Sudan Track II Peace Dialogue Project

Tasneem Jamal

The Ploughshares Monitor June 2001 Volume 22 Issue 2

Project Ploughshares is committed to supporting indigenous peacebuilding efforts in the Horn of Africa region. Working with local NGOs such as the International Resource Group on Disarmament and Security in the Horn of Africa (IRG) and the Africa Peace Forum (APFO), Ploughshares is involved in sustaining their efforts to bring peace to a region torn apart by conflict. One such initiative, for which Ploughshares has provided technical and managerial support over the past two years, is the CIDA-funded Sudan Track II Peace Dialogue Project.

The conflict in Sudan continues unabated and has, over the decades, produced a situation of grave humanitarian suffering that is almost unparalleled by any other conflict occurring in the world today. This humanitarian disaster fuels conflict and instability in neighbouring countries and stalls serious economic development, political reform, and attention to human rights concerns in Sudan and throughout the Horn of Africa region.

The Track II Peace Dialogue project was initiated to support the work of the formal (Track I) peace negotiations carried out under the auspices of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which seeks to bring a negotiated end to the conflict. This formal process is now overseen by the IGAD Ministerial Sub-committee on the Sudan Peace Process, chaired by Kenya, and is comprised of official envoys from the governments of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Uganda. The Kenyan envoy Daniel Mboya serves as the Special Envoy overseeing the management of this committee and guiding the negotiations. These negotiators focus their efforts around the framework for negotiations, known as the Declaration of Principles (DoP), accepted in 1997. By Track II we mean engaging the official parties and other stakeholders to the Track I process in unofficial, informal, and non-binding discussions.

The Track II project is carried out by non-governmental individuals who engage the official parties to the conflict in informal settings, jointly and separately, in order to bring about the resolution of conflict. At the outset, the Track II project appointed a Conciliation Envoy, Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat of APFO, who engages in a program of informal talks and meetings with the Track I negotiators and seeks to facilitate contact between parties to the conflict and relevant groups within civil society who are directly affected by the conflict and have a stake in the dialogue and outcome. The Track II team also carefully monitors the conflict and exchanges research and analysis of the situation with appropriate parties. The main objectives of these activities are

  • to invigorate the Sudan IGAD peace process by providing a timely and constructive NGO/civil society response to the present critical stage of the Sudan peace effort;
  • to be an informed resource and sounding board for the IGAD committee, the Kenyan chair, and the parties to the negotiations;
  • to link the official process to selected civil society support institutions, constituencies, and perspectives; and,
  • to provide ongoing briefings to interested elements of civil society and to other key actors in the international community.

Track II is designed to facilitate changes in the way participants view themselves, approach issues related to the conflict, and perceive any suggested solutions. Care is taken to ensure that this process will enhance the likelihood that any new perspective will feed back into the decision-making and political processes in the move towards a settlement between warring parties.

The Conciliation Envoy also hosts visiting diplomats, researchers, humanitarian workers, and governmental and NGO officials, and provides them with background briefings, advice, and information on the conflict in Sudan. As well, Sudanese officials, from both south and north, receive regular updates and briefings from the Sudan Track II team on current developments. The Track II office is now well established as a facilitating mechanism helping interested groups and parties deepen their understanding and, perhaps most significantly, serves to focus attention on the peace process when other countries and organizations appear to be losing interest.

In the first two years, the project has achieved its stated objectives. It gained support from the Director of IGAD negotiations, Special Envoy Daniel Mboya of Kenya, who has been greatly assisted in his work by the Track II Conciliation Envoy. The Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which coordinates the IGAD peace process, and the Chair of the IGAD Secretariat have also endorsed the project as a legitimate civil society tool supporting the formal peace process.

As well, increased involvement by civil society in the peace process is a significant outcome of the Track II work over the first two years. The Conciliation Envoy facilitated constructive information-sharing and exchanges among civil society and officials related to the IGAD process and hosted regular forums in which selected elements of civil society came together to share views, develop approaches, and formulate responses to the official negotiations. Consulting and sharing information with civil society meant their insights, concerns, and suggestions were brought to the attention of the parties to the IGAD process and, in turn, the objectives and concerns of the IGAD participants are better understood by those civil society elements. The project’s work thus far has demonstrated that civil society in the region can effectively complement the formal peace process.

An important lesson learned from this initiative is that informal dialogue and engagement can enhance formal processes and lead to positive change in the attitudes of parties to the conflict. This method may provide parties to the conflict with new ideas that would be too sensitive or daring to include in a Track I setting. Track II diplomacy, it has been shown, provides opportunities for political opponents to meet each other in private settings and exchange ideas via third parties in ways which provide opportunities for building trust and confidence.

The Track II process also encouraged a commitment from the IGAD Committee to the formal mediation structure. An effective response to the Sudan conflict requires an ongoing, sustainable structure, and failure to resolve the conflict is not a reason to abandon it. Track II is most effective when combined with the formal negotiation and it is important to sustain discussion and communication and to exchange information with those responsible for managing the official negotiation and with other relevant parties.

The ongoing effectiveness of Track II requires a continual search for creative ways to enhance peacebuilding in the region. It is especially important that nations in conflict examine and learn from the experiences of other nations, for instance, the Oslo process in the Middle East and the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland. The successes and failures of other nations can be instructive in the development of methodologies and processes in other contexts. In the African context, the South African and Mozambique experiences are notable examples as they involved a wide range of actors and approaches, and also illustrate the central importance of continuing post-conflict attention to sustaining a peace settlement and transforming a ceasefire into a durable, democratic order.

To this end, APFO and Project Ploughshares have been encouraged by the IGAD Committee to organize a four-day workshop that will bring together participants from South Africa and Sudan. With CIDA funding in place, preparations have begun for the meeting, tentatively planned for sometime in September.

The primary objectives of this initiative are

  • to enhance the Sudan peace negotiation process by providing an informal forum to bring forward the insights and experiences of key parties in South Africa;
  • to encourage parties to the Sudan peace negotiations to develop, assess, formulate, and propose new options and approaches that could be used to address the current obstacles to successful negotiations;
  • to examine technical and procedural elements of the South African peace process with a view to exploring and identifying lessons relevant to the Sudan peace process;
  • to provide Sudanese stakeholders an opportunity for shared analysis of an external conflict and peace negotiation process.

The symposium will focus on the lessons learned about both the technical processes and political/constitutional approaches that were instrumental in accommodating the competing interests and visions in the South African conflict. The sessions will be facilitated by APFO with support from Project Ploughshares staff. Follow-up activities will also be undertaken.

The Track II project continues to invigorate and intensify the engagement between parties to the formal peace process and civil society, and has increased the profile of the Sudan crisis within the region. However difficult it is to define quantifiable results in peace diplomacy, the indigenous process encouraged by this project provides a solid basis upon which permanent and durable future peacemaking structures can be built, not only in the Horn of Africa region but other parts of the continent as well.

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