A range of terms is gaining ground in the peacebuilding and mediation literature as it moves towards more inclusive and sustainable approaches to the prevention and resolution of violent conflict. This glossary aims to assist understanding and generate further discussion by providing short definitions of notions frequently referred to in the context of inclusive peace and transition processes. It is a work in progress: feel free to contact us with your suggestions.
Ceasefire agreement is a negotiated agreement in which the signatory parties undertake to suspend armed hostilities. A ceasefire can pave the way for conflict parties to engage in peace talks, and possibly reach a permanent political settlement. A ceasefire may be a component of a peace agreement. Cessation of hostilities agreements also suspend armed hostilities, but are often to be narrower in scope, and temporary. A truce is also generally temporary, and brief, but in contrast to a cessation of hostilities, it is informal, and typically local.
Civil society encompasses a wide range of actors that take voluntary collective action around shared interests, purposes, and values. Civil society actors may structure themselves as part of organizations commonly referred to as civil society organizations (CSOs) or associations which are theoretically independent from the state system, as well as from media and business spheres, although boundaries are often blurred. CSOs may include unions, professional associations, faith-based and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), research institutions, as well as traditional groups, networks and movements.
Coalition-building is a mechanism under which groups and individuals come together under a collective umbrella out of concern for a specific cause or issue or for strategic reasons.
Commissions are authoritative bodies tasked with overseeing aspects or phases of peace and political transition processes. Three common types of commission are those established to prepare and conduct negotiations; post-agreement commissions dealing with transitional justice mechanisms, ceasefire monitoring, and constitution-drafting or other issues related to implementation; and commissions set up as permanent constitutional bodies.
Conflict phase reflects the notion that an armed or violent conflict moves through a series of distinct stages, and can be divided into various analytical sequences, commonly including: no conflict, latent conflict, emergence, escalation, (hurting) stalemate, de-escalation, settlement/resolution, and post-conflict peacebuilding and reconciliation.
Constituent Assembly is a body of representatives in charge of writing, amending, or approving a national constitution.
Consultations may be conducted through meetings or polls. They allow groups and individuals to make suggestions to delegations present at the negotiating table, and negotiating parties to inform the public of the progress of talks. Consultations can be formal and informal, open to the public or more restricted.
Context factors refer to the social, cultural, economic and political circumstances which may affect the participation of actors within negotiations but also shape the trajectories of peace processes. Context factors can include elite support or resistance; public buy-in; preparedness of included actors; societal and political attitudes towards included actors; involvement of regional and international actors.
Direct representation at the negotiation table refers to participation in formal, high-level (track one) negotiations.
Elites are defined as exclusive groups of power holders that hold a disproportionate amount of political, social, or economic power compared to the rest of society.
A facilitator is a mutually acceptable third party that aims to support conflict parties in resolving their differences and finding solutions to their disputes. The role of facilitator is more supportive than directive, focused on helping the parties to come to mutual understanding of their perceptions, interests, and needs. Facilitators can be formally mandated but can also operate in the background to enable talks, help negotiate stalemates, or connect relevant people. See: mediator.
Faith-based actors are individuals or entities whose primary affiliation is religious or spiritual.
Implementation refers to the process of putting into practice the provisions of a peace agreement, a constitution or other political agreements. Generally, agreements are implemented via specialized commissions. Implementation may involve new legislation as well as the establishment of new structures and institutions.
Inclusion modalities refer to the ways in which actors can participate in peace and political transition processes. The “Broadening Participation” research project has identified seven modalities: direct representation at the negotiating table, observer status, consultations, inclusive commissions, problem-solving workshops, public decision-making, and mass action.
Mass action can take the form of public demonstrations, street protests, or uprisings involving a large number of people before, during, or after the negotiations. They can be an instrument for the public to influence power holders, particularly when used in combination with social media and mass media.
National Dialogue is an inclusive, multi-stakeholder negotiation in which large segments of society and politics are represented. It is meant to address a broad range of societal, political, and economic issues concerning the entire country. Generally, National Dialogues are formally mandated public forums with a clear structure establishing rules and procedures for dialogue and decision-making.
Negotiation table is a term used to refer to formal, high-level (track one) negotiations.
Observer status allows certain groups and individuals to follow a negotiation, but does not allow decision-making power. Observer status is often used to involve relevant actors that do not have a seat at the table such as recognized individuals, civil society or international actors in negotiations. Observers may act as “watchdogs”, advise mediators, and maintain pressure on conflict parties to reach an agreement.
Problem-solving workshops provide a space for discussion removed from the negotiation table. Discussions within these workshops can allow participants to informally exchange perspectives, overcome grievances, and formulate joint positions that may feed into the official negotiations.
Process factors refer to aspects inherent to the process design that affect the level of influence participants may have on the negotiations. Process factors include selection criteria and procedures, decision-making procedures, coalitions and joint positions, transfer strategies, attitudes of conflict parties and mediators, and support structures for participants.
Public decision-making generally takes the form of an election or a referendum. It can provide democratic legitimacy either to the continuation or outcome of the process, or the implementation of the agreement that has resulted from it.
Support structures may be established prior to, during, and after negotiations with the purpose of strengthening the role and influence of certain actors. These structures may take the form of resource centres offering logistical support and content-specific expertise, or workshops and training sessions.
Track 1.5 diplomacy refers to situations in which both official and non-state actors cooperate or engage in dialogue mostly in a discrete way. Problem-solving workshops can be one form of track 1.5 diplomacy.
Track one negotiations generally involve official, high-level diplomacy.
Track three relates to the activities carried out by individuals and private groups, normally at the grassroots level, to encourage interaction and understanding among hostile communities.
Track two entails dialogue between non-state actors – often members of civil society.
Transfer and advocacy strategies
Transfer and advocacy strategies aim to ensure that inputs from groups and individuals outside the official negotiations are incorporated into negotiations (and agreements). Mechanisms for transfer may include direct or indirect exchange of information with mediators, advisors, and negotiators, through meetings or workshops, or media outreach and lobbying.
Verification is the process of using monitoring information to evaluate compliance of relevant parties with an agreement. It aims to detect violations of agreements, as well as to deter potential violations, raising the expected costs of non-compliance by increasing the risk of exposure and possible sanction. Verification also provides compliant parties with the opportunity to credibly demonstrate their compliance, and helps to build trust.