Principles of political mediation

Dear reader. 

It has been quite a while since I was able to share anything of substance on this blog. To be honest, I didn’t forget about you. Rather, I was busy responding to my commitments, which, as you know, not only took me into the world but also into some action. 

I have also learned a few things:

  • For the past decade and more, not much substance has been added to the field of conflict resolution, leaving mediation hanging dry and without basic epistemology;
  • While there are great differences between traditional, commercial and political mediation (and even with international negotiations), the practice remains unphased by these important details as they relate to the What and the How of mediation (and sometimes even the When)

That being said, and in my quest to remain short and concise in order to invite for more thoughts to flow, I would like to share with you my understanding of the principles of political mediation (in case that you are looking for a definition, please see an earlier publication on this issue):

  • Contextualitity: political mediation is played out at the highest level of state diplomacy, including access to government level resources and capacities. The mandate given to a high level mediator also emanates from an institution typically mandated to address and to contain violence and conflict in its area of operations. Thus, all mediation is contextual. 
  • Driven by the mandate: the mandate is the legal roadmap for the intervention. Nothing happens without or outside of the mandate (which then allows to clearly define what mediation support means, what is invoked and what it looks like).
  • Focus on the parties: everything that happens within the mediation activity needs to be driven by the parties. It has to be consensual, unanimous and inclusive. 
  • Timing: the When of mediation or its suitability, in addition to whether High Power or Low Power Neutral Mediation is suited to curb the violence, is critical. 
  • Sequencing: At the political level, mediation is not a single activity but embedded within a range of peacemaking activities, coordination with early warning and liaison with peace enforcement. Additionally, relevant international organizations work hand in hand to get the settlement going. Subsidiarity and tight communication between international actors is crucial and paramount to the success of the intervention. 
  • Humility: whereas the mediator receives a clear mandate to engage the antagonists, he/she should not ‘overdo’ it. A modest, humble and culturally sensitive approach is crucial for a good mediator. 
  • Leadership: leadership is a choice and cannot be learned. The mediator needs to lead, manage and coordinate various mediation teams and take ownership of the process (parties take ownership of the outcome of the agreement). 

These are my thoughts. Happy to listen to yours.