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Conflict Diplomacy CSS Blog

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?

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Security Diplomacy

The High Stakes of the Iran Nuclear Deal

The wall of the former US embassy covered in anti-US-murals. Image: Phillip Maiwald/Wikimedia

Those opposed to the nuclear deal currently being negotiated by Iran and the P5+1 typically make a number of criticisms: Iran may still be able to build a bomb at some point in the future; the United States should not ‘allow’ Iran to maintain uranium capabilities; the deal goes against traditional U.S. nonproliferation policy; and so on.  Though these critics rarely offer clear alternatives—after all, negotiating a better deal than the current one appears all but impossible—many still favor one option in particular: military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.  This course of action, however, would be counter-productive.  Not only does the current deal with Iran draw on the successful track record of U.S. nonproliferation policy, it was developed in concert with other major powers and international nuclear norms.  On balance, it remains the best possible means of affecting the calculus of the Iranian leadership regarding its potential nuclear weapons program. By contrast, military strikes would only increase Tehran’s desire for nuclear weapons and could dramatically shorten the timeframe in which it would be likely to acquire them.

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Development Conflict Diplomacy CSS Blog

Mediation Perspectives: Professionalizing Mediation through Negotiation Simulations

Illustration by Howard John Arey

Emotions are high and words are flying fast, when suddenly the head of the negotiation delegation gets up and leaves the room. There have been numerous tactical walk-outs during the past 24 hours of marathon negotiations to reach a peace agreement, but this time things are different. Just when the parties are close to signing, one of the delegations is told by their government to insist on an additional clause in the final document. The other party refuses to accept the change. The minutes tick by with frantic efforts by the mediator to find a last minute solution acceptable to all. However, all is in vain. The head of delegation feels it would be a bad deal for her constituency and she still distrusts the other side – so she walks out for good. Both parties blame the other side for the subsequent escalation of violence.

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Technology Diplomacy

The Time Is Right for US-China Nuclear Dialogue

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing, China, on April 13, 2013. Image: U.S Department of State/Wikimedia

This PacNet Commentary was originally published by Pacific Forum CSIS on 4 March 2015.

As part of the so-called ‘new type of major-country relations,’ there has been a proliferation of official dialogues between the United States and China. But, in the area where mistakes or miscalculation could prove the most disastrous – nuclear weapons policy – Beijing has resisted elevating very constructive unofficial Track 2 and Track 1.5 dialogues (involving government and military officials in their private capacities, along with outside scholars and experts) to the official Track 1 level. A meaningful official dialogue on strategic nuclear issues is needed to prevent lingering suspicion and distrust about each other‘s capabilities and intentions from damaging overall US-China relations. This will not happen, however, until Washington accommodates what Beijing perceives to be its legitimate security concerns and clarifies its own objectives, and Beijing realizes that further delay could undermine its long-term interests.

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Security Conflict Terrorism Justice CSS Blog

Mediation Perspectives: Innovative Approaches in the Colombian Peace Process

Photo: flickr/Lucho Molina

The Colombian peace process has advanced steadily without major interruption since it was formally launched in Norway and peace talks between the Colombian government and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) began in Cuba in late 2012. As with most peace processes, the Colombian process has evolved over time and in stages, with adjustments to the methodologies, focus, and engagement of the stakeholders. A number of these modifications are breaking new ground, particularly with regard to the roles of civil society and the design of strategies for dealing with the past.