Recommitting To Mediation

The United Nations (UN) has launched an appeal to assist almost 90 million people across 37 countries. With such a large number of people they wish to help, it is important that the UN consider the best way to approach these conflicts in order to produce the best and most effective result.  In the last year, there have been many instances of countries using diplomacy and mediation to solve conflicts. The success of diplomacy and mediation to solve these conflicts has varied, with some cases showing how successful it can be, while others have shown the failures that occur when it is not done effectively. The Colombian Peace Process has shown the success that mediation and diplomacy is able to have when the parties put the effort into ensuring that the process occurs. The conflict in Colombia has been ongoing for decades but with the success of peace talks up to this point, it is expected that a peace deal will be agreed upon, thus ending the conflict. This process has come about due to diplomatic efforts between parties and extensive mediation. While the process in Colombia has been successful, efforts in Syria have not produced the same results. There have been several attempts at diplomatic efforts in Syria but none have yielded positive results, with extensive fighting still occurring. These case studies have shown that while sometimes it fails, other times mediation and diplomacy can be effective mechanisms to bring about peace in conflicts. If the UN and other actors were to recommit to mediation, it is possible that they would be able to promote effective and lasting peace in conflict situations.

Mediation simply means an intervention in a dispute in order to resolve it. In conflict situations, the mediation often involves dialogue between the parties in order for them to agree on a solution to their issues. Mediation and dialogue is often stressed as an appropriate tool for ending conflict. It is a non-violent method that minimizes the risk to civilians caught in the conflict. Its history of success is varied, with some cases proving how effective it can be while it fails in other cases. Despite this, there needs to be a renewed focus on it in order for it to be more effectively utilized in conflict situations. In order for mediation to be more widely used in conflict situations, three things need to occur. These three things are that the UN needs to become stronger promoters of mediation, more women need to be included in the peace process and the UN needs to be more active in working with individual countries and regional bodies directly affected by conflicts occurring around the world.

Firstly, the UN needs to be stronger than it is now. Mediation between parties involved in a conflict is a core task of the UN, as stated in its mandate. It is easily the most significant global mediation actor and often the only one seen as impartial and entrusted enough to work in conflict situations. The General Assembly and UN Security Council have both committed to strengthening the UN’s capacity, including its ability to be mediators in conflict situations. The UN has faced roadblocks and obstacles that have affected its ability to be a global leader in conflict prevention. At this point, it is clear that they are required to show more leadership when it comes to promoting non-violent methods to end conflict. It is clear that countries require more understanding of the mediation process in order to utilize it more effectively. The more willing a country is to be involved in the mediation process, the more likely that it will be effective in the long run. Mediation is able to prevent further escalation of conflict and it can save lives. This means that it needs to be effectively used and implemented. For this to occur, the UN needs to be proactive and show that this method can be efficient. In summary, it is essential that the UN show leadership in utilizing mediation effectively.

Secondly, more women need to be involved in the peace process. Recent research has shown that there is a positive link between women’s meaningful participation in peace processes and the likelihood that a peace agreement will be reached and sustained. If women contribute to negotiations and the peace process they are able to add another layer to the agreement, one that focuses on the people and society rather than just focusing on politics. There have been several initiatives around the world that have supported giving women more of a role in the peace process, particularly in mediation processes. Sweden and Finland are two countries which have extensively supported initiatives to train women for peace processes, to strengthen gender expertise and strengthen women’s contribution in UN mediation. Sweden has taken an active role in supporting local women peace builders and human rights activists in Iraq while Finland supports civil society, including women’s organisations and efforts enabling local ceasefires and peacemaking in Syria. The Nordic countries have formed a Nordic Women Mediators network as a way to increase women mediators in the field. These efforts are positive steps towards encouraging mediation, and if more women were involved in the process than mediation may be more effectively utilized.

Thirdly, the UN needs to work closer with regional bodies and organisations. While the UN needs to show initiative and leadership, regional bodies and organisations need to also show some initiative in furthering the use of mediation in conflict situations. Regional bodies and organisations have a distinct advantage over the UN, in that they are able to have more understanding of cultural and societal issues within that country. These regional bodies are often closer networks and due to similar cultures and the relationships they form, the parties involved in the conflict may be more receptive to them than they would to a larger organisation, such as the UN. The UN needs to be more active in working with these regional bodies in order to promote mediation and utilize it more effectively than it is being utilized now. On the 12th of February, a Chinese envoy to the UN stressed that the UN needs to attach more importance to preventative diplomacy and mediation in solving disputes and that the UN should also increase how much regional bodies are used in these situations. Due to the cultural advantage that these bodies have, it is essential that they be used in a different way to ensure that mediation is utilized effectively in solving conflicts.

There needs to be an increased focus on the use of mediation to solve conflicts. So many approaches involve the use of methods that negatively affect the civilians caught in the middle of the conflict, such as sanctions and air strikes. Mediation is a non-violent method which if it is utilized correctly can be successful in ending conflicts. Mediation takes time but it also saves lives. This alone should encourage the UN and countries around the world to give preference to this method when attempting to find a solution to conflicts.

Lillian Wetherspoon


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The Organization for World Peace