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Negotiating conflict in deeply divided societies: The merits of complex and hybrid consociational power sharing systems based on the case studies from South Asia and Eastern Europe

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  • March 19, 2012

    Speaker: Radu Carciumaru, Senior Lecturer, South Asia Institute, University of Heidleberg

    Mr. Radu Carciumaru delivered a talk on the topic ‘Negotiating conflict in deeply divided societies: The merits of complex and hybrid consociational power sharing systems based on the case studies from South Asia and Eastern Europe’ on 19 March, 2012. Here, the author categorically explained these variables such as negotiation, conflict, ethnic conflict, deeply divided society, etc.

    He defined conflict as a situation in which two or more actors are involved, mostly in a deeply divided society. And, ethnic conflict is an outcome of such conflicts. Taking the ideas of Horowitz, he also explained the concept of ethnic group and ethnic identity which are based on colour, language and religion depending on the tribe, race, nationalities or castes. To the author, the ethnic groups are constructed over a period of time but are often found to be deconstructed.

    In order to explain his framework, Mr. Radu took up the case studies of India, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia (including Kosovo and Vojvodina) and Moldova.

    While talking about power sharing, the author picked up the consociational power sharing model. This model involves the domestic actors including the ones from the centre and state. Moreover, four broad principles were outlined. These include grand coalition cabinets, proportional representation, minority/mutual veto powers, and segment autonomy. In this context, India as an institutionalised state has been cited as an example for the consociational arrangement.

    Furthermore, the scholar discussed positional and principal negotiations. Taking ideas from the works of Fisher and Ury, Mr. Radu talked about separating people from the problem; focus on interests and not positions; generating a variety of possibilities before any actions; and finally a criteria by insisting that the result should be based on some objective standard. While discussing the interests, the scholar was of the view that specific identity should be well protected. Also, specific cultures, rights and opportunities should be safeguarded too. And, people involved should be encouraged to participate in decision making process in order to instil a sense of belonging.

    Alongside this, Mr. Radu also highlighted the concept of communicative negotiation. According to him, this is more applicable to the identity-based conflicts that cannot be depended on principled negotiation. Here, the participants are the communicators and the main goal is to reach an understanding based on respect. It also requires a mutual respect and also a need to recognise the differences. Most importantly, one should invent options to ensure mutual respect.

    Mr Radu also focussed on the consociational power sharing model which comprises of elite cooperation, an empirical model and a normative model. He highlighted two conditions for this model, namely, structure-oriented conditions and actor-oriented conditions. While the first set of conditions talk of non-majority segment, equal-sized segments, small population, socio-economic equality, overarching loyalty and geographical concentration of segments, the second revolves around dominant elite, external pressure, accommodating traditions and absence of special rights of claim.

    Further, the scholar stressed on the composite model for conflict-regulation in plural societies. For this, he described segmental autonomy as symmetrical and asymmetrical autonomy. Explaining this, Mr. Radu mentioned that Article 3 of the Indian Constitution has enabled the state to react more flexibly to the separatist demands by providing incentives for the self determination movements to struggle for a ‘homeland’ within the Indian Union. The aforementioned Kashmir conflict is one such instance, and comes under Article 370 of the Constitution. Similarly, Mizoram comes under Article 371. While Article 30 pertains to linguistic minorities, there are also Articles 25 and 26 and the 8 schedules.

    Coming to the cases of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the scholar talked about the Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the conflict. Moreover, the direct intervention by the international community as a mechanism to coordinate law and policy-making, judicial review and arbitration was also touched upon by Mr. Radu. In the case of Macedonia, joint committees and implementation bodies including ad hoc bodies sponsored by various international organizations are believed to be involved in power sharing systems. According to the scholar, no extensive international involvement was seen in the case of Moldova but the conflict was solved bilaterally. Apart from this, Mr. Radu stressed on the types of parliamentary representation, veto tights and also the proportionality in administration.

    The presentation was followed by discussion on the subject and a few questions were asked. One of them was over how the Kashmir issue needs to be resolved. In response to this, the scholar talked about the Indian freedom struggle which focussed on uniting people and on avoiding making enemies. Some of the opinions were that people always talked about cultures but often failed to understand ethnicities. It was also pointed out during the discussion that the problems are manifold and dealing with them is in a divided world is difficult. To do this, there is a need for an economic development. Some questions were over the concept of elite strategy and how the speaker defined the elites. The speaker stated that elites were primarily political in nature such as the politicians, in all sectors, be it local, state or national level.