Religious Actors in Formal Peace Processes

Despite the clear impact – both real and potential – that religious actors and communities have on formal peace processes, there is little research or analysis to show when, whether, how, and to what extent religious actors could be engaged as part of these processes.

In response, Inclusive Peace, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy have started an initiative that aims to provide evidence-based guidance to religious actors, their supporters, and mediation support actors on the effective roles of religious actors in formal peacemaking efforts. The initiative began in 2018 with a series of consultations with practitioners, international experts, and scholars to share lessons and experiences on religious actor engagement in formal (track one) peace processes to inform research on the role of religious actors in formal peace processes. Following the research phase the conducted a series of exchanges with religious actors in different regions to gather further experiences of past and present opportunities and challenges faced by religious actors in formal peace processes, and to establish the ways in which the research and experiences can best inform how to most effectively support and engage religious actors in formal peacemaking efforts.

Research objective

The research component of the project seeks to provide a theoretical and empirical analysis of the way in which religion and religious communities impact conflict and peace processes, and the degree to which they have contributed to the success or failure of a peace process – by supporting it, opposing it, or remaining neutral.

Methodology

Based on a categorisation of types of roles religious actors across different phases (pre-negotiations, negotiations, and implementation) of peace and political transition processes, the research has examined the extent to which, how, and with what kinds of impact religious leaders and communities have been engaged in formal peace processes over the last 30 years. The research also analysed the types of religious and faith-based actors involved, how the nature of conflicts affects the involvement of religious actors and whether or not the conflict has a clear religious dimension, the degree of involvement of religious involvement, the phases of involvement, the rationales for involvement, who initiated the inclusion of religious actors (particularly whether the inclusion of religious actors arose from an invitation or whether the actors themselves claimed a role in the process), and the factors that enable or constrain (the effectiveness of) religious actors’ involvement.

The data investigated for this categorisation comes from two sources: first, a literature review that provides a summary of relevant academic and policy research on the role of religious actors in official (“track one”) peace and political transition processes over the past thirty years and examines 45 country case studies in relevant academic and policy literature; and second, Inclusive Peace’s database of 43 in-depth qualitative case studies of inclusive peace and transition processes which was assessed for the involvement of religious and traditional actors in track one negotiations.

Key Findings

  • Religious actors can be involved in all phases of a peace or political transition process, performing a number of different roles – the most common being mediation and advocacy.
  • Religious actors can also be involved across all of the modalities through which additional actors can be included in negotiation processes and the implementation of agreements: as part of negotiation teams, as observers to talks, in consultations, in commissions, in high-level problem-solving workshops, in public decision-making processes (elections and referendums), and through mass action.
  • A significant majority of the cases where religious actors have been involved in formal peace and political transition processes are not conflicts directly over religious issues or differences but conflicts where the parties were divided along ethno-religious lines.
  • In conflicts not directly over religious issues, religious institutions and leaders have been highly trusted and respected by the parties involved, and religious values and texts have proved important in mobilising communities towards political ends.
  • Religious actors have been particularly inclined to engage in formal peace activities when their own communities are engaged in the conflict or if their religious self-identity is threatened by the members of the other groups who mobilise for the conflict. But there were also cases where religious actors from outside the country have been involved, often as mediators.
  • Where a conflict has been polarised along ethnic, religious, or ethno-religious lines, traditional or faith-based actors have supported peacemaking efforts but also often held more conservative view points, proved less willing to negotiate, and in certain cases have undermined a particular peace process.
  • In most conflicts where religious actors served as mediators, the conflict did not have a central religious dimension.
  • Early involvement of religious actors is important for their long-lasting effective engagement, but in several cases where religious actors initially played a leading role in peacemaking efforts by mediating/facilitating dialogue, their influence later decreased for a variety of reasons, including being side-lined by other actors and self-exclusion from the process.

List of case studies

  1. Aceh peace negotiations 1999–2005
  2. Afghanistan Emergency Loya Jirga 2002, Constitutional Loya Jirga 2003–2004
  3. Algeria Peace Process 1994–1996 (Appeal for Peace October 1996)
  4. Benin political transition 1990–2011
  5. Bosnia Herzegovina Dayton peace process 1995
  6. Burkina Faso peace process 2017–present
  7. Burundi peace negotiations and implementation1996–2013
  8. Cambodia peace process, 1991–1993
  9. Central African Republic peace process 2013–present
  10. Chile/Argentina, Beagle Channel mediation, 1978–1985
  11. Colombia peace negotiations 1998–2002
  12. Colombia peace negotiations 2012–2016
  13. Cyprus negotiations 1999–2004
  14. Cyprus negotiations 2011–present
  15. Darfur peace negotiations 2009–2013
  16. DR Congo Inter-Congolese Dialogue 1999–2003
  17. East Timor peace process 1975–2002
  18. Egypt Mediation between Egyptian government and al- Gama’a al-Islamiyya 1993
  19. Egypt political transition 2011–2013
  20. El Salvador peace negotiations and implementation 1990–1994
  21. Eritrea constitution-making 1993–1997
  22. Ethiopia/Eritrea peace process 2000–2018
  23. Fiji political transition/constitution-making 2006–2013
  24. Georgia-Abkhazia UN negotiations 1997–2007
  25. Guatemala peace process 1989–1999
  26. Indonesia Molino II peace process 1999–2002
  27. Iraq peace process 2003–present
  28. Israel/Palestine Oslo I 1991–1995
  29. Israel/Palestine Geneva Initiative 2003–2013
  30. Israel/Palestine Alexandria Process 2002
  31. Kenya post-election violence 2008–2013
  32. Kyrgyzstan political reforms 2013
  33. Liberia peace agreement and implementation 1990–1996; 2003–2011
  34. Macedonia Ohrid peace process 2001–2013
  35. Mali political transition 1990–1992
  36. Northern Mali peace negotiation 1990–1996
  37. Mexico Chiapas uprising and peace process 1994–1997
  38. Moldova-Transnistria negotiations 1992–2005
  39. Mozambique mediated peace negotiations, 1990–1992
  40. Myanmar peace process 2011–present
  41. Nepal peace agreement and constitution-making 2005–2012
  42. Nicaragua political protests, 2018–2020
  43. Nigeria Quaker mediation, 1967–1970
  44. Northern Ireland Belfast (Good Friday) and St. Andrews agreements 1988–2006
  45. Philippines Bangsamoro peace process 1997–2016
  46. PNG Bougainville peace negotiations 1997–2005
  47. Poland political transition 1989
  48. Rwanda Arusha Peace Accords 1992–1993; political transition 1994–2010
  49. Serbia/Kosovo 1999–present
  50. Sierra-Leone Lomé peace talks, 1999
  51. Solomon Islands Townsville Peace Agreement and constitution-making 2000–2014
  52. Somalia I National Peace Conference 1992–1994
  53. Somalia II Djibouti process 1999–2001
  54. Somalia III Kenya process (National Peace Conference) 2001–2005
  55. Somaliland post-independence violence negotiations 1991–1994
  56. South Africa political transition 1990–2000
  57. South Sudan peace negotiations 2013–2015; 2015–2020
  58. Sri Lanka ceasefire, peace negotiations and elections 1998–2008
  59. Sudan National Peace Process 2003–present
  60. Syria peace process 2011–present
  61. Tajikistan peace negotiations and implementation1993–2000
  62. Thailand peace negotiations 2004–present
  63. Togo National Conference 1991
  64. Togo Inclusive Dialogue 2006
  65. Trinidad and Tobago hostage negotiations 1990
  66. Tunisia political transition and National Dialogue 2011–2016
  67. Turkey Armenia protocols 2008–2011
  68. Turkish-Kurdish peace process 2009–2014
  69. Uganda Juba peace talks 2006–2008
  70. Yemen National Dialogue 2011–2014
  71. Zimbabwe political transition 2017–present