"Civil diplomacy" in the "Mariupol format": a new chance for peace in Donbass

Yermolaiev Andrey - philosopher, head of SGS, participant of the Donbas-Donbass Social Initiative

Farenii Ruslan - Regulatory Analyst at SGS
In a current situation a search for new effective ways of solving the Donbas crisis should be initiated, as the conflict is slowly but surely reaching an impasse.

Existing diplomatic dialogue mechanisms are not very effective due to strong non-negotiable positions of the parties on certain issues. The negotiations are also tricky as there is no clear understanding of the parties' rights, responsibility levels of the negotiators and signatories are also vague. Apart from the Minsk format there is no form of official and «horizontal» connection between the parties to the conflict.

In other words, the declared «words» do not match the real «actions» and a near-critical irresponsibility of the parties is witnessed.

In order to solve the impasse that threatens with escalation of military actions and breach of current agreements and ceasefire, new approach is needed that will engage new participants and strengthen the peace-keeping initiatives of the official parties to the Minsk negotiations.

This potential is held by non-governmental organisations of the civilian nature. Unlike official diplomacy that has reached a «Minsk impasse», they are capable of establishing «horizontal» social and cultural ties and become mediators in the conflict while not representing an official state policy on certain legal and security issues.
1. Subjects of the diplomatic relations
In international legal relations, two levels of diplomatic relations are distinguished depending on the subject.

1) First level - «Track one» or «first tier» diplomacy. It is related to the official governmental institutions and is executed by the official state representatives.

Track one diplomacy is an interaction of the state governmental bodies. It can be executed on bilateral basis between two states or multilateral basis, when a few states interact, or even on regional or global level through intergovernmental organizations. The subjects of the tier one diplomatic actions are limited to the official governmental position of their state and may act only on the basis and in a due manner that is stipulated by the laws of the state and international legal acts.

Also, since official diplomatic efforts are tied to the state policy, the flexibility of the diplomatic process concerning non-official search for new ideas and concepts, that must be approved in an official manner is low.

These strengths and weaknesses of official diplomacy may complement informal approaches to diplomacy.

In the unresolved military conflict (war) in Donbas, the track one diplomacy faces a number of problems of subjective nature.

The first and key problem is impossibility to legitimize one of the parties to the conflict, namely - governing subjects of the unlawful territorial units.

Next, Russian Federation does not consider itself a party to the conflict and participates in the negotiations as an observer, who does not bear a direct responsibility to implement obligations under the achieved protocol agreements («Minsk agreements»).

Finally, Ukraine defines the conflict as an «aggression on behalf of the Russian Federation», relying on the wide external political, legal and economic (sanctions) support.

Thus, the reasons for the ineffectiveness of the negotiations are not so much the provisions of the «Minsk agreements», as the diplomatic-legal collision of the «collective irresponsibility». The agreements remain a declaration because the parties are not capable of distributing the responsibility and procedure for executing declared obligations.

Without a reboot of the diplomatic-legal status of the parties and laying out the order of responsibility no new «observer» parties will change the situation. Rather, on the contrary, will anhange the conflict, or even lead to paralysis and collapse of the negotiation process.

2) The second level, «Track two» - the backchannel diplomacy or «civil diplomacy». In conflict resolution track two diplomacy engages informal mediators who are not official representatives of the state policy, but do have a social legitimacy and authority in the conflict resolution matters.

Usually the informal mediators are non-governmental subjects: religious organizations, scientific communities, humanitarian organizations, civil communities and analytical centers. However, in some cases governments and government representatives may act as informal mediators if it promotes dialogue between non-officials - private citizens and groups that come from the conflicting parties.

One of the main objectives of the civil diplomacy actors is to create a dialogue mechanism free from political bias, where the parties can lay down their opinions, ideas, wishes and fears in the safe from governmental pressure environment. The result of such dialogue mechanisms can be emergence of new ideas and initiatives, new programs and communication networks that contribute to the conflict resolution and lowering social tension on the basic level.

Scientist and practitioners in the conflict resolution sphere underline additional limits of the traditional diplomacy that can be effectively eliminated by informal mediators. To begin with, these are complicated and long conflicts, that usually affect the primary human needs and values critically important for their survival and, which, as a result, cannot be denied and ignored.

Accordingly, with the help of civilian "dialogues", the topics of the ideology of the conflict and the basic understanding of its reason can be discussed. Informal mediation also helps participants transform their perception of conflict, opening space for wide, also public, negotiations. This contributes to mutual understanding, and affects people's views on the conflict and its possible outcome.

The important disadvantage of the civil diplomacy is the absence of power to actually implement the reached decisions and programs on the official level. Also, when the conflict is present such diplomacy cannot influence the situation in the event of military actions escalation, regardless of the understanding and compromises that have been reached.
2. "Civil diplomacy."
Non-governmental organizations as a subject of diplomacy

In diplomatic relations classification a peculiar level of diplomatic interaction that cannot be related to the main levels and has mixed characteristics is distinguished.

The so-called Track One and Half diplomacy is related to the special kind of diplomatic relations, where a third party becomes a mediator between political powers or governments of the conflicting states.

The term Track One and Half diplomacy was introduced by Susan Allen Nan. She says the «Track One and Half diplomacy is determined as peace-keeping activity exercised by a private party as a mediation between political representatives of the conflicting groups or governments». Track One and Half diplomacy differs from the track two diplomacy with the function of wider interaction, which is not limited to the internal interaction of the conflict resolution experts, but also supports close contact with governments and diplomatic corps.

Mediators are non-governmental international or national public organizations that have authority and competence in conflict resolution issues.

A significant increase in the number of different non-governmental organizations took place after the end of World War II.

The impulse for development of the international «civil sector» was created by the UN. The Charter of this political organization and the charters of its specialized institutions included provisions supporting cooperation with certain categories of non-governmental organizations.

Moreover, many non-governmental organizations received the so-called consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), UNESCO, as well as other specialized institutions and UN agencies, which, by the way, is reflected in the articles 58 and 71 of the UN Charter. For example, according to the latter, ECOSOC is authorized to «make suitable arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organizations which are concerned with matters within its competence. Such arrangements may be made with international organizations and, where appropriate, with national organizations after consultation with the Member of the United Nations concerned.»

As a specific example, from a large number of organizations engaged in the resolution of international conflict, the following can be distinguished:

-Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) - is a Swiss-based private diplomacy organization founded on the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. Its mission is to help prevent, mitigate, and resolve armed conflict through dialogue and mediation.

- Carter Center - is a nongovernmental organization founded by former U.S. PresidentJimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter. Founded in partnership with Emory University on the basis of a fundamental commitment to human rights and alleviating human suffering, the Center seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, strengthen freedom and democracy and improve health.

- The International Institute of Peace - is an independent non-profit lobbyist group based in New York (near the headquarters of the United Nations, with which the IPI works in close cooperation). The Institute has regional offices in Europe (Vienna, Austria) and the Middle East (Manama, Bahrain). IPI specializes in multilateral approaches to peace and security issues, closely cooperating with the Secretariat and members of the United Nations. The main goal of the IPI is to contribute to an effective international response to new and emerging problems and crises through research, analysis and policy development.

-CRISIS Management Initiative (CMI) is an independent Finnish organization that is working to prevent and resolve violent conflicts by informal dialogue and mediation. The Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and the former President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, founded CMI in 2000. Since then, the organization has grown and became one of the leaders in its field.

Also, the Council of Elders under the UN should be noted. This is an independent group of former high-ranking officials and statesmen working together in the name of peace, justice and human rights. Working both in public and with the help of private diplomacy, the mission of the Elders is to interact with world leaders and civil society at all levels to resolve conflicts and eliminate their root causes, combating injustice and promoting ethical leadership and proper management.

The advantage of such authoritative non-governmental organisations in the context of «One and a Half diplomacy» is a possibility to be a «bridge» between governmental bodies - as mediators or unbiased «third parties». Also, inside the negotiation process, a professional expert group emerges, positively influencing drafting neutral concepts and plans for the conflict resolution.

The disadvantages of the «One and a Half diplomacy» are risks of the dialogue politicization, possibilities of blocking such a dialogue by interested states (pressure on the parties, discreditation) when the state egoism faces alternative approaches and opinions. By the way, this largely explains passivity and limitations in possibilities of civil societies during 7 years of Donbas war, as most of the dialogue attempts outside of official diplomacy where either blocked at the very beginning or haven't received the needed support and understanding.

Also, it should be taken into consideration that non-governmental organizations do not have any leverage to execute their obligations and agreements.

Overall, the influence of non-governmental organizations on international conflict resolution is high enough. Despite the disadvantages of such diplomatic approach, it is worth noting that in the conflict situation, in order to reach peace and stop bloodshed, intervention of the independent party may cool down the geopolitical players.
Track One and a Half Diplomacy and the Complementarity of Tracks // Culture of Peace Online Journa URL: https://peacemaker.un.org/sites/peacemaker.un.org/files/TrackOneandaHalfDiplomacy_Mapendere.pdf
3. "Civil diplomacy" in Mariupol format: new opportunities in solving the Donbas conflict
Currently Ukraine finds itself in a complicated diplomatic and political-procedural situation regarding conflict resolution in Donbas. The difficulties, first of all, lay in the determination of the conflict party, authorized to hold the negotiations.

The conflict takes place in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. This territory is a part of Ukraine, however is not under control of the central government («uncontrolled territories», in political documents and in the legislation of Ukraine - «temporary occupied territories»).

Under the Law of Ukraine «On the peculiarities of state policy to ensure the state sovereignty of Ukraine at the temporary occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions», the temporary occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions are territories of Ukraine where the Russian military forces and occupation administration of the Russian Federation have established and execute their control. When interpreting Ukrainian law, the parties to the conflict can be established - Ukraine and Russia. However, under the Constitution of Ukraine, in the event of military aggression against Ukraine, Verkhovna Rada (the Parliament) declares, after confirmation with the President of Ukraine, a state of war. At the moment, the war has not been declared and the military regime has not been established.

The Russian Federation in its turn internationally denies attacking Ukraine and insists on absence of Russian military in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Thus, the term «aggression» ("Definition of aggression", approved by General Assembly resolution 3314 (XXIX) of December 14, 1974), namely «The invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State, or any military occupation, however temporary, resulting from such invasion or attack, or any annexation by the use of force of the territory of another State or part thereof» cannot be fully used as an interoperation in the existing conflict. Or, as it happens in Ukrainian politics-with a lot of reservations, clarifications and explanations. In public argumentation a term «hybrid war» is often used, that allows to explain the limited interpretation of «aggression», absence of military state etc.

But, according to media reports and statements by representatives of the secret services of Ukraine, there is an evidence base, which confirms the presence of the Russian Federation's troops in the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Also, widespread information is that the Russian Federation (that is, political and military authorities) purposefully sends military specialists, instructors, and other indefinite armed formations to Donbas in order to control the territory. These actions fall under paragraph G) Article 3 of "Definitions of Aggression" (resolution 3314 (XXIX) of the General Assembly dated December 14, 1974), which imperatively establishes that «The sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another State of such gravity as to amount to the acts listed above, or its substantial involvement therein». At the same time, such evidence has not yet been confirmed by the UN International Court and thus have no confirmed status.

Given the disagreement of the Russian Federation with the fact that it is a party to conflict, Ukraine should look for the "horizontal contacts" with representatives of unrecognized formations (so-called "DPR" and "LPR"), and create conditions for a wide non-governmental civilian dialogue on the ways of armed conflict resolution and reconciliation, political and administrative model of Donbas existence (Donetsk and Luhansk region until 2014) as part of Ukraine, measures and security guarantees, restoration of control at the border, the restoration of common civil, economic and social space. To this end, it is necessary to establish a special «dialogue window», recognized by all parties to the negotiation and conflict "platform" (and possibly more than one), where a permanent dialogue will be held to develop a consensus and acceptable reconciliation options.

This process can be defined as "Mariupol format" (along with «Norman» and «Minsk»).

First step. Establishment of expert-humanitarian platform, engaging «moral authorities» (for example the region «elders»), leaders of the civil organizations and movements, scientists and humanities scholars, living on the both sides of the «contact line». The objective is to create a dialogue platform to develop social, cultural and other connections between the citizens of the conflicting parties.

Also, an action programme is necessary that will solve the healthcare, ecology, security of the civilians crossing the contact line issues, civil rights of the «grey area» population, humanitarian aid etc. Establishment of such a programme will promote development of a general understanding of both disagreements and common approaches in solving these problems.

Second step, in the context «One and a Half diplomacy» cab de divided into three components.

- Encouraging representatives of local governments to join the dialogue, developing approaches to interaction and joint programs for the population at the local level (cities, regions).

- Establishment of «the political negotiation group» consisting of politicians representing leading parties and political associations and participating in legislation bodies (including unrecognized DPR and LPR).

- Engaging official and authorized representatives of the OSCE (one of the parties to the Minsk Negotiations) and diplomatic representatives of the Norman Group (level - Advisors, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Member States) in order to develop political and diplomatic proposals for conflict solving (including the coordination of the implementation plan of "Minsk agreements" 2014-2015).

The third step is to engage official diplomatic mechanisms in order to formally consolidate doctrines and agreements reached.

The role of pushing power and сo-founder of the new Mariupol format can be taken upon be the Social Initiative «Donbas-Donbas» (https://donbas-donbass.info/, facebook.com/donbas.donbass), which unites an extensive list of civil organizations, public figures, entrepreneurs, most of whom are immigrants from Donbas and are actively involved in peacekeeping initiatives. Considering a noticeable growth of initiatives number regarding Donbas conflict resolution and a wide circle of new players in the civil sector, the «Mariupol format» initiative may become a unifying start for all the existing platforms and aassociations.

In turn, «Donbas-Donbas» is preparing its initiatives on peaceful dialogue, social support plans for residents of Donbas and temporarily displaced people, economic recovery and environmental rehabilitation of the region, etc.

Such a way of conflict resolution, considering the growth of social hatred, the increase in military potential in a limited territory and human losses may be the only non-conflict solution. After all, ultimately, all conflicts in one way or another are solved solely with the help of diplomacy, and above all - civilian diplomacy.
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