This report provides snapshots of the context of conflicts, peace agreements and implementation structures or institutions from case studies of Northern Ireland, Lebanon, South Africa and Philippines. It examines two key questions:
- How to move towards inclusion of ex-combatants or paramilitaries into the political system.
- How parliaments play a role in implementing peace agreements.
The important and vital common features of conflict resolution have been identified. The structures, rules and rights can provide the context for a conflict to be stopped. The authors conclude that only a new culture of lawfulness, mutual respect and generosity of spirit can prevent conflict from returning.
Reconciliation is a key to the development of this culture and a sustainable peace.
The report draws the following lessons.
Those who are engaged in violence are unlikely to give up their aims in principle.
The purpose of a peace process is help them move from the use of physical force and violence to achieve those ends and instead to opt for democratic politics. This requires them to engage in the political system and not be closed out of it. This is the central feature of most negotiated peace processes.
Ex-combatants are unlikely to give up their weapons if they still believe that there are internal or external threats to them.
In Ireland the PIRA gave up most of their weapons in exchange for very significant political engagement and because they were not under physical threat. In Lebanon, Hezbollah would not give up their military operations because after the South Lebanon War it was clear that Israel remained a threat to them, even within their own borders.
Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) are all necessary components of the process of bringing illegal paramilitary activity to an end.
In Ireland there was disarmament and reintegration, but not full demobilization of the loyalist paramilitaries in particular. They retained their paramilitary structures and turned them to organized crime. This is not an unusual turn of events. An international Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) had to be created to press them to get rid of their weapons, but some years later a further panel had to be established to develop a new strategy to get rid of the stubbornly remaining elements of organized criminal activity that came out of the paramilitaries.
These observations emphasise the importance of creating not just institutions and laws, but most importantly a ‘culture of lawfulness’.
In South Africa there had long been a culture of violence, and in the new dispensation the successors of Mandela developed a culture of corruption. These are the opposite of a culture of lawfulness so we should not be surprised that there remains a high degree of violence in that society.
Creating a new context in which those who have been associated with violence and criminality can move away to a new lawful way of addressing their community’s concerns obviously requires the passing of legislation of various kinds.
This is one of the places where parliamentary activity is central. The peace process in the Philippines is currently in some difficulty, not primarily because of problems with the paramilitaries, or even because of the change of Presidency in the country, but because the Congress has not passed the necessary legislation. Sometimes parliamentarians are called upon to vote for quite contentious legislation, but which is essential for a peace agreement to be ratified and implemented. This requires courage and statesmanship, as over against party politics.
Parliament and Government often have to work together to set in place the internal and external monitoring agencies and commissions that are crucial to implementation.
A peace agreement will not implement itself. It is necessary to construct monitoring and implementation machinery through which independent, and often international, external observers can report on the progress of implementation, and so exert the necessary pressure to ensure full implementation of what has been agreed.