Jonathan Powell argues that not only should governments be ready to negotiate with terrorists groups but they should open a channel of communication at an early stage of any conflict or insurgency.
Jonathan Powell, CEO, Inter Mediate; Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Tony Blair (1995-2007); Author, Talking to Terrorists
'We do not negotiate with terrorists' is the common public position of most governments faced with terrorist demands. But, in reality, is such an absolute position tenable or even desirable? Can negotiation save lives and bring about peaceful resolutions? Or are ceasefires a mistake which allow terrorists to rearm and regroup? And does talking to a terrorist faction give that group a legitimacy they would not otherwise have?
Jonathan Powell argues that not only should governments be ready to negotiate with terrorists groups but they should open a channel of communication at an early stage of any conflict or insurgency. He presents the case that governments usually delay talking to armed groups for too long and, as a result, a large number of people die unnecessarily. Powell draws from a multitude of first-hand experience to analyse the various stages of successful mediation: from making contact with the organization and developing a reliable, private means of communication, through to establishing the circumstances in which formal negotiations can occur.
What are the lessons learned from the negotiations with groups such as the IRA, ETA and FARC? And can these lessons be applied in negotiations with newer groups who lack any clearly stated political goal, such as ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Taliban?