Talk to "terrorists"- survey shows Westerners support peace efforts

by Zoe Tabary | zoetabary | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 21 September 2017 13:54 GMT

Demonstrators calling for peace in Syria protest in front of the parliament building Reichstag in Berlin, Germany December 17, 2016. REUTERS/Christian Mang

Image Caption and Rights Information
More than 75 percent of respondents said their government should engage with proscribed terrorist organisations

By Zoe Tabary

LONDON, Sept 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Politicians should talk to armed groups - including "terrorist organisations" - in pursuit of peace at a time of rising world conflict and bellicose U.S. leadership, according to a survey released on Thursday.

The study of 4,307 people in the United States, Germany and Britain showed a striking consensus in favour of direct contact with groups that use violence for political ends.

"At a time of increasing insecurity and humanitarian crises driven or exacerbated by conflict, public appetite for engagement with armed groups is a significant finding," said Teresa Dumasy, head of policy and learning at Conciliation Resources, an organisation that resolves conflicts around the world and promotes peaceful societies.

The survey was commissioned by Conciliation Resources and Alliance for Peacebuilding, both of which work with governments and individuals to prevent violence.

It found strong support in all three countries surveyed for governments, international institutions and charities to engage with armed groups, including those labelled as terrorist.

More than 75 percent of respondents said their government should engage with proscribed terrorist organisations, such as armed groups operating in Northern Ireland and Colombia.

TURNING INWARD

The findings come as pressure mounts in some countries to turn inwards and move away from institutions such as the United Nations and European Union.

The United States is reviewing each of the U.N. peacekeeping missions as annual mandates come up for Security Council renewal in a bid to cut costs.

In a hard-edged speech to the U.N. this week, U.S. President Donald Trump portrayed a world in peril, adopted a more confrontational approach to solving global challenges, and escalated his standoff with North Korea over its nuclear challenge, threatening to "totally destroy" the country of 26 million people.

"What you hear Trump saying about North Korea seems out of sync with what the public is thinking," Dumasy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone, pointing to a disconnect between public opinion and the way some politicians and media approach conflict resolution.

In explaining their support for peace making, a majority of the respondents offered moral justifications, citing people's right to live in peace ahead of security and trade interests.

That the public should express predominantly positive and hopeful feelings about the prospect of dialogue with armed groups to further peace is a helpful impetus, the report found.

"This should give governments and international organisations the confidence to tackle the root causes of conflicts, rather than overly rely on security, counter-terrorism and military measures," Dumasy said.

(Reporting by Zoe Tabary @zoetabary, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.