Confederation, Autonomy, Renewal, and Reform

BY TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 27 Nov 2017

Rene Wadlow – TRANSCEND Media Service

27 Nov 2017 – The Association of World Citizens has a long-standing interest in developing appropriate constitutional structures for States facing the possibilities of prolonged or intensified armed conflicts.  In the recent past, we have proposed con-federal structures to deal with conflict situations in Mali, Ukraine, Myanmar, Libya and Cyprus as well as Kurdistan which involves both the structure of Iraq as well as positive cooperation among Kurds living in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran.

Con-federation and autonomy are broad concepts, capable of covering a multitude of visions extending from very limited local initiatives to complete control over everything other than foreign policy.  Autonomy can therefore incorporate all situations between nearly total subordination to the center to nearly total independence.  The ways in which the elements and patterns of autonomy are put together requires political imagination, far-sighted political leadership, a willingness to compromise, and constant dialogue.

In none of the six situations on which we have made proposals have we found much of a climate for meaningful negotiations although there have been formal negotiation processes carried out in the Ukraine case by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSDE) and on Cyprus by the United Nations.

Negotiations means a joint undertaking by disputants with the aim of settling their disputes on the basis of mutual compromise.  Negotiation is a basic political decision-making process, a way of finding common interests, to facilitate compromise without loss of what each considers to be essential objectives.  For the parties in a conflict to seek a compromise requires a certain climate – an informed public opinion that will accept the compromise and build better future relations on the agreement.

The challenges posed by the conflicts in Mali, Ukraine, Myanmar, Libya, Cyprus and Kurdistan need to be measured against the broad concept of security.  Barry Buzan of the University of Copenhagen sets out four types of security:

  1. Political security concerns the organizational stability of states, systems of government, and the ideologies that give them legitimacy.
  2. Economic security concerns access to the resources, finances and markets necessary to sustain acceptable levels of welfare.
  3. Societal security concerns the sustainability within acceptable conditions of the evolution of traditional patterns of language, culture, religions and customs.
  4. Environmental security concerns the maintenance of the local and the planetary biosphere as the essential support system on which all other human enterprises depend.

One of the difficulties in each situation is what I would call “the frozen image of the other”. In each case, the group or groups demanding new State structures are seen in the minds of the current government authorities as being the same people with the same aspirations as when the demands were first made: the Karen of Myanmar today are the same as the Karen of the Union of Burma in 1947; the Tuareg of north Mali today are the same as those calling for the creation of an independent State in 1940 when the withdrawal of French troops to Dakar had left a political vacuum.

However, there have been evolutions in policy proposals and in the level of education and experience of new leadership of those demanding autonomy. Yet “frozen images” exist and need to be overcome within all decision-makers involved. The modification of “frozen images” is one of the tasks of non-governmental organizations and Track II diplomatic efforts.

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René Wadlow is a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Task Force on the Middle East, president and U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens, and editor of Transnational Perspectives. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 27 Nov 2017.

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