John Bercow, who stepped down as “Speaker” of the House of Commons in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament on 31 October 2019, catapulted the otherwise obscure role into the public eye on an international level. This is due to the controversy over the Brexit parliamentary debates, his forthright manner, distinctive cry of “Or-derr!” whenever proceedings became rowdy – but I argue here that it is also due to his understanding of the role of speaker as mediator. In this blog post, I explore this understanding, and highlight what speakers of parliaments as well as mediators can learn from it.
Resolving local conflicts between non-state armed groups, or between communities, is key to reducing violence against civilians. The United Nations is often involved in supporting local peace processes and seems to enhance the prospects for local conflict resolution. One major obstacle to a successful local peace process, however, is that local conflicts are often integrated into higher-level, national or transnational conflicts. A holistic approach to peacemaking is therefore necessary, which could allow peace to trickle down from the transnational or national level to the local, ultimately reducing violence against civilians.
Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry that’s provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors. Each entry is designed to highlight the utility of mediation approaches in dealing with violent political conflicts. To keep up to date with the Mediation Support Team, you can sign up to their newsletter here.
Ongoing efforts to professionalize the field of mediation have focused upon the collection of lessons learned and good practice to better inform mediation strategies. My recently published study on “Peace Agreement Provisions and the Durability of Peace” seeks to contribute to this effort by analyzing quantitative research on the empirical relationship between the content of civil war peace agreements and the subsequent duration of peace. In my experience, this is an area of direct practical relevance to mediators, who can and do influence the design of peace agreements through introducing options from comparative cases, making bridging proposals or even occasionally drafting texts.
This week’s featured graphic maps the domestic coalitions in the Libyan conflict and their international supporters. For an insight into UN mediation in Libya, read Lisa Watanabe’s recent CSS Analyses in Security Policy here.
It’s rare to hear firsthand accounts of daily life amid the conflict in Donbass. But we do have a few. The photographer Paula Bronstein captured the broken bodies and tormented souls of elderly people. The documentary filmmaker Simon Lereng Wilmont shot the war through the eyes of a 10-year-old orphan boy living in a small village with “The Distant Barking of Dogs.” My colleague Ioulia Shukan, a French sociologist, keeps a blog on ordinary citizens affected by the war in Eastern Ukraine. She recounted the everyday life of three female villagers in the grey zone, their fear of shells and their cohabitation with soldiers. She also told the story of a young family that left the little Ukrainian town of Marinka — where there is still no heating and no drinking water — for the separatist-held city of Donetsk to escape immediate danger and precarious conditions. These Ukrainians’ stories highlight not only the human cost of the ongoing war, but also the perils of the Ukrainian government — and its Western partners — ignoring that cost.