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public discussions on the future of their country to begin. The wartime leaders participating

in government may lack grassroots support and be seen as competing to share the spoils of

power rather than moving the country toward reconstruction and reconciliation. Also, because

leaders are guaranteed representation in power-sharing governments, they have few incentives

to engage their constituencies in discussions on the future of the country. As a result, lack of

public participation combined with the squabbles of a stagnating power-sharing government

run the risk of disillusioning the population and leading to its disengagement from the peace


Burundi’s transitional process provides an example of this challenge. The power-sharing

government was the result of elite negotiations, and the participants in talks were those who

had the capacity to carry out violent acts and did not necessarily command respect or have

genuine public following. In the eyes of the public, the transitional government was about elites

dividing the spoils of government. Overall, the transitional process was disconnected from the

local population: ‘elite power-sharing did not strengthen the relationship between leaders and

citizenry’ (Curtis, 2007, 191).

A similar phenomenon occurred in Nepal’s transitional process, where until early 2007 the

process focused on building elite consensus at the expense of wide political debate or public

consultation. Significantly, there were no institutional structures to channel and process the

results of public consultations (ICG, February 2007, i–ii). The committee charged with drafting

the interim constitution consisted initially of six men and did not include women, dalits or any

minority ethnic members. The committee’s enlargement following public criticism did not

change its domination by the main political parties and the Maoists (ICG, February 2007, 6).

As a result, observers note that the lack of communication and consultation aggravated public

frustration (ICG, December 2007, 12).

The second and related argument in favour of expanded political participation is that new

political groups get organised in the transitional period, and demand representation, refusing

to wait for elections to be held. These opposition groups know that important decisions with

long-term implications are being taken in the transitional period and want to have a say in them.

Even if power-sharing governments represented the key political and military groups at the

beginning of the transition, they may lose popular support to new political organisations. Should

the demands of these groups not be heard, due to a closed, non-transparent transitional

process, there is an increased risk of violence.

Nepal came close to realising this unfortunate scenario in early 2007, when three weeks of

violent protests in the country’s south left two dozen people dead. The power-sharing deal

between the mainstream political parties and the Maoists was based on the assumption that

they represented most Nepalis. However, the protests of early 2007 demonstrated that the

mainstream parties and the Maoists were actually not fully representative of society (ICG,

December 2007, 3). Demonstrators protested that the new interim constitution did not correct

the domination of ‘hill’ Nepalis, and continued to reinforce age-old patterns of discrimination.

7 For them, ‘the “New Nepal” that politicians had promised looked suspiciously like the old one

that was meant to have been consigned to history’ (Chalmers, 2007, 161). Ultimately, the

interim constitution was amended and the government and the Maoists managed to maintain a

working relationship.

The third reason for expanding political participation in the transitional period is because power-

sharing arrangements tend to prevent the emergence of new political leaders. As Chalmers

writes about Nepal, ‘the mainstream parties were relieved that, for all the drama of the April

2006 mass movement, it did not generate any new leaders, nor has it yet forced them to

find new ways of conducting politics’ (Chalmers, 2007, 167). However, this is detrimental to

peace-making and peace-building efforts: when elites with interests in wartime structures retain

power, they resist the processes of demilitarising and democratising politics. New political

leaders need to emerge gradually, with interests not linked to wartime legacies so that they

can deliver different messages and build political constituencies based on different interest

structures. Change can rarely be delivered through those who benefit from the status quo.

Finally, a fourth reason for third parties to encourage power-sharing governments to open

up the political space is that only such inclusive discussions can pave the way for long-

lasting institutions which will accommodate diverse interests in a common state. This issue is

discussed in the next section.

Expansion of political participation in the absence of election is an extremely difficult and

potentially destabilising undertaking, for two main reasons. The first difficulty is that power-

sharing governments are not eager to create avenues for wide political participation, which

allows opposition groups to influence decisions. Incorporating new views and interests in the

political process disturbs the delicate balance of power negotiated in the peace agreement.

The second difficulty is related to the question of who decides, in the absence of elections,

what groups are to be included in the transitional political process and through what


Some practitioners and academics argue that inclusive political processes should begin only

after state institutions have been rebuilt and the rule of law established. Political inclusion in the

early stages of the transition, very much like pre-mature elections, can be destabilising. Political

parties are newly created and have not yet built strong ties with their constituencies, state

institutions are weak and cannot channel popular demands effectively, and the media are not

moderate enough to report dispassionately on divisive discussions. Threatened elites eager to

protect their positions and interests are tempted to use manipulative rhetoric to stoke fear and

insecurity among the people, or to mobilise them against their opponents. 8

However, this paper argues, political processes gradually expanded beyond those who

sign peace agreements can prepare the ground for elections and contribute to lasting state

institutions. Lengthy deliberation and gradual expansion of political participation before political

competition moves to the ballot box, and before long-term constitutions are adopted, are more

likely to lead to accepted electoral results and constitutions.

There is a very important role for third parties in the effort to expand political participation.

Third parties need to advocate for wider participation because the members of power-sharing

governments often have no interest in such efforts. The National Transitional Government of

Liberia (NTGL) inaugurated in October 2003 demonstrates the attitudes of power-sharing elites.

One rebel politician summarised the character of the NTGL as follows: ‘this is an administration

for warring factions. They control the government. People need to accept this reality. Civilians

have no role in the cabinet, they are virtually voiceless’ (ICG, January 2004, 13). Due to the lack

of accountability mechanisms during the transitional period, the members of the NTGL devoted

more attention to the division of the spoils of the state than to making and implementing public


In Nepal, also, observers noted in 2007 that ‘party leaders have shown little appetite for

pluralism: the interim legislature will have no official opposition, royalist parties may be excluded

from the Constituent Assembly and new parties will find it hard to register for elections’ (ICG,

February 2007, i–ii). Also, in Somalia, most of the national reconciliation conferences convened

since 1991 focused on hammering out power-sharing agreements for transitional central

governments. In some of the conferences the agenda was reduced to the allocation of cabinet

positions by clans and factions in typical sharing-the-spoils exercises (Menkhaus, 2007).

It is argued here that it is possible to compensate for the elite character of transitional power

sharing by combining it with various forms of wider political participation. The political process

can provide for inclusive decision-making mechanisms, such as joint commissions and working

groups, mandated to work on various aspects of the transition: electoral laws and constitutional

issues, rules governing the vetting of state institutions, the creation of a unified army and police,

and the reform of public administration. In Mozambique, for example, negotiation and planning

continued after the signing of the Rome Accord. Joint decision-making bodies such as the

Supervisory and Monitoring Commission and the Cease-Fire Commission gathered the key

political actors and donors in a consultative process chaired by the Special Representative

of the Secretary General. Other specialised commissions dealt with reintegration of former

combatants, reform of the Mozambican defence forces and preparation for elections.

Political deliberation beyond the members of transitional governments can also take place

in non-elected bodies, such as national conferences and constitutional commissions. In

Afghanistan, for example, the Interim Government appointed by the Bonn Agreement in

2001 divided power among the most powerful elites with the exception of the Taliban. This

government was succeeded by another power-sharing government in 2002, the Transitional

9 Government, partly selected by a large gathering of hundreds of people, the Loya Jirga. Also,

the country’s constitution was drafted in the context of a wide public-participation effort.

Although marred by intimidation and manipulation, this did provide a corrective to the elite-

based, power-sharing formula.

In the absence of elections, what mechanisms should be adopted to identify the participants of

national dialogue and other public-participation efforts? How should the extent of inclusion and

participation be defined? There are no perfect answers to these questions, and external actors

can play an important role in facilitating the discussions on the eligibility criteria and decision-

making procedures of consultative mechanisms. Inevitably, public-participation efforts following

peace agreements and lengthy civil conflicts will be flawed and at least partially manipulated

by elites. Adopting transparent selection and decision-making rules may go some way to

increasing the public’s influence in the political process. Also, relying on multi-step selection

processes, led by credible national leaders and independent commissions, could be beneficial.

However, these efforts are unlikely to overcome the inherently contentious nature of expanded

political participation, and third parties should remain engaged to assist in managing these


Transitional periods, institution-building and constitutional negotiations

Constitutional discussions go to the heart of the most divisive issues facing a country: the

structure of state institutions and the long-term sharing of power within them, the rights of

minorities, and the state’s obligations toward the citizens. Experience has shown that lasting

and legitimate state institutions tend to result from lengthy deliberation among a wide range of

national elites and from meaningful public participation (Kritz, 2003; Samuels, 2006; Brandt,

2004). The constitution-making process, including who has the right to participate and how

decisions are taken, influences the content of constitutions, their legitimacy and the politics that

follows their adoption.

Experience suggests that decisions on long-term constitutional design should not be rushed

and should not be dominated by power-sharing transitional governments. If power sharing is

to be enshrined in the long-term constitution of a country, it should result from inclusive and

lengthy discussions during the transitional period. Long-term institutional arrangements should

not be included in peace agreements. By deciding long-term constitutions, peace agreements

miss the opportunity to lengthen the dialogue on constitutional options and to expand political

participation beyond those at the peace-negotiating table. The Bosnian example shows

the deficiencies of including long-term power-sharing arrangements in peace agreements.

Agreements, then, need to define the processes through which political leaders will reach

decisions on constitutional arrangements without actually defining the long-term constitutions

themselves. Ideally, agreements should also include mechanisms for wide elite consultations

and public participation in the transitional and constitutional processes. 10

There is evidence that constitution-making processes that exclude major constituencies usually

lead to contested constitutions. Iraq is a relevant example. Observers have noted that the

Iraqi constitutional discussions in the summer of 2005 were damaged by the time limitations

imposed by the US and by the insufficient inclusion of Sunni Arabs in the deliberations (Morrow,

2005). In the October 2005 referendum, 78.6% of votes were in favour of the constitution.

However, in the predominantly Sunni Arab governorates of Anbar and Salaheddin, 97% and

82% of voters respectively rejected the document. One could argue that the Sunnis would not

have accepted the emerging Shia–Kurdish federal deal, even if a more inclusive and longer

deliberation had taken place. However, observers note that the Sunni position had evolved to

understand federalism as potentially being to their benefit. Morrow argues that, in August 2005,

some leading Sunni Arab negotiators were sympathetic to certain models of Iraqi federalism,

but could not support it without raising awareness among their constituencies on what these

models entailed (Morrow, 2005). A longer process would have allowed political leaders to

discuss this with their constituencies, as well as giving time for the Constitutional Commission

to promote public awareness and education. However, this opportunity was missed.

Although experience demonstrates that constitutions adopted without extensive elite-

level consultations and public participation are unlikely to last, ‘to push for a more inclusive

process is to challenge the longstanding structure of the state’ (Chalmers, 2007, 166). Often,

‘a political elite unaccustomed to satisfying public demands will have to learn quickly to be

more responsive without just making reflexive concessions that fail to produce an overall

improvement in fairness’ (Chalmers, 2007, 166). Observers noted in late 2007 that, in Nepal,

‘no party paid more than lip service to calls for broader public participation in the constitutional

process’ (ICG, December 2007, i).

Similarly, in Burundi, real political debate on the future of Burundi and on economic and social

issues had not taken place at the end of the constitutional negotiations (ICG, December

2004, 2). The population remained poorly informed about the constitution and the upcoming

elections, and debates on power sharing, accompanied by denunciations and bitter

disagreements, created a climate of fear (ICG, December 2004, 11). The new constitution was

endorsed in a referendum in February 2005 by 92% of the voters, but ‘holding a referendum at

the end of the transitional process is not sufficient in terms of engaging the broader population

in the peace process’ (Curtis, 2007, 188).

Based on the above, the role of third parties in encouraging consultations with elites outside the

power-sharing government and emphasising the importance of public participation is crucial.

Of course, these decisions cannot and should not be imposed by external actors. However,

there is an important role in advocating for wide participation in constitutional discussion and in

mediating between the resistance of power-sharing governments to grant it, and the impatience

of excluded groups.

11 Conclusion

This paper has argued for the continued political engagement of third parties following the

signing of peace agreements and during the particularly volatile transitional periods. It has

argued that third parties should see transitional power-sharing governments as vehicles for

continuing the peace talks and has pointed out that many issues remain unresolved when

agreements are signed. It has furthermore argued that it is unrealistic to expect power-sharing

transitional governments led by wartime elites to put in place the foundations for stable

electoral politics and long-lasting state institutions without consulting with other elites and

without at some point including the public. Narrow coalitions will inevitably meet resistance

from the wider population and new opposition groups.

For transition to lay the foundations for stability and pluralist political competition, power-

sharing elites need to learn to listen to the public as well as to consult with a wider group of

political competitors. Transitional processes that provide for the gradual expansion of political

participation before competition moves to the ballot box and before long-term constitutions are

adopted are more likely to lead to widely accepted electoral results and constitutions.

Given the multiple challenges transitional power-sharing governments face in taking joint

decisions, bringing non-signatories into the peace process and managing demands for

inclusion from the public and the unarmed opposition, the role of third parties remains

indispensable. It has been argued that third parties need to assist power-sharing governments

to carry out the tasks entrusted to them, while helping them to manage the increasing

demands for political participation from various segments of society before elections are held.

This is a challenging agenda for third parties, who often expend considerable financial and

political resources to bring about the signing of peace agreements. It is especially demanding

given the resistance of power-sharing elites to tolerate continued external intrusion in their

affairs. However, in the absence of continued political engagement, it is likely that peace

processes will be derailed or fail to achieve their stated objectives.

This paper is part of a series of background papers written for the Oslo forum

2008, which was hosted by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. 12




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Dispensa per il corso di Teorie dei conflitti e dei processi di pace della Prof.ssa Maria Luisa Maniscalco. Trattasi del saggio di Katia Papagianni dal titolo "Power sharing, transitional governments and the role of mediation" all'interno del quale viene affrontato il tema del ruolo dei governi di transizione di power-sharing come strumento di peackeeping e peacebuilding.

Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea magistrale in relazioni internazionali
A.A.: 2011-2012

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Atreyu di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Teorie dei conflitti e processi di pace e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Roma Tre - Uniroma3 o del prof Maniscalco Maria Luisa.

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