| Developing ideas: Issue 5 |
Who would have thought that a new methodology for reconciliation would become so popular? Broadly speaking, the methods fall into one of two categories: learning how to agree with others before conflict arises, or trying to patch things up after conflict has reared its ugly head. In the pre-conflict category, sustainable development councils (or round tables} are a recent historical arrival in a long line of methods for developing eye-to-eye understanding. SD councils bring a diverse range of individuals or interests together as equal stakeholders in discussions to resolve potential disagreements. Precursors include the African palaver where a reconciliation of hearts and minds is encouraged, followed by a meal taken together, or Native American circles where elders listen and then advise, or Quaker processes where moral objections serve as immediate vetoes. SD councils have sprung up in countries from the Philippines to the USA, and are being actively promoted by the Costa-Rica-based Earth Council. Of course, such dialogue circles are easier to initiate and manage before any lines get drawn in the sand. If conflict is already a factor, 'multi-stakeholder' processes can still occur but the stakes rise and the model changes to conflict resolution. Here the options include bargaining, third-party mediation or other dispute resolution techniques. While multi-stakeholder models may have only a limited role to play in resolving violent conflicts, they remain a versatile tool for keeping people talking and reminding everyone their adversaries are human too. These processes are certainly no panacea. But in their own modest way, they can help construct common security (see Dl #1) out of otherwise stressful situations. ['by the people for the people']
Peace-building n. UN-ese for bolstering the chances for peace after violence, not the prevention of conflict to begin with.
Human world order n. a new framework for 'global governance' (see Dl Issue 2) involving fairer institutional, economic and political relations.
Roseland, Mark and others, guest eds. Shared Decision-Making and Natural Resource Planning: Canadian Insights. Environments Special Issue 23 (2: 1996).
Not Hot - When Consensus Cooks Miss Crucial Ingredients
Achieving agreement often sounds easier than it is. Round tables may be a cinch to set up, but too often they miss the crucial elements required for success. Take the case of Canada, which pioneered the idea but where few round tables survive today. Why did some fail and others succeed? The answer lies in two key factors. First, successful round tables require top-level buy-in from those capable of making the final decisions. In Canada's provinces, then, the participation of provincial premiers was crucial to creating the 'can do' atmosphere necessary for progress. The other major factor contributing to a dynamic outcome is the production of an identifiable output that the round table 'owns' and feels comfortable promoting, even if the political powers-that-be aren't terribly supportive. Without at least one of these ingredients, the result is likely to just be a wishy-washy soup of suggestions - and a shortened lifespan for the round table.
Earth Council http://terra.ecouncil.ac.cr/
National Round Table on the Environment & Economy (Canada)
US President's Council for SD