|Conflict, Governance and Democratic Dialogue|
The PRIA initiative on Conflict, Governance and Democratic Dialogue represents an exciting new opportunity for applying its long experience on governance work and participatory methodologies to conflict settings. It comes at a time when the interface between governance and conflict is increasingly being recognised as one that requires more research and engagement particularly as militarised conflicts involving state and non-state actors as well and different forms of political and social violence assume new proportions in the contemporary world.
Here, governance is viewed much more than government or management of public affairs. Much of PRIA’s work on governance has been anchored around the notion of the public and in particular three sets of issues that underpin the notion of the “public”– namely public good and the way it is established and contested; public institutions which include not just government institutions but also private sector institutions which use public resources as well as civil society organisations as they use public space and act on public issues and, finally, public accountability which is increasingly being interpreted to mean multi-party accountability in which different parties hold each other accountable (see Linking citizenship participation and accountability.pdf ). It is from this vantage point that the initiative proposes to examine how actors, structures, processes, institutions and the web of relationships constituted around the ‘public’ impact those living in areas of conflict. Indeed, how the public (and therefore public good) itself is defined – contentious in the best of circumstances – becomes even more so in areas marked by violent conflict with multiple conflict parties putting forth contending claims for legitimacy.
There has been a burgeoning literature on the causes, consequences and typologies of conflicts and an increasing recognition that not all conflicts are violent and not all are negative either. Conflicts can be a catalyst for positive transformation and change even as some can be violent and dysfunctional. There can be a range of responses to conflicts from prevention and management resolution to transformation, none of which are of course mutually exclusive. This initiative will be informed by this body of knowledge around conflict and the sometimes competing, sometimes complementary frameworks of responding to them.
Where the initiative seeks to break new ground is by closely examining the linkages between conflict and governance through a series of research studies and dialogues. It does not suggest that there is a causal relationship between conflict and governance but engages with the correlations by keeping open questions on how certain governance measures can mitigate, ameliorate, resolve or transform conflicts on one hand or accentuate it and block transformative impulses on the other. Conversely how do conflict dynamics on the field alter, reshape, and transform governance agendas? The notion of ‘conflict sensitive governance’ which has now gained a decisive entry into the discourse will be analysed in Jammu and Kashmir, and the pockets within Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and West Bengal – all sites of militarised conflicts though in very different contexts.
In conducting research and convening dialogues PRIA will use the participatory framework which has been its hallmark – democratic dialogue therefore becomes both an approach and a tool in this endeavour. The initiative will provide a context to look at both the possibilities and limitations of dialogue and the complex relationship between dialogue, politics and violent conflict.
PRIA is part of the consortium undertaking the project “The Role of Governance in the Resolution of Socioeconomic and Political Conflict in India and Europe – CORE”. The project is a collaboration between Indian and European research teams. The project will review and critique current approaches to conflict resolution in an attempt to revise and improve both the theoretical and operational sides of conflict resolution and peace building. It will facilitate a reciprocal learning process between appropriate parties of the European Union and Indian actors and policy makers in order to enhance the perspectives and methods of both. It will analyse the premises and operation of governance initiatives in conflict transformation processes through a combination of fieldwork, qualitative analysis and theory development.