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Opinion - Why peace in Muslim Mindanao and how it was reached matters
28 January 2014 by Michael Vatikiotis

The signing on 25 January of the final agreements of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro ended more than forty years of war in Muslim Mindanao. But the agreement does more than that. It also shows a world beset by intractable conflicts how sustained political will and skillful negotiation can produce comprehensive agreements to address the complex drivers of conflict and offer the hope of lasting peace.

The second decade of the 21st century has been stony ground for peacemakers. New conflicts have erupted across Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and old conflicts have been rekindled. The Arab Spring that marked the start of the decade has left countries that tried to embrace democracy bitterly divided along ethnic and religious lines; African states where internal conflict had been settled through negotiation or dialogue, such as Mozambique and the Central African Republic, have seen old wounds re-opened. In Asia, chronic sub-national conflict seems to defy prolonged mitigation efforts in India, much of Southeast Asia and the fringes of China.

National Dialogue Processes in Political Transitions
23 January 2014 by Katia Papagianni

National dialogue processes have taken place in a number of countries going through political transitions: several West African countries held national conferences in the early 1990s and so did Afghanistan following the 2003 Bonn Agreement. A National Dialogue Conference was also concluded in Yemen on 21 January 2014 as part of the country's political transition. National dialogue processes are designed to expand participation in political transitions beyond the political and military elites. Their ambition is to move away from elite-level deal making by allowing diverse interests to influence the transitional negotiations.

This paper discusses a number of issues related to the design of national dialogue processes, namely their size and composition, their power and mandate, and their relationship to existing institutions. The paper examines how different countries have approached national dialogues, how they have prepared them, and what mandates they have given to them. It focuses on countries where national dialogues played a key role in influencing decision-making during political transitions or were mandated to play such a role even if ultimately they failed.

The paper has been produced in the framework of the Civil Society Dialogue Network, a three-year project aimed at facilitating dialogue on peacebuilding issues between civil society and EU policy-makers. It is managed by the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office (EPLO), in co-operation with the European Commission and the European External Action Service. The paper is also accessible through the EPLO website.

Strengthening mediation to deal with criminal agendas
17 December 2013 by James Cockayne

A growing proportion of armed conflicts nowadays do not only involve political and ideological agendas but criminal ones. While armed conflict mediators have extensive experience of dealing with armed groups in various contexts of political and ideological conflicts, there is often a lack of attention towards addressing criminal agendas, making it a blind spot of mediation. In Strengthening mediation to deal with criminal agendas, James Cockayne takes an in-depth look at ways in which mediators have addressed, or not, criminal agendas, in peace processes, and the potentially spoiling effect that ignoring them may have had on those processes. Through the review of several peace processes in which criminal agendas have been directly tackled including gang truces in El Salvador and community violence reduction cases in Haïti and Brazil, Cockayne highlights how the practice of mediation can adjust to take criminal agendas into account. While mediation is by no means the only way to address and deal with such agendas, it can be a useful and complementary tool to do so. Cockayne also puts forward examples of peace processes in which criminal agendas were not taken into account and how this has contributed to spoiling those processes, for example through a return to conflict, or the empowerment of criminal agendas through disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration processes. Cockayne also offers recommendations on ways to ensure that the fundamentals of mediation, such as preparedness, inclusive ownership, legal frameworks and impartiality, are respected despite the presence of criminal agendas.

Opinion - Ending war in Africa: The power of dialogue
01 December 2013 by Paul Dziatkowiec

Africa has much to boast about these days. Crude clichés of a continent blighted by disease, poverty and bloodshed are steadily giving way to a far more promising narrative. In the face of a global economic slump, for instance, Africa keeps company with the world leaders in growth and investment. Meanwhile, democracy continues to spread – though admittedly, not without its setbacks.