Resolving Conflicts through Effective Governance

Experts evaluate the interface between conflict and governance in India and Europe and present ways to address them

New Delhi, Delhi, November 14, 2013 /India PRwire/ -- Leading scholars gathered in the capital to share & analyse the issues around conflict & governance in India and some European countries. The 2-day international meeting on "Cultures of Governance and Conflict Resolution in the EU and India" attempted to answer emerging questions around conflict, peace, security, nationalism, identity, development and peace. It witnessed the sharing of the research done in the conflict areas of North East India, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand & Bihar in India and Georgia, Bosnia and Cyprus in Europe.

Over the past three years researchers from India and Europe have jointly been examining the interface between conflict and governance in India and the EU and presented the findings of this three-year research to facilitate reciprocal learning between academicians, researchers and conflict resolution practitioners from Delhi working in the areas of peace, conflict and governance.

Speaking on the occasion, J. Peter Burgess from Peace Research Institute Oslo, said, "The project has contributed new insights into the scope and limit, as well as the overall complexity, involved in understanding peace building as governance. Peace building has become a kind of management of populations through a range of mechanisms of power accomplished as "hard" police-military action. The project has sought to document the premises and consequences of this."

The focal points of the presentations and discussions were issues that researchers grappled with in the course of the project -that emanate from the scale and response of the Indian state to a range of complex conflicts as it seeks to maintain its legitimacy as a democratic state with the capacity to develop; as well as the impact of the EU model of conflict resolution and how this is understood and received by the people in Cyprus, Georgia and Bosnia in a world where the EU is seen as the diplomatic exemplar.

The fact that the conflict contexts are very different is a significant factor that distinguishes the conflicts in India from those in Europe. There is no counterpart of the European Commission - a supranational body that sets rules and norms on a variety of matters including issues of security and conflict resolution in Europe - in South Asia. These differences posed a challenge in terms of making meaningful comparisons across the board but also presented a set of unique opportunities for cross contextual and cross national learnings.

The project looked at how context can modify the governance initiatives used to resolve conflict situations and also how these very same initiatives can impact (and exacerbate) the conflict. Professor Amit Prakash of Jawaharlal Nehru University, who led the research on Jharkhand and Bihar, said the evidence from this field site suggests that "Institutions of participation, such as panchayati raj institutions, have actually become mechanisms of control, owing their dependence on policy categories for their functioning." Free markets, procedural democracy and rule of law are not necessarily magic bullets that bring about an emancipatory and sustainable civic peace.

The international meeting also included a session on "Thinking beyond Liberal Peace", during which the emerging themes of "Peace as governance", "Economics of peace", "Agency, complicity, autonomy in Conflict Zones" and "State and social justice issues" were discussed. All the findings of this research and the dialogue on liberal peace will be fed into a book to be published in 2014 by the University of Manchester Press.

The second day of the international meeting witnessed a dialogue on future implications in terms of theory building, research, practice and policy. Key policy makers from the Planning Commission, bureaucrats, elected representatives, and policy think tanks exchanged ideas with project researchers on the role of elections and electoral politics; autonomy, dialogue and reconciliation; resistance and protest; and the role of civil society in conflict zones.

The meeting presented latest policy briefs for resolving conflicts through governance initiatives in Jammu and Kashmir, the Maoist sensitive areas of Bihar and Jharkhand and the conflict prone regions of Meghalaya. The policy briefs have looked at bottom-up forms of governance that individuals, communities and institutions could develop in conflict contexts. It lays special emphasis on the forms of governance that people have developed to promote conflict resolution / transformation in different aspects of everyday life (e.g., economic, social or cultural activity).

According to the policy brief on the Naxal conflict in Bihar and Jharkhand, the problem is inextricably linked to existing socio-cultural processes, mediated by various public policy initiatives, which are focused on concerns of both security and social justice. However the limited participation in these initiatives makes them ineffective. The PRIs thus emerge as a key element for any attempts to resolve issues of under-development, corruption, and socio-economic injustice, besides addressing the roots of the Naxal problem as long as they are granted commensurate funds, functions and functionaries.

The J & K brief analysed the 2011 village council elections and its intended and unintended consequences. Recommendations were shared with the state government and administration for improving local governance and building trust among the communities there.

The policy briefs had some important recommendations for Meghalaya as the peace currently prevailing there is fragile & should not be taken for granted within policy circles, observed the document. It further stated that if generic issues of governance and development such as providing basic facilities for the day to day life of population are not addressed in time, this peace may again erupt in violent upheavals and new conflicts. Empowering members of the general public and including them in the decision making process is imperative which requires greater synergy between the administration and citizens through government or civil society sponsored programmes and interactive sessions.

Notes to Editor

Project partners:

  • From India: PRIA (Participatory Research in Asia), Calcutta Research Group, University of Delhi, Malviya Centre for Peace Research at Benaras Hindu University and Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • From Europe: Peace Research Institute Oslo (Norway), University of Manchester (UK), Berghof Foundation (Germany), Central University of Europe (Hungary) and Institute for International Affairs (Italy)

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