Mediation Perspectives: Where Do Norms Come In?

Two people negotiating. Image: Georgie Pauwels/Flickr

After months of seemingly endless negotiations in a country that has seen years of conflict, the moment has finally come to sign a peace agreement. Exhausted, the mediator is preparing herself for the ceremony, which will take place in a few hours. But before she gets ready to leave, a representative of an international organization enters the mediation office, with a glum expression on his face. “Your text is not nearly as gender-sensitive as we would have liked; you omitted several of our clauses. We counted on you and you failed to put them into the agreement. You have to change it, or we will not endorse the agreement!”

Although fictional, the above example reflects how common it has become in mediation to push aggressively for the inclusion of norms. Mediators are faced with ever-higher expectations when it comes to including normative demands into peace agreements – not just from advocacy groups lobbying for their interests but increasingly from mandating authorities like the United Nations, the European Union or state governments. This raises many questions about how to treat these demands.  If they represent diverging interests, some of them may have to be tempered or sequenced. But it also raises another, perhaps more fundamental, question: to what extent is it a mediator’s role to promote norms in a mediation process? » More

Prior focus: Global Views

Has Egypt’s Judiciary Become the New Theatre of the Absurd?

Young Egyptians protestig Morsi and the military. Image: Hamada Elrasam for VOA/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 7 July 2015.

The recent death sentence passed down on former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, along with 106 others, is far from being the only politically motivated conviction made by the Egyptian courts. Mass trials have become common since the July 2013 coup, which ousted Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

Collectively, these court decisions have raised serious questions about the independence of the judiciary, and suggest that the courts are merely an extension of the military regime, rather than an independent arm of the state.

Characteristic of these trials is the lack of due process throughout investigation and trial proceedings, the absence of objective evidence presented during trials and increasing numbers of defendants held incommunicado without access to legal representation. Lack of transparency is also evident, with courts refusing to make judgements public, proof that the judicial functions in the country are fast becoming politicised. » More

Prior focus: Partner Insights

Khaan Quest and Mongolia: Molding a Mediator?

US Marine during the 2015 Khaan Quest Exercise in Mongolia. Image: Marines/Flickr

This article was originally published by Offiziere.ch on 9 July 2015.

From June 20 to July 1, the Mongolian Armed Forces and United States Pacific Command jointly hold the latest edition of Khaan Quest (Facebook page), a multinational peace operation exercise hosted on Mongolian territory and primarily intended to enhance peacekeeping and peace support capabilities among participating states. Beyond allowing opportunities for strengthening relationships and exchanging best practices, Khaan Quest entails a command post exercise and a field exercise by ground forces. Of particular interest, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) participated for the first time, demonstrating China’s growing interest in regional security. » More

Prior focus: Global Views

A Balanced Perception of Religion in International Relations

Mosque and Church. Image: David Evers/Flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 9 July 2015.

In the ongoing discourse on constructing the world order many new but also “new-old” approaches are being developed. One of the more discussed and controversial issues is the recognition of a religious dimension in international relations. While some authors refer to the “return”, “resurgence” or “renaissance” of religion (Thomas 2005; Petito, Hatzopoulos 2003; Fox 2001), others rather admit to discovering a “hidden reality” that has always been there but became more visible recently (Haynes 2006: 539).

Over the last two decades rich literature has been published on this topic and numerous initiatives have been undertaken to introduce a balanced perception of the roles played by religion within the global arena. Yet a fair assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of religion in IR is only a far-out hope and still “even the charismatic virtuosi of peace are less well known than the Yigal Amirs and Osama bin Ladens of the world.” (Appleby 2000: 122).

The notion of the “ambivalence of the sacred” (Appleby 2000) coined by Scott Appleby is widely acknowledged. Marc Gopin calls religion the “creator and destroyer of peace” (Gopin 2012: 271-279) and Jose Casanova refers to this phenomenon as the “Janus face” of religion (Casanova 1994: 4). Religion is undoubtedly a double-edged sword. But it seems that any discussion on the many different roles played by religion in the area of international relations is too often one-sided and the perspective in which the religious factor is recognized far too uneven.

The purpose of this article is to highlight that there is also this second face of religious activism and a faith-based oriented world view that enables religious peacemakers to resolve conflicts that others could not resolve. It is also to underscore that the very non-political notions such as reconciliation, forgiveness, healing of relations, and apology that developed in social science over the last decades are often rooted and connected with religious world views. » More

Prior focus: Academic Perspectives

Interview – A Window into the Life and Mind of Mary Kaldor

A member of the Spanish contingent of peacekeepers in a devastated street in Mostar. Image: legio09/Flickr

This interview was originally published by Strife on 7 July 2015.

Mary Kaldor is Professor of Global Governance at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is best known for her seminal work ‘New and Old Wars: Organised Violence in a Global Era’, now in its third edition. Professor Kaldor was interviewed for Strife by Melanie Daugherty. » More

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