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Palgrave Macmillan

NGOs Mediating Peace

Promoting Inclusion in Myanmar’s Nationwide Ceasefire Negotiations

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  • © 2024

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  • Presents NGO mediators as actors with agency who are reshaping the mediation field in theory and practice
  • Shows how using mediation processes as a site for norm diffusion can have positive and negative consequences
  • Argues that the supply side of mediation actors need to understand the path dependency
  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access

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About this book

This book explores the role of nongovernmental mediators in promoting “inclusive peace” to negotiating parties in Myanmar’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) negotiations from 2011-2015. The influx of NGO mediators directly engaging with the negotiating parties and promoting the inclusivity norm coupled with the salience of discourse around “all-inclusiveness” at the end of the NCA process forms a puzzle around the agency that NGO mediators wield in influencing political outcomes, despite their lack of political and material leverage.The author argues that NGO mediators can effectively promote norms, using mediation processes as a site of norm diffusion. Bespoke international conflict resolution NGOs have become key mediation actors, within the last three decades through creating the niche world of “private diplomacy” and acting as "norm entrepreneurs" at the same time. As informal third parties, these NGO mediators directly engage with politically sensitive actors or convene unofficial peace talks. As NGOs, they are part of an epistemic community of mediation practice, professionalizing the field and producing knowledge on what peace mediation is and what it ought to be. This dual identity as both NGOs and mediators nicely sets them up with a unique agency to promote and diffuse norms. These norms often reflect the liberal peacebuilding paradigm promoted from the Global North, such as inclusion, gender equality and transitional justice, with the view that these norms are not ends in themselves but as necessary ingredients for effective mediation.
The book further questions whether NGOs should promote norms in the first place. The outcome of the NCA process presents a critical and cautionary tale of promoting a presumed universal norm into a given locale and expecting a certain outcome without understanding how an external norm interacts with existing normative frameworks. The book illustrates that while NGO mediators do possess the “normative agency” to effectively promote norms to negotiating parties, my empirical research analyses how their promotion of the “inclusivity” norm to the negotiating parties in Myanmar’s NCA paradoxically resulted in exclusionary outcomes: only half of the armed groups in the ethnic armed groups’ negotiating bloc signed, and civil society was effectively crowded out from meaningful participation despite lofty rhetoric.

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Table of contents (8 chapters)

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bern, Switzerland

    Julia Palmiano Federer

About the author

Julia Palmiano Federer holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Basel and a Masters in International Affairs from The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. She is currently the Head of Research at the Ottawa Dialogue (University Ottawa), Canada, where she runs a research programme focusing on Track Two Diplomacy and multitrack approaches to peace processes. Julia has published academic articles and policy papers on diverse topics in mediation including inclusion, the Women Peace Security agenda and counter-terrorism, as well as on Myanmar politics. Her academic articles have been published in Negotiation Journal, the Swiss Political Science Review, Critical Studies on Terrorism, and Politics & Governance. Her policy research has been published by peacebuilding and mediation organizations such as swisspeace, the Center for Security Studies ETH Zürich, the Folke Bernadotte Academy, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, the Norwegian Peacebuilding Research Center, the BRICs Policy Center, the Ottawa Dialogue, and UN Women. She has also lectured and taught across various institutions in Europe, North America and Asia, including the University of Basel, the University of Bern, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, the University of Ottawa, and the Brussels School of International Studies at University of Kent.

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