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March 9, 2005
(Continued from: From Conflict to Peace: Lessons from the Frontline debate, part 1)
I think we have a very similar concept. [...] why some countries and societies decide to use violence and some not. For example [...] El Salvador and Honduras are quite similar to [...]. In the case of El Salvador, for example, in Latin America this is the smallest country. Sometimes it’s difficult to think that you have a war in El Salvador because it’s so many people and very little land. It’s difficult to organise a war from the suburb. What we need to look for is the explanation of the cultural way; why has El Salvador chosen the violence [...] because in the beginning it was totally different than Colombia.
Between 1952 and 1982, El Salvador has six Generals, for cabinet seven Military Juntas [...] coup d’état and four elections. These four elections, one election the Coronel said: “I work with 95% of the vote”, just like Saddam Hussein. He often competed alone, without competition. The two last ones were electoral fraud and the Civil War came to the continent [...] why El Salvador? It’s so difficult to explain. It’s a cultural matter and it’s a more violent society. [...] we don’t have civil war but now we have a problem with the youth gangs, serious, serious problems. Mara Salvatruchas they are called. International bands or gangs that go through El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
How could we reach an agreement in El Salvador? The barriers we are requested to have here are highly important. I think the barriers are sometimes symbolic but sometimes real. When they are real the terror is the worst thing. After the conflict and the disturbing situation in the suburb I think the balance is like an [...] and the people interchange with that and that’s an important question to put and to the people understanding the balance. Let me say something to summarise the situation in the suburb. At the beginning the state used the violence in the suburb with the opposition, without rules. They killed everybody, they killed people, dead squads killed [...] like Monseñor Romero. It’s a long explanation, but the guerrilla is a plural coalition with a different political vision, social democratic or social Christian vision inside it.
The reaction was to try to put the roots, not without mistakes, with a lot of serious mistakes, but trying to put the roots to the violence, trying to synchronise and, what happened? We passed from violence without roots to violence with roots. At the end the violence translated the conflict to the politics. That is the process in El Salvador.
Now we have a conflict. We have a problem to governability. We have an ideological party trying to solve it in a pacific way. Without all this process. it is impossible to bridge this situation about looking to the violence and to the moral and ethic. Because in the beginning of the conflict you only look the practical way about the violence, it’s a method. When you are involved in a war it is very difficult in the end you say I'm free. That is impossible; you are either a part of the state or of the guerrillas, and that is one of the problems, how to solve the step from the practical use of violence to convert it to an ethical use of violence. This is difficult, any political use of violence is passing the language and what happens at the end? The army is trying to gain political space inside the guerrillas and in the end even some regions have political agreement about use of [...], between the army and the guerrillas. That’s some informal agreement in using violence.
In 1990, one former ambassador to the United States went to some region under control of the guerrilla and meet with the guerrilla and take a [...]
Thank you. Next speaker and we will then move on to audience questions and then come back to our respondents. I would like to ask Harriet Babbit a question and this is probably unfair since she served in a previous Democratic administration but what I’ve heard from El Salvador, Colombia, Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka was that those who used violence created the wrong paradigm to define it into a major agenda. Then what I’ve heard is that those who were democratically elected or operated within a democratic system in a sense, helped create a new framework. You know, coming from a democratic base, rather than eroding the democratic pretensions maybe in a sense they extended the democratic pretensions to those who were operating under a paradigm where a lot of violence could take place.
So my questions is if it’s true what we are hearing that you can change your framework and you can create a sort of new morality in politics that doesn’t need violence?
How does a government like the United States that are sitting there trying to figure out how do you support conflict resolutions? How do you go towards democracy? I mean is there something to be done that could take advantage of these lessons? How do you change the dynamic on the ground to a paradigm that works?
Tim, I think that the trick for the nation, in particular for the United States, is to do what we can do without damaging the credibility of those people who are making the transformation. So we end up with very brave people on the ground that are trying to create peace, trying to change that paradigm. How is the international community supporting without taking away their credibility? [...] because there is no one else here. I think about South Africa and their change after the Apartheid government.
One of the women with whom I worked over the year is [...] Mudese. I just looked at a news clip and [...] was an ammunition expert that [...] before she went to prison the headline defined her as a freedom fighter in the ANC newspapers and the Afrikaner newspapers defined her as a terrorist. She went to prison for eight years and when she emerged in the new South Africa she became a parliamentarian, the chair of the Parliamentary Committee dealing with defence and military issues. She has an enormous credibility because of her past as a freedom fighter and she was more than anyone responsible for shifting a very militaristic South African approach to defence in the military issues.
The international community was helpful in the sense of funding those transformations of institutions, the truth and reconciliation commission, those processes.
Many other people here have talked about the individuals and also putting in place practical mechanisms. How do you talk about things that you agree about, how do you create institutions that move you? One of these international community funds could simply provide the money to transport people, to get them there, to do that kind of thing.
The leaderships here, what you have asked about, [...] one level below because we’ve been busy talking about leaders on the highest level and I think there’s some examples of leaders of the grass root level that has been overlooked.
Let me talk about Sudan; there’s a peace process going on but there are many miles to go before we can see the necessary institutions there.
One of the players in that process is a woman named “Abut Dang”, she is the daughter of [...], a tribal leader, very identified with the “Denka” from birth. She created a space with some more women to talk, to bring peace in the discussion of peace when the south conflict was falling apart because of disagreement among the male leaders. These women came together and sort of forced the issue of the South not fighting for the South, not permitting the North to divide the South between various tribes.
She’s now moved on to be a real voice in the North-South peace process and meets regularly with leaders from the North trying to look for what everybody here has talked about which is practical common ground. [...] are sponsoring the donor process people are pushing on her part to make sure that they put the voices of the women in the civil society.
I think that really is reinforcing those mechanisms is what the International Community’s role has to be.
What I’d like to do is for us to go to some questioning if anybody has any in the audience. Then I’ll ask my two respondents. Then there’s hopefully some good dialogue to then state some questions and some observations as well.
Can I see some hands please?
Delegate from the floor
I'm Matthew and I have a question for David Ervine. I thought your point about inferiority and superiority was a very interesting one.
How well do you think we are doing in the war on terrorism on that basis of inferiority and superiority?
I'm very cautious about the emotions that can be raised because when we talk about the civilised world being attacked by their own civilised world. That is a statement, even though it might not have meant, that is a statement of superiority.
The Israeli government called their last intervention in Gaza the Operation Redemption or something like that.
When we use religious and/or biblical commentary we need to be very conscious about the moral that carries with it.
I think there’s a requirement for consultancy of language so at least we don’t end up doing our own mistake or at least doing things better because of our mistakes.
Because it’s easy, very often people will make comment and get it wrong using a word when they should have used another one. We should be very cautious and conscious especially with concepts that people consider like being an expression of superiority.
There’s another question here.
Delegate from the floor
I'm from the British Institute of International Comparative Law. My question is for César Gaviria. Your solution was slightly out of step with the solution that war is never the answer. I just wondered; what are the lessons then when dialogues don’t seem to work? What is the way forward when dialogue collapses?
I would say that it’s not only the dialogue that collapses. The real problem is the complexity of the whole situation. We have one side of people who have been fighting for 40 years, a kind of political fighting, a kind of part of the old civil war or cold war. At the same time these people are involved in massacres and at the same time these people get big financial help from narco-trafficking. Of course they make their part of terrorism, they kidnap people they blow up villages; so you have all these. You can’t think that dialogue is the only solution. You need to fight, the [...] President Uribe has been quite successful and [...] on standing and being able to control these people.
On the other side you have paramilitary groups with the same type of clothes, they are no doubt terrorists, they have committed massacres; so you can’t say this is a situation which the main take is dialogue. No, the main take is to trying to establish security to get the government to control all the territory, to put these people in jail, to defeat them. At the moment you have dialogue and some kind of peace, yes.
You cannot think that you will totally defeat these people. They have a lot of power. Some of them, for example the guerilla have been 40 years in the mountains. They know the forest in a way that there is no way you can really defeat them. You have to make a political agreement. Colombia is very open to that. We have been successful in the past trying to do this. We have the whole peace agreement that you remarked on the administration and my administration who worked well and with example that making peace is right and Colombians accept that. Colombians will accept any significant effort to bring these people back to political life.
Actually, this is information which is very recent[?]. There have been almost 6,000 people coming back, individuals, to abandon this kind of political fight. We now have a very complex process. There is a kind of effort with the paramilitary groups. It’s a very, very complex process, basically because to establish how much a man of justice and reconciliation, it’s very, very difficult to get an agreement within Colombian society with political parties, with the international community, it’s almost impossible. President Uribe has a very complex responsibility in the next weeks: to find something that he can defend, that he can really sell not only to Colombians but to the international community.
I, for example, find it difficult to have only one formula for the types of problems Colombia has at the moment and the government has that approach. What is that? On one side we have rebellion, on one side we have narcotraffic, and we have massacres. I think it would be easier to try to deal separately with some of these problems. The government approaches with only one approach to the end of these problems. The responsibility of the president will be a very complex one. These people want to make peace, or whatever you call it, these paramilitaries want to come back to life, but they want at the same time to be part of political life. They want not to go to jail, they want to be pardoned for everything they have done. They can respect that it is difficult for Colombia to offer that. They seem to be ready to come, all of them, back but in conditions, many of them I think are not acceptable at this time, so Colombia is a difficult process.
Of course, on the other side we still have two big guerilla groups who are also involved in narcotraffic, and also committed massacres, also being in a kind of political fight for a very, very long time, so I think Colombians will get peace by pieces. Something is there, something two years from now, by peace it will be difficult, very complex situation, to think that we will be able to solve only through dialogue and negotiation the main problems we have.
Thank you. What I’m going to do because of the limitations of time if you could tell me your question, I’ll write them down and we’ll go that way. I’ll take three questions from the audience.
Delegate from the floor
[...] From the Times World Project[?]. This in a way is general question although I’d be particularly interested in the comments of Ram Manikkalingam and Joaquín Villalobos; it’s picking up something that Cesar Gaviria talked about, which is the relationship between justice and the transition to peace. The human rights movement and international community through the international criminal court has put a lot of emphasis recently on holding people accountable for atrocities. I’m wondering whether in your experience you think this does really contribute to peace or whether it can be a stumbling block, and how you draw that balance. On one hand you talked about the difference between violence without rules and violence with rules. You could say that these are the same standards, but on the other hand, does it create problems bringing people in on the inside when at the same time you are threatening them with prosecution. Thank you.
Delegate from the floor
My name is [...] A question I have, I think can be called by the presenter, I’m not quite sure who to address it to. I’d like to thank them for their lessons that they have shared with us but my question is that the nature of terrorism that we face nowadays has a transnational nature. It has an Armageddon sort of legitimacy that the terrorist groups as opposed to the political violence that happened in the places that you’re given. Can these lessons that we’ve learned at the conference, in Northern Ireland, El Salvador, Sri Lanka, Colombia and places where it’s in a specific geographical location be used when it comes to, say, the threat that we have from a organization such as Al Qaeda, which is transnational in nature, and which does not seem to have any legitimate political motivation that we as civilized people come to expect? Thank you.
Delegate from the floor
My name is Shirley Wright. I’m a student at Columbia University. First of all, I just want to say it’s an honor to be in such greatness. Thank you for being here. My question deals with human rights. We’ve been listening about methods in search for peace in Ireland and in Sri Lanka and in Columbia. My question is where do human rights play a part in a country’s search for peace? Are they overridden by the ultimate hierarchical of peace or are they considered when woman and children are so heavily affected by violence? Thank you.
Delegate from the floor
Thank you, I’ll try to be brief. My name is Matthew Burton. I work for a leadership organisation called Alleviate Missile Drama. I also have a second hat, which is that I work for a non-profit charitable organisation called the Mankind Project, which is a global organisation trying to re-establish, initiate really, rites of passage for young men, not just young men, in fact.
We’ve heard from the panel talk of paradigm shifts, and some really important questions like can people change and how do you make it safe for people to rehumanise themselves. I want to suggest that those questions bring up a lot of stuff that really doesn’t get and can’t be dealt with by the centre of things, by the middle of the culture, by our forms of politics, et cetera. It can’t be because a lot of it involves stuff that politics can’t so very well, for example, emotion.
What happens is that there are people all over the world trying very hard to create structures and processes and environments where people who have been damaged through one means or another –and let’s not forget, not that we are forgetting, but let’s remind ourselves that terrorism is simply a human act typically taken to the edge that under other circumstances might be called leadership. So terrorism is an example of an extreme human behaviour that to some extent we all indulge in from time to time. There we are, the Mankind Project and other organisations at the edge of the culture. How do we encourage a dialogue between an organisation that’s gone from three to thirty thousand in a short time, globally, how do we encourage the centre to listen and to dialogue with the edges?
Delegate from the floor
Mi nombre es [...] Herrera de El Salvador y mi pregunta es para el señor Villalobos. ¿Cómo relaciona las causas de conflicto armado en El Salvador no resueltas, las causas relacionadas con la exclusión, con las formas actuales que tiene la violencia y la impunidad que impera todavía?
Delegate from the floor
I am [...] from the Philippines. I work with young people bringing together on an interfaith dialogue. My question is particularly directed to all of you regarding the role of children and young people in the peace process because many studies have already identified that children and young people are primarily affected when there is war, when there is conflict, so I’d like to know, based on your experiences, that the role of young people bringing about peace. Thank you.
Delegate from the floor
My name is [...] for an international NGO working on issues engaging armed groups in respecting or banning the use of antipersonal mines and other [...]. I have a question for Mr. Villalobos regarding the code of conduct or set of rules that your movement imposed on itself to prevent the use of methods, of means, of warfare which discriminate and considered as terrorist. I wanted to know what exactly motivated your movement to behave in a way that is not terroristic and how that facilitated the peace process in the country.
OK, I think that is it. What I’m going to ask is that quickly we start with Ram, David, John and Joaquín with responses. So, Ram, why don’t you go in the interest of time.
A lot of good questions. I want to focus on one question that was asked by the gentleman here and it was how do you hold people accountable in a situation of a peace process and it’s connected to the human rights question, I think. I find this odd schizophrenia in my own thinking. In the Sri Lankan peace process I think, yes, they must get amnesty so that we can have peace. But in Cambodia or Chile or Rwanda or every other place, I have said no, they should not get amnesties. So there is a tension here between what we want in our own situations and what might be good internationally.
I don’t know what the answer is to that, but I think there might be an answer that is blunter [?][...] than the Pinochet case or a number of other cases. Yes, Sri Lanka gave amnesties for the massacres committed but then [...] goes abroad and is arrested. I think that’s OK. We may have to be practical about it but at the same time having these international laws that say that every country’s obligated to do something about it. I think we may be able to have our cake and eat it if we are a bit pragmatical in how we approach it and not make it a condition for a peace process to succeed because in that case, if, for example, international human rights activists said there can be no amnesties, it will never work, we’d never be able to move towards peace.
So you can say yes, as a policy we say no to all amnesties and with people who cross borders but this country might give an amnesty for various reasons that are practical and political, so that would be my answer to that question.
On the human rights question, I think that it’s tough because there is a tension as well as compliment. In a sense if we take a broader approach to human rights, all the things that people are fighting for, overall are human rights, cultural rights, minority rights, democracy, they’re all human rights. So human rights as a central framework. Very few human rights activists would say they don’t want war to end and conflict is a cause of human rights violations; as human rights activists, it’s good to end conflict because that reduces human rights violations. At the same time we are faced with very difficult decisions.
Negotiating, for example, one decision that was very uncomfortable for me personally in negotiating with the Tamil Tigers, not just that they’ve done really nasty things, but part of the negotiation was giving them the right to control the administrative territory. They had killed all and not allowed anybody else. But if you want the peace process to move forward you have to concede that control and recognise it in some way, in a future peace process it’s going to work out. You hope that relieves them, by politicising them, by shifting them, it will lead to them having less of a minority group and not more. You’re constantly balancing these issues but I think overall human rights is an important framework as a framework that can provide a bridge because it’s also neutral language. It allows you to say things that aren’t what one side is saying or another.
For example, [...], to raise human rights issues and to bring it up and you can raise it in a way that’s safe. People are free to raise it because they think they’re attacking you when they raise it. But you can say, “this is not me telling you what to do, this is out there, this is international law, this is neutral, this is not my law or your law or somebody else’s law, this is what we are expected to, therefore we cannot agree to your [...]; therefore we cannot agree to your one, two three, four, five; it’s not because I want to do that, it’s something neutral, outside telling us to do, it’s not against you personally. Don’t take it personally.” That allows you to engage in that discussion as well. It’s not just words to complicate the issue. It can provide a framework for learning.
Thank you. Let me ask David to respond to the second question of lessons from the international [...]
Those questions in a strange way are connected. You can’t mention the word justice and accountable, and close your eyes and not think of Guantanamo Bay, or Abu Graib prison, or similar tragic circumstance just about to launch themselves into a form of internal without trial by a process of [...]. I think that if we’re going to use the word justice and accountable, we better use it across the board and look at it across the board.
I do believe that, it’s never been an issue in Northern Ireland, that society should see their heroes or indeed the people who perpetrated on their behalf, if you like, going to the Hague or wherever and saying, “well, I’ll just, there are many, many, many before him or her, and they haven’t gone.” There’s a danger that there’s a perception that it depends on whose friend you are or what political agenda is being at any given time. There’s a danger that law and justice gets trapped by the concept of politics. There are many other examples. People will make arguments that suit them as well. We’re given the excuses because it doesn’t seem to me to be a clear definite policy that if you infract the law, here’s the way the law works. Because it depends on who you are. That’s the way the world works.
Transnational terrorism, I think, is very similar in that it has to have somewhere to come from. Some of the things that were just mentioned further fuel the idea that there’s always gangsters, there’s a determination from the West to crush us. There is a fundamentalist religious element; you rather get the impression that they’re not interested in a gavel hook and that is very, very frightening, which brings us to another question was asked of the former president of Colombia. What do you do?, you have to hold the rein. You must hold the rein. There is an argument that says –it’s one that I’ve privately discussed with people and I don’t say it very often publicly–, it’s a characteristic approach, you must hold the reins but you have to leave avenues that leave opportunity because they well might be exhausted and I think the peace processes don’t happen by accident. It happens because sometimes there’s nowhere else to go. I don’t necessarily think that John and the people were particularly gung-ho in their determination to have immediate peace. They were watching generation after generation after generation go the same place as them in the sense that [...]. All of those things I think are important: carrot-and-stick. leave the avenues, but above all don’t give them excuses that garner support for them among people that won’t, perhaps don’t understand the full story or who can see with their own eyes what they perceive to be horrible hypocrisy.
Thank you, David. Quickly to Harriet and then I would like Joaquín to try to respond briefly to the question that was asked.
I just have two sentences to support things that both David and Ram had talked about, and that is the importance of language. Language has consequence and when my government uses language with its friends like, “you are with us or you are against us,” not to mention the language that we use with respect to other conflicts around the world, it is terribly detrimental.
A few points. The first one about the International Court. I think this is a challenge, that this box is a problem and it’s a necessity. For example, I put my country in this situation now may be some crime to be avoided in that condition. But it’s a challenge. It’s difficult at the same time, block, but at the same time avoid human rights violations. This is very difficult, but it’s necessary.
The second question, why the rules from the guerilla. It’s a matter not from the ethical point of view, it’s a matter about costs and benefits. The decision was if you give respect to the prisoners, more prisoners came to you. That’s the fact. When we became in El Salvador we paid the first ten, twelve prisoners. I spoke with them. I explained what happened, I explained the world. I put freedom without conditions. This is a mechanism to communicate to the other side we have an agreement.
You talk too; you are sending a message against yourself. It’s a matter of costs and benefits. It’s about the world too. At the end, the conclusion is you can stop the violence, use the violence with rules. You compare this conference with the reaction of the United States; both countries in the same situation with two provocations, very hard provocation. The reaction of the United States is overreacting. And this is not overreacted, this is still an act and take the best decision and that’s the way decided and we discovered that had a lot of advantage and the última pregunta. Let me answer in Spanish.
Efectivamente en El Salvador, los problemas de exclusión social, los problemas económicos no quedaron resueltos pero ese no era el propósito del acuerdo de paz. Si una sociedad es capaz de resolver en un solo acto todos sus problemas, entonces prácticamente estaríamos delante de una idea religiosa de la política. Yo suelo decir con relación a eso es que nosotros no llegamos al cielo pero salimos del infierno y el punto central es que se crearon las condiciones para competir políticamente, para que las partes estaban dirigiendo a través de la violencia, una idea de cómo creían ellos como debía gobernarse y resolverse las problemas, los pudieran llevar por la vía de los votos.
Es responsabilidad de las estrategias de cada una de las partes ahora convertidas en partidos políticos si no ganan las elecciones. Si no se han ganado las elecciones por no tener las estrategias correctas, la última elección le dio casi 60% de los votos al mismo proyecto político pues hay que aceptarlo que dentro de las ideas de tolerancia que sí se han hablado y aceptar la diferencia. Es un problema si en la guerra tuvimos que tomar decisiones de costo-beneficio de tratar bien los prisioneros para ganarla. Yo creo que la oposición no ha hecho bien las cosas en términos políticos para ganar el cuerpo social del país y tener los votos y aplicar sus ideas y resolver los problemas que el país tiene.
[...] torture for decades and now we’re all concerned with conflict resolution and peace. The most interesting thing to me here today has been to look into the minds of all these wonderful peacemakers. I for one, having been to all these countries, would like to know how each of you feels since you have changed. For instance, to John Hume and David Ervine, do either of you when you sit down with each other still have any areas of discomfort in your sense and in your dialogue?
I would also like to know whether when you next talk with and negotiate with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness who seem to be in some kind of trouble now, will that be a matter of discomfort?
I would like to ask each one of you something if there’s time.
I suppose there’s a big difference in the relationship between David and myself since when we first met. In those days the tensions were enormous but the atmosphere in the streets is now totally transformed. There’s still today difficulties in Northern Ireland. Political parties are still disagreeing, but the atmosphere in the streets is totally transformed. In relation to the current situation, in relation to Sinn Fein and the IRA, what I think and I’ve already asked for is full evidence in relation to recent matters should be produced as soon as possible so that public is fully aware of what the full situation is and then judgement can be made on the cases.
Full evidence because if in fact the intelligence, I assume it’s accurate, the evidence should come forward as soon as possible because it’s a very serious matter and the sooner the better.
I think that in some respects the as soon as you move forward to make a deal, you must, not that you would, could, should, or may; you absolutely must afford your enemy legitimacy. Once you afford your enemy legitimacy, it is extremely dangerous to begin the removal of the legitimacy factor. Also by the way, I have to say, it was Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, it was difficult but it’s not contagious. When I next meet them, it will not be a major problem. They’re lovely people. They’ve each got a head, two arms and two legs, there’s nothing particularly abnormal about them, from the rest of us being vertical.
Just seems to me that Gerry Adams is in trouble then he needs help. Because there comes a time close to the marvelous great table of issues. It’s going to take all the visionaries.
I’d just like to ask Joaquín, I know the U.N. Truth and Reconciliation Commission that came in in 1992, they in effect banned you from running for office for ten years. I saw an amazing coming together of different sides at that next inauguration and I just wondered would you go back in politics if needed? Have you changed so that you could or could not?
The first one, the idea of ten years suspension from the political party, now it’s peace but the United Nations at the end said no, this is no good. Why? Because their idea to the peace agreement was to bring the people to equality and they said no this is no but in the case of Colombia, Presidente Gaviria proposed a point I don’t remember the word exactly but the people became a politic without an election. That was amazing. They decided at the end saying OK, we’ve reached a peace agreement but you can’t participate.
But anyway I think that our societies need not only politicians, need people who have what society to find some ways, some solutions, for whole society for the transition. That’s the way we’re doing now. I’m trying to help my country. I think that politics directly maybe will be part of the new political polarisation. I think it’s not good.
Thank you. Wendy?
I think that we have had an extraordinary day. You all have had enormous patience but you also have fallen asleep and most of you have left. I think that it is only appropriate for those of us who have not lived through a conflict to say thank you so much to these extraordinary people and especially Tim for putting together such a great panel and hoping that this conference will in fact creat a network, that these stories can be brought out to all the people around the world who need to hear them. Thank you.
Thank you again for your patience. I hope this was useful. It certainly was long. I personally want to thank my panellists for coming to Madrid. It’s not much of a challenge to come to Madrid but thank you for coming and thank you for being patient.