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|"The Relevance of Refugees: Reflections on Theory and Practice" Article appearing in Anthropology Newsletter, 1999 by Peter W. Van Arsdale, Ph.D.
PEACEKEEPING Miscellaneous | Africa | Asia | Europe | Latin America | Middle East | North America
Peacebuilding in a war zone: the case of Colombian peace communities.
International Peacekeeping , Summer 2003, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 107-118.
Sanford , V.
Abstracted by: Lisa Kunkel
This article analyzes the role of different governmental and non-governmental institutions in supporting Colombian peace communities and is based on the authors experience with a UNHCR-sponsored delegation. Colombia ’s peace communities are formed by internally displaced people who have chosen to return to their communities of origin and to declare the neutrality of their community in the civil conflict. With the support of local, national, and international organizations, they prohibit the entrance of armed actors into their community whether they be governmental, paramilitary, or guerilla. Peace communities are assisted through accompaniment, material aid, and promotion of national and international awareness and scrutiny. Each of the supporting organizations and state agencies shares the goals of community protection and humanitarian aid. However, the author argues that they employ different strategies of protection, some of which more effectively support peace communities and their self-determination. The UNHCR strategies tend to focus on “state strengthening” measures that will aid IDPs. However, in the case of the Colombian government, the state’s ties to paramilitary organizations and the strength of the military are principle sources of displacement and violence. Given these dominant forces, state agencies that are part of the human rights apparatus are relatively weak, with little or no enforcement potential. In this particular case study the author and the UNHCR-sponsored delegation, made up of state and non-state agencies at the international, national, and local level attempted to escort a small peace community in a journey to join with a larger community in order to deter potential massacres. The state’s human rights representatives were willing to abandon the IDPs when their own security was threatened. To make matters worse, they blamed aborting their protective mission on international volunteers claiming that they needed to protect the “gringas”. Though this was not a truthful account, international NGOs did pull out of high risk accompaniment missions. A new delegation with local church-based NGOs (and the author of the article) returned to the community and successfully accompanied them to the larger peace community. They were stopped by guerilla and paramilitary forces that threatened violence to community members. However, through church based NGO solidarity, the new delegation and peace community members were able to keep one another safe. Given this experience, the author concludes that the human rights regime ought to focus on empowering IDPs and peace communities, rather than state strengthening measures. As the strength of peace communities and their supporters grow, there is more leverage and legitimacy to pressure the state to prevent displacement and provide adequate support to effected citizens rather than being a key actor in violence and displacement.
Elusive Ingredient: Hamas and the Peace Process
Journal of Palestine Studies, Summer 2004, Issue 132, no. 3. pp.39-52
Milton-Edwards, B. and Crooke, A.
Abstracted by: Paula Broadwell
This essay argues that the significant shift in the political power balance in the Occupied Palestinian Territories towards Islamist movements like Hamas has major implications for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and must be taken into account if there is any chance for a successful resolution. Indeed, all the plans put forward since the outbreak of the second intifada to end the violence and return to negotiations have failed. The authors, who have first-hand involvement with conflict resolution and negotiations with Hamas, survey the movement's evolution on the ground and its implications on Palestinian refugee human rights, its participation in cease-fire and intra-Palestinian talks to date, and its positions on power accommodation with the other Palestinian factions and on eventual participation in peace talks or governance.
Many Palestinians have come to believe that the PLO/Palestinian Authority (PA) no longer has a credible national strategy capable of leading to a just solution of the conflict with Israel. Since 2000, political support for the PA had ebbed further under the impact of the general militarization of the Palestinian environment; persistent Israeli military incursions, curfews, and closures; and the withering of its own basic service provision as a result of the above. In the PA's stead, Hamas has filled a leadership void in these areas, for Palestinians in Israel and those in refugee camps in neighboring countries. Hamas is an historic movement whose leadership presides over a major social-welfare, political, and armed structure that rivals the PLO in terms of its presence and roots in the Palestinian arena. Its popularity has surged in recent years, making it a major political force. And while it is true that armed struggle appears to define Hamas's present relationship with Israel, it is also true that it has demonstrated considerable political pragmatism in the past and that, more recently, it has shown itself to be open to political maneuver as well as to armed resistance as a dual policy of maximizing its position in the local arena.
At present, Hamas is the second largest armed faction in Israel, and unless it is brought into the political process there is little likelihood that it will disarm either before or after an Israeli evacuation. Yet despite its power, both as a political and as an armed force, Hamas remains marginalized from the political track of conflict resolution by Israel and key members of the international community. There has been some recognition of the shortsightedness of this policy, and efforts by the European Union did begin to yield results in terms of mediating a dialogue with Islamists. Such activities were politically foreshortened, however, by the intervention of stronger external actors (e.g. the US) that objected to dialogue with those they had come to consider in the same camp as the al-Qa`ida extremists. The role of external actors in rebuffing Hamas and equating it to al-Qa`ida ignores the stark reality and changed perception on the ground. The authors refute the view that Hamas is quintessentially committed to terrorism and incapable of the kind of journey from armed struggle to negotiated settlement. They conclude that current peace frameworks, by ignoring Hamas's weight and its indications of readiness for political incorporation into peacemaking, are ignoring what could be the “elusive ingredient” for peace.
Palestinian Refugees and the Politics of Peacemaking
International Crisis Group, Middle East Report N22, February 3, 2004 , pp. 1-25.
Abstracted by: Paula Broadwell
The plight of the refugees and the demand that their right of return be recognized has been central to the Palestinian struggle since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. This report seeks to identify those actors and factors most likely to determine how Palestinian refugees will react to a negotiated agreement of the refugee question. After a statistical look at the dispersed Palestinian demographic and a detailed description of the status of the desolate refugee camps throughout the region, the author revisits the history behind and centrality of the refugee question in resolving the two-state solution.
Recalling the initiatives of the Oslo Accords, the more recent Geneva Initiative, and the People's Voice movement, the authors infer that these proposals have precipitated a renewed campaign of activism on behalf of Palestinian refugees with which the leadership on both sides must contend. Palestinians warn that a dissatisfied, angry refugee community whose core demands remain unmet could undermine any peace agreement. The author claims that it is the sole issue around which political mobilization and political condemnation can most readily be achieved. This issue cuts across social, political, and geographical barriers. Israelis, who reject this return, suggest that the issue has been kept artificially alive by the Palestinian leadership and supportive Arab states. With this background, the report offers recommendations to the various key players that must be involved in any successful policy implementation.
The PLO and other political organizations remain the dominant voice within the Palestinian political arena. If they do not represent true Palestinian beliefs and desires, organizations like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Hamas or other radical Islamist groups will continue to capitalize on the refugee question as an effective instrument for discrediting not only Israeli leadership, but PLO/PA and Fatah as well. In light of this, the report recommends the following for the Palestinian Political Organizations: formalizing a forum with representatives from various Palestinian national institutions to seek an acceptable consensus on the resolution of refugees; working with refugee camp representatives to improve camp conditions; and discussing details for implementation of a permanent settlement of the refugee question based on the assumption of repatriation to a Palestinian state, normalization of status in host countries, relocation to third-countries and/or symbolic return to Israel, and compensation.
In spite of the over four million refugees in the region, there is little question that Arab states have neglected the refugee camps, typically refusing to contribute to their improvement on the grounds that refugees are an international responsibility and seeking to exploit the humanitarian plight for their own political ends. With this in mind, the report recommends the following to the League of Arab States: willingness to resettle significant numbers of refugees, conducting a public campaign aimed at the Israeli public to explain Arab League initiatives; and engaging the PLO leadership regarding the status of Palestinian refugees remaining in Arab host countries.
International players remain a key element to any peaceful resolution, both for the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and the greater Israeli-Arab conflict. To the United Nations and its member governments the report recommends: increase funding to the UNRWA programs to enable the organization to meet the basic needs of the refugee population, particularly those residing in camps; establishment of an international commission to examine repatriation, resettlement and compensation issues in detail. To the Quartet (US, EU, UN, Russia ), the report recommends the proposal of a comprehensive political settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including a just resolution of the refugee question.