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Broken Power-Sharing Agreements Lead To Renewed Violence
If parties in intractable conflicts -- particularly in societies divided by clan, ethnic, racial or religious differences -- find that they are unable to escalate their way out of conflict, but seek a compromise that assures them a permanent place at the bargaining table, they may turn to power sharing as a potential solution. Power sharing is a term used to describe a system of governance in which all major segments of society are provided a permanent share of power; this system is often contrasted with government vs. opposition systems in which ruling coalitions rotate among various social groups over time.
These are the basic principles of power sharing as traditionally conceived:
Grand coalition governments in which nearly all political parties have appointments;
Protection of minority rights for groups;
Decentralization of power;
Decision making by consensus.
Today, there is a more expanded definition of power sharing, such that a wide range of options exist for engendering consensus and compromise in deeply divided societies. One of the most important tasks for practitioners in intractable conflict is pairing thoughtful assessments about the causes and dynamics of a conflict with the wide range of power-sharing options that could potentially ameliorate tensions through consensus-oriented governance.
Ostensibly, power-sharing solutions are designed to marry principles of democracy with the need for conflict management in deeply divided societies. Power sharing involves a wide array of political arrangements -- usually embodied in constitutional terms -- in which the principal elements of society are guaranteed a place, and influence, in governance. From South Africa to Sri Lanka, from Bosnia to Burundi, from Cambodia to Congo, it is difficult to envisage a post-war political settlement that does not, or would not need to, include guarantees to all the major antagonists that they will be assured some permanent political representation, decision-making power, and often-autonomous territory in the post-war peace.
In many situations, the international community works proactively to encourage parties to adopt power sharing instead of waging war. In Afghanistan, for example, following the fall of the Taliban, international mediators worked hard at the Bonn negotiations in December 2001 to ensure that the transitional government under interim (now permanent) leader Hamid Karzai was broadly representative of the major ethnic groups in this highly diverse and long-conflicted country. In Ivory Coast, French mediators have brokered a pact in early 2003 to end that country's civil war; rebel commanders eventually took up appointments in a revamped cabinet.
However, power sharing is no panacea. Indeed, some types of power-sharing systems may contain the seeds of their own self-destruction as the search for consensus turns into deadlock by political leaders aware that they hold the power of veto over government action. Moreover, some elements of status-quo power will violently reject sharing power, as did elements of the Rwandan paramilitary groups in 1994 in opposition to the Arusha Accord of the previous year, leading to the worst genocide since World War II.
The power sharing may be desirable, and necessary, as an immediate exit to deadly conflicts, especially those fought in the name of ethnic identity. In the long run, however, rigid power sharing is not a durable solution to intractable conflicts. Ideally, power sharing should wither away over time, as trust builds and the uncertainty of more "normal" majority rule democracy becomes acceptable. At the same time, practitioners should think innovatively about options that can allow such an evolution from formal sharing of power -- often by exclusive ethnic groups -- to a more socially inclusive and integrated form of representation.
Autonomy. For many conflicts today, such as Azerbaijan (Karabagh), Sudan, or Sri Lanka, autonomy is often seen as a reasonable way to balance the claims of states for territorial integrity and the claims of rebel forces for secession.
Power Sharing: Group Building-Block Approach. Another possible option is a looser form of autonomy, not always explicitly territorial, termed consociationalism. The option is in essence a group building-block approach that relies on accommodation by ethnic-group leaders at the political center and guarantees for group autonomy and minority rights; in essence, this approach is "consociational" in that it encourages collaborative decision-making by parties in conflict. The key institutions are federalism and the devolution of power to ethnic groups in territory that they control; minority vetoes on issues of particular importance to them; grand coalition cabinets in a parliamentary framework, and proportionality in all spheres of public life (e.g., budgeting and civil service appointments).Bosnia's 1995 Dayton Accord is a good example of this approach in practice.
Consociational Power Sharing
Power Sharing: Integrative Approach. By contrast, the integrative approach eschews ethnic groups as the building blocks of a common society. As a distinct set of options for power sharing, this approach rejects cohesive ethnic or other groups (such as "confessional" or religious factions in Lebanon) as the building blocks of society. This approach features options that purposefully seek to integrate society along the lines of division. This approach can be called "centripetalism," because it tries to engineer a center-oriented spin to political dynamics.
The integrative approach seeks to build multiethnic political coalitions (again, usually political parties), to create incentives for political leaders to be moderate on divisive ethnic themes, and to enhance minority influence in majority decision-making. The elements of an integrative approach include electoral systems that encourage pre-election pacts across ethnic lines, non-ethnic federalism that diffuses points of power, and public policies that promote political allegiances that transcend groups. Some suggest that integrative power sharing is superior in theory, in that it seeks to foster ethnic accommodation by promoting crosscutting interests. Others, however, argue that the use of incentives to promote conciliation will run aground when faced with deep-seated enmities that underlie ethnic disputes and that are hardened during the course of a brutal civil war.
Matching Problems to Solutions
A key feature of consociational power-sharing is the mutual veto, whereby decisions are only made with the widest possible consent and only with a near consensus. However, this often leads to the use of "political blackmail." Unable to get consensus, governance stagnates and policy-making drifts; the result is a "cold peace," in which the parties refrain from violence but have not embarked on a serious process of reconciliation, either. In many ways, this is the sad story of post-war Bosnia , which has muddled through elections and a period of peace without much progress in effective consensus-oriented government. The inability to make or implement policy due to protracted disagreement can lead to frustration and eventually defection from a peace accord. War can erupt anew. Historically, the outbreak of civil wars in Angola, Cyprus, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, and Sudan have all been the result of broken power-sharing agreements that led to renewed violence.
How can the rigid structures of political power-sharing wither over time to the point where the guarantees for group security they contain are no longer necessary? This is not a purely academic question. In Bosnia, for example, the ability of NATO's international peacekeepers to end their occupation is premised on the ability of the power-sharing institutions forged in the 1995 Dayton Agreement -- now dominated by nationalists -- to melt into more moderate and ethnically mixed political institutions
In matching options to solutions, much depends on the level of enmity between the contending groups, the trajectory of the war (e.g., the extent of ethnic separation that occurred) and whether or not in their negotiations they can accept any degree of uncertainty or vulnerability to political loss. Critical to analysis of the problems is a coherent assessment of the role that ethnicity plays in the turn to violence and the prominence of identity as a cause of conflict. At some point, it becomes impossible to live together in broad, tolerant, multiethnic coalitions; in such cases, perhaps consociational democracy is the best alternative to violence. When consociationalism can not work, autonomy might be a solution. When even autonomy is not possible, the time may be ripe to consider complete separation (or, in the jargon of the field, partition).
If our nation want to survive in the long run, then we have to look the maters that may divide power-sharing agreements are among the major areas whereby a nation if it fails to recognize as a solution to the conflict then the broken deal may lead to renewed violence. Therefore to make a nation one must always look solutions that bind the people together and such experiences can be drawn from other countries around the world.