As detailed in the UN Secretary General’s Report to the General Assembly (A/66/811), “the range of complex issues to be addressed means mediation requires greater, and more varied, expertise…It also means that mediators must have easy access to experts with different areas of specialisation” (p. 5 - 6).
Indeed there are a number of significant global challenges that conflict prevention and mediation support providers have to grapple with:
- Complex conflict dynamics: New and violent transitions in the Middle East and North Africa region show that existing conflict resolution mechanisms struggle to adapt to new dynamics.
- Challenges of inclusion: As different groups in conflict-affected societies, not least among them women, are rightfully demanding a say in the decision-making that affects their lives, the international community has also made some progress in its efforts to be more inclusive, to focus more on local and national actors’ needs, rights and participation in peace processes.
- International normative frameworks: Those intervening in conflicts today are faced with clearer, more comprehensive, but also more complex, international legal and normative frameworks for what is (and what is not) allowed and acceptable in negotiations to end armed violence.
- Women’s participation: 15 years after adopting UNSCR 1325, it is fair to say that most official peace processes still do not sufficiently capture gender-specific concerns and women´s needs and interests. References to gender issues in many peace process documents remain unsubstantial and abstract; and the participation of women is still not sufficiently established at all levels of decision-making.
- Working along a continuum of conflict prevention, crisis management and peacebuilding: In principle and policy, the need for early action and a comprehensive approach are widely acknowledged. In practice, tools and intervention methods remain largely ‘stove-piped’. Many recent cases illustrate that outside mediation comes too late in the escalation cycle to be effective; and is seldom used systematically for early prevention. Short-term mediations also often remain de-linked from longer-term peace efforts on the ground.
- Multiplication of conflict prevention and mediation support actors: Third parties involved in resolving conflicts, be they local, national, regional, or international, have also multiplied during this time. This has led to important innovation, stronger capacity, and more systemic approaches to conflict prevention, mediation, crisis management and peacebuilding in the international system. It has also increased the need to design and manage processes more collaboratively, communicating and working at multiple levels.
As a result of all these trends, supporting conflict parties to successfully transition from conflict to peace and deal with the aftermath and legacy of violence is becoming more, not less, complex. Systematically learning from past experience, and evaluating conflict prevention and mediation support, remains the exception rather than the rule. Third parties such as the European Union need to have a faster and better access to expertise, make generic guidance operationally relevant in their own contexts, and turn it into practice.
In order to better respond to the new challenges in the field of mediation, international organisations, governments and the non-governmental community have worked over the last decade to improve their own preparedness for conflict prevention and mediation support, at the level of institutions, operations, and individual staff.
What is now termed ‘conflict prevention and mediation support’ is converging to include a number of ‘core’ areas:
1. Policy statements and mandates that set clear parameters for conflict prevention and mediation support.
2. Institutional structures that concentrate relevant capacity to make it easily accessible and available internally and externally.
3. Moving from a ‘high-level mediator’ model to a team approach.
4. Systems to pool and make available technical expertise at short notice.
5. More systematic knowledge gathering, management and dissemination.
6. Professionalisation and capacity-development of in-house staff of the EEAS, other third parties, and conflict parties.
7. Funding mechanisms focusing on rapid disbursal of funds for mediation support-related activities.
Reflecting these core areas, the project is organised around a number of systematised mediation support functions, including the provision of experts, a help desk, coaching and training, event and knowledge management, and the establishment of a community of practice.
Aims and outcomes
The project’s aim is to support the EU’s conflict prevention and mediation efforts throughout the world in line with the Lisbon Treaty provisions; and to enable the EEAS to systematically use conflict prevention and mediation as efficient and cost-effective tools of first response to emerging or on-going crises. We thereby directly support the implementation of relevant policy commitments, such as the 2009 EU Concept on Mediation and Dialogue.