International Alert has been engaged in conflict transformation in the South Caucasus since the mid-1990s. In the Nagorny Karabakh conflict context, we have sought to empower different sectors of society to build trust across the divide, explore alternative narratives on the conflict and advocate for peace among policymakers. As part of the European Partnership for the Peaceful Settlement of the Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh (EPNK), Alert has brought together a group of experts from the conflict region to carry out comparative analysis of other conflict contexts.
Conflicts can be studied on different levels and with different aims – from understanding the causes, dynamics and driving forces of conflict to studying the positions of the conflicting sides and specific solutions. This project does not focus on any of these aims. Instead, we approach the analysis of other conflicts from the perspective of civil peacebuilding. In particular, we seek to study the participation of civil society and the role of multi-track diplomacy in peace processes and efforts to transform conflicts using specific mechanisms and institutions that do not have direct political leverage or resources. Another important part of the project consists of stimulating broad debate with diverse sectors of the population based on new ideas and perspectives on transforming the conflict, and developing new approaches through direct dialogue with the societies.
The first initiative of the expert group was to analyse perceptions of peacebuilding efforts among civil society from their own conflict context to date. This research formed the basis of their joint publication – ‘Advancing the Prospects for Peace: 20 years of civil peacebuilding in the Nagorny Karabakh conflict context’ – an innovative attempt to collectively reflect on 20 years of peacebuilding efforts by civil society.
Taking their first joint publication as a starting point for subsequent comparative research into other conflict contexts, the group studied mechanisms of public participation and multi-track diplomacy in the context of the Northern Ireland peace process. The experts carried out a deep theoretical analysis of the conflict and travelled to Belfast, Dublin and London to meet with a wide range of experts, civil society leaders, representatives of Catholic and Protestant communities, people who had taken part in the armed conflict, politicians involved in the negotiations and current members of parliament. The results of this work form the basis of this study.
International Alert would like to extend its thanks to the participants of the expert group, as well as to all those who contributed to the research in Belfast, Dublin and London – in particular, Clem McCartney who generously shared his knowledge and time throughout the programme.