Peace Polls

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Peace Building Problem.

Politicians like to make peace deals. It can help to win elections. But easily made peace agreements that do not deal with the issues at the heart of a conflict are probably 'not worth the paper they are written on' and may well be broken 'before the ink is dry'. Beware of strangers bearing peace deals especially if their popularity is slipping at home.

Northern Ireland Experience

The party negotiators were invited to list their solutions for the problems drafted in Lesson 7 but where there had been 19 problems there were now only 17 'steps towards a lasting peace'.1 Some 'steps' were redundant. As before Unionists tended to focus on security issues and decommissioning. Republicans and Nationalists on equality issues and reform of the police service. Again the centre parties could be relied upon to deal with social issues that the major parties considered to be less important for an agreement although perhaps essential as part of an effective peace process. Interestingly the general public agreed with the centre parties sometimes placing such matters higher on their list of priorities than 'Reformed and shared government'. The question is given in Table 1 listing all the suggestions and results for Northern Ireland as a whole, Protestants, Catholics and each of the major political parties expressed as a percentage of those who said the 'step' was 'Essential'.

Public Opinion Poll Action

For every element of the conflict raised as a concern ask the parties to propose a potential solution. Rank these 'solutions' in their order of priority for each community and party to the conflict. Make sure everyone's top priorities are included in the settlement or it will most probably unravel and try to address all the issues raised as part of an on-going peace process.

Israel and Palestine

Table 2 from the 2009 Irwin/OneVoice poll lists the top 5 priorities for moving the peace process forward in both Israeli and Palestinian terms. Gilad Shalit has now been released (3rd item on the Israeli list), as have many Palestinian prisoners (5th on their list). Most of the other items on these two lists are ‘doable’ if the parties have a mind to and certainly would be possible on a ‘quid-pro-quo’ basis. But negotiations between Israel and Palestine are not managed with the support of a comprehensive program of public opinion research and public diplomacy aimed at achieving a peace settlement. They are not systematically addressing these issues so that they can move on to the critical matters of substance.

Table 1 and 2