Promoting Peace or Selling Norms? NGO Mediators and “All-Inclusiveness” in Myanmar’s Peace Process

Palmiano Federer, Julia T.. Promoting Peace or Selling Norms? NGO Mediators and “All-Inclusiveness” in Myanmar’s Peace Process. 2020, Doctoral Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.


Official URL: https://edoc.unibas.ch/78794/

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Peace mediators are no longer only tasked with brokering ceasefires between negotiating parties in conflict situations but are also increasingly expected to promote international norms such as gender equality, transitional justice, democracy and inclusivity to the parties. Their shifting role from peace broker to peacebuilder is well documented in policy documents and a growing body of peace research literature on the role of peacemaking actors in promoting norms. In particular, the onus of designing inclusive peace processes in which non-armed actors such as civil society organizations are represented in peace negotiations or in peace agreement clauses has also increasingly fallen on the shoulders of mediators. If mediators are increasingly pressured to promote these norms to the negotiating parties, what agency do they have to do so in the first place?
In this dissertation, I analyse to what extent mediators can promote the inclusivity norm to negotiating parties to shed theoretical and empirical light on this development in peace mediation. I draw from norm entrepreneurship and norm localization theory in international relations literature, and adapt it to peace mediation to conceptually examine this question. Recognizing the heterogeneity of mediators, I focus my analysis on nongovernmental (NGO) mediators, professionalized conflict resolution NGOs that take on public facilitation or mediation functions or activities among and between negotiating parties in a peace process. As NGO mediators possess limited political or material leverage on the negotiating parties in mediation processes, I analyse to what extent varied forms of soft power comprise their normative agency in promoting the inclusivity norm to negotiating parties. Using a qualitative approach rooted in constructivist ontology, I employ a combination of case study and process tracing methodology to understand the extent of NGO mediators’ normative agency in the ongoing peace process in Myanmar. The country’s historical resistance to outside involvement in conflict resolution render it an interesting case to test the limits of the agency of actors without formal mandates or political leverage, and analysing it contributes to critical peace research scholarship related to peace mediation.
The Myanmar case illustrates the limits of normative agency in mediation processes. The increasingly salient discourse around inclusivity only reified existing notions about inclusion and exclusion in ethnic politics as Myanmar negotiating parties localized the inclusivity norm as per their own interpretations. This resulted in an impasse between the parties in terms of which key armed actors and non-armed actors were ultimately excluded. Thus, while NGO mediators do possess the agency to act as norm entrepreneurs, the Myanmar case serves as a cautionary tale of promoting a so-called universal norm into a given locale and expecting a certain outcome without understanding how an external norm interacts with existing normative frameworks. However, despite the growing normative framework in mediation, the voices of national peace process actors themselves are often pushed to the wayside. As armed conflicts become more protracted and peace processes become more complex, the need to understand the role norms play in a specific context remains imperative.
This dissertation was written in the framework of the 2015-2018 Swiss National Science Foundation-funded project, “Are mediators norm entrepreneurs?,” which focused on three case studies: United Nations mediators in Syria, intergovernmental mediators in South Sudan, and NGO mediators in Myanmar.
Advisors:Goetschel, Laurent and Price, Richard
Committee Members:Hellmüller, Sara Anna
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Gesellschaftswissenschaften > Fachbereich Politikwissenschaft > Politikwissenschaft (Goetschel)
UniBasel Contributors:Palmiano Federer, Julia and Goetschel, Laurent and Hellmüller, Sara Anna
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Doctoral Thesis
Thesis no:13739
Thesis status:Complete
Place of Publication:Basel
Number of Pages:235
Identification Number:
  • urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-bau-diss137396
edoc DOI:
Last Modified:30 Jan 2021 05:30
Deposited On:29 Jan 2021 12:51

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