Conflict Studies and Pluralism: a theoretical-practical approach to conflict resolution

The academic field of conflict studies is relatively young, although the practice of conflict resolution is as old as mankind. Integrating knowledge from multiple disciplines, conflict studies have formed by the broad foundation of interdisciplinary theory, research, and practice and from time to time, we need to update theoretical and practical concepts in this field. I think pluralism as a theoretical concept – an ethic of respect for human diversity – which is a normative response, to the presence of human differences, can reinforce the field of conflict studies in theory and on the other hand, can improve conflict resolution in practice. This, in turn, poses fundamental challenges to conflict resolution, as peace processes are often sufficed with strategic and tactical deception and even those who sign peace agreements may cultivate violence to undermine their new partners in peace. Besides, the theories in conflict studies are traditionally concentrated on how to resolve the conflict, rather than on how the peacebuilders properly engage with the respective social actors. Therefore, a new concept that focuses on providing a new theoretical-practical approach to conflict resolution for the peacebuilders in dealing with the diverse society is needed. Alongside, violent conflict within a society is often the extreme manifestation of pluralism breakdown. Given the dynamics of conflicts today, embedding pluralism into a peace process may help address the root causes of conflict and decrease the chances of renewed violence. In my point of view, recognizing pluralism as a value must be a guiding principle of Conflict resolution. Pluralism can act as a lens for decision-making around a process as a first step to be conceptualized as the methods and processes involved in facilitating the peaceful ending of conflict and retribution. In this paper, I will try to analyze the connection between Conflict studies and Pluralism as two of the most diversified disciplines and identify their commonalities. Then this paper will examine how these principles can be applied by peacebuilders in engaging with pluralism in the field of conflict resolution.

The Symposium will begin at 9 AM EST on 22 April at the following link:

Armed Conflict between Georgia and Russia

Case Studies of ‘EU Policies toward Peace Process

The post-conflict peacebuilding between two major ethnicities – Abkhazians and Ossetians – with central authority of Georgia has a long history that dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. This research tries to address the dynamic of frozen conflict and an unstable ceasefire in Georgia, from the early 1990s when the conflicts erupted, till early 2019. The central claim of the research is that despite the long peace process, at first, mediated and arranged by the United Nations (UN) and Russia, and then negotiated and mediated since 2008 by the European Union (EU) and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), has not brought about any serious progress towards a peace settlement. Hence, a frozen hostility and potential conflict zone in the Caucasus still persists. 

The main aim of the research is to give a more up-to-date understanding of the Abkhazian, and South Ossetian conflicts which is called the ethnoterritorial-ethnopolitical conflict in Post-Soviet era and to explore how it plays in and influences the peace process. To explain the relatively stable frozen nature of the conflicts, the research focuses on the role of the protector state and the EU as the main mediator. By analyzing the process of peace settlements and particularly the errors made by international organizations and other external players, this research aims to then recommend new potential peace approaches to the conflict in this area.

Building a sustainable peace in the consequences of civil war and armed conflict is one of the biggest challenges and problems of academic literature about peacebuilding in Georgia. The post-conflict peacebuilding between two major ethnicities – the Abkhazians and the Ossetians – with the central authority of Georgia has a long history that dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. Two major armed conflicts that took place in the early 1990s and 2008 caused further insecurity, fragility, instability, and obstacles to development in the whole Caucasus region.

This article addresses the dynamic of this frozen conflict and an unstable ceasefire in Georgia, from the early 1990s when the conflicts erupted, until early 2019. Generally, the hostilities and tensions between ethnic groups in the Post-Soviet countries in the Caucasus resulted in violent conflicts after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2008, confronting a deep security conflict, the peacebuilders and external players – the European Union (EU) and Russia – have stepped up their involvement in these conflicts. According to literature, Russia has not been an accurate mediator in the process of peace, but one of the outstanding reasons for starting these conflicts and sustaining those in an unresolved tensions condition (Popescu, 2006; Trenin, 1998; Trenin, 2009). Therefore, the security remained brittle, with some of the ceasefire regime’s requirements unrealized, and there has been little rightful progress in the EU mediated negotiations. The central claim of the research is that despite the long peace process, it has not brought about any serious progress towards a peace settlement. This long process, first mediated and arranged by the United Nations (UN) and Russia, and then negotiated and mediated since 2008 by the European Union (EU) and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)[1]. Hence, a frozen hostility and potential conflict zone in the Caucasus still persists (Ciobanu, 2008; SWP, 2016; Hill, 2001; Popescu, 2009). 

The main aim of the research is to give a more up-to-date understanding of the Abkhazian, and the South Ossetian conflicts which we will call the ethnoterritorial and the ethnopolitical conflict in the Post-Soviet era and explore how it plays in and influences the peace process. These conflicts in Georgia show many communalities as frozen conflicts, such as ineffective peace resolution, the emergence of the separatist regions as de facto states[2], and the active role of a protector state namely Russia. To explain the relatively stable frozen nature of the conflicts, the research focuses on the role of the protector state and the EU as the main mediator. By analyzing the process of peace settlements and particularly the errors made by international organizations and other external players, this research aims to then recommend new potential peace approaches to the conflict in this area. This introduction briefly elaborates on the background of the research. Subsequently, it explains the choice of the focus of the final research as well as the case selection.

[1]. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe is the world’s largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, promotion of human rights, freedom of the press, and fair elections.

[2]. De facto state, De facto regime, self-proclaimed region – these concepts are used as synonyms and refer to a separatist region, which declared independence from a central government but has not gained international recognition, like Abkhazia, and South Ossetia.

Main Article:

Click to access International%20Conference%20on%20Peace%20and%20Security%20in%20the%20South%20Caucasus%20%E2%80%93%20%20February%202020%20.pdf

Canadian impact on Conflict Resolution in MENA; based on Canada’s Middle East engagement strategy

This is not unfamiliar territory for Canada. Many of Canada’s recent foreign policy crises centre on the Middle East, such as major diplomatic disputes with Gulf states in 19792010 and 2018. Within Canada bitter arguments regarding Israel-Palestine are commonplace and Canada’s decision not to support the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was deeply contested, too. 

So, this begs a question, “What is Canada’s foreign policy toward the Middle East?” Though no such policy is clearly defined, in order to understand it, we can refer to two former Prime Ministers who have had an outsized influence determining two approaches Canada takes to the region: Lester B Pearson and Stephen Harper.

Canada is Deeply Engaged with the Middle East

The Middle East matters to Canada. It has deep demographic and cultural ties to the region. As an example, the victims of downed flight PS752 were part of a community of at least 210,000 Canadians of Iranian origin. There are approximately one million Canadians of Arab origin, while Kurdish, Turkish, Israeli (inter alia) communities are vital parts of Canadian society.

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Canada provides significant support to the US in the region. Although Canada chose to stay out of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, it spent $1.3 billion on state-building and security development there from 2004 to 2018. Canada was also directly involved in the UN-authorised, US-led military confrontation with Iraq in the First Gulf War in 1990-91.

Canada has at times been very engaged as a political actor in the US-led Oslo Peace Process. This included acting as a shepherd to the most sensitive political discussions, as well as facilitating backchannel talks when official ones broke down. Canada is also a major donor to a Palestinian development model designed to support peace-building and provide security for Israel, spending at least $CAD 1 billion from 1996/97 to 2016/17. (Figure compiled by the author using Canada’s statistical reports on Official Development Assistance.)  

Canada has contributed to the US campaign against ISIS, allocating $3.5 billion to programming in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan for 2016 to 2021. Since 2001 Canada has also shaped its national security agenda based on a perception of threats from Muslim and Middle East extremists.

A Pearsonian Foreign Policy Approach

Historically, Canada played a leading role in the establishment of Israel. Supreme Court Justice Ivan C. Rand and then Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs Lester B Pearson facilitated the partition of Mandatory Palestine and creation of Israel in 1947 and 1948. Canada would from 1950-69 be the third-largest donor to the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency (UNRWA) supporting Palestinian refugees from the land upon which Israel was established.

During the 1956 Suez Crisis, as Liberal Secretary of State for External Affairs, Pearson would help establish the world’s first large-scale UN peacekeeping force, UNEF I, to de-escalate tensions after a joint British, French and Israeli invasion of Egypt. The invasion threatened global stability and deeply angered the US, jeopardising the special alliance between Canada’s closest allies the UK and US.

Though pilloried by the opposition Conservatives for not supporting Britain, these events earned Pearson a Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 and ushered in a ‘Golden Age’ of Pearsonian diplomacy that came to define Canada’s post-British national, and international, identity. This established an image of Canada as an even-handed conciliator and fair-minded “peacemonger”.

This approach was exemplified in a 1980 “Stanfield Report” written by one-time Canadian Conservative party leader (1967-76), Robert Stanfield, when serving as “Special Representative of the Government of Canada Respecting the Middle East and North Africa”. His appointment came in response to a foreign relations crisis with Arab states, caused when a short-lived 1979 Clark Conservative government promised to move Canada’s embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Stanfield’s report concluded, “Israel should remain a fundamental cornerstone of Canadian Middle East policy”. However, it also called for Canada to act as a mediator that encourages moderation and conciliation in the region. To do this, he said Canada should be fair to all parties and take positions that have goals of justice and reconciliation.

The Report reflected a Pearsonian Canada invested in a rules-based international system built on respect for international law and multilateralism. This was a Canada that would remain close to its Western allies, but be equitable with all nations, building bridges and fostering peace. Up until the mid-2000s, this approach was considered by many scholars the defining feature of Canada’s Middle East policy.

The Harper Approach

However, under the Harper Conservative government (2006-15) Canada adopted a different approach. It prioritised Canada’s relationship with Western allies with “shared values”, like Israel and the United States. It eschewed Canada’s role as a mediator, was suspicious of the UN and did not trust the international rules-based system to provide security for Canada or advance the cause of democracy abroad. To them, this could only be done under the hegemonic leadership of the US.

Language of shared values permeates statements like a 2011 declaration by Prime Minister Harper and President Obama describing Canada and the US as staunch allies who share common values, deep links among their citizens and deeply rooted ties. A 2015 Canada-Israel Joint Declaration speaks of a relationship built, “first and foremost on shared values” by peoples who “share a passionate belief in, and willingness to defend, the principles of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law”.  

By contrast, Harper in 2013 compared Israel to other Middle East societies as, “that light of freedom and democracy in what is otherwise a region of darkness”. That “light” being one which his government said in 2010 Canada must protect militarily, without being bound by any such treaty, and in 2012 referenced when permanently closing Canada’s diplomatic representation with Iran.

Certain Alliances Matter More

Regardless of approach, Pearsonian or Harper, Canada remains close to its Western allies, Israel, the US and the UK in the region. Realist scholars point to decisions in Washington as having particular influence on Canadian Middle East policy. Diplomatic historians state Ottawa is conscious of “their limited capabilities, mindful of their place in the western camp and cognisant of the importance of assisting their allies.” None preclude Canada from being a facilitator of dialogue or mediator of peace.

Though the current Trudeau Liberal government has indicated a desire to return to the Pearsonian approach, the party itself is divided on the Middle East. Until now it has mostly remained aligned with the Harper approach.

Pluralistic Approaches toward Peacebuilding in the Caucasus

The Caucasus has emerged as one of the most important regions for peace and security in Central Eurasia. The Caucasus contains a set of protracted conflicts that threaten regional stability and risk overspill beyond the region. High levels of military spending and mutual hostility between countries of the region as a result of the protracted conflicts mean that the Caucasus is a heavily militarized region and needs more and more peacebuilding and peacemaking procedures.

During the Soviet Era, the parties aimed to create an ethnic-federalist structure, in which in most cases there was a one-to-one correspondence between territory and ethnicity. However, according to Stalin’s four criteria: a set territory, national language, culture, and economy, fifteen nationalities were given the highest standing of Soviet Socialist Republics. Within these fifteen republics were, in order of decreasing standing, twenty Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics (ASSRs), eight Autonomous Regions, and ten Autonomous Areas. All conflicts in the post-soviet era happened based on these territorial criteria.

Beyond its general rims, the north and south Caucasus is often viewed as a zone of conflicts rather than peace. Various international organizations and particular European governments have initiated peacebuilding enterprises in this region. Their active involvement is usually welcomed by local NGOs that reassure international donors to continue their investments in regional peace initiatives. However, the remaining high tensions between various social, political, ethnic, and religious groups in the South Caucasus may indicate that these initiatives have not proved to be enough effective. At the same time, the international peacebuilding interveners continue to overlook the existing local peace practices that can inform about peace better than the ‘blueprints’ of peace projects brought from outside. The recent conflicts in the Azerbaijan-Armenia border shown that all happened ceasefires are fragile.

I see the main problem is the method of peacebuilding through the region based on communities and states. I do believe that still there are no pluralistic approaches toward peacebuilding. Most mediators pride themselves on their impartiality, but building peace is inherently political, and the mediators come from organizations or countries that have political objectives. Even if a peacebuilder is genuinely impartial, they can still be perceived as carrying certain values and double standards associated with their nationality or organizational affiliation. The idea of Pluralism endorses the essential conditions of public order, such as the rule of law and a public authority with the capacity to enforce it. They also endorse what may be called a minimal universalism that is, the moral and practical necessity of organizing public life to ward off, to the greatest extent possible, the great evils of the human condition, such as tyranny, genocide, mass starvation, and deadly epidemics. This minimal universalism overlaps with contemporary movements for universal human rights and the provision of basic needs. That peacebuilding is inherently about changing worldview may seem controversial until one understands that conflict itself is perpetuated by the manipulation of worldview.

The basic problem of employing the construct of social pluralism is that it has no identity independent of a definition of a democratic society. Any presumed relationship between the variables is meaningless because one is merely attempting to relate two alternative definitions of the same set of conditions. A self-critical approach to peacebuilding was the theme of the day, putting dilemmas normally discussed only behind closed doors into a public forum to get a shared understanding of why we are not being more successful in building peace. However, I think if peacebuilders can bring pluralistic approaches to their activities from this perspective, these approaches can contribute to enhancing the analysis of the network of peace activists engaged in it, forming a sound basis for future peacebuilding programming in the region.

Published in CaucasusTime:

Human Rights and Peacebuilding: Difficulties of Activists

Preventing wars and massive human rights violations, and rebuilding societies in their aftermath, requires an approach that incorporates the perspectives of both human rights advocates and conflict resolution practitioners. This is easier to assert than to achieve. These two groups make different assumptions, apply different methodologies, and have different institutional constraints. As a result, they tend to be wary of one another.
In the short run, both seek to end violence, loss of life, and other suffering as quickly as possible. In the long run, both human rights and conflict resolution practitioners try to assist societies in taking steps to ensure that the violence does not recur and that the rights of every human being are respected. Yet the methods each uses to achieve these goals, as well as their underlying assumptions, are different. As a result, at times they adopt contradictory or even mutually exclusive approaches to the same problem. For example, conflict resolvers, eager to achieve a negotiated settlement to a conflict with minimum loss of life, may insufficiently factor in the relevance of human rights to the long-term success of their work and to the protagonists they seek to bring together. Human rights advocates, by limiting their activities to shaming, negative publicity, and judicial condemnation of responsible individuals, may miss opportunities for human rights improvements that could be achieved through the use of negotiation and diplomatic techniques upon which conflict resolvers rely.
In order to explore these apparent differences more explicitly, I worked with a human rights colleague, the late Ellen Lutz, to commission a set of case studies of conflicts in which both human rights and conflict resolution professionals have worked extensively: Colombia, Sierra Leone, and Northern Ireland. Our purpose was to see how these two agendas proceeded in each case, and whether constructive interaction between their activities was achieved. Our case studies uncovered two crucial dilemmas that must be addressed if we are to see better understanding and synergy between human rights and conflict resolution in peacebuilding practice. One is the tension between establishing sustainable non-violent relations between contending groups within a country, and prosecuting the members of such groups for human rights abuses and/or war crimes. The second is the significant role that the international community plays in supporting or undermining norms that would help to integrate human rights and conflict resolution practices. ACCOUNTABILITY VS. INCLUSION IS A DOMINANT CHALLENGE DURING ALL PHASES OF CONFLICT, NOT JUST AFTER A PEACE AGREEMENT HAS BEEN SIGNED.
One of the most challenging issues in the period after a peace agreement has been reached is how to deal with war crimes and human rights abuses committed by the previous Government. While human rights advocates push for accountability for crimes committed and punishment to deter further abuses, conflict resolution advocates worry that punishing the perpetrators might further splinter the society, making the healing process more difficult.
One of the interesting findings in our case studies is that this disagreement about whether perpetrators should be punished or rehabilitated occurs not only after an agreement has been reached, but also at every other conflict phase. In Colombia, where violence is still occurring and no agreement has been reached, this tension manifests itself in the Government’s response to the guerillas, particularly the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). One of our case writers claims that while there is a real yearning on the part of FARC leaders for inclusion and dignity, they have come to see violence as the only way they can participate in a Government from which they have been alienated for generations by the Liberals and Conservatives. However, over the years these same guerillas have turned to illegal activities, including war crimes and drug trafficking, to support themselves. This creates a real challenge: to recognize the legitimate interests of the guerillas to establish that politics, as opposed to violence, is the way to resolve differences (the conflict resolution perspective), while at the same time to strengthen the rule of law by prosecuting criminals for their drug activities and kidnappings (the human rights perspective). How can both views be accommodated?
In Sierra Leone, the conundrum occurred around the issue of amnesty for Fodoy Sankoh, the leader and founder of the rebel group Revolutionary United Front, as the peace agreement was being negotiated. It was such an important case that it pushed then United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, as an institutional policy, to explicitly withhold UN support for the granting of amnesty to faction leaders for war crimes as an incentive for a peace deal. While the Secretary-General could not initiate sanctions against such leaders, the withholding of UN approval for amnesty sent a signal that the United Nations was refusing to be a party to such a deal. Since the Sierra Leone talks, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has started its operations, making it possible to prosecute leaders for alleged war crimes. This makes it even less likely that leaders can demand complete amnesty in return for signing a peace accord. It remains to be seen what the impact of the ICC will be on future peace negotiations. As of this writing, for example, the ICC investigations into the actions of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda are impeding the conclusion of peace talks there.
The Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, while containing a strong human rights component to govern future relations, is silent on acknowledgment of past acts of discrimination against the Catholics in the region — which was the original cause for violence when the Troubles began in the late 1960s. Our case writers note that the founding of the state was based on discrimination and, even now, the human rights provisions in the Good Friday Agreement are “under-implemented.” In fact, over the years the emphasis shifted from a focus on human rights to a focus on power-sharing. One might argue that the continuing low-level violence and tenuous implementation of the Agreement may, in some measure, be because the core of the conflict is still largely not discussable and has still not been addressed.
These cases do not provide answers to these conundrums, but rather illustrate how complex the trade-offs are in the context of real world circumstances. For example, no systematic analysis has been done that determines whether or not amnesty leads to the undermining of rule of law or to the instability of peace agreements. These cases point to the need for such an analysis to be done. THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY PLAYS A KEY ROLE IN DETERMINING WHETHER HUMAN RIGHTS AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION PRACTICES COMPETE OR COLLABORATE.
In all three of our cases, outside actors had a huge impact on how human rights and conflict resolution processes have proceeded. The United States and the United Nations, in particular, set the tone by their policies and behaviours.
The United Nations was the dominant external actor in Sierra Leone, fielding a strong team of human rights experts to advise on provisions of the peace agreement, structure a truth commission, and coordinate the activities of the many human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that were active in the country. Even on the conflict resolution side, as discussed above, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sierra Leone took a strong stand against international amnesty for human rights violations. The United Nations also helped set up a tribunal to prosecute perpetrators when the violence escalated after an agreement had been reached. The collaboration that took place between the conflict resolution and human rights actors in Sierra Leone, encouraged and supported by the United Nations, provides a positive model to draw upon in designing operations in other countries.
As our cases show, such collaboration has not occurred in Colombia or Northern Ireland. In Colombia, with both United States military training and financial support, the Government has taken a military approach toward the guerilla movements, hoping to defeat them and destroy the drug trade. Neither goal has been accomplished. While the human rights violations get international attention from NGOs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the peacemaking process has not received comparable outside support. It appears that international involvement, especially from the United States Government, has made the situation worse instead of better, particularly in relation to human rights/conflict resolution collaboration.
To some extent, the same can be said of Northern Ireland. The peacemaking process, conducted under the auspices of international mediators, reinforced the notion of two tribes engaged in inevitable competition, according to our case writers. The power-sharing arrangements enshrined in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement further solidified these divisions. At the same time, thirty years of violence might have been avoided if the international community had been willing to confront the discrimination and human rights abuses that took place there much earlier on, before the Troubles began. Even now, the human rights origins of the conflict are not resolved, and low-level violence continues. Both the human rights and conflict resolution agendas are suffering.
The international community, therefore, has a responsibility to incorporate human rights norms in conflict resolution efforts for peacebuilding in cases of extreme power asymmetry. Human rights norms help address these asymmetries in two important ways. First, they help empower the weaker party — a norm that the conflict resolution community already endorses. By strengthening the salience of human rights norms, third-party conflict resolution processes can achieve greater efficacy by giving a weaker party the support it might need to negotiate from a more equitable vantage point. Second, human rights norms are important in reinforcing the notion that a state’s sovereignty carries with it a responsibility to protect the civilians within its borders.
Most importantly, those designing and implementing conflict resolution processes for peacebuilding in intra-state conflicts cannot assume that human rights are “not our issue.” They are key components of parties’ interests and concerns, significant indicators of power asymmetry and sometimes power abuses, and often both a cause and a consequence of the conflicts we are trying to settle or transform. It is crucial that peacebuilders know and understand the strengths and weaknesses of human rights norms, and how to use these norms in a constructive and appropriate way. 

Pluralism and Multiculturalism

Virtual Event – at the University of Ottawa

31 July, 2020 – 3-5 p.m

Cultural pluralism is a term used when smaller groups within a larger society maintain their unique cultural identities, whereby their values and practices are accepted by the dominant culture, provided such are consistent with the laws and values of the wider society. As a sociological term, the definition and description of cultural pluralism has evolved over time. It has been described as not only a fact but a societal goal. I on behalf of Academic club for peace and conflict studies, today talked about these issues in our global arena.

I said that In a pluralist culture, groups not only coexist side by side, but also consider qualities of other groups as traits worth having in the dominant culture. Pluralistic societies place strong expectations of integration on members, rather than expectations of assimilation. The existence of such institutions and practices is possible if the cultural communities are accepted by the larger society in a pluralist culture and sometimes require the protection of the law. Often the acceptance of a culture may require that the new or minority culture remove some aspects of their culture which is incompatible with the laws or values of the dominant culture.

At the end, I highlighted that Cultural pluralism is distinct from multiculturalism, which lacks the requirement of a dominant culture. If the dominant culture is weakened, societies can easily pass from cultural pluralism into multiculturalism without any intentional steps being taken by that society. If communities function separately from each other, or compete with one another, they are not considered culturally pluralistic. for example in 1971, the Canadian government referred to cultural pluralism, as opposed to multiculturalism, as the “very essence” of the nation’s identity. Cultural pluralism can be practiced at varying degrees by a group or an individual. A prominent example of pluralism is 20th-century United States, in which a dominant culture with strong elements of nationalism, a sporting culture, and an artistic culture contained also smaller groups with their own ethnic, religious, and cultural norms.

Nagorno-Karabakh and Iranian Public and Foreign Policy

The 2020 Karabakh War has had regional implications for neighboring countries, specifically on Iranian public and foreign policy. When the fighting began on the morning of September 27, 2020 along the Nagorno-Karabakh Line of Contact, Iranian social media and public discourse began swirling as to what should Iranians’ position be in this nearby historical conflict.

First, the Assembly of Northwest MPs in the Parliament of Iran, who represent the Iranian provinces of West Azerbaijan, East Azerbaijan, Ardabil and Zanjan, published the following statement: “According to academic findings and historical documents, Nagorno-Karabakh is part of the Islamic world and UN Security Council Resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884 also recognize the sovereignty of the Republic of Azerbaijan over it.” They also asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to report its latest actions and implementation policies for supporting the Muslim people of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the oppressed Shias of Nagorno-Karabakh based on Articles 3 and 152 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Besides the MPs’ statement, the Representatives of the Supreme Leader in the same Northwest region jointly stated their support for the Azerbaijani side in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: “There is no doubt that Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to the Republic of Azerbaijan and its territories need to return to Azerbaijan, the country of the Ahl al-Bayt (The People of the Prophet’s Home). The Azerbaijani government has acted completely legally and juridically to retake these lands and has sought to implement four UN Security Council Resolutions.”

In both statements, ethnic, religious and linguistic affinities feature prominently. They invoke emotional language and can be seen by an external observer as an invitation to Shia Islamic Jihad for encouraging Shia Azerbaijanis to be on the front lines of War. It should be noted that Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, comes from a Azeri-speaking Shia family on his father’s side that originates from the Iranian-Azerbaijani community from the city of Khamaneh, in the East Azerbaijan Province of Iran (though he was not born or raised there). Simultaneously, Ali-Akbar Ajaqnejad the official representative of the Iranian Supreme Leader to the Republic of Azerbaijan, who has a lot of influence in the Shia religious institutions of the South Caucasus, congratulated Azerbaijan for its victories on the battlefield and offered condolences to Azerbaijani families for their losses in a video message in the Azerbaijani language in Baku. He also emphasized that Iran and Iranians always support Azerbaijani acts in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and called all Azerbaijani casualties “martyrs of Islam.”

Alongside the official statements and public comments by Iranian MPs, Shia scholars and the representatives of the Iranian Supreme Leader across the country, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif had separate phone conservations with the Foreign Ministries of Azerbaijan and Armenia on the second day of the war and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had phone conversations with the Prime Minister of Armenia on the fourth day of the war and with the President of Azerbaijan on the ninth day of the war. Both officials called on both sides to exercise restraint, cease fire, put an immediate end to hostilities and restart negotiations based on international law. Interestingly, the current executive team at the Iranian President’s Office is the same group of members from the first mediating delegation in 1992, which resulted in the Tehran Communiqué. It was signed by the acting President of Azerbaijan, Yagub Mammadov, and President Levon Ter-Petrossian of Armenia on May 7, 1992, intending to end the four-year-long hostilities. The key figure of that team was Mahmoud Vaezi, as the special envoy of Iran to the region in 1992, who is the current Presidential Chief of Staff and the most influential person in Iranian foreign policy. He has a close friendship with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and was awarded the Dostluq (Friendship) Order of the Republic of Azerbaijan on April 21, 2016.

These internal pro-Azerbaijani developments in Iran and the nationalist atmosphere in the Republic of Azerbaijan quickly and intensely affected the public opinion of the Azeri-speaking Shia community in Northwest Iran. Consequently, a movement was formed on social media led by Shia religious institutions and ethnocentric groups. On October 1, protests were organized in several Iranian cities, including the capital, Tehran, and the northwestern city of Tabriz, in support of the Azerbaijani military operation and against Iranian official policy toward Armenia, following a call on social media. These protests ended with slogans of hatred directed against other Iranian ethnic groups and confrontations with anti-riot police.

Apart from this recent development, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Iran faced new geopolitics in the Caucasus on its northwest border in the 1990s and developed a new policy based on these new conditions. This policy was formed around several axes: preserving security and its territorial integrity, developing bilateral-multilateral economic and cultural relations, emphasizing the geopolitical importance of Iran regarding the transit of goods and energy, as well as reconstructing the regional image of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Then, abandoning some ideological considerations of the Islamic revolutionary context, Tehran tried to pursue a pragmatic policy concerning Baku and Yerevan, especially in the case of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Iranian authorities decided to set their policy in this area in close cooperation with Russia. Efforts to mediate the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at the beginning of the 1990s were a clear example of this policy of establishing security and stability on its borders. Emphasis on regional solutions and direct dialogue between parties has been the main approach of Iran’s foreign policy toward this question.

Therefore, the Nagorno-Karabakh Question, for Iran, has two dimensions: internal and external. Its internal dimension includes the importance of this question among the people of Northwestern Iran who call themselves Azerbaijani and feel an affinity with the Republic of Azerbaijan. This sentiment has greatly influenced ethnocentric tendencies and strengthened a subtext of the potential separatist movement in the last decade. In addition, the sensitivity of Shia scholars in Qom to the Nagorno-Karabakh question has increased, making it difficult to balance foreign policy for official authorities.

Its external dimension also includes the importance of security and good neighborliness with northern borders. So far, Iran has always officially expressed condolences to Muslims that have died throughout the fighting in Karabakh and emphasized sustaining the territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Iran has repeatedly defended Azerbaijan in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s annual statements. Also, Iran has maintained its relations with Armenia at the highest possible level. On the other hand, the close cooperation of the Republic of Azerbaijan with Israel in the military field and Israel’s support for the ethnocentric tendencies and the potential separatist movement in Northwest Iran has created another dimension of security considerations.

However, this question keeps playing an important role in Iranian public opinion, and Iran endeavors to maintain a positive balanced policy with both countries. It seems that Iranians see Nagorno-Karabakh as their cultural territory, where one of the most nostalgic parts of their history, the battlefields of the Russo-Persian Wars of the 18th and 19th centuries, took place.

Originally published at

Climate change and its security risk among fragile states

This is true for a number of reasons, including: the high exposure of many fragile states to climate risks; their economic reliance on climate-dependent sectors (particularly rain-fed agriculture); and their histories of conflict, poverty and weak governance, which all serve to increase vulnerability to climate change. A failure to consider and address climate change and risks will undermine peacebuilding programs and projects, and threaten their long-term sustainability.

There is growing consensus among researchers and policy-makers that climate change represents a real threat to peace and security. ACPCS undertook this research project to examine whether this consensus is reflected among peacebuilding practitioners. Drawing on desk-based research, practitioner surveys and interviews, and workshop discussions, the research aims to provide guidance on how to simultaneously achieve peacebuilding and climate-resilience objectives in practice. To do so, it addresses the following questions:

  • Are peacebuilding practitioners operating in conflict-affected fragile states aware of or concerned about climate change and variability?
  • If so, what are they doing about it? If not, then why not, and what further guidance do they require?
  • To what extent can peacebuilding practitioners access, understand and use existing climate data and information?
  • What new information and climate services are needed to design better, more climate-compatible peacebuilding programs?

By answering these questions, the research provides insights on climate-resilient peacebuilding interventions that take into consideration the implications of near- and long-term climate risk as a contributing factor in driving conflict. It also considers conflict-sensitive climate change responses designed to ensure that, at a minimum, interventions do not increase the risk of conflict and, preferably, serve to enhance peacebuilding opportunities. This research also provides guidance for accessing, understanding and using climate information in fragile states, guidance that was tailored to the needs and capacities of peacebuilding practitioners.

Climate change and its security risk among fragile states

Armed conflict and peace processes


Hamed Kazemzadeh had a short talk in the panel of Armed Conflict in SIPRI Debates of Stockholm Forum 2020. He mentioned that the pattern of armed conflict and peace processes in 2019 appeared to confirm the recent trend for a reversal of the post-cold war peace, but the picture is mixed. According to the UCDP, for example, the number of active armed conflicts decreased from 52 to 49 in 2019. However, despite this reduction, 2019 confirms the trend for there to be a significantly larger number of conflicts in the past three years compared to the period 2007–13. Comparisons over a longer period show that the number of armed conflicts in recent years has been equivalent to the number in the period 1990–92. The two periods 1990–92 and 2014–16 constitute two distinct peaks in the post-cold war era. Much of the increase in the number of conflicts in 2014–16 stemmed from the spread of the Islamic State (IS), which often transformed active conflicts and led them to be recorded as new conflicts in UCDP data. 

Conflict-related developments have been discouraging in recent years, not least in the Middle East, but not all the changes have been negative. While many conflicts were initiated or escalated, many others ceased to be active or were de-escalated. The reduction in the number of conflicts in Latin America is particularly noteworthy. After the 2016 peace agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–People’s Army (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia–Ejército del Pueblo, FARC–EP) and the Government of Colombia, and with ongoing negotiations with the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN), the only guerrilla group still in conflict with the Colombian Government, it seems likely that the region will soon have no active conflicts.

Islamist armed conflicts

He said that about one-third of the world’s Islamist armed conflicts are taking place in the Middle East and North Africa, one-third in sub-Saharan Africa and the rest largely in Asia. In some cases, an escalation can be observed over time from not necessarily religiously framed opposition to explicit Islamist grievances, followed by a transformation into transnational Islamist aspirations. The need to recognize and constructively manage this type of conflict at each step of its escalation, and seek to resolve it has important implications for conflict prevention policy. South East Asia stands out as a region that is bucking the empirical trend, where the proportion of Islamist armed conflicts seems to be decreasing.

Global Peace Index – Vision of Humanity

This is the thirteenth edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI), which ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness. Produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), the GPI is the world’s leading measure of global peacefulness. This report presents the most comprehensive data-driven analysis to date on peace, its economic value, trends, and how to develop peaceful societies. The GPI covers 99.7 per cent of the world’s population, using 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected sources, and measures the state of peace using three thematic domains: the level of Societal Safety and Security; the extent of Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict; and the degree of Militarisation. In addition to presenting the findings from the 2019 GPI, this year’s report includes analysis of trends in Positive Peace: the attitudes, institutions, and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. It looks at the relationship between the actual peace of a country, as measured by the GPI, and Positive Peace, and how a deficit of Positive Peace is often a predictor of future increases in violent conflict. It also looks at the dynamic relationship between changes in Positive Peace and changes in the economy.