Viadrina Center B/ORDERS IN MOTION

Safe Spaces: Mapping the Red Lines in Peacemakers' Trade-Offs

  • Dr. Anne Isabel Kraus, Co-Director Center for Peace Mediation at Institute for Conflict Management, Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)
  • Dr. Simon Mason, Head of the Mediation Support Team at Center for Security Studies, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zurich
  • Prof. Dr. Lars Kirchhoff, Director Institute for Conflict Management and Co-Director Center for Peace Mediation at Institute for Conflict Management, Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)
  • Dr. Tatiana Kyselova, Associate Professor at Law School and Jean Monnet Center of Excellence of Kiev Mohyla Academy, currently Marie-Curie Fellow at University of Turin
Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kultur des Landes Brandenburg
Januar 2017 bis Dezember 2018

Institutional Set Up
The project will institutionalize the long-standing collaborations between the Center for Peace Mediation at Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) and the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zürich by building up an academic infrastructure that aims at generating insights of high scientific quality as well as high political relevance to today`s peacemaking practice. In the Seed Money period (2018-2019), external funding for 2020 onwards will be sought and a cooperational network of academic and practical partners will be build up, size and shape depending on the funding program and transdisciplinary approach chosen.

Subject of Research
Peacemakers mediating in contemporary international crises and conflicts often face tough dilemmas: two or more equally essential objectives or values cannot be sufficiently fulfilled at the same time and pragmatic trade-offs need to be made. One classical example is when mediators, in order to attain peace and stability for the short term, make extensive use of power to push parties to an agreement and heavily compromise on consent and ownership, which could provide for more legitimacy and sustainability of outcomes in the long term, however only at a very high price.
We assume that trade-offs made by third parties in these dilemma situations can do considerable harm to peace processes and conflict systems (e.g. by contributing to failure of agreements, emergence of mistrust and resignation regarding non-violent conflict resolution, re-escalation or spill-over of conflict). We argue that so far those decisions – made under time pressure and other suboptimal circumstances – do not take into account the full spectrum of necessary perspectives, knowledge and tools to improve their quality: challenges include the insufficient knowledge to systematically assess options and risks; a lack of collectively agreed reference frames to assess to what extent trade-offs are supported by conflict parties and stakeholders and the absences of tested strategies to manage dilemmas including case specific contingencies.
Our hypothesis is that if it is possible to identify a few correlative or cause-effect patterns between decisions made by peacemakers and changes observed in peace processes and conflict systems, a navigation system for good practice in peacemaking could be developed. Such a navigation system could entail "threshold values" marking "red lines" beyond which compromises most likely cause serious harm and spoiling effects, "grey zones" where risks of compromises have to be cautiously managed, and "safe spaces" in which trade-offs are likely to be acceptable to the actors affected by these decisions. Based on this hypothesis, the project will map the most relevant dilemmas peacemakers faced in peace processes and explore the assumed impact of their decisions on processes and conflict systems, looking at a broad selection of cases and searching for similar patterns.

Transdisciplinary Approach
To understand the multidimensional complexity of peacemaking dilemmas and trade-offs the project chooses a systemic transdisciplinary approach. It integrates knowledge from different scientific disciplines and non-academic knowledge into a mutual learning and research process (co-production of knowledge). Considering who is needed to analyze and solve the problem (action research) the research will include scholars from Conflict Resolution/Mediation, Philosophy/Applied Ethics, Political Science, International Law, Security and Religion as well as peacemaking practitioners from mediation, diplomacy and politics. Interlinked by the joint transdisciplinary thinking the participating researchers will explore what they can contribute from their respective disciplinary theoretical and methodical perspectives.

Use of Findings
The findings of research will be published in peer reviewed academic articles, translated into practical frames of references and decision-making strategies for peacemaking actors and integrated into peacemaking training, coaching and consultancy modules.