My new mediation study is out!

This paper provides a study of mediation experiences from different periodic and country contexts. It investigates elements that are key to mediation effectiveness. For the expert reader, it provides insights into the complexities of political mediation through four decidedly intricate cases. For the newcomer to the field of mediation, it provides an analytic and narrative account of mediation as an instrument of peacemaking.
The study is framed by an introduction, which defines the essence of political mediation as a means of conflict regulation; a description of the variables that distinguish conflict regulation from other means of conflict resolution; and lessons learned from four qualitative case studies. From the insights into the four cases, we can deduce that mediation is a skillful adaptation to clear ambiguity and flexible arrangements.
Here is the link to the download:

Creative strategies in negotiations, pt. 1

Dear reader.

Good to have you back. This post is about creative strategies and approaches for resolving and settling conflicts. Based on my previous experiences during the Kampala Talks in 2013 and ceasefire negotiations with the Darfur Armed Movements, I have made use of a few approaches that fit to the context for widening the range of options perceived by closed-minded people before they walk out of a negotiation session or even turn to subsequent violence due to the frustrations perceived in a narrowly defined negotiation strategy.

And I am not alone in this understanding of creativity in negotiations. Kelman (1962, in: ‘Internationalizing military force’, in Q. Wright, W.M. Evan and M. Deutsch (ends) Preventing World War III. New York: Simon and Schuster: 106-122) pointed out that the significance of creative conflict resolution procedures is greater than may appear. When traditional negotiation breaks down, the number of ways still left to deal with the conflict remains almost inexhaustible, though not always achievable.

Six dimensions help categorizing the repertoire: (1) the parties (who); (2) the basis of the conflict (what); (3) the location (where); (4) the timing (when); (5) the nature of the involvement (how); (6) the causes (why). All approaches work in a range of contexts, from the international relations dimension to the interpersonal and inter organizational level of conflict.

Strategy 1: Change and vary who is involved

a) Unilaterally take an initiative, hoping to influence the adversary

(1) e.g. through one-sided de-escalation by a small amount and inviting the opponent(s) to follow suit. If the other side does so, further de-escalation can proceed. Especially useful when face-saving problems or the like prevent contenders from negotiating an agreement. Being competent in communication techniques and speech act are useful skills (also known as the GRIT approach: graduated reciprocation in tension-reduction).

(2) acceptable fait accompli, i.e. when the issue can be settled unilaterally in a way that accounts for everyone’s interests so no one opposes the settlement.

(3) tacit agreements: When negotiation is impossible, the parties to a dispute resolve it separately according to their perception of fairness;

(4) influencing an opponent’s choice of a negotiator by one’s own choice. when one party chooses a negotiator from the field and level of responsibility that can most readily resolve the dispute, other parties are likely to follow suit.

b) Call in a third party to help settle a dispute

(1) sophisticated mediation or good offices: a mediator serves as a communication link between contenders, improves their perceptions of each other, suggests solutions to the problem in dispute, and puts pressure on the contenders to agree. the chief mediator bears considerable responsibility for these agreements and he/she uses the entire gammut of mediation strategies to get the parties to agree (at times under pressure, at times under concessions). the mediator needs to be skilled and competent and able to play many roles at different stages of the process

(2) settlement plus arbitration: the parties to a dispute settle some issues, agree to arbitrate to others, and perhaps leave still some other issues wholly unresolved.

(3) final-offer arbitration. in making its binding decision in a dispute, an arbitration panel can announce that it will avoid compromising and instead will choose one party’s bid as is. this announcement inclines each party to try to come closer to a position outsiders would regards as fair than would appear to the other party(ies).

(4) control by a disinterested third party, i.e. temporary or permanent authority over part or all of a difficult issue can be given to a third party, with or without the power of removal by the original parties.

(5) a financier-imposed solution, e.g. by choosing who will receive loans and for what purposes, bankers can impose creative and peaceful solutions to the conflicts. this approach usually leads to imposed solutions with often exploitative and violent outcomes.

c) Change the parties involved

(1) ignoring an uncooperative contender, ie a group of negotiators can ignore a disruptive contender and proceed on their own, expecting the disrupter to settle down in order to avoid being left behind.

(2) accommodation due to the arrival of a common adversary, e.g animosity may be reduced and sharing increased if a common adversary is introduced (could the case of ISIS bring the US and the Assad regime in Syria to an aligned solution for the region?).

(3) out-of-character positioning; it is possible to bring to power a person (or a political party) holding so firm a position against the opponent that this partisan will not concede too much and that, therefore, domestic opinion will permit concessions.

(4) changing to higher echelons, i.e. the assumption can be made that the source of a conflict between parties comes from lower echelon officers on the other side. Upper echelon officers can take charge, scapegoat the lower officers, and then come to an agreement with the adversary.

(5) pinpointing cooperative officials. rather than expecting an entire adversary group to cooperate when one’s relations with it are bad, one can determine who within that group can do what is wanted and make an offer to that person or persons.

(6) coalition-building by scattered, peaceful forces, i.e. a coalition of scattered, peaceful, minor forces can be formed that will outweigh the power of organized, major, exploitative forces.

Strategy 2: Vary what is involved

a) Seek common interests in which to build

(1) superordinate goals: these are goals contenders can choose to pursue that include the original goals of both sides, that cannot be achieved without cooperation among contenders and that offer goal-satisfaction for all sides. in most cases, pursuing superordinate goals reduced hostilities when social contact had not.

(2) synergy, ie relationships can be exploited in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

(3) upgrading of common interests. sometimes, competitive interaction can have cooperative elements. pre-condition is that parties’ needs are satisfied and the space for fighting over scarce resources is clearly delineated and narrow enough.

(4) fractionation of conflict. the breaking up of disputes into elements that can be settled separately. one purpose of this approach is to settle agreeable parts of a dispute first in order to build trust for settling more difficult parts later. an alternative purpose is to identify those elements upon which agreement can be reached in order to salvage as much as possible from a diplomatic endeavor and conference (such as a ceasefire negotiation) that otherwise might break down with no results.

(5) potential agreement discussions. the parties discuss what could be agreed as a preface to attempting at an actual decision.

(6) functional analysis of disputes, i.e. third-party members help the contenders deal with the fundamental needs underlying a dispute rather than concentrating exclusively on the immediate, symptomatic manifestations of it. any dispute can be reduced to a conflict over material welfare, deserved status, power, and so on. frequently, alternate, more acceptable means can be found to serve these functions than the particular means the contenders were quarreling about in the first place. sometimes these alternate means are ones on which the disputants can cooperate.

(7) maintenance of high aspirations and a problem-solving stance, i.e. the highest joint utility comes from each side’s setting high aspirations, sticking to them fairly well, and working together to solve the problems at hand. this approach contrasts with low or loose aspirations which can result in excessive readiness to accept a compromise with lower joint utility. the approach also contrasts with the distributive approach, which seeks to gain more at the opponent’s expense.

(8) functionalism. common loyalties can be built through functional organization. functional organizations can rule on disputes that were formally dealt with politically or militarily.

b) Bring in subjects unrelated to the object of the dispute

(1) package deals in such a way that one sides gets the advantage in the current dispute, the other side gets the advantage in the outstanding agreement (but need to have guarantees for this approach).

(2) prelude goals. lesser, more easily attainable goals unrelated to the dispute can be pursued to form closer relations that will make it possible to achieve the larger goal later.

End of part 1.

Handbook: African Union Mediation Support

Dear reader.

It has been 4 months now, since the African Union Mediation Support Handbook has been disseminated and shared with AU Special Envoys, mediators and mediation teams. The handbook was designed, written and developed with an amazing team at the African Center for Constructive Dispute Resolution in Durban, South Africa, and co-developed and reviewed by senior African Union officials within the Conflict and Management Division.

The main substance and content on how to prepare, engage, run, and follow-up on a mediated process has been developed based on my own experiences, expertise and using up-to-date mediation knowledge.

Here is the link to the Ebook for download and I appreciate any comments, feedback, critical reflections and further guidance:



Entry points in international mediation – Ripeness in Syria?

The professional mediation community tries to make sensitive assessments about when and how and even if to intervene in a conflict situation. Albeit some argue that any intervention should be done with a mandate and keeping the Do No Harm principles in mind, others argue that interventions need to take place for the sake to uphold human rights in conflict environments.

In Syria, we have seen a range of attempts to intervene in a deadly civil war. Two UN Special Envoys later (Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi) who were struggling to find the right entry point, the situation seems to be shifting in favor of a window of opportunity for an intervention in Syria. Many refer to this moment as the moment of ripeness, after after some key conditions have been met, both the parties and the situation is amenable to resolution. The notion of ripeness may have its criticism (tautology being its main impediment), yet practitioners in the field of political mediation are still using the terminology and so it may make sense to take a new look at the shifting balance of forces and power in the geopolitical context of Syria. This article on Al Jazeera’s website captures the shifting and moving forces quite eloquently.

What Saudi-Iranian rapprochement means for Assad – Al Jazeera English.

Mediation knowledge – The role of third parties in mediation processes

The Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF) has provided an interesting article and reminder about the effectiveness of third parties in mediated processes.
A very good and useful article to continue the debate on how to link process and outcome in such a way that we have an implementable agreement at the end of a long day.

Here is the link to the article:

Sisyphos’s task in the DRC

While working on a mediation support task during the Kampala talks, it became quite evident, that the surprising-not-so-surprising victory of the FARDC over the M23 rebel movement would be a momentous event, not necessarily followed by a thorough process of addressing the root causes of the conflicts in the Eastern DRC. Whilst the strategy might have its benefits, a mix of military support, African solutions, and a wider regional framework for peace and support, it still requires the DRC government to prove that its governance structures in both the political and military sphere are able to address security issues while providing the impetus for economic development and thus peace and security to prevail. However, the initial honeymoon phase of change and transition has already turned into a deja vu exercise of weak institutions and re-arming of rebels (M23 factions are being re-supplied and forming again in the Eastern part of the DRC. ADF and other groups are re-positioning themselves, making the changes for the upcoming elections a daunting task.

Jasons Stearns’ article from December 2013 has a range of interesting points and hints that could form the basis of a renewed analysis and view of the DRC conflict.

Ending Congos Civil War | Foreign Affairs.

Womens rights country by country – interactive | Global development |

Womens rights country by country – interactive | Global development |

Which countries have laws preventing violence? Which legislate for gender equality? And which countries allow abortion? Using World Bank and UN data we offer a snapshot of women’s rights across the globe. Select a region and hover over a country to see how it has legislated for violence, harassment, abortion, property and employment rights, discrimination and equality. Click on a country to tweet a message on the figures. Country data can be viewed in relation to its population size and those of its neighbouring states. Click the centre of the circle to return to the beginning

Get the data

Mediation 101

Welcome to the first entry of a mediation guide, quick “What-How-When-Why”-guide and essential kick for the mediation starter and those who would like to re-visit what mediation is all about.

If you have any questions, comments or additional topics to add, please do not hesitate to do or to send an Email to

Remember: Dialogue is the Key!