Johanna Söderström, together with Malin Åkebo and Anna Jarstad, organised a “Varieties of Peace” workshop on relational peace in Uppsala, Sweden on 7-8 May, 2019. (See below for more information on the Varieties of Peace Program). Gyda Sindre of the PAW network presented her paper on political parties and peacebuilding in post-war Bosnia and Sri Lanka through the lens of relational peace.
“Relational peace at the level of political parties: The nature and premise for interethnic cross-party collaborations in post-war Bosnia and Sri Lanka”, Gyda Sindre
Since the 1990s, nearly every peace settlements negotiated to end a civil war has been premised upon the construction or expansion of party-based electoral politics. Integral to these transitions are provisions for war contenders to transform into political parties. Hence, political parties – whether as demobilized rebels, state-parties, or new parties – are central to post-war politics and governance. In their quest to win elections, they mobilize voters, put forward candidates for office, and streamline group interests. As elected officials, they propose policies, pass laws, and lay the foundation for a post-war political culture. Yet, the role and agency of political parties in forging more peaceful intergroup relations have not received much scholarly attention. This paper takes as its starting point that the acceptance and promotion of democratic pluralism is central to forging more peaceful intergroup relations after civil war. Based on comparative case studies of political parties in Bosnia and Sri Lanka, the paper proposes an analytical framework for assessing whether and how political parties contribute to forging or breaking down wartime cleavages. Democratic pluralism is assessed by the extent to which the parties seek to build alliances across previously hardened divisions, the degree to which they actively promote pluralism in discourse and behavior, and whether parties promote or collaborate on implementing policies that are conducive to peace.
Much research on peace conceives of peace as a situation or a condition in a state or society. When agency enters this literature it is often when peacebuilding or resistance toward certain forms of peacebuilding are discussed. The role of agency and specific actors, and their relations in turn is often not part of the literature which describes what peace is. We suggest that taking a relational view of peace serious can be a fruitful avenue for expanding current theoretical frameworks surrounding peace as a concept, as well as providing more theoretically grounded empirical work. In order to pave the way for such empirical work we have developed a new framework, which we believe can be applied to numerous different cases and to different levels of analysis. The framework builds on three main components of relational peace: behavioral interaction, subjective attitudes towards the other, and idea of the relationship. In this framework, we argue that a peaceful relation entails behavioral interaction that can be characterized as non-domination, deliberation and/or cooperation between the actors in the dyad, the actors involved recognize and/or trust each other and believe that the relationship is one between legitimate partners and/or ultimately an expression of friendship. We suggest that relational peace can be identified at different levels of analysis, from relationships between states to relationships between individuals or groups in divided societies. We argue that a relational approach to peace has many merits. For instance if we regard peace as a relationship between actors at different levels of society peace and war become a web of multiple interactions, and it becomes clear how peace and war can co-exist, rather than be two mutually exclusive categories.