INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION

110th Assembly and related meetings

Mexico City, 15 – 23 April 2004

Standing Committee I – C-I/2004/R.2

Peace and International Security 2 March 2004

PROMOTING INTERNATIONAL RECONCILIATION, HELPING TO BRING STABILITY TO REGIONS OF CONFLICT, AND ASSISTING WITH POST-CONFLICT RECONSTRUCTION

Report prepared by the Co-rapporteurs

Mr. René Valery Mongbé (Benin)

Mr. Robert del Picchia (France)

Action within the realm of human affairs (politics) implies… the ability to innovate, create that which is new, bring about the unprecedented; without forgiveness, which frees people from a past that hinders them, action would be suspended as it were or rendered impossible in its ability to innovate”.

Valadier Paul, Approches politiques du pardon, Etudes, June 2000, p. 777.

Forgiveness does not come easily in politics. It is a sign of weakness, a futile risk. One can only forgive those who can no longer be considered dangerous”. Philippe Moreau-Desfarges, Repentance et réconciliation, Presses de la FNSP, 1999, p. 37.

The theme chosen by the Inter-Parliamentary Union at its 109th Assembly in Geneva (1-3 October 2003) hinges on three key words, namely:

· Reconciliation

· Stabilisation

· Reconstruction.

At each of these stages following internal or external conflicts within or between States and regions, parliaments must play a pivotal and active role by making proposals, taking legal steps and overseeing the peace process in a transparent manner. The purpose of this report is to examine what role national and regional parliaments, as well as their world body – the Inter-Parliamentary Union – play or should play at each of these stages.

I. Reconciliation

Firstly, it should be recalled that the notion of arbitration underlay the very inception of the IPU in 1889. Arbitration implies that States can, or indeed are bound to resort to this procedure to settle conflicts between themselves. The establishment and work of the international court of arbitration and the current efforts undertaken by the United Nations in this field point to the strengths but also the weaknesses of the arbitration route. Naturally, IPU’s discussions on reconciliation follow the same line of thought.

A. Definition of reconciliation

As a concept, reconciliation is more modern than arbitration. It obviously includes the notion of arbitration since it often resorts to neutral mediation or “facilitators”, but it goes one step further in that it transcends the legal framework of the arbitrator and international law among States by including one of the most recent actors on the international relations scene of the 20th and 21st centuries, the people.

Notwithstanding these changes, one should not forget that traditional societies have complex methods of reconciliation which, incorporated both in custom and social rules, aim to influence and shape relations between individuals, clans and States. Although these traditional methods are becoming outdated, the human needs they sought to meet are not.

Under pressure from the people who, according to Sophocles "Learn wisdom not in books but from experience", the very concept of peace has evolved from the traditional definition of an inter-war period to another goal altogether, that is, the irrevocable conciliation of the warring factions.

At the end of the 20th century, it was obvious that people were no longer a homogenous mass able to identify an enemy and oppose it in a wave of national fervour. Indeed, one of the core missions of governments nowadays is to introduce a heterogeneous population in the global tide and maintain it in that position. The other party can still be an enemy but is above all identified as a competitor, a client, a partner, and therefore, not someone to eliminate but rather someone to woo and seduce. [Moreau-Desfarges Philippe, Réconciliation et conflits : les perspectives à l’aube du XXIème siècle.]

Indeed, reconciliation is a complex issue which Joseph Maïla attempted to define at a symposium on “The end of conflict and reconciliation”, held at Verdun under the auspices of the University for Peace.

"Reconciliation is the crowning achievement of peace.

It aims not to resolve the conflict but to go beyond it.

It implies that rights are recognised but, all the same, goes further for its ultimate objective is to achieve an appeased society which recognises free and equal individuals able to confront a history marred by violence, and above all, overcome that history.

Reconciliation goes hand in hand with sincere forgiveness not so much to erase and forget the past but to live intelligently and in harmony in the present.

Reconciliation determines a manner of regarding the past which makes it possible to live in the present. Far from being merely a desire to turn the page, it advocates active measures to revisit the past and record history in such a way as to enable a once ravaged society to live comfortably with itself and in peace with others.

Reconciliation is the trademark of an appeased society. It is neither hiding the past nor forgetting its violent memories. It is an exorcism of fear and hatred and an opening to the future.

The test of reconciliation is when the rights and duties of all parties are effectively recognised.

Yet reconciliation goes above and beyond formal, legal settlement. Settlement of a dispute puts an end to the raison d’être of a conflict.

Reconciliation gives us reason to hope.

Reconciliation implies the settlement of a dispute by agreement but it also has the innate feature of solidarity. It has a propensity for repositioning the actors in a conflict within an appeased community. Whereas settlement is an attempt to resolve past problems, inversely, reconciliation attempts to envision the shape of the future.

Reconciliation places rights and identities within the historical setting of the widest possible solidarity and cooperation.

Reconciliation is not merely overcoming the raison d’être of a conflict, it is above all creating the conditions to sustain dialogue. It is also facing up to a tumultuous past full of hatred and striking the right balance in our memory: accepting each other sufficiently, forgetting sufficiently to not fight anymore and remembering sufficiently to not begin again".

There can be no genuine peace without reconciliation, without popular consent and the approval of the democratically elected representatives of the people. Indeed, over the past years, reconciliation has tended to become an essential and inescapable political and legal process.

B. International reconciliation

Traditionally, conflicts between States have been resolved through traditional international law mechanisms such as peace treaties and arbitration, to name a few. History has shown that the existence of these treaties, in the absence of reconciliation among nations, has rarely ever brought lasting peace. They were limited to a cease-fire in an inter-war period. The inter-war period between 1918 and 1940 should be qualified as the pre-war rather than the post-war period. Lasting peace was actually achieved either through a sustained balance of power (Vienna Congress) or the persevering strength of the victor (Pax Romana). For a long time, international reconciliation also entailed a turn around of alliances whereby two former foes joined forces to combat a third adversary. This was illustrated when Alexander the Great reconciled with Athens to conquer Persia.

Current international reconciliation is quite another matter since, as Joseph Maïla recalls, its aim is not to resolve a conflict but to go beyond it to achieve lasting peace.

1. Reconciliation between States

International reconciliation in the strictest sense involves countries with latent or open conflict, such as, inter alia: India and Pakistan, Algeria and Morocco, Ethiopia and Eritrea, the USA and Cuba, and Israel and Palestine. It is worth mentioning that the majority of conflicts that fall under this category have been several decades in the making and the causes are extremely complex and sensitive.

Two examples of this new process of reconciliation allow us to identify its conditions and mechanisms, namely: the successful reconciliation between Germany and its neighbours after 1945 and the pending reconciliation between Israel and Palestine.

[…]

b. Pending reconciliation between Israel and Palestine

The accords signed at Oslo in 1993 brought great hope. They were aimed at achieving “a historic reconciliation within the framework of the agreed process”. It was based on a number of the conditions mentioned above, in particular mutual recognition.

One of the drawbacks of the recognition that took place at Oslo was its failure to formally recognise the aspiration of the Palestinian people to create their own State. The Accords were signed by the PLO, recognising the State of Israel and by Israel, recognising “the Palestine Liberation Organisation team representing the Palestinian people”. Only much later would the need for the establishment of a Palestinian State be acknowledged. This original imbalance is one of the reasons why the process failed.

The second prerequisite, making peace, was itself enshrined in a process which entailed a number of phases (withdrawal of Israeli military forces from the occupied territories, establishment of institutions and a Palestinian administrative and political authority) and mutual confidence-building measures. The most sensitive issues, such as the status of Jerusalem, refugees and the right of return, and the question of the settlements, were left to the end of the process. No doubt these questions as well as the issue of a Palestinian State were too sensitive to be outlined too explicitly in the Oslo Accords. These omissions explain to a large extent the failed attempt at reconciliation.

The confidence-building measures provided for in Article 20 of the Accord on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area of 4 May 1994 and in Article 16 of the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip of 28 September 1995 were enshrined in the spirit of a genuine process of reconciliation, that is, of mutual forgiveness. They involved the prohibition of legal proceedings both against Palestinians who had worked for Israel and an amnesty of sorts for Palestinians granted by Israel. They also envisaged the scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners according to specific criteria, cooperation in security arrangements and common policies. It is obvious that these confidence-building measures, which should have been part and parcel of the overall peace process, have been taken to a very limited extent only, thereby contributing to the failure of the process as a whole.

It should also be underscored that although the intervention of the Norwegian Government was important, the subsequent US mediation of the Oslo Accords was undoubtedly inadequate although it was described as a “fair and honest broker” by Secretary of State James Baker. The absence of strong mediation compounded by the conditions appended to each stage of the peace process and the original imbalance of the process gradually but inevitably resulted in a failure rendered unavoidable by the weakness of the Palestinian authority and the activity of extremist groups.

All in all, the majority of conditions needed for reconciliation, which had been explicitly provided for in the Oslo Accords, could not be met due to the lack of political will to achieve genuine peace.    

The reconciliation process, which is the only valid solution to one of the oldest international conflicts, is now pending. Naturally, this state of affairs, attributed to both parties, does not, however, prevent the proliferation of initiatives, themselves by-products of the blocked mechanism. Among them, apart from the Geneva initiative, which has just given rise to concrete proposals, the parliamentary initiatives taken either directly or through international organisations are also worth mentioning.

In this respect, the role of the IPU and its Committee on Middle East Questions should be highlighted. Dialogue among MPs is one of the most important factors of international reconciliation. The example of Germany’s reconciliation with its neighbours is ample proof of that. Parliamentarians are the democratically elected representatives of the citizens. In this capacity, they are called on to support or criticise the policies drawn up by their governments. In this case, the rapprochement between the Members of the Knesset and the Palestinian Legislative Council undeniably serves the cause of peace and reconciliation. It influences this inescapable prerequisite of reconciliation, political will.

In order to foster ties of trust between peoples and countries, common values should be built on, agreements based on deep respect for the culture and history that other countries have constructed need to be promoted, and the differences that exist between sides must be accepted and respected. If not, it would be very difficult to achieve genuine reconciliation. Furthermore, deeper dialogue between religions and nations is a prerequisite both for conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction assistance. As MPs, we have the huge responsibility of promoting this dialogue/this exchange as well as agreements among cultures and civilisations.

Recommendations

Request that parliaments engage in a policy of good offices and cooperation with parliaments of countries in conflict or undergoing reconciliation.

Request that parliaments of countries engaged in a process of reconciliation meet and develop joint projects.

Request that IPU establish committees to foster dialogue among MPs in cases where the peace and reconciliation processes fail to work.

Urge parliaments to make use of mechanisms to oversee the foreign policy of their governments in order to see the reconciliation process through.

Request parliaments to promote dialogue: mutual exchange and understanding between cultures and civilisations.

[…]


Document symbol: C-I/2004/R.2
Document Type: Round-up
Document Sources: Inter-Parliamentary Union
Subject: Peace proposals and efforts
Publication Date: 02/03/2004