The International Peace and Reconciliation Initiative (IPRI) was launched on the 3rd December 2012 at a press conference held at the Residence Palace of the European Union in Brussels. The launch was in response to an international call made by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu for the resumption of talks between the Turkish Government and the imprisoned leader of the Kurdish Democratic Movement, Abdullah Ocalan, for the peaceful resolution of the Kurdish Question in Turkey.
The call of Archbishop Tutu was endorsed and supported by leading international political leaders and Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. Amongst them are His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet; Jimmy Carter, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former President of the United States of America; Jose Ramos-Horta, former President of East Timor; Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein, North-Ireland; Kjell Magne Bondevik, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Prime Minister of Norway, Director of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights; Ingvar Carlson, former Prime Minister of Sweden; Paavo Lipponen, former Prime Minister of Finland; Anker Jorgensen, former Prime Minister of Denmark; Kjeld Olesen, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.
Legal Status of International Peace and Reconciliation Initiative (IPRI) (TERMS)
IPRI is registered as a trust in South Africa (Reference IT00234/2014) and registered as a Non Profit Trust, with the Department of Social Development of South Africa (Reference 134-163NPO) and is seeking to register as a Public Benefit Organisation with the South African Revenue Services. A board of trustees has been established which is chaired by Judge Essa Moosa. (See Annexure 1 Brief Biographical Details of Judge Essa Moosa).
According to the IPRI constitution “The Board of Trustees” may appoint an advisory committee to be called the Board of Guardians comprising of individuals with moral authority, political expertise, practical life-experience and/or wisdom who commit themselves to the objectives of the Trust, who shall serve as advisors to the Board of Trustees. Other than serving as advisors, the Board of Guardians will not have any official or administrative functions and their serving on the Board of Guardians shall be entirely voluntary.
In this regard, the board of trustees has set about establishing the Board of Guardians which will include international political leaders and/or Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and/or political and human rights activists.
The objectives of IPRI
The objective of the IPRI is to work towards World Peace with its initial focus on finding a lasting and durable peace between the Turkish and Kurdish people in Turkey and generally between the conflicting peoples of the Middle East through dialogue and negotiations. In pursuant of the immediate objective, to work towards obtaining a durable peace in Turkey, the IPRI intends to place the matter of the peace process on the agenda of the international community; to engage the assistance of the international political leaders, Peace Prize Laureates and international institutions in supporting, promoting and encouraging the peace processes and, if need be, to act as mediators in order to break any impasse in such processes.
Update on the Peace Process (goal)
Since the launch of the IPRI in December 2012, talks between the Turkish State and Abdulla Ocalan had resumed. The focus of this round of talks was to resolve the political, cultural, linguistic and social issues of the Kurdish people in Turkey, and the democratization of Turkey.
The peace process is supported by a wide range of internal and external forces. Internally it is supported by the political parties, various non-governmental organisations, academics, professional bodies, the established media and influential business persons and activists. Externally it has the support of the European Union, America, Scandinavian countries, South Africa and the Kurdish people in the diaspora of Europe, America and the Middle East.
On the 21st of March 2013, Abdullah Ocalan called for a ceasefire of the armed conflict in Turkey and ordered the Kurdish armed combatants to withdraw beyond the border of Turkey. The process of withdrawal began in April 2013. In turn the Turkish government should have initiated certain constitutional reforms to meet some of the demands of the Kurdish people with respect to their cultural, linguistic and political rights and their demand for the democratisation of the country.
Concessions were made with regard to the official recognition of the Kurdish language as well as allowing the language to be taught in private schools. Kurds are now also permitted to sing their songs and practice their customs. The Turkish government also undertook to lowering the 10% threshold currently in force so that political parties could be fairly represented in parliament. However the legal reform in this regard has still not been introduced. The introduction and implementation of such a law would have ensured a fair representation for minorities in parliament particulalry at this time, given the elections in March 2014.
In general the reforms, which were legislated, did not go far enough to meet the aspirations of the Kurdish people. This resulted in a stalemate of the negotiating process between the Turkish government and Abdullah Ocalan.
The Turkish government promised and declared certain democratic reforms to facilitate the democratisation of Turkey and the peace process but, the contents of these reforms failed to deal with the anti-terror legislation which criminalises activists that advocate and work for fundamental human rights such as freedom of association, freedom of expression and certain universally accepted basic rights.
Given these conditions, the peace process in Turkey has reached an impasse and finds itself at a crossroads. The break-down of the talks will have disastrous consequences not only for the people of Turkey but also for the peoples of the neighbouring countries and the rest of the Middle East. The need for the international community to intervene in the peace talks in order to propel it through the impasse therefore is urgent.
The urgent need for a fact finding mission (agenda)
While it is obvious that an intervention is needed, IPRI has decided to establish a fact-finding mission to Turkey to determine the present status of the peace initiative between the Turkish Government, BDP, and Abdullah Ocalan, so that it can be better informed as to the kind of interventions necessary to unblock the impasse.
The mission will investigate and report on the status of the negotiating process and the impact of these talks on the constitutional process for a democratic Turkey in the parliamentary process which is presently unfolding. This is particularly important given that Turkey holds its election on 30 March 2014. It is hoped that the fact finding mission will (1) identify impediments to the peace process (2) identify mechanisms to deal with such impediments (3) secure international focus if necessary. (4) The fact finding mission will also serve to inform and guide the strategic objectives, policy, and the programme of action of IPRI in the short, medium and long term.
The mandate and methodology
The mandate of the fact-finding mission is to interview and to speak to all role-players including political parties, local and international non-governmental organisations, representatives of the government, the Wise-men Commission appointed by the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in 2013 to report on the peace process in Turkey, the business community, the community based organisations, opinion and policy makers and the media.
The fact-finding mission is required to assess and evaluate the information and data obtained through interviews, make recommendations for advancing and facilitating the peace process for a political solution on the Kurdish question. A report will be prepared for the Board of Trustees of IPRI through its Secretariat.
A draft report will be shared with all who have been interviewed for verification and to ensure that there are no misunderstandings. This report will then be submitted by The Board of Trustees to the Board of Guardians, and to the signatories who endorsed Arch Bishop Tutu’s call for the resumption of the peace talks in Turkey. The report will also be sent to the international community including the European Commission, the United Nations, human rights bodies, the Turkish Government, BDP, the Turkish political parties, and all the organisations and individuals which the mission interviewed in Turkey and such other bodies and opinion-makers who have shown an interest in the peace process in Turkey.
The Fact-Finding Mission will comprise six persons, two from South Africa one will serve as the scribe, two from Europe and two from Turkey. It is intended that a local NGO will provide logistical support once the delegation is in Turkey. The mission will spend seven days in Turkey with five days taken up by interviews, one day for assessing, evaluating and making recommendations and the seventh day in preparing an initial draft. It is anticipated that the visit to Turkey will take place from 7 May to 14 May 2014.