Pluralistic Approaches toward Peacebuilding in the Caucasus
Prague, 14 September, Caucasus Times. The Caucasus has emerged as one of the most important regions for peace and security in Central Eurasia. The Caucasus contains a set of protracted conflicts that threaten regional stability and risk overspill beyond the region. High levels of military spending and mutual hostility between countries of the region as a result of the protracted conflicts mean that the Caucasus is a heavily militarized region and needs more and more peacebuilding and peacemaking procedures.
During the Soviet Era, the parties aimed to create an ethnic-federalist structure, in which in most cases there was a one-to-one correspondence between territory and ethnicity. However, according to Stalin’s four criteria: a set territory, national language, culture, and economy, fifteen nationalities were given the highest standing of Soviet Socialist Republics. Within these fifteen republics were, in order of decreasing standing, twenty Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics (ASSRs), eight Autonomous Regions, and ten Autonomous Areas. All conflicts in the post-soviet era happened based on these territorial criteria.
Beyond its general rims, the north and south Caucasus is often viewed as a zone of conflicts rather than peace. Various international organizations and particular European governments have initiated peacebuilding enterprises in this region. Their active involvement is usually welcomed by local NGOs that reassure international donors to continue their investments in regional peace initiatives. However, the remaining high tensions between various social, political, ethnic, and religious groups in the South Caucasus may indicate that these initiatives have not proved to be enough effective. At the same time, the international peacebuilding interveners continue to overlook the existing local peace practices that can inform about peace better than the ‘blueprints’ of peace projects brought from outside. The recent conflicts in the Azerbaijan-Armenia border shown that all happened ceasefires are fragile.
I see the main problem is the method of peacebuilding through the region based on communities and states. I do believe that still there are no pluralistic approaches toward peacebuilding. Most mediators pride themselves on their impartiality, but building peace is inherently political, and the mediators come from organizations or countries that have political objectives. Even if a peacebuilder is genuinely impartial, they can still be perceived as carrying certain values and double standards associated with their nationality or organizational affiliation. The idea of Pluralism endorses the essential conditions of public order, such as the rule of law and a public authority with the capacity to enforce it. They also endorse what may be called a minimal universalism that is, the moral and practical necessity of organizing public life to ward off, to the greatest extent possible, the great evils of the human condition, such as tyranny, genocide, mass starvation, and deadly epidemics. This minimal universalism overlaps with contemporary movements for universal human rights and the provision of basic needs. That peacebuilding is inherently about changing worldview may seem controversial until one understands that conflict itself is perpetuated by the manipulation of worldview.
The basic problem of employing the construct of social pluralism is that it has no identity independent of a definition of a democratic society. Any presumed relationship between the variables is meaningless because one is merely attempting to relate two alternative definitions of the same set of conditions. A self-critical approach to peacebuilding was the theme of the day, putting dilemmas normally discussed only behind closed doors into a public forum to get a shared understanding of why we are not being more successful in building peace. However, I think if peacebuilders can bring pluralistic approaches to their activities from this perspective, these approaches can contribute to enhancing the analysis of the network of peace activists engaged in it, forming a sound basis for future peacebuilding programming in the region.
Hamed Kazemzadeh, Program Manager, Academic Club for Peace-Conflict Studies, uOttawa