh, who co-facilitated the recent Revitalised Agreement on the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan.
(Interview by the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), adapted for Politically Speaking)
How do you ensure inclusiveness in mediation and peace processes and why is that important?
Hanna Tetteh: In the recent past there has been an effort to have more gender-inclusive mediation processes, demonstrated in the way in which the planning for mediation takes place: identifying who the mediators/the facilitators will be, identifying who the key parties to the mediation are, who ought to be invited to be part of the mediation process, with the focus not only on the persons who are actively involved in conflict, but also those whose participation is required to build peace.
Civil society is usually a key actor in that process of ensuring that there is a broad constituency for peace. And to my mind, the broader that you can make that constituency for peace, identifying actors who all feel they have a role to play and can contribute positively to the process then, the better the chances of ensuring that the post conflict societies that are being created, are addressing the various challenges in a way that it takes away the root cause for conflict. And that’s why I think that we have to have inclusive processes that look beyond the political and military actors.
As a Co-Facilitator of the Revitalised Agreement on the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan, I noticed an extensive effort in the preparation for that process, that identified who the key stakeholders were, who needed to be invited in order to have an inclusive process that, at the end of the day, would reflect the different needs of South Sudanese society, and with a focus on how a government could be formed that would also facilitate post-conflict reconstruction.
Research has shown that indeed when you pick the right actors and involve more women in peace processes, the chances are that you will have a more sustainable agreement. But it’s important to take note of the fact that it’s not just about mediating to get an agreement. You have to think about what happens the day after the agreement and ensure that the same family of stakeholders are equally involved in the implementation of the agreement to ensure that all of those things that were anticipated are handled as was discussed in the process of the mediation.
We’ve seen in countries that have had a lot of post-conflict reconstruction and development processes and who have done it effectively – and let’s take Rwanda as a case in point: You realize it has completely transformed Rwandan society. They are on top levels of all the indicators for female participation in all levels of government and in different roles in society. This tells you that if it is done well and if it is done properly and if it is inclusive, it indeed is capable of giving that kind of societal transformation that allows for more inclusiveness and hopefully, as a result of that, a more stable and sustainable peace process.
How do you see the future of mediation?
I think that the future of mediation will be much more inclusive. It will move beyond discussions between the principal political actors or participants in the conflict to having much more multi-layered inclusive processes, dealing with issue-based mediation as well as with the discussions that will bring the parties to a consensus on how to move out of conflict and move forward towards building peace in their communities.
I am advocating for multi-track mediation processes, because I think that you need to deal with different issues over the course of a mediation in order to be able to create the conditions for sustainable peace. When you look at this issue of multi-track processes, essentially what you are doing is that you are engaging the principle actors officially (within the context of the mediation process) which involves multiple actors but at the same time you are engaging them unofficially/informally in order to be able to understand what their motivations are, but at the same time you are also engaging a broader group of people who have an understanding of the causes of the conflict and may be capable of engaging/helping with issue based mediation activities that are pertinent to the creation of optimal conditions for a sustainable peace process and for sustainable peace afterwards.
I don’t think that it is necessarily going to be an easy process, because you indeed are introducing several layers of complexity. But analysis shows us that it is important to deal with the different layers of complexity because human society as it is, is a complex dynamic of interactions between individuals, communities, and other actors especially in the context of communities with different ethnic groups, religious backgrounds and economic and social challenges. You have to factor in diversity into the process. I think that in the future, mediation processes will necessarily need to do that in order to be more successful and to have more enduring outcomes.
Some of the most important challenges in mediation processes are to overcome the deep-seated mistrust that comes after years of conflict and to bring people together again and create that trust that allows for new foundations to be built. We as mediators have become more professional, more engaged, more reflective on previous processes and what went right and what went wrong, and that provided the opportunity to learn from that and to create a new framework for engagement. And I think we are seeing that more and more.
Title picture: International Day of Peace celebration at Nyakuron Cultural centre in Juba. The event was attended by South Sudan’s university students from all Universities in Juba. Photo: UNMISS