Below is an excerpt from Alex de Waal’s essay, “Violence and peacemaking in the political marketplace” in Legitimacy and Peace Processes: from Coercion to Consent (Accord 25); pgs. 17 – 21. Full text available online.
The implication is the starting point for a legitimate process, leading to a legitimate agreement, is enabling the affected people to decide on the priority issues. There is no a priori formula for legitimacy outside such a consultative process.
This does not necessarily work for other kinds of conflict, or conflicts in other kinds of state. For example, there are conflicts in which strong leadership is required to make compromises that might not readily be supported by the wider population, especially if communities are deeply divided.
Therefore, as a tentative conclusion, we may be able to distinguish between institutionalised political orders, in which the rule of law and sovereignty are the source of legitimacy, and contexts without institutional and rule- bound government, in which the painstaking process
of building a consensus among the population is the best means of generating legitimacy. And there is one simple lesson for peacemakers: take the time to consult the affected people. Ending a conflict can be a matter
of urgency, but the shortcut of imposing an a priori peacemaking framework is a false acceleration.
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