Current peace processes are designed to be more inclusive of women, civil society, youth, opposition political parties, and other frequently marginalized communities. Implementation of inclusive peace processes, however, has not progressed smoothly—and are frequently met with resistance. Based on an examination of instances of resistance in thirty peace and transition negotiations since 1990, this report enhances practitioners’ understanding of who resists, against whose participation, using what tactics, and with what motives.

Representatives of the Taliban met with a delegation of female lawmakers and peace negotiators in June 2015, including Hasina Safi (center), executive director of the Afghan Women’s Network. (Massoud Hossaini/AP)
Representatives of the Taliban met with a delegation of female lawmakers and peace negotiators in June 2015, including Hasina Safi (center), executive director of the Afghan Women’s Network. (Massoud Hossaini/AP)

Summary

As inclusion has become a buzzword in policy and practice circles, awareness has increased that exclusion is not only a characteristic of bad governance but also often a catalyst to violent conflict. Peace processes today are thus designed to make them more inclusive—of women, civil society, youth, opposition political parties, business actors, and other actors such as indigenous communities, internally displaced people, diasporas, and refugees. Implementation, however, has not progressed smoothly. It is in fact frequently resisted. Meanwhile, understanding why inclusion is correlated positively with the durability of subsequent peace is elusive, despite growing empirical support for the normative and strategic arguments to justify inclusivity. These perspectives also fall short in regard to resistance.

At the heart of both inclusion and exclusion is the basic cognitive process of how we organize ourselves socially into in-groups and out-groups, which speaks directly to the need of people to belong to one societal group or another—that is, to inclusivity as a fundamental human need. This perspective is crucial to understanding both the various modes of resistance to inclusion and why resistance—whether by powerholders, rebel groups, or civil society—is so widespread. Most resistance originates with the political elite, followed by societal and rebel groups. It can be implicit-elusive, direct-explicit, or coercive, or a mix of these.

Tackling resistance to inclusion requires a nuanced approach that addresses the specific actors engaging in resistance, their motivations, and the tactics they use. For example, resistance motivated by political competition and economic self-interest will require different tools than resistance involving an identity component in which the dominant group perceives inclusion as an existential threat.

For political motivation, incentive structures that make inclusive processes more amenable to powerholders may be enough (as long as progress is safeguarded by appropriate benchmarks and milestones). Overcoming resistance motivated by identity (whether it is gender or ethnicity) requires a more difficult and sustained effort. It demands not only institutional incentives, careful design of decision-making processes, and effective compliance measures, but also a long-term strategy that targets ideological and cultural change.

About the Report

This report examines the notion of inclusivity in peace processes—the extent to which negotiation and decision making include excluded voices, and of representativeness of citizens in state institutions and distribution of rights and entitlements across society—and resistance to it. Commissioned by the United States Institute of Peace, the report builds on Inclusive Peace and Transition Initiative case studies collected between 2013 and 2015 and additional research by the author.

About the Author

Esra Cuhadar is an associate professor of political science at Bilkent University in Turkey, and a senior fellow at the Inclusive Peace and Transition Initiative in Geneva. She was a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at USIP in 2018, and a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in 2011–12.

Related Publications

Negotiations Are the Only Way to End Afghan Conflict, Says Abdullah

Negotiations Are the Only Way to End Afghan Conflict, Says Abdullah

Thursday, June 25, 2020

By: Adam Gallagher

The head of Afghanistan’s new peace council said yesterday that he is optimistic that intra-Afghan talks can start in the coming weeks, but increased levels of violence and details of prisoner releases may slow the start of talks. Chairman Abdullah added that the government’s negotiating team will be inclusive and represent common values in talks with the Taliban. The team “will be diverse and represent all walks of life,” Abdullah said. Afghans and analysts have expressed concern that without an inclusive negotiating team, the country’s hard-won, democratic gains could be compromised for the sake of a deal with the Taliban.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Peace Processes

North Korea Blew Up Its Liaison Office with the South. What Now?

North Korea Blew Up Its Liaison Office with the South. What Now?

Thursday, June 18, 2020

By: Frank Aum; Patricia M. Kim

North Korea’s demolition this week of an inter-Korean liaison office that symbolized North-South cooperation marks a new spike in tensions between the countries, and in North Korean frustration with the United States. It was the latest in a string of inflammatory rhetoric and actions directed at Seoul and Washington since the failure of the February 2019 summit in Hanoi between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The building’s demolition renews strains over North Korea’s ongoing development of a nuclear weapons arsenal, the corresponding global sanctions against Pyongyang’s illicit behavior and the 67-year failure to formalize a peace treaty following the Korean War. USIP analysts Patricia Kim and Frank Aum discuss the latest downturn.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

Afghan President Ghani: Freeing Prisoners Can Speed Peace Talks

Afghan President Ghani: Freeing Prisoners Can Speed Peace Talks

Thursday, June 11, 2020

By: USIP Staff

Afghanistan’s government is accelerating its release of thousands of Taliban prisoners as a step toward peace talks, President Ashraf Ghani told an online audience today. The number of prisoners freed should now surpass 3,000, Ghani said, announcing that 2,000 more will be released “within a very short period.” That move, taking the total of freed Taliban fighters to 5,000, would fulfill a central Taliban pre-condition for peace talks. Ghani voiced optimism that a rare “window of opportunity” has opened for peace negotiations, but said further steps are vital to seize the chance to end the nation’s 40-plus years of warfare.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

The Challenges Facing the Philippines’ Bangsamoro Autonomous Region at One Year

The Challenges Facing the Philippines’ Bangsamoro Autonomous Region at One Year

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

By: Zachary Abuza; Luke Lischin

Just over a year ago, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) was formally established as part of a peace agreement to end nearly five decades of conflict between the Philippine government and Moro secessionists. This report discusses the many notable achievements of the BARMM government during its first year while cautioning that these accomplishments are not irreversible, and that the BARMM will need international support—including from the United States—to confront future challenges.

Type: Special Report

Peace Processes

View All Publications