Need thick skin, patience, long perspective to facilitate peace, says Bauer

[TamilNet, Sunday, 13 April 2008, 16:07 GMT]
Concluding that to successfully engage in peace process the facilitator needs to have "a thick skin, limitless patience, and a long perspective," Norwegian Special Envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer, in a "Human Values" conference in Oslo on April 10-11, outlined Norway's history of peace-making in Asian countries, and said, Norwegian peace diplomacy is anchored in the United Nations, Norway will engage only on the invitation of the protagonists, and that Norway will always uphold and defend the primacy of international law.

Talking about the principles guiding Norway's work and the roles that Norway engages in Asia, Baur said, "[i]f I should sum up our approach in two sentences, I would say that Norway believes in the strength of a soft-powered, or weak if you prefer, facilitator. Also, Norway believes more in building coalitions of complementary good offices that can together nurture and facilitate a process of building peace, than to engage on the basis of one single, all-purpose, mediator."

Haansen Baur
Haansen Baur (Photo: courtesy AP)
Saying that most conflicts in Asia are between governments and armed insurgencies, he referred to what was said in the Beijing retreat hosted by China in March, that "there is in Asia 'a regional aversion against getting involved in somebody else’s internal affairs' based on a sense of national pride and on historical experience."

Baur added that western countries tend to forget the history of foreign interference in the region, a pattern that nobody wants to see repeated, and that it was useful for him as a Norwegian to be reminded of this.

Baur added that Norway agrees with this fundamental advice and thinks that Norway's "forms of engagement must be tailored to suit the regional sensitivities and the fact that we will always act on a basis of imperfect knowledge or understanding of the local situation. Therefore, one should not be tempted to try impose an externally design solution to conflicts, but assist the parties in defining a domestic one."

Baur outlined six principles Norway employs during its pursuit of engaging in peace processes. Norway's Peace Diplomacy
  • is anchored in the United Nations, which Baur said is the "only unversally accepted institution to address threats to internal peace and stability."
  • is possible when parties to a given conflict invites Norway to be a facilitator.
  • is that the ownership of processes must remain with the principals and the parties to the conflicts.
  • is that while being impartial Norway will uphold fundamental and internationally shared values, promote respect for human rights, and defend the primacy of international humanitarian law. Norway engages on the basis of solidarity with the people, respect for sovereignty, and in the belief in the rights of people to democratically define their own future.
  • is to take a stakeholder approach to conflicts understanding the need to break cycles of violence and to engage in negotiations for cessing the hostilities and agree on peace between warring parties.
  • that solving protracted conflicts most often need much more varied and extensive support than one single mediator can bring, and understand the internationalization of conflicts.
Baur concluded his address saying, "[t]o be facilitator you need a thick skin, limitless patience, and a long perspective. In addition, if you are not honest and try to play power games, you run the risk of becoming a pawn of the conflict."


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