- Designing Peace: Cyprus and Institutional Innovations in Divided Societies by Neophytos Loizides
"All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" (1), famously begins Tolstoy's Anna Karenina ( 1992). There seems to be an emerging consensus on what factors account for high scores in the recent global "happiness indices" (equality of income distribution, trust, and security in the form of welfare provisions). However, this is not the case when it comes to societies with protracted conflicts. What could provide the basis, then, for a comparative conflict studies? As Loizides argues, "The main motivation in this book has been to reestablish the confidence to peace frequently lost in Cyprus and elsewhere in divided societies by demonstrating how conflict transformation is achievable and effective. In making this statement, Designing Peace challenges dominant perceptions and asks stakeholders to take a long hard look at those critical lessons postconflict societies could offer to their neighbors and the world" (213).
Loizides examines institutional innovations that have helped certain societies (the focus here being on Northern Ireland, South Africa, and Bosnia) overcome difficult protracted conflicts. His primary aim is to provide a compendium, a toolbox if you like, of what one could learn from their experiences, as well as how to apply these in the case of Cyprus (which is the major case study under consideration). In many ways, this is a laudable achievement. Loizides is nothing less than meticulously thorough in his review of the literature on conflict and in identifying positive institutional innovations. His main theoretical framework draws from power-sharing discussions on consociationalism and federalism. Loizides is also thorough in addressing the advantages, difficulties, and failures of both theories and institutional arrangements. When it comes to Cyprus, where discussions tend to be very heated and partisan, Loizides is a fair interlocutor, seriously considering the arguments of his actual or would-be detractors, neither ignoring nor dismissing them, as is often the case in such discussions.
"Can divided societies learn from each other?", asks the concluding chapter's title. Despite what he rightly identifies as a prevalent view within ethnically divided societies that their own conflict is unique, Loizides identifies four major potentially beneficial institutional innovations that could be of broad relevance. In Northern Ireland, he focuses on the d'Hondt executive set up to reach "moderation through inclusion" (202). This entails a form of power-sharing that allows political parties to translate their electoral representation [End Page 590] directly into ministerial positions—an arrangement that can be inclusive of hardliners, as well. Thus, instead of feeling excluded and possibly acting as spoilers, they too have an incentive to support the agreement. The Bosnian model for returning people displaced during the 1992–1995 war, while not being totally successful, has worked well enough to merit consideration, given that 75% of the displaced persons returned by 2007. Regarding the South African peace process, Loizides focuses on the "early mandate referendum" (127–150), during which President de Klerk asked the white minority in 1992 to give him their approval in general terms on reform policies to end apartheid. This he poses as an alternative to postagreement referendums that ask people either to approve or reject any (complicated, technical, and constitutionally intricate) agreement reached, given that such referendums entail a high risk of rejection. Loizides also examines some good practices from Cyprus from which others could learn. The most notable is the success of the Committee for Missing Persons in dealing with the sensitive and emotional issue of exhuming, identifying, and returning the remains of missing persons from all communities. Even these, as Loizides himself is the first to point out, also have shortcomings and cannot be exported wholesale into different contexts without adjustments for local conditions.
Turning to Cyprus now, Loizides has good news and bad news, in line with his overall balanced style. "Sadly, the region lacks an indisputably successful consociational or federal model that could inspire others to follow suit" (65) is a pessimistic statement that he later qualifies. At the...