To have the best peace process possible, consider the following:
- Participants' political and familial ties - Participants' age - A neutral language - Superordinate goals - A structure of fixed processes
- Distant time horizon for reaching outcomes - Frequency and intensity of interaction - Neutral meeting space embedded in the conflict - Venue is a formal educational institution - Via a teaching method that creates superordinate goals for the participants, and not just academic content that praises them
Participants' political and familial ties
The closer the participants are to centers of power in their own communities, the greater the likelihood will be that their experiences will affect decision-makers, such as through a conversation at the dinner table between a teenage participant and a parent who is also a leading politician.
The younger the participant is, the less negative socialization there is to undo. If a population was divided into percentiles by age, and you could work with only one age percentile but with an unlimited amount of time and money, which one would you choose and why?
A neutral language
The term “neutral” needs only to be relative to the subjectivity of the other languages involved.
As with a neutral language, the need for shared goals should go without saying. Inter-group hostility gives way when opposing groups have to pull together.
A structure of fixed processes
John Paul Lederach covers this sub-topic the best and writes,
“An infrastructure for peacebuilding should be understood as a process-structure (a structure of processes). A process-structure is made up of systems that maintain form over time yet have no hard rigidity of structure. Good examples of a process-structure are a glacier or a stream coming down a mountain. These are dynamic and flexible processes, yet at the same time they are also structures that have form and move in a particular direction… The purpose of the process-structure is reconciliation that centers on the redefinition and restoration of broken relationships. It suggests that we are not merely interested in ‘ending’ something that is not desired. We are oriented towards the building of relationships that in their totality form new patterns, processes, and structures.” [p. 84-85, Lederach, J.P. (2002). Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies.]
What are the components of the timeless strategy that you are using? When historians look back at it 200 years from now, what will be their opinion?
Distant time horizon for reaching outcomes
What is the best answer here if you could only pick one: peace in 10, 20, 40, 60, or 90 years, with there being war in the other years? What can we do differently with the 90-year option, yet still in a systematic way beginning today, that we can not do with the 60-year option? We can not safely predict who the leaders will be in 90 years, but the safest guess might be those who are no more than two-years-old right now and who – fairl or not - are also the descendants of those currently in power.
People must have a sufficient amount of time to open up and see things flexibly and creatively. As Kofi Annan writes,
"The costs of prevention have to be paid in the present while its benefits lie in the distant future." [p. 23, Annan, K. (2002). Prevention of Armed Conflict.]
"Once we adopt a long-term perspective that allows cross-group friendship to develop, we can expect striking results." [p.62, Sherif, M. (1988). The RobbersCave Experiment: Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation.]
Lastly, John Paul Lederach explains that
"In the Mohawk tradition, the chiefs must think in terms of seven generations… The decisions made today will affect the next seven generations. Such thinking in terms of decades brings both a sense of responsibility for, and a new clarity about, the shared future.” [p.27, Lederach, J.P. (2002). Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies.]
Frequency and intensity of interaction
The future is clearest when interactions among individuals are intense and frequent. Intensity ensures that individuals will not easily forget how they have treated and been treated by each other in the future. Frequency encourages stability by making the results of today’s actions more visible for tomorrow’s dealings. When individuals realize they will work with each other frequently and for a long period of time, they see that the long-tern benefits of cooperation outweigh the short-term benefits of taking advantage of the other person. The quality of the relationship is more important than the outcome of any particular negotiation.
Neutral meeting space embedded in the conflict
The meeting space should be on neutral land yet also in a space that the communities share. Solutions must emerge from within the conflict setting if they are to respond to the communities’ needs and commitment phobias. A side benefit is that the participants producing these ideas build a new relationship through the problem-solving process.
Venue is a formal educational institution
A formal educational institution offers a safe space in which to spell out the desired social changes, think through the processes, and develop a shared vision across generations. Formal education, when compared to informal workshops, allows for younger students, a much greater frequency of interactions, and a much longer time horizon.
Through a teaching method based on superordinate goals and not through the content itself
Some parents might object to content such as “peace curricula” as being intellectually soft. Peace curricula can potentially be taught in a harmful way, such as in a competitive game in which the winning group gets a prize at the lesson’s end. A cooperative-learning method teaching two students how to hurt each other could likely have a more positive impact on the students’ attitudes than a peace curriculum could that utilizes a teaching method based on competition. The cooperative dynamics of the learning group are critical.