chapter
8 Pages

Introduction

Consider the following examples of contemporary peacemaking. In July of 2010, in the midst of intense civil war in Afghanistan, negotiations were being held under the auspices of the Pakistani intelligence service. The two main sides in the Afghanistan conflict – the government under Karzai and the Afghan Taliban movement – seemed both to have accepted and sought Pakistani involvement in the efforts to find a solution to the conflict. The Pakistani peace initiative was seen as controversial by the internal opposition, by the Amer ican backers of the Karzai-regime, and within the Afghanistan cabinet (Walsh and Boone 2010). In the on-going conflict over government in Syria, Russia has taken an increasingly active role in the diplomatic efforts to bring the conflict to an end. Russia has invited representatives for the opposition and the Assad-regime for explorative talks in Moscow, although such talks have not yet materialized, and it has played a pivotal role in bringing the Assad-regime to make concessions regarding the possession and control of chemical weapons during the early autumn of 2013. Russia was one of the organizers of the Geneva II conference, held in January 2014. In the deep south of Thailand, a complex and violent insurgency has been ongoing since 2004 (or, in some perspectives, re-activated in that year). Resolution efforts have all faltered on the fact that there has been no valid spokesperson for the Muslim insurgency groups and no actor has appeared to be able to bring the parties to the negotiating table. Yet, the only real mediation effort in the conflict in the Muslim south so far has been done by Malaysia in mid-2013. Although it is at the time of writing of this book too early to judge the outcome of these attempts, they have at least opened up some concrete possibilities for a negotiation track in the intrastate armed conflict. These cases reveal something crucial in the dynamics of conflict resolution in internal armed conflicts. Three observations can be made. First, Pakistan in Afghanistan, Russia in Syria, and Malaysia in Thailand – none of these actors can be considered as unbiased or neutral third parties. In fact, the Pakistanis had supported the Taliban and were crucial for their very existence. Russia supported the Assad-regime by blocking any substantial forceful UN measure in the conflict and has supplied the government with arms. Malaysia is thought to be harboring some

sections of the rebel-movements. It may struck us as surprising, however, that despite this obvious partisanship, these third parties seemed to be accepted by the other side; that is, the Karzai-government in Afghanistan, the Bangkok government in Thailand, and (at least some) opposition forces in Syria. Thus, their history of partial involvement did not disqualify them as mediators in the conflict. A second point about these contemporary peacemaking examples is that the bias cut in different ways. The Pakistanis had offered support to one side of the conflict: the rebel side. The Taliban movement, and in particular the so-called Haqqani network of the Taliban movement, was based in North Waziristan where the Pakistani military exerted some influence, although the extent of the influence had been ambiguous and not entirely clear. Likewise, Malaysia could be seen as a mediator leaning towards the rebel side, in light of the fact that it had harbored at least some of these groups on its territory. By contrast, Russia supported the government of Syria. Thirdly, the involvement of these partisan peacemakers – Pakistan, Russia and Malaysia – were all controversial and by no means unproblematic.1 For instance, the Pakistani security service, ISI, was “offering to deliver” the Taliban faction based in North Waziristan, but that gave rise to serious consternation within Afghanistan. This proposed move was criticized because it would give the Taliban movement influence in a post-conflict Afghanistan. Hence, the mediation efforts made by Pakistan were criticized because they were expected to influence or shape the institutions and arrangements that would mark the ending of the violent phase of the conflict and that would continue to have a role in a post-agreement Afghanistan. Likewise, the Russians seem to have an interest in influencing not only the occurrence of an eventual agreement, as it were, but also the content of any such agreement. These examples can tell us something of a general nature about the phenomenon of mediation and peacemaking in contemporary civil wars, relating to bias, sides, and content. First, not all peacemakers in civil wars are necessarily unbiased. This is an empirical fact. In many contemporary internal armed conflicts there are biased mediators active as peace-brokers. Second, it is important to know which side the bias is on. The two sides in civil wars – governments and rebels – are different types of entities. This makes it important which side the peacemakers have been supporting: are they government-biased mediators who have supported the government in the conflict, or are they rather rebel-sided mediators who have favored the rebels? Third, the institutions formed under the auspices of various mediators are of highest importance for the people who continue to live in a post-conflict society, and the shapes of these institutions can vary considerably. It is therefore crucial to understand what mediators can achieve in terms of the crafting of content, and which types of mediators are best equipped to bring about institutions which promote long-term peace and democratic development. This book sets out to do precisely this. It is about the relative merits of biased mediators in contemporary peacemaking – what their biasness means, why it matters which side they support, and how they are essential in forming peace institutions in armed conflicts.