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Parliamentary Diplomacy as ‘Track 1 1/2 Diplomacy’ in Conflict Resolution

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‘Parliamentary diplomacy’ has been defined in various ways (e.g. Cutler 2006; Šabič 2008; Cofelice 2012). One valid definition is offered by Weiglas and de Boer (2007, pp.93-4):

the full range of international activities undertaken by parliamentarians in order to increase mutual understanding between countries, to assist each other in improving the control of governments and the representation of a people and to increase the democratic legitimacy of inter-governmental institutions.

Various activities have been subsumed under ‘parliamentary diplomacy’. It may include the – institutionalised or informal – ways through which national parliaments and their members are engaged in international affairs and foreign policy (IPU 2005; Beetham 2006). It certainly includes bilateral relations (e.g. ‘friendship groups’, exchange of delegations) between parliaments, as well as relations between national parliaments and inter-parliamentary organisations (IPU 2005; Stavridis 2006; Malamud & Stavridis 2011).

However, multilateral activities and settings are at the core of ‘parliamentary diplomacy’. Parliamentary diplomacy is more institutionalised than ‘simple’ parliamentary cooperation (Stavridis 2006). The institutional framework within which multilateral parliamentary diplomacy is mostly exercised are the various ‘International Parliamentary Institutions’ (IPIs) (Šabič 2008; Cofelice 2012). Within the various IPIs, parliamentarians cooperate in order to adopt ‘decisions, strategies or programs, which they implement or promote […] by various means such as persuasion, advocacy or institutional pressure’ (Šabič 2008, p.258).

A basic classification of IPIs distinguishes between ‘international parliamentary organs’ (IPOs), i.e. ‘organs of international governmental organisations composed of parliamentarians’ and ‘international parliamentary associations (IPAs)’, which are not attached to an international organisation but rather constitute such themselves (Šabič 2008, p.258). The Mercosur Parliament (Parlasur), the Parliamentary Union of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the European Parliament constitute examples of IPOs, whereas examples of IPAs include the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which is the oldest IPI, the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM). ‘Transnational networks of parliamentarians’ (Cofelice 2012), which are ‘voluntary associations of national parliamentarians’ (Cutler 2006, p.80) can be considered as a major subcategory of IPAs; Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) probably constitutes the foremost representative of this group, which also includes organisations such as the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) or the African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption (APNAC)The numerous (more than 70) international parliamentary assemblies, associations, unions and networks can be categorized on a number of other dimensions as well, e.g. depending on the regional, interregional or global base of their membership, their issue-specific or broad focus, their legal status, etc (Šabič 2008; Cofelice 2012; Alger & Kille 2014).

Based on the above, the actors of parliamentary diplomacy include national parliaments, parliamentarians, political parties, local parliaments, regional and international parliaments (Fiott 2011).

Rise and limitations of parliamentary diplomacy

International activities that have at their core some form of deliberation, cooperation and coordination among parliamentary actors have steadily increased during the last decades (Šabič 2008; Cofelice 2012). The proliferation of international institutions, the rise of regional integration, globalisation, democratisation, transgovernmentalism, the realisation that at least some form of international cooperation is needed in order to tackle a growing number of political, economic, social and environmental issues constitute some global trends that have underpinned this strengthening of parliamentary diplomacy.

This emergence of parliamentarians as international actors does not imply that governments have lost their dominant role in defining one state’s foreign relations and diplomacy (Cutler 2006; Weiglas & de Boer 2007; Šabič 2008; Cofelice 2012). More broadly speaking, although the strength of various non-state actors in international affairs is clearly upgraded, governments and states have not lost their primacy. The relationship between parliamentary and ‘traditional’, state diplomacy is, therefore, uneven, although the degree and form varies: sometimes parliamentary diplomacy is merely an extension of traditional diplomacy, whereas in some settings it retains an amount of autonomy vis-à-vis state interests (Stavridis 2006; Fiott 2011). The continued primacy of states in international politics as the legitimate representatives of peoples and carriers of sovereign power is directly linked to a structural weakness of parliamentary diplomacy, as reflected in its limited political power and decision-making responsibilities.

There are, of course, power inequalities among parliamentary actors themselves: IPOs are generally more powerful and influential as actors in relation to the majority of IPAs, as they possess greater – consultative, monitoring and/or budgetary – powers (Šabič 2008; Cofelice 2012).

Moreover, conflicting national or ideological interests among members of IPIs inevitably restrict their capacity to intervene in global affairs. Parliamentary actors luck ordinary access to a number of resources available to governments (finances, intelligence, expert knowledge). Other limitations that several IPIs face, include the lack of continuity in their membership, the sporadic character of their activities and the overlapping between regional parliamentary organisations (Beetham 2006; Weiglas & de Boer 2007; Šabič 2008; Fiott 2011; Malamud & Stavridis 2011).

Track 11/2 Diplomacy

There are differing views on terminology and classification within the Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies literature, however one could simplify the picture as follows. Conflict resolution is the overlying term that includes a number of processes. Three broad resolution processes can be identified: 1) conflict prevention, 2) conflict management and conflict settlement, which aim at the containment and the negotiated termination of conflict and 3) peacebuilding and conflict transformation, which aim at reconciliation, institutional entrenchment of peace and coexistence in post-conflict settings, reconstruction and the tackling of the root causes of conflict (Sandole 1998; Ramsbotham et al. 2005; Melander & Pigache 2007; Paffenholz 2009).

Two notes are needed here: First, conflict resolution refers primarily to violent conflict, i.e. primarily ethnic conflicts and civil wars, but also interstate wars. However, it also applies to non-violent conflicts or crises at the international and national level (Ramsbotham et al. 2005, pp.27-9). Second, although conflict resolution includes coercive means of intervention – e.g. the deployment of armed forces in order to prevent escalation, safeguard an agreement (peacekeeping) or terminate conflict –........

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