Citizens play a significant role in the resolution of political and ethnical conflicts that emerge in various nations across the world. In the conflict of Abkhaz-Georgian, the Georgians and Abkhaz fought each other due to political reasons of independence, as the Georgians did not want to grant the Abkhaz independence. The fight resulted into loss of thousands of lives, displacement of people, and weakened economy. To resolve the conflicts, citizens agreed to have a ceasefire and negotiate for their conflicting interests. Dialogue and negotiation between conflicting parties were the peace-building efforts that the citizens embraced under the mediation efforts of the United Nations, international community, and local elders. The dialogue and negotiations between Georgians and Abkhaz yielded significance step towards reconciling the two conflicting communities in Georgia. Under mediation influence of the United Nations and the international community, Georgians and Abkhaz resolved to reconcile and build their nation together. The strength of the negations process is that, it is a peaceful and cost effective way of addressing conflicts. Negotiation leaves the conflicting parties in a reconciled state where they can continually resolve their differences. Its weakness however lies in the fact that, it requires a lot of time and patience for it takes many years to resolve an issue.
In Northern Ireland, Belfast Agreement was the product of peace-building efforts after enduring conflicts for many years. To resolve the Northern Ireland conflicts, the citizens conceded to use negotiations rather than war as the way out of the conflicts. Ferriter argues that during his time, President Mary McAleese made significant step towards reconciliation, as “the impending visit was not deemed politically feasible until the peace process was bedded down, a process that included the abandonment by the republic of its territorial claim to Northern Ireland” (16). Long and cumbersome negotiations under mediation of international community and the United Nations led to the formulation of the Belfast Accord, which the citizen ratified through a referendum. The Belfast Accord is an important agreement that requires majority of the people from both sides to amend it through a referendum thus assuring the conflicting parties that the agreement is binding and is hard for any party to break. Northern Ireland employed negotiation and referendum as means of attaining lasting peace. The strength of negotiation is that it allows disputing parties to concede their demands and settle on a compromise thus making the two parties reconcile. Moreover, citizens participated in peace-building efforts through a referendum thus enhancing solemnity of the agreement. The weaknesses of negotiation and referendum are time consuming and very expensive respectively.
Israel-Palestine conflict emerged due to the territories of West Bank and Gaza Strip where both parties claimed ownership. The conflicting countries have signed series of accords under mediation of the United Nations. Moreover, due to religious conflicts, religious leaders from both sides are undertaking peace negotiations to harmonize the two religious groups. Palestinians and Israelis are gradually embracing provisions in various accords that require them to have tolerance due to their religious and ethnical differences. According to Makovsky “polls show that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians want a two-state solution but remain uncertain of whether the other side is willing to make the necessary concessions” (1). To enhance concessions, religious leaders, elders, and political leaders have been holding numerous negotiations with the objective of enhancing tolerance in the disputing parties. Peace-building initiatives such as interreligious interaction, political negotiations, and sharing of boundaries yielded significant progress in the resolution of conflict. The weakness of these negotiations is that they are time consuming while the strength is that it has led to gradual reconciliation and peaceful interaction of Palestinians and Israelites.
Comparison and Contrast of Political Intervention
In Northern Ireland and Israel-Palestine conflicts, mediators played a significant role in ensuring that there is a ceasefire for the process of negotiation to continue. According to Ross, “the main reason for mediating is to promote conflict resolution … the measure of mediation … is not always what you positively achieve, it is what you prevent, limit, contain or defuse” (219). In the both conflicts, the process of negotiation took long period thus preventing progress of conflict and providing enough time for the conflicting parties to continue resolving their differences by making critical concessions. The Northern Ireland conflicts occurred due to political factors that had led to marginalization of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. Moreover, ethnical and religious differences of the two communities, British and Irish, increased their political differences. Due to marginalization, the Irish people sought emancipation and independence from the United Kingdom but the British did not embrace Irish independence thus leading to conflict. Likewise, Israelites have experienced persecution and discrimination across the world and when they gained their independence in 1948, they seized back what they believed to be their territory including West Bank and Gaza Strip, which created conflict between them and Palestinians. Palestinians and Israelites have different ethnical and religious backgrounds that enhance their differences in the conflict.
Since both Northern Ireland and Israeli-Palestinian cases share common sources of their conflicts, the mediators employed similar approaches in the resolution of conflicts. Makovsky proposes that, “mutual recognition must be accompanied by a vigorous public peace education campaign, with both sides making clear that each has a historic attachment to the land and that the land must be shared” (2). To achieve mutual recognition, the United Nations and International community coerced British and Irish leaders to look for a compromise where they underwent long process of negotiations that eventually yielded the Belfast Accord. Belfast Accord assured the Irish people that they would not experience discrimination due to their ethnic or religious orientations. The accord became a landmark settlement of conflict in the Northern Ireland. For the case of Israeli-Palestine conflict, the United Nations, United States, and other international communities have participated actively in the mediation processes that yielded the Oslo Accord. Oslo Accord did set the pace for series of concessions that led to withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Thus, political settlement of the two conflicts resulted into signing of accords that are binding internationally.
The difference between the two political settlements of the conflicts is the role that the mediators played. Ross asserts that “in existential conflict, whether in Northern Ireland or between the Israelis and Palestinians, a mediator with no passion will bring only a limited commitment to bear …dealing with conflicts that go to the heart of self-definition and identity…” (231). In the conflict of Northern Ireland, the mediators played passive roles in ensuring that the British and Irish negotiate and make their own settlement of conflicts. Due to passive role of the mediators, the conflict did not attract much attention from the international partners, which led to smooth resolution of the conflict. The citizens played a significant role in ratifying the Belfast Accord through a referendum thus ending the impasse. In contrast, mediators in the Israeli-Palestine conflict are playing active roles in imposing solutions to the conflicting parties. Active role of mediation has attracted significant number of interested parties such as Western countries siding with the Israelites and Arab countries siding with the Palestinians. International interests and religious orientation are two major factors that have complicated resolution of Israeli-Palestine conflict.
Culture and Conflict Resolution
Culture is a psychological and social construct of a society that defines diverse human identities in the world and transforms from one generation to another based on the societal values, beliefs, and ethics. According to Avruch, “the fundamental structures of international politics are social rather than strictly material and these structures shape actors’ identities and interests” (35). The Northern Ireland conflict occurred due cultural difference between the British and the Irish people in the United Kingdom. The British and Irish have common nationality but due to their differences in their cultural beliefs, interests and values, Irish demanded their independence. The Irish had experienced discrimination and marginalization for a long period to a point where they realized that they are different from the rest of the citizens in the United Kingdom. Feeling threatened by the British, the Irish sought to define their identity and destiny by seeking independence from the United Kingdom. Cultural beliefs and values were their source of identity that made them perceive their origin and destiny to be quite different from the British, thus started advocating for separation from the British. The British on the other hand perceived the Irish as lesser ethnic, so they marginalized and discriminated against the Irish by sidelining them politically, socially, and economically. Moreover, while religious orientation of the Irish people was Protestantism, British inclined towards Catholicism. Therefore, differences in their religious beliefs shaped their cultural values and beliefs making them perceive each other as different entities without any common identity to share. The Northern Ireland conflict did arise because political agendas took advantage of ethnical and religious differences that make up cultural identity to advocate for their opposing interests resulting into conflicts.
In the case of Israeli-Palestine conflict, the cultural differences between the Israelites and Palestinians created a sense of identity. Israelites identify themselves as Jews while Palestinians perceive their identity as Arabs. Arabs and Jews have different cultural beliefs and values that are incompatible with their conflicting parties. Since the conflicting parties have different cultural identities but they want to share common territories such as West Bank and the Gaza Strip, it becomes very hard because either party perceive the other as an outsider and an enemy. In addition, Jews are Christians in their religious beliefs while Arabs are Muslims. The differences in religious beliefs have complicated resolution of conflict since religious beliefs form integral part of cultures. Avruch argues that, culture is an element of social experience, beliefs, values and interests meaning that “…culture to some extent always situational, flexible, and responsive to the exigencies of the worlds that individuals confront” (20). Due to flexibility of culture, religious perception of Israeli-Palestine conflict from international perspective has increased complexity of the conflict. Christians across the world are backing the interests of the Jews, while the Arabs on the other hand receive immense supports from the Muslims all over the world. Currently, the Israeli-Palestine conflict has taken cultural dimension as compared to political dimension; hence, its resolution requires harmonization of the two cultures to obtain a lasting solution.
Avruch, Kevin. Culture and Conflict Resolution. Washington: United States Institute of Peace, 2006.
Ferriter, Diarmaid. “The Queen in Ireland: Why Royal Visit Had to Wait.” BCC News Magazine 2011. Print.
Makovsky, David. “What Would Netanyahu Do for Peace?” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2011: 1-2.
Ross, Dennis. Statecraft and How to Restore America’s Standing in the World. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007.