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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2006, Vol, 6 No. 1 .


Democracy and Deep-Rooted Conflict: Options for Negotiators
Peter Harris and Ben Reilly

Sweden: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 2003, 414pp, PB 20.00, ISBN 91-89098-22-6

The publication of a second edition of Democracy and Deep Rooted Conflict: Options for Negotiators highlights the need for this type and style of book. The IDEA handbook series is geared towards policy-makers, politicians, civil society players and practitioners in the field of post-conflict reconstruction, and as such is written in a clear, accessible manner that immediately engages the reader. It also has the added attraction of rich case studies and neatly boxed summary tables that allow the reader to dip back into sections and have immediate access to the core principles of a chapter. The case studies in the book cover Northern Ireland, South Africa, Fiji, Bougainville, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sri Lanka and Guatemala.

In all, the tenet of the book is to explore the role that ?democracy? plays in building sustainable communities in the aftermath of a period of protracted violent conflict. With this task in mind, Harris and Reilly guide the reader through the complex field of post-conflict reconstruction with ease. The handbook begins by identifying the general characteristics of deep-rooted conflict and then moves the reader through the areas of Conflict Analysis, The Role of Negotiation and its different styles, Democratic Levers for Conflict Management (including autonomy-v-federalism; parliamentarialism -v- presidentialism), and the role of dealing with the past through Truth Commissions or War Crimes Tribunals. The final section of the book then focuses on what makes newly democratic systems sustainable, highlighting to the reader the dangers of coups, corruption and nepotism that can slowly eat away at these fledgling democracies.

From a conflict resolution perspective, the most appealing part of the book for me was Chapter Three on Negotiation Processes, with the quote by Nelson Mandela ?You don?t make peace by talking to your friends; you have to make peace with your enemies? (71) summarizing what negotiation entails, namely hard work and arduous decision-making. In all, the section covers i) Pre-negotiation, examining commonly perceived deadlocks, seizing windows of opportunities, the importance of trust and flexibility; ii) Developing a Specific Negotiation Process; iii) Basic Techniques for Negotiation; iv) Tools to Break Deadlock; v) Third Party Assistance, looking at the role of external actors in moving a negotiation process forward, namely through Track One (official) and Track Two (unofficial) diplomacy.

On a personal note, in the final chapter on ?Sustainability? I would have liked to see more written on the role that civil society plays in keeping fledgling democracies on the road to peaceful coexistence. For example, an exploration of the role of culture and the arts in celebrating diversity and commonality through music, dance, poetry, art, drama and literature could have highlighted how the ?cultural approach? to peace-building can act as the glue to keep new democracies together. Northern Ireland is one such example, with the emergence of numerous community arts festivals and activities directly funded from the European Union through their Peace and Reconciliation fund.


Dr Sarah Alldred, The Tim Parry Jonathan Ball Trust



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