The Norwegians have a mixed history of conflict mediations in recent decades. Can their dubious track record lead to any success in Venezuela?
BOGOTÁ — Norway is back in the peacemaking ring, this time facilitating dialogue between the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition. While Norway has taken part in dozens of peace negotiations, especially in internal conflicts, its achievements have been somewhat precarious. Most recent peace agreements worldwide, including some forged with Norwegian mediation, have failed. In many cases, the parties have resumed hostilities — exacerbated by a breakdown of peace. According to Uppsala University's Conflict Data Program in Sweden, of the 216 conflict termination agreements signed between 1975 and 2011, about half collapsed, several mutated into different types of violence, while some had relative success.
There are many reasons why peace agreements fail: Fragile states that cannot establish their authority across the territory and establish basic governance; sectors that feel shortchanged by agreements and thus wish to derail them; signatories not sufficiently representative of the warring sides; incomplete transitional justice; thwarted expectations of better social and economic conditions; international aid that fails to arrive; flaws in the agreement itself, which pave the way for its destruction. It seems all of these applied to the pact Colombia signed with the FARC communist guerrillas, which have led to the current difficulties of the peace process.
The achievement that catapulted Norway into the peacemaking pantheon was the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians. That agreement succumbed to the failure of the 2000 Camp David summit and subsequent bombings and attacks by Hamas.
At the Oslo Accord ceremony in 1993 — Photo: Vince Musi/White House
Norway and other countries helped bring peace to Guatemala and Sudan. The latter led to the creation of South Sudan, which is now in the grip of an ethnic bloodbath mediators had perhaps not foreseen.
Norwegian mediation helped end the conflict between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan state, and produced a peace treaty in 2000 that was soon in tatters. War ended only in 2009 with a government offensive that involved a scorched earth policy in recalcitrant Tamil areas and killings of tens of thousands of civilians.
Norway's mediation in Myanmar, between the military government and ethnic insurgent groups, has met a similar fate. The massacre and displacement of Rohingya Muslims is a stain on its mediating efforts.
Where they have failed, the Norwegians have been accused of ideological shortsightedness, wanting to replace existing organizations or other mediators to their own advantage, naivety and insensitivity to cultural and religious factors, partiality and even pride.
They are now mediating in the Venezuelan crisis and stepping into existing circumstances on the back of preceding failures — and their own shortcomings. It is another daring bet on their part. For now, its outcome remains unpredictable.