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Mediation Perspectives: Commentary on the UN Guidance for Effective Mediation

Carter, Tutu, Bahsir

Former US President Jimmy Carter and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu meet Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir during their visit to Sudan, 2007. Photo: Andrew Heavens/flickr.

The July 2011 UN General Assembly resolution on strengthening mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes was an important demonstration of support for mediation by the international community. The Guidance for Effective Mediation, called for in the resolution and subsequently developed by the UN, is a useful reference document for mediation prac­titioners and the broader policy community. Translating Mediation Guidance into Practice, developed by the NGO members of the Mediation Support Network (MSN), expands on the guidance. It provides examples of effective and ineffective mediation practice in conflicts around the world. » More

Mediation Perspectives: Peace Mediation Quo Vadis?

Darfuri Armed Movement Discussions

Photo: Darfuri Armed Movement Discussions/Wikimedia Commons.

Is the way that armed conflicts are being mediated today different as compared to five or ten years ago? If the answer to this question is ‘yes’, what are the challenges facing mediation efforts and how might mediators go about confronting them? These and other questions were explored during a panel discussion at the 2013 International Security Forum (ISF).

Peace Mediation is Changing

In the 1980s, track 1 mediators focused on the security aspects of armed conflicts, leaving the political, economic, social and justice questions to be dealt with later by other mechanisms. From the mid-1990s, however, track 1 mediators have been asked to approach mediation very differently: the root causes of armed conflict were to be addressed, and this was oriented by a total “vision of society” that was developed by the conflict parties. The result was long and highly complex peace processes, such as the Burundi Arusha (1998-2000) or the Sudan North-South processes (2002-2005). In both cases, mediation teams were larger, and consisted of mediation process experts, topical experts on security, justice, economy, and social issues, alongside coordination by a chief mediator (such as Julius Nyerere and Nelson Mandela (Burundi) or General Lazaro Sumbeiywo (Sudan)). Since the Sudan Process, there has not been an equivalent peace process, which begs the questions: are we in a phase of transition that possibly mixes the 1980s security mediation model with comprehensive mediation approach of the 1990s? If so, at what stage are we at in terms of development? » More

Mediation Perspectives: Building Trust

Pyongyang-Kaesong highway

The Arch of Reunification is a sculptural arch located in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. It was constructed in 2001 to commemorate Korean reunification proposals put forward by Kim Il-sung. Photo: bryanh/flickr.

What do student exchange programs have in common with prisoner exchanges; and what does the release of information on missing persons have to do with a game of soccer, or a joint-economic development project? They are all examples of measures that can be used for confidence building in peace processes (albeit in different contexts and conflict phases). Generally speaking, confidence building measures (CBMs) can be understood as “a series of actions that are negotiated, agreed and implemented by the conflict parties in order to build confidence, without specifically focusing on the root causes of the conflict.” In other words, by letting parties collaborate on something that is not strategically important to them, they build the trust needed to subsequently address the strategic issues. » More

Mediation Perspectives: Visioning the Future and Dealing with the Past

 Flag of Concert of Parties for Democracy (Concertación)

Flag of Concert of Parties for Democracy (Concertación), a Chilean political coalition founded in 1989. Image: B1mbo/Wikimedia Commons.

Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s 2012 film No, about the 1988 plebiscite that brought an end to General Augusto Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship, vividly captures the tensions between a society’s need to be forward-looking at times of political transition (be this at the end of dictatorship or at the end of violent conflict) and its need to deal with past injustice. On March 5th 1988 Chileans were asked to vote whether General Pinochet should stay in power for another eight-year term. The film focuses on the television campaign aired by advocates of the “No” vote in the days leading up to the referendum. Veterans of the anti-Pinochet opposition, many of them victims of the state’s repressive apparatus, called for a campaign that would showcase past crimes: forced disappearances, torture, and killings. » More

Mediation Perspectives: “Infrastructures for Peace” – Useful Jargon?

The Peace Bridge in Calgary AB, Canada

Peace infrastructure? The Peace Bridge in Calgary AB, Canada. Photo: /Wikimedia Commons.

Every academic and professional field has its jargon. While often criticized, jargon has its uses. It serves as a kind of shorthand, allowing us to communicate complex or multiple concepts in short phrases or single words. But it does have its downsides. Excessive use of jargon renders meaning incomprehensible to non-specialists. Even between specialists it may lead to misunderstandings when users and audiences have different conceptions of what the term refers to. Worse, it can be used as a kind of tick-box or name check, allowing users to communicate the sense that they are engaging with the concepts underlying the jargon without necessarily genuinely doing so. We are therefore rightly wary when a new term comes along; asking ourselves whether there is a need for it in our vocabulary. » More

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