To support negotiations between conflict parties, a mediator must have a clear role and honest attitude. Conflict actors would only put trust in him or her if not seen as biased. Yet, in complex political settings hardly anyone is neutral. The necessary strong dedication to finding a peaceful and just solution, and a profound understanding of the underlying issues and likely pitfalls of the road ahead, often rests with those who are situated within the conflict setting or who have closely followed it over the years. It is, then, a sense of fairness - the ability to treat all sides equal - that makes a good facilitator.
Multipartiality, in contrast to being neutral, refers to being clear on one’s own affiliations and understandings of the conflict at stake. Even more, it calls for making sure that all sides are equally heard and taken along. This is particularly demanding in asymmetric conflicts, where one side usually would dominate the discourse, expecting the other side to buy into a deal over negotiated concessions. Yet, the needs of other stakeholders might involve a broader view on the root causes and implications of the conflict and therefore a more fundamental process for conflict transformation. Here, the role of a facilitator or mediator is not to take sides or solely to become the advocate of those marginalised and disadvantaged. It is rather to help parties change perspective by pointing at the long-term vision of a negotiated settlement and the need for an inclusive process to accommodate all sides.
Multipartiality on the part of the facilitator means an empathetic openness to all parties - and the ability to integrate opposing perspectives and models into an overarching common system of peaceful settlement of conflicts. Insider Mediators have a particularly important role here. Capacity-building and technical and process expertise, provided especially to the less dominant party, can serve to balance the process and enhance chances of success. However, these roles may well have to be distributed between different supporters of a peace process in order not to jeopardize the equidistance so important for multipartiality.
- Multipartiality is an attitude and stance of third-parties involved in supporting peace processes and their parties.
- It rests on principles of procedural fairness, outcome openness and an equal treatment of the parties involved.
- In highly asymmetric conflicts, multipartiality might have as its precondition the creation of more equal relations in terms of capacity-building and skills development. Such tasks should be spread out across a broad spectrum of insider and external helpers.
Forthcoming: Our new Annual Report, becoming available in late June 2018, will be looking at Berghof Foundation’s project work through the lens of multipartiality in research, practice and education.
- National Dialogue Handbook. A Guide for Practitioners. 2017. PDF >
- Norbert Ropers, with Beatrix Austin, Anna Köhler & Anne Kruck (eds.): Basics of Dialogue Facilitation. 2017. Berlin: Berghof Foundation. Educational & Multimedia. more >
- Véronique Dudouet: Nonviolent Resistance and Conflict Transformation in Power Asymmetries. 2008. Handbook Article. PDF >
- Hans J. Giessmann & Oliver Wils: Seeking Compromise? Mediation through the Eyes of Conflict Parties. 2011. Handbook Article. PDF >
- Norbert Ropers: A Systemic Approach: Reflections on Sri Lanka. 2011. Handbook Article. PDF >
- Christopher R. Mitchell: Conflict, Social Change and Conflict Resolution. An Enquiry. 2006. Handbook Dialogue Series No. 5 - lead article. PDF >
- Norbert Ropers: Systemic Conflict Transformation. Reflections of the Conflict and Peace Process in Sri Lanka. 2008. Handbook Dialogue Series No. 6 - lead article. PDF >
- Chris Moore on Multipartiality in Mediation, 2010, Video >
- Lisa M. Landreman (ed.) The Art of Effective Facilitation: Reflections from Social Justice Educators, 2013, Book >