Breathing point in CAR – Mediation efforts (Reuters)

BANGUI, June 27 (Reuters) – The two main factions in the Central African Republic’s intercommunal conflict have taken a tentative step towards ending violence that has killed thousands and forced more than a million people to flee their homes.

The mainly Muslim ex-rebel Seleka coalition and the Christian militias known as anti-balaka set up a joint committee of six members each on Thursday to prepare for peace talks under the auspices of conflict-resolution group PARETO.

The committee represents a second step after the two sides held an initial meeting this month, according to Béni Kouyaté, vice-coordinator of PARETO.

Few concrete details of the talks have emerged but both sides told Reuters they were optimistic they could lead to something substantial.

“This initiative will lead us towards reconciliation, to peace. That’s what we all want in this country,” said senior Seleka official Eric Massi.

“We agreed on all the mediation principles that we want to lead us to peace. For our part, there’s no problem, but it’s up to the leaders of the Seleka to convince their leaders who are in Bambari to have faith in this process,” said Sebastien Wenezoui, assistant coordinator of the anti-balaka.

Violence continued this week as more than 50 people were killed in two days of clashes in Bambari, 380 km (240 miles) northeast of the capital Bangui.

Bambari sits on a sectarian fault line. An attack by mainly Christian militia on its outskirts led to waves of reprisals by Muslim youths and fighting inside the town.

Seleka rebels seized the capital of the majority Christian nation last year. They relinquished power under international pressure in January but abuses they committed fuelled the rise of Christian militias responsible for revenge attacks that have driven most Muslims from Bangui and the west. (Reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Andrew Roche)

Conflict management or conflict resolution

Conflict resolution or conflict management…that is the question. A many scholars have attempted to delineate the various conflict transformation strands in order to establish a typology of conflict resolution and intervention strategies. Let us try and apply some of the elaborate thinking onto the African context.

Stephen Ryan (Ethnic conflict and international relations. Aldershot, Dartmouth Publishing Company, 1990:50) has asserted that too often conflict resolution is used as a cover-all term that fails to face up to the different processes involved in the reduction or elimination of violence. This statement seems to be very evident of the African conflict situation especially when scholars and practitioners alike refer to the handling of conflict in Africa. Thus, it is necessary to explore the main features of conflict resolution and conflict management, two approaches in conflict scholarship, in order to better understand and assess the motivations and actions of intervening agencies or actors. The first major difference between the two approaches concerns the desire or not to raise the fundamental issues that divide the parties to a conflict. Proponents of the resolution approach favour the raising of fundamental issues because they believe that conflict can be resolved. As Christopher Mitchell (The structure of international conflict. London, Macmillan, 1989:9) pointed out, not merely will disruptive conflict behaviour cease and hostile attitudes and perceptions at least be ameliorated, but the ultimate source of conflict (that is, the situation of goal incompatibility) will also be removed so that no unsatisfied goals remain to plague the future.

Proponents of the management approach, on the other hand, believe that attempts to resolve conflicts are unrealistic, so rather than dealing with basic issues, attention should be concentrated on ameliorating the symptoms of the conflict, and in this way reducing suffering (Ryan, ibid, 1990:102). Scholars of the resolution approach argue that the unsolvable nature of a particular conflict is more apparent than real. They maintain that it may be incorrect to view conflicts management approach consisting of peace-keeping forces to reduce or eliminate violence rather than the desire to address the fundamental issues which divide the parties to the conflict. Stationing peace-keeping forces as in the Central African Republic (1996), Sudan (2004-2006, related to the Darfur conflict) or in Somalia (2007) can only be a temporary measure rather than a ‘conflict resolution’ approach. In other words, conflict management tends to ‘freeze’ conflict dynamics rather than to address the underlying causes of these dynamics.

Whatever the case, regional African intervention through peace-keeping has been seriously bogged down by three fundamental principles: namely, non- interference in the internal affairs of member states, territorial integrity, and inviolability of the boundaries inherited from colonization (Herman Cohen, Conflict management in Africa. CSIS Africa Notes, 181 (February), 1996:2-3). In addition to these fundamental problems of principle, other problems continue to be a challenge to AU peace-keeping missions. Some of these obstacles include inadequate trained troops, funding, and political willpower among AU nations to effectively intervene in all of Africa’s conflicts. From a conflict resolution standpoint, the critique by Feldman (Problems plaguing the African Union peacekeeping forces. In Defense and Security Analysis, 24 (3), pp. 267–279, 2008) that ‘without strong AU military forces capable of providing effective interventions, many African conflicts will either remain unresolved or depend on forces outside the continent to attempt to impose a non-African solution on them’ is misplaced because military forces do not ‘resolve conflict’; they only succeed in some cases to reduce the violence.

Conflict resolution is more than making or keeping peace.

While the consensus on intervention in African conflicts has mainly favoured the conflict management approach along the specific lines of power and military force through peace-keeping in different conflict locations, the language used also appeared to be colonially cavalier as in the concept known as ‘the development of conflict management approaches tailored to African circumstances …’. Although conflict situations are always specific, attempts to resolve the different conflicts ought to be about the desire to raise and address the fundamental issues that divide the parties to a conflict rather than the simple desire to reduce or eliminate violence as has been the case.

The foregoing are some of the complex and deep-rooted concerns which must be addressed in conflict resolution efforts in Africa. It will be difficult for the conflict resolution community to see its way around these concerns without a renewed openness to address Africa’s colonial past. If the conflict resolution community is to have any chance of reaching durable outcomes to the conflicts in Africa, it has to look beyond the narrow assumptions on which it has usually operated. The policy of the blind eye is just as inadequate as imposing an army of occupation on a given people or nation in conflict, as has been the case in several conflicts in Africa. Equally, the AU idea to set up an African Peace Keeping Force as outlined by the UN-organised Millennium Summit in September 2000 can only produce colonial-style repressive measures rather than provide durable outcomes to Africa’s conflicts. By envisaging peace-keeping forces in the 21st century, the AU leadership may be making the error of keeping Africa in the colonial mindset while the rest of the world advances in the democratic respect of dialogue and human and people’s rights in the resolution of conflicts. The question remains whether there is the political will at the African Union, the United Nations, and among former colonial powers to move beyond the colonial-style desire to merely suppress or perhaps eliminate overt violence.

A Culture of Intervention – towards a new debate

Since the end of the Cold War era, the international community has gained a bit more space to maneuver in the quite opaque realm of interventions in conflict environments. On the one hand, we find the most potent powers to assume and to exert military power in order to quench or to stop a local conflict (think Libya, think Somalia). But at the same time, realities and politics suggest that the international community does not just stop with ending a conflict but that there is much more external intervention into structures and contexts of societies to the extent that a recurrence to violence can be mitigated.

The issue is not the intervention into a conflict area itself – as a matter of protecting human rights, one needs to agree that intervening in order to stop and alleviate suffering is a sound proposition. Rather, the question should be to what extent does a culture of intervention transform the local societies being subjected to this intervention and what dynamics and complexities take place throughout the nation-building process, initiated by the intervention of the international community.

To this day, the impact of intervention in terms of the creation of democratic conditions to render peace sustainable remains unexplored and often times elusive. This is mainly due to the fact that research and practice is looking at two independent variables without a more systemic understanding of the linkages between the practice of a culture of intervention and the creation of a new society. But new societies change also the culture of the intervener and we need to get a better understanding of these dynamics if we want to move towards a new culture of intervention and reflect better on the responsibility to protect and international humanitarian law.

In the coming posts, I am opening the debate through a new series looking at understanding the dynamics taking place between the intervener and the intervened.

You comments and feedback are always welcome.



Quo Vadis Conflict Analysis – Part II

Conflict Analysis – Quo Vadis, Part II

If we can agree with the argument, that conflict analysis should be done with the conflicting parties in mind, including indirectly affected actors due to the contested space and situation (either political or territorial), then we can start looking into the themes and priorities which help to guide the exploration and understanding of the core issues. Let me emphasize that a descriptive approach is no less interventionist than a prescriptive angle, yet it reminds us at all times about the Do No Harm principles of any intervention. I would also like to emphasize that keeping the parties in mind goes beyond realpolitik as it speaks inherently to addressing and satisfying human rights. But I will come back to that notion of human rights and mediation at a later point in time in our discussion.

So what are those constitutive elements that make up our descriptive approach to conflict? Whatever we discuss here is not set in stone – some practitioners and learned scholars have acquired their own insights through years of experience, others are just beginning to understand the world of peacemaking and mediation. So, allow these elements to be guidelines rather than templates as they need to constantly adapt to the stages in which the conflict is. Understanding conflict stages are a key component of our understanding on when and whether to intervene, but let us not put the cart before the horse. Understanding is key.

Every current condition or situation like a conflict, dispute or an issue has a past, an antecedent. No conflict or dispute erupts out of nowhere. Some say that it is a part of human condition and evolution to engage and at times fight it out. Notwithstanding the ethical debate about whether conflict is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (click here for some links to interesting discussions about this topic), every conflict has a ‘past’. Think of the Arab Spring, apartheid South Africa, the racial divide in the US, the escalation of a dispute between you and your partner – each stems out of unanswered frustrations, needs, lack of communication, structural violence.

This is the history of the conflict, our first guiding element. In order to limit the delving into history, we must limit ourselves to the following filters (actually very appropriate since we discussed in part I that we need to adopt lenses to help us understand the situation, to see the mosaic from the parties’ perspective – if history is our lens, then let us use some filters to get better picture from the past): what was the situation like in the past that led to unanswered grievances? What were the past solutions brought to the fore to address and redress the situation? What and which resources (human and financial) have been used to propel and enable these solutions? So: past situation, past solution, past resource – somewhere along the lines of these three filters, something went wrong.

What are the future situations we would like to attain? Through the use of which resources (financially and capacity-wise) and which solutions do we apply? And what are the current parameters and conditions under which belligerent parties operate to reach a solution through available resources? How do we enlarge the pie so that the conflicting parties can broaden their perspectives?

Once again, conflict analysis has to take context, situation, disposition of the parties to both conflict and peace and the systemic environment into account. Those factors are vital in order to get parties interested in peace. As long as parties perceive that the benefits and costs of war outweigh the benefits and costs of peace, they will keep the conflict going. In this context, it is worth debating the notion of ripeness and it it is possible at all to ripen the context conducive to negotiation in such a way that parties must perceive that a continuation of war or warlike activities is not possible. It is easy to look for successfully mediated cases, however, the factors under which successful or failed agreements have been reached is quite anecdotal at this stage due to the lack of knowledge and data. Clear is that process is not necessarily connected to outcome.

Conflict analysis needs to sensitize the mediator and his/her team to the possible entry points for an agreement. Even if an agreement is reached, it is not necessarily implementable nor sustainable. Which takes us back to the initial stages and questions when doing conflict analysis: What are the positions and the interest of the parties? How can there be a satisfactory and peaceful outcome even if the position are diametrically opposed? How do we negotiate power sharing deals? Would a government really be open to negotiate a constitutional reform knowing it would be loosing its grip? And how do we tackle unconstitutional changes of government and secessionists movement? What is the intervention angle?

Looking ahead, it is quite clear that a new chapter in mediating international conflicts has to be written as the past 20 years have shown us on how to deal with and address inter- and intra-state armed conflicts. Yet, the impact of the Arab spring, a Russian powerhouse, parties willing to go the extra mile in a violent conflict, coup d’etat and secessionist movement do require a renewed approach to the topic and purpose of mediation. Some regional organizations have sought the solution by shifting the attention to preventive diplomacy and conflict prevention. But, what role does mediation play in conflict prevention since mediation can only apply when a third party is becoming involved?

We need to start looking closely at the upcoming missions to Mali, CAR, South Sudan, Myanmar, Georgia, Syria, and the Philippines. New insights can be gained on how mediation may have to absorb new variables, vectors, and strategies in order to be effective and in order to bring peace to the table.

Or is peace still an elusive concept?

Quo Vadis Conflict Analysis – Part I

Quo Vadis Conflict Analysis?

The first step to understand a situation, a dispute or a conflict is to conduct thorough conflict analysis. This exercise helps us to get a better picture or to apply a range of lenses in order to establish a composite of what is taking place.
As such, there are a range of conflict analysis tools, provided by international organizations, donors, expert institutions and for a broad range of conflicts.
Oftentimes, they have been designed with a specific audience in mind: typically, these are the users of an intervention structure or mechanism, such as UNDP, the Worldbank, UN FAO, SIDA, to name a few. These tools inform the users, to give them a better appreciation of the situation and to start designing interventions, to coordinate better and to keep the beneficiaries of the intervention involved and engaged. As such, it is an open ended activity since conflict is an ever evolving system, as the old adage says.

At this point is where I believe that we need to start having a better appreciation of the tool itself and how it gets translated into effective interventions and conflict resolution. With that being said, I would like to focus on two important factors: the role and function of the users and the purpose of doing analysis.

Since we know that users apply a specific understanding and approach to conflict, their interventions will be driven based on the results of their respective conflict analysis. However, it can also be said that users may have to re-evaluate their approach to conflict analysis to allow them to reframe their perspective and approach to finding a solution to a situation. This reasoning is less theoretical than a more pragmatic approach to the way on how misguided interventions have generally not paved the way to anything more than mere management of conflict and, to lesser extent, conflict resolution. My argument goes to a more descriptive approach and frame of conflict analysis than a prescriptive one. While policy responses are the normal daily business of interventionists, a descriptive angle would allow for more audience and conflict parties focused interventions, ie observing not diagnosing is the new proposed approach. The angle is to get a better grasp and appreciation of parties’ aspirations, expectations, positions and needs. Putting the party into the focus of the intervention allows for empowerment, equity and parity, equalizing power disparities and, actually, peace.

Let me attempt to develop the argument further in the next part.

to be continued…

Courts Can’t End Civil Wars

The conflict in South Sudan is only the latest instance where extreme violence has erupted after a breakdown of political order. But rather than prioritizing political reform, the international community tends to focus on criminalizing the perpetrators of violence….: Courts Can’t End Civil Wars – by Thabo Mbeki and Mahmood Mamdani

Conflict Resolution Styles

This is an excellent argument which I believe is crucial in understanding the context, the history and the cultural dimensions of a conflict and the ways to bring it to constructive resolution:

Peace talks won’t solve the crisis in South Sudan. Africa-style justice will.

After a power struggle between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his former vice president, Riek Machar, plunged the world’s newest state into crisis in mid-December, the international community dutifully mobilized to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table. Right now, as South Sudan slides toward open civil war, representatives from both sides are engaged in direct, face-to-face talks in Addis Ababa. Unfortunately, however, the international community is misleading Africa yet again. The track record for face-to-face negotiation in post-colonial Africa — and in Sudan itself — is abysmal. Instead of trudging down the same, well-worn path toward failure, South Sudan should look to traditional modes of conflict resolution to end the current standoff.

More than 40 wars have been fought on the continent since 1970. Year after year, one African country after another has imploded with deafening staccato, scattering refugees in all directions: Sudan erupted in 1972, Angola and Mozambique in 1975, and Ethiopia in 1985. Then came Liberia (1992), Somalia (1993), Rwanda (1994), Zaire (1996), Sierra Leone (1997), Congo (1998), Ethiopia/Eritrea (1998), Guinea (1999, 2010), Ivory Coast (2001, 2005, 2010), Libya (2011), Mali (2012), and now the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

Almost without exception, attempts to reach peace accords have ended in failure. The most common modality has been the direct, face-to-face negotiation between the warring factions — a Western approach often pushed by a well-intentioned international community. But this has seldom worked in Africa.

Face-to-face negotiations only succeed when factional leaders want peace or are forced to pay a price for the mayhem they wreak — conditions that have rarely been met in Africa. More often than not, conflict becomes profitable for warlords because it provides them with opportunities to rape, pillage, and plunder natural resources. For rebel soldiers, their weapons are often their livelihoods. Likewise, government soldiers sometimes live by looting, since they are routinely unpaid by their cash-strapped governments. Countless examples can be drawn from the wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Conflict also gives national governments a ready-made excuse — “national security” — to suspend development projects, halt provision of social services, and keep their defense budgets secret, thereby shielding corrupt dealings from scrutiny.

Face-to-face negotiations often reinforce these wartime patterns by failing to dole out punishment for combatants. Often, militant leaders are actually rewarded at the negotiating table, gaining the respectability and influence that comes with international recognition. Back in 1993, the late Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aideed was transported in U.S. military aircraft to Addis Ababa to take part in peace negotiations. The spectacle raised Aideed’s stature and bolstered his confidence in becoming Somalia’s next president — only months before his forces killed 18 U.S. Rangers in Mogadishu. In a similarly outrageous arrangement brokered by the international community, the head of the notorious Revolutionary United Front (RUF) — which chopped off the limbs of everyone, including women and children, who stood in their way — was made Sierra Leone’s minister of lands and mines in 1999.

A related problem with direct, face-to-face negotiations is that they often lead to the establishment of what are invariably termed “governments of national unity” — clumsy attempts to forge power-sharing agreements between warring factions that have only just agreed to put their weapons down. This, of course, defies common sense.

How are mortal enemies expected to cast all suspicion aside and blithely work together for the benefit of all?


How are mortal enemies expected to cast all suspicion aside and blithely work together for the benefit of all? Most of the time they don’t, and conflict breaks out again (See: Angola in 1992, Congo in 1999, Sierra Leone in 2000, and Ivory Coast in January 2003). But it’s not just that unity governments are destined to fail; it’s that when they succeed, they amount to blueprints for the joint-plunder of the state. Ministerial and governmental positions are divvied up between government and rebel leaders — invariably igniting bitter squabbles in the process — and then the rent-seeking begins.Making matters worse, African leaders seldom honor agreements they append their names to, much less implement them in good faith. During the Ivoirian crisis in 2003, for example, a peace accord was signed in Ghana establishing a power-sharing deal between the government of President Laurent Gbagbo, which controlled the southern half of the country, and rebel groups that controlled the north and much of the west. But conflict soon erupted over the distribution of cabinet posts, and Gbagbo flouted the accord by refusing to spell out the powers he would cede to the opposition and only funding the government ministries he controlled. Predictably, fighting broke out again, threatening to reignite the civil war.

A similar script played out in Liberia during the civil war that saw tens of thousands slaughtered, raped, and maimed between 1999 and 2003. At peace talks in Ghana in June 2003, President Charles Taylor, who had been indicted for war crimes by a U.N-Sierra Leone court, pledged to step down under a cease-fire his government signed with two of the rebel groups battling his regime. The agreement called for Taylor’s resignation and the formation of a transitional government, composed of the government, rebels, and political parties, among others. But within hours of signing the accord, Taylor’s government was backtracking on the question of his resignation. In the end, it was only after an intense bombardment of Monrovia — coupled with heightened international pressure and an offer of political asylum in Nigeria — that Taylor finally resigned in August 2003.

More than 30 such peace accords have been brokered in Africa since the 1970s — and the track record has been appalling. Only Mozambique’s 1991 peace accord has endured, and even now it appears shaky as clashes between the government and the rebel group Renamo have flared recently over implementation.

Elsewhere, peace accords were shredded like confetti even before the ink on them was dry.


Elsewhere, peace accords were shredded like confetti even before the ink on them was dry. The most spectacular failures occurred in Angola (1991 and 1994), Burundi (1993), Rwanda (1993), Sierra Leone (1999), Democratic Republic of Congo (1999), and Ivory Coast (2003). All collapsed because face-to-face talks were marred by brinkmanship and broken promises.Even where peace accords are successfully concluded and unity governments are established, they are almost always short-lived. Angola’s unity government failed after six months in 1992. Congo’s 2003 unity government created four vice presidents but did not bring peace to the eastern part of the country. Burundi’s civil war flared up again in August 2003, despite the establishment of a unity government brokered by former South African President Nelson Mandela and Ivory Coast’s 2003 unity government has proceeded in fits and starts. Kenya’s unity government has floundered since 2008; Zimbabwe’s since 2009.

Given this record, it is difficult to be optimistic about South Sudan’s current peace talks in Addis Ababa. Add to this the fact that the South’s 2005 power-sharing agreement with Sudanese President Omar Bashir failed miserably and that Kiir and Machar have already tried a unity government, and the third time looks even less likely to be the charm. Another unity government simply doesn’t make sense. Rebel leader Machar almost certainly won’t agree to a deal in which Kiir remains president, and Kiir is unlikely to resign. Nor is there a clear military solution — a bitter lesson from the post-colonial era is that no African government has successfully put down a rebel insurgency.

But perhaps Africa’s own indigenous conflict resolution mechanism can offer a way out of the conundrum. The key ingredient in the African method — missing in the Western approach — is engagement with civil society. “When two elephants fight, the grass gets trampled upon and hurt,” goes the African proverb. African conflict resolution, then, requires four parties: the two elephants, an arbiter, and the “grass” (composed of all those affected by the conflict.) Just as it takes a village to raise a child, so too does it take one to resolve a conflict.

In most traditional African societies, when two people cannot resolve their differences by themselves, their case is taken to a village chief’s court for adjudication. The court is open and anyone affected by the dispute can participate. Both parties are invited to make their case. Next, anybody else who has something to say may do so. After all the arguments have been heard, the chief renders a decision. The guilty party may be fined, say, three goats. By default, his or her family is held liable. The injured party receives one goat, the chief is given a goat for his services, and the final goat is slaughtered for a village feast for all to enjoy.

The latter social event is derived from the African belief that frayed social relations need to be healed — the “grass” restored. More importantly, the interests of the community supersede those of the disputants. If they adopt intransigent positions, they can be sidelined by the will of the community and fined for disturbing social peace. In extreme cases, they can be expelled from the village. In other words, there is a price to be paid for intransigence and for wreaking social mayhem — a price exacted by the victims. The current system of internationally-mediated peace talks, by contrast, imposes no such punishment on the combatants.

Already, there is limited evidence that traditional dispute-resolution mechanisms can work on a much larger scale. Indeed, following the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1989, African traditional methods were revived to sweep dictators out of power and transition to a democratic order. In 1989, after unpaid civil servants went on strike and demanded the resignation of Benin’s military dictator, Mathieu Kerekou, a sovereign national conference was called representing various political, religious, trade union, and other groups encompassing the broad spectrum of Beninois society. The conference, chaired by Father Isidore de Souza, held sovereign power and its decisions were binding on all, including the government. It stripped Kerekou of power and scheduled multiparty elections that ended 17 years of autocratic Marxist rule. Similar inclusive national conferences in Congo and Niger (both in 1991) brought dictatorships to an end and set the stage for free and fair elections.

In South Africa, the vehicle used to make the difficult but peaceful transition to a multiracial democratic society was the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). It began deliberations in July 1991, with 228 delegates drawn from about 25 political parties and various anti-apartheid groups. The government of F.W. de Klerk made no effort to control the composition of CODESA. Political parties were not excluded, not even ultra right-wing political groups, although they chose to boycott its deliberations. CODESA strove to reach a “working consensus” on an interim constitution and set a date for the 1994 elections. It established the composition of an interim or transitional government that would rule until the elections were held. Most importantly, CODESA’s decisions were binding. De Klerk could not abrogate any decision made by the convention — just as the African chief could not disregard any decision arrived at the village meeting.

Instead of facilitating direct negotiations in Addis Ababa, the African Union should serve as an arbiter between South Sudanese civil society organizations, and political and religious groups. An interim government should be set up — headed by neither Kiir nor Machar — and a date set for elections. If the two leaders remain recalcitrant, they should be fined proverbial goats for disturbing the social peace. By default, they should be expelled from the “village” and handed over to the ICC for prosecution for crimes against humanity. And just as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) did to Mali when Gen. Amadou Sanogo seized power in March 2012, the African Union should close all borders with South Sudan and impose an economic blockade. When elephants have trampled the grass, they should not be rewarded with additional stomping grounds.

Congo, beyond the conflict: Six reasons why it matters –

Conflict zones are not just zones of despair, crises, and suffering. There are many shades of grey. And, in order to look beyond the pain and brainstorm creative ideas, it pays off to look at all sides of a story. This article provided by CNN may not be the most sophisticated and in-depth piece of journalism, but we can be thankful to the author to have made the effort of exploring a different side of the story of the D.R. Congo. Enjoy – all copyrights by CNN.

Congo, beyond the conflict: Six reasons why it matters –

Mediation 101 / Fresh start

Discussion, negotiation, conciliation, arbitration, moderation, ombudsperson, …. and much more conflict resolution terms have in common that they are attempts to respond and to solve to a specific conflict. At the same time, they have differences in structure, approach, intervention and interaction. Mediation has been internationally and inter-academically recognized as the most sustainable conflict resolution process. Albeit many different approaches and understandings of mediation, it can be described as a process in which conflicting parties communicate under guidance and assistance of a neutral mediator in an attempt to bring their dispute to an end. The mediator is not empowered to render a decision, but merely to guide the parties to their own voluntary settlement. If settlement and/or agreement is reached, it then becomes binding through the production of a legal document.

As such, some practitioners and scholars argue, that mediation doesn’t respond to any rules, which leaves the process creative, flexible and very much opened and adaptable to the needs of its users. However, it is hereby suggested, that mediation has a structure, a process that in itself responds to a certain logic, but never imposed upon the parties in order for them to be the decision-makers of their own settlement.

What is the difference between mediation and other forms of conflict resolution, such as arbitration and what is its status compared to litigation?

Stay informed with the next section on mediation 101 / fresh start…

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!