Archive for the ‘Peace negotiations’ Category

This note is less about mediation in Asia, than about the potential Asian role in mediation beyond those geographical boundaries.

It is an article of faith, and a regularly repeated principle of regional – ASEAN and East Asian – politics, that neighbour states do not become involved in the domestic affairs of others. Without going into the reasons for or defences of this policy, it’s interesting to note a recent apparent shift, at least on the part of China. One of the issues that is a subject of comment – at least in Western media – is that the policy of non-intervention in self-serving in that it permits ongoing commercial engagement with nations that have dubious human rights records; and permits aid policies that – unlike many Western aid projects – are linked to the improvement of human rights conditions in recipient countries. The non-intervention policy becomes, in such circumstances, a no-comment policy: aid cannot be tied to domestic policies, on which the donor nation chooses not to comment or pass judgment.

However, recent news items show that China is willing to act as mediator in the ongoing conflict between Sudan and South Sudan: http://thediplomat.com/2014/06/in-south-sudan-conflict-china-tests-its-mediation-skills/

Cynically, the observation is made that this is less about diplomacy than about commercial interests and that the policy of non-intervention can be at least partially waived where (i) there are significant commercial interests of the prospective mediator nation; and/or (ii) that third party nation also has the necessary leverage with both parties to have some impact; and/or (iii) the mediating state has a strong “good neighbour” reputation.

Leave aside the scepticism about motives for a moment – what this does suggest is that we may see more of those ASEAN and Asian states, as regional and even as global mediators, where those states are seen as acceptable third parties; and they may well be acceptable precisely because they do not have the kind of history of political intervention that other “mediating” states have. Consider, as a parallel, the effectiveness of smaller states such as Norway in international politics.

In all cases, however, there will be reason to keep an eye on the reasons for this kind of ‘intervention’, not least as research on international mediation underscores the importance of the leverage of the mediator.


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I see a recent comment by my colleague, Prof Eduard Vinyamata, Director of the Campus for Peace at the Open University of Catalonia, on current challenges to mediation: http://www.uoc.edu/portal/english/campus_pau/articles/opinio/opinio/crisi_mediacio.html

The link with my previous entry is simply in the question of what “drives” mediation and what were – and have become – the underlying principles of access to resolution.

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Newsletter 4 | December 2011

Vol. 2, no. 2 – New issue!

Dear all,

The Journal of Conflictology has just published its latest issue at http://joc.uoc.edu. We invite you to visit our website to view the articles and book reviews of interest. For the first time, these are now also available as ePUB files (compatible with e-readers).

On the occasion of this year’s elections in Nigeria, the issue opens with an interview delivered by the Nigerian political scientist Sadeeque Abubakar Abba. The second contribution by Ubong Essien Umoh and Idara Godwin Udoh employs linguistic theory to explain the use of the numerous adjectives used when we talk about “peace”:
qualifiers such as “positive”, “warm”, or “conditional”, the authors argue, are employed by peace scholars as peace means different things to different people. Suggesting that thought is influenced by the availability of appropriate words in a given cultural context, they conclude that to examine the discourse of peace is an excellent way to look at the limits of our understandings thereof. In his article Bryan Nykon takes a closer look at the influence of feature films on our beliefs in the legitimacy of violence. Drawing on the knowledge of conflict dynamics, he puts forward a number of specific suggestions of how to develop humanizing elements within films.

Transitional justice is the topic of Padraig McAuliffe’s article. In critically assessing the use of transitional justice mechanisms, he stresses the value of paradigmatic transitions sensitive to local conditions. Paul van Tongeren presents a policy brief on infrastructures for peace, which have received growing attention due to predictions that political violence will increase in the near future. Such structures to deal adequately with ongoing or potential violent conflicts are lacking in many instances and have successfully been built up in a number of countries, as the policy brief shows.

The development of the idea of ombudsing is traced in the issue’s PIONEER section, which reflects on the multicultural antecedents and especially the Scandinavian origins of the nowadays more and more popular practice. Finally, this issue’s PROFILE presents the work of Mediators Beyond Borders, an NGO supporting local peace building capacities in underserved areas and advocating the use of mediation in public policy disputes.

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E-learning courses on Dispute Resolution, Global Trends in Armed Conflicts


Matriculation at the Open University of Catalonia for advanced courses in Dispute Resolution and Global Trends in Armed Conflicts is now open.

The short-certificate 4-month programmes are taught by a group of international specialists and can be extended to a postgraduate certificate or a Master’s degree. The courses are practically oriented and designed for persons with basic knowledge in conflict resolution/mediation.

The e-learning courses are based on a dynamic pedagogy including reading materials, simulations, video clips, case studies, and personalized interaction with the instructor. It involves approximately 225 hours of reading, interaction with students and instructor on discussion boards, and assessment tasks. The course is based on a participatory, active learning approach, with an emphasis on critical reflection and peer-to-peer learning.

Students who successfully complete the course will receive a Certificate of Participation. It is also possible to extend the matriculation to a postgraduate certificate or a Master’s degree.

Dispute Resolution


Introduction to Conflictology

Business Mediation

Implementation of Conflict Resolution Strategies

Ethics and Social Responsibility

Project Evaluation


Armed Conflicts


Introduction to Conflictology

Global Trends in Armed Conflicts and Collective Violence

Deconstructing War

Economy and Conflict


The course tuition fee is €1.320.

The deadline for applications is 7 March 2011.


Further information can be found at the web or may be requested from nmarrugat@uoc.edu.


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This is not immediately on mediation in Asia, but you’ll see the connections if you pick up the links.

First, there’s a growing body of work on the role of information communication technologies and conflict resolution & peace (to sit alongside the work on online dispute resolution). Much of this work can be be linked to the NGO ICT4Peace, founded by former Finnish President and Nobel Peace Laureate, Martti Ahtisaari.

Have a look at the latest periodical, Peace IT which can be downloaded here: http://ict4peace.org/view_blog_posts-1-v-188.html

Much of the work relates to the potential and current uses of ICT in crisis management and mitigation; there are also strong links to the role of ICT in governance, information dissemination, and capacity building.

As a counterpoint to any sense that ICT’s provide a panacea to issues of conflict and crisis, it’s also worth looking at Evgeny Morozov’s article, Texting Towards Utopia, in the Boston Review at  http://bostonreview.net/BR34.2/morozov.php.

For an idea of how this work – the role of ICT in conflict mitigation and management – is being developed in this region, and on the ways in which such media may serve as a kind of “mediating social institution”, see the work of Sanjana Hattotuwa in Sri Lanka, and the links on his web pages, especially on media and peacebuilding.

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There’s an intriguing new piece by William Dowell on the role of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, as an example of an emerging trend: outsourcing conflict management & resolution. See: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/ngos/090602/conducting-peace-negotiations; or http://essentialgeneva.com/Outsourcing-Conflict-Resolution.html.

A brief quote to give you an idea:

“Griffith’s experience in the UN had taught him that the UN was often blocked by politics from taking an action or voicing an analysis that a private NGO, which has no political obligations, can do easily.  In other words, what was needed was a cut-out that the UN and other players could turn to in order to free themselves from restraints imposed by their own constituencies. That became obvious in trying to resolve the decades old conflict over Aceh.   Exxon, an American company, was drilling for oil off the coast of Aceh, which made the US an interested party in the conflict.  GAM, the separatist movement, demanded that the UN mediate.  The Indonesian government in Jakarta adamantly refused.  The Centre stepped in as a compromise option.”

This may be an interesting option for this region given the highly guarded approach all ASEAN and SAARC nations take to the prospect of intervention by others in their internal affairs, particularly if conflict issues are not so far removed from those of governance and corruption.

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In a conflict that has been marked by horrific violence, unknown casualties, widely reported breaches of human rights on both the government and LTTE sides, is mediation of the post-conflict peace possible? The government has claimed military victory, but this provides no guarantee of either peace or justice as the immediate aftermath.

My question to myself (bearing in mind all of those questions about “ripeness” for mediation) is whether mediation is likely when one party has claimed victory (through power) and when that victory follows a sustained conflict that also reignited after a negotiated/mediated peace agreement. The government has already indicated that there will be no external inquiries into human rights abuses and allegations of war crimes, as the domestic legal process can do this.

A couple of recent commentaries explore the challenge faced in “winning the peace” after winning the war:

Mark Magnier in the LA Times:


And Rohan Gunaratna on Open Democracy:


What seems unlikely at this stage is mediation by any external agency or government; or even by a member of SAARC, given the government’s antipathy towards intervention and its perception of bias in the Norwegian process. But what must be of concern to the process and to mediators is the fact that President Mahinda Rajapaksa, speaking in Tamil, said (on the one hand) “we all must now live as equals in this free country” but, on the other, and reported in the Guardian Weekly, that this unity was to be based on Buddhist principles. That seems a shaky start to open dialogue on peace with Hindu and Muslim minorities!

Negombo Beach

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