Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, October 25th, 2020

Why Public Participation Matters in the Peace Talks

Consent of the governed is one of the fundamental principles of democratic government. According to this principle Afghan government shall ensure the right of the citizens of the country in political decision making, especially their participation in the peace talks directly as the members of the Negotiating team and indirectly seeking their feedback during the peace talks.
Any agreement reached through the peace talks will only be legitimate and acceptable if it is based on the will of the people. Such agreement not only offers opportunities for ending violence, but also for negotiating new political structures and relationships. These agreements usually lead to structural changes of the state, systems of governance. Access to resources, security and opportunities for development, relations with neighboring countries, regional countries and international community. Peace process offers opportunities for political reconciliation between the government and insurgent groups, and for the consolidation of democratic politics as the dominant arena of political decision making. Therefore, the way the peace process is managed matters, and the question of participation us of particular importance. The issue of citizen’s participation is of particular significance in the Intra-Afghan talks as the insurgent group of Taliban has shown that it is basically against the democratic processes at all.
The risk of the peace talks, as we experienced in the US-Taliban agreement, is the dominant paradigm of peacemaking may be called ‘elite pact-making’; the leaders of the combatant groups are brought together behind closed doors, often in a foreign country and frequently with the assistance of an international mediator, to reach an agreement which satisfies the minimum demands of the negotiators. The agreement is then announced to a largely ignorant and often polarized public, who are then exhorted to accept it and expected to cooperate its implementation. Exactly, this happened during the US and Taliban talks and the US-Taliban agreement to the people of Afghanistan. Based on this deal, the US gave the Taliban too many privileges; as a result, they emerged as a legitimate political group out of a back listed terrorist group. However, this model of peacemaking has successfully contributed to the ending of civil wars in a number of countries like Sierra Leone, Tajikistan and El Salvador. This success should certainly not be under-estimated, and neither should the enormous challenges of simply getting the armed parties to the table.
We shall keep in mind that; it is clear that this approach has some significant opportunity costs. It seldom provides opportunities for those who are not involved in the violence – including other political groupings, organized civil society or the wider public – to have a voice in shaping or endorsing the agreements. And although the end of hostilities is likely to be met with widespread feelings of relief, some may feel alienated from an agreement that is not ‘theirs’. As such, the Afghan people did not consider the agreement as theirs as well.
A sustainable agreement requires that key actors must be involved the peace talks and consent of all other parties shall be ensured. To this end, the political negotiations must be designed to engage all the political groupings with a
requisite degree of public support that are willing to participate in the talks. In both
cases, these multi-party negotiations must become decision-making bodies addressing the constitutional framework for a new post-conflict social contract.
Any process can be seen to have emerged from the unique combination of
cultural resources, political traditions and imaginative leadership of its particular context. The challenge for all of them has been to sustain the culture of inclusion they stimulated, to institutionalize broad participation in the country’s political systems and structures and to further embed the democratic values they promoted.
Public participation in the peace talks is one of the vital principles of peace making. In the context of Afghanistan, pubic participation is the backbone of the peace talks. There will be no sustainable peace agreement without participation of Women, marginalized groups, religious and ethnic minorities in the peace talks. Therefore, participation of the all walks of the society not only ensures the sustainability of the peace agreement but ensures its legitimacy as well.