RIKO – an NGO think tank for non-violent conflict resolution

'We love conflict' RIKO's tent at Folkemødet 2017. Photo: RIKO

Council for International Conflict Resolution (RIKO) is a non-governmental organisation founded in 2009. It is a think tank working for a resolution of international conflicts and crises based on non-military and non-violent conflict resolution principles. The objective is to define alternative policies to those wars, in which Denmark has been and still is involved. RIKO is working with the approach of International Conflict Resolution about which RIKO published a book in 2016 (in Danish only).

Mission of RIKO

‘Danish foreign policy has since the end of The Cold War developed in a direction where the use of military force takes far too much attention, as demonstrated in the participation in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. A militarization of Danish foreign policy has taken place without much public debate, a fact that neither benefit the Danish foreign policy and security interests nor the solution of the international conflicts in which Denmark participates. 

RIKO insists that Denmark, primarily should take on the role as intermediary and mediator between parties in international conflicts. With the membership of UN, NATO, the Nordic Council and the European Community, Denmark should – through pro-active and activist diplomacy – seek dialogue, exchange and other non-military conflict resolution methods. 

The above should be the most prominent elements in the foreign policy behavior of Denmark and the guidelines for the Danish attitudes towards international matters.’

Report on Sustainable Danish Foreign and Security policy

In March 2017, RIKO published a report detailing how a sustainable Danish foreign and security policy can be formed. First, the policy needs to be guided by visionary principles such as:

  1. Denmark should work for a world order where –in the longer view – conflicts and problems are solved in a non-military and nonviolent way – however, UN can use military in peacekeeping operations according to UN’s principles and International law.
  2. Denmark is a small nation and could best exercise its power by maximal cooperation with other states in international organisations such as EU, Nordic Council, and UN. In addition, it is important to work with like-minded nations to exercise maximum influence.
  3. Democracy and human rights in other countries should be created from below by the people of the particular country with regard to its history, culture and religion. Outside initiated regime change – even though it is about removing authoritarian leaders – seldom lead to any form of democracy. As it has been seen in Iraq and Libya.
  4. Prevention and political solution should be at the centre. The short-term and too late intervention in a conflict often ends up in the involvement of military or coercive solutions.
  5. It is important in all conflicts to understand “the other party’s” perspective.
  6. The global inequality is generally creating a ground for conflicts. Therefore, the Danish foreign policy should take its point of departure in the connection between peace and sustainable development.

The concept of confidence 

Sustainable security is centred on the concept of confidence. International relations among nations have to be built on confidence as much as possible. Conflicts and problems have to be managed and solved through negotiations, mediation and common institutions. For instance, the relations among the five Nordic countries are based on confidence – cooperation, negotiations and common institutions – and within the EU, too.

In cases of relationships such as between the West and Russia, or Saudi Arabia and Iran, where both parties feel threatened by the other party, it is necessary to de-escalate and work for relaxation of tensions. It is done by confidence-building measures – contacts, agreements where possible, mediation by others, mutual agreed arms control or disarmament measures.

To start building up arms against each other do not help – problems are only solved through diplomatic means, and arm build up are just a way of avoiding dealing with the roots of the problems or dealing with the symptoms.

Integrate international conflict resolution into Danish foreign relations

Conflict resolution is a part of the non-military approach to sustainable security. A conflict is normally defined as an incompatibility in goals between two or more parties. International conflicts (between states) or internationalized conflicts (between parties in the same country (civil wars)) are most often more complex than conflicts between individuals or groups in a national state. Internationally, there are other factors – often more parties and more interests, international governmental organizations, international law, parliaments and curious media. In addition, there are internal institutional interests e.g. the army, business. The parties can be asymmetrical in power and resources (e.g. Israel-Palestine).

The report proposes that a department is set up in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to deal with international conflicts or internationalized civil wars, where staff trained in international conflict resolution or mediation is working – having contacts to both parties in a conflict; gathering information and suggestions for resolutions; being in contact with researchers or knowledgeable people in particular conflicts; being in contact with international organisations or other governments.

“A Marshall Plan for Africa”

Stronger Nordic cooperation within political as well as the economic area could strengthen the Danish foreign policy. Especially, within development cooperation it could help realize for example the German project “A Marshall Plan for Africa” – the idea being a massive assistance to help solving the root courses for migration and helping a dynamic development so Africa can cope with its future demographic challenges. Replacing underlining the military build-up (e.g. 2% of GNP to NATO) with economic development assistance. The shift to a higher degree of cooperation with our neighbouring countries could also give a democratic and human rights element to international relations – which would not be met with the new American administration or Britain with its problems with Brexit. A new impetus from a renewed Nordic/North European strength should also go into building up and strengthening conflict resolution capabilities to deal with international conflicts, especially in Middle East and Africa, so negotiations, mediations, economic assistance play a much bigger part instead of the present military-oriented strategies of USA and NATO.

Strengthen the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Unfortunately, the Danish diplomatic service has been cut drastically the last fifteen years. Compared to for instance Norway’s Foreign Service – Denmark uses only half the amount. Professor Martin Marcussen, University of Copenhagen, who has documented this, stated “… diplomacy is one of the cheapest foreign policy tools. One can run the whole Foreign Ministry for two years for the price of one Joint Strike Fighter-airplane. It (diplomacy) is extremely cheap.”  Ambassador Taksøe- Jensen writes and documents in his official foreign policy report from 2016 the same drastic reduction of the Foreign Service. It means that Denmark cannot meaningfully participate in many relations within international organisation and nation states via Danish embassies. Preparation, research, contacts are not being done, only the most important services. Therefore, the Danish diplomatic service has to be restored.

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