Meaningful political participation. Lessons learnt from UN mediation in Afghanistan and Syria

Release date: 2021-04

In this Policy Brief, the authors present lessons learnt and subsequent policy implications from an in-depth analysis of the UN peace processes on Afghanistan and Syria. The authors argue that in both processes, the ability of peace process participants who come from Afghanistan and Syria to politically participate in their respective process was and is severely limited, thus hindering the prospects of successful conflict transformation. By political participation, the authors mean that peace process participants not only attend negotiations (“are being included”) but are in a position to (co-) determine who is negotiating the agreement (incl. which representation mechanism is adequate), what is the format of peacemaking (incl. methods of consultation), and what are the issues negotiated in which order (agenda-setting). The authors call this ‘meaningful political participation’.

Emphasising “inclusivity” in peace processes over meaningful political participation is highly problematic for potential progress towards longer-term/sustainable peace. Potential organisers of peace negotiations and related pre- and post-peace agreement measures (whether outside actors or ‘indigenous’) should strengthen political participation and process legitimacy for representatives from the populations concerned. This would contribute to opening a new pathway towards more sustainable peace processes, also beyond the Syrian and Afghan cases.