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Effectively supporting mediation - Developments, challenges and requirements
19 June 2014 by Stine Lehmann-Larsen

Mediation is today recognised as an efficient and cost-effective tool to peacefully address and resolve a broad range of conflicts. Mediation and the management of peace processes also come with their own challenges however, thus requiring substantial professional support to be effective.  Recent developments indicate a growing awareness of the need for mediation support, including among practitioners. This had led to policy changes in United Nations and among regional organisations. This publication examines what mediation support entails and how it can be improved. While acknowledging that mediation is a complicated and difficult endeavour whose outcomes are dependent on a wide number of variables, it argues in favour of strengthened international capacities to support mediation and provides analysis on how mediation is effectively supported. It outlines the areas where there is still space for improvement, to ensure that mediation is effectively supported, to raise awareness of the positive impact of mediation support, and to share lessons about mediation-support options and experiences. It concludes that while success can never be guaranteed, effective well-supported mediation processes offer a better chance of sustainable settlements.

Effectively supporting mediation is the third paper in the Oslo Forum Papers series. The Oslo Forum Papers seek to advance thinking and debate on key, yet sensitive, issues linked to armed conflict mediation and international peacemaking.

Opinion - Junta must heed people’s reform advice
10 June 2014 by Michael Vatikiotis

Somewhere down the road, and probably sooner than expected given the pressures and demands, Thailand’s military rulers must consider how to prepare the country for a return to democracy.

Right now, the thinking is that the process of appointing a legislative assembly to draft a new constitution will take another three to four months, just in time to approve a budget for the country by October. Meanwhile, it has been announced that a panel will hear the views of all stakeholders as a step towards framing national reforms.

There is an urgent need to set the goals of political reform in consultation with all elements of society to ensure a popular consensus and prevent another senseless cycle of protest and upheaval. But for these reforms to be meaningful and long lasting, it is just as important to design a process that sensibly integrates the elements of political reform, reconciliation and national elections, and makes sure as well that the views of everyone are heard from the bottom up.

Opinion - Why peace in Muslim Mindanao and how it was reached matters
28 January 2014 by Michael Vatikiotis

The signing on 25 January of the final agreements of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro ended more than forty years of war in Muslim Mindanao. But the agreement does more than that. It also shows a world beset by intractable conflicts how sustained political will and skillful negotiation can produce comprehensive agreements to address the complex drivers of conflict and offer the hope of lasting peace.

The second decade of the 21st century has been stony ground for peacemakers. New conflicts have erupted across Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and old conflicts have been rekindled. The Arab Spring that marked the start of the decade has left countries that tried to embrace democracy bitterly divided along ethnic and religious lines; African states where internal conflict had been settled through negotiation or dialogue, such as Mozambique and the Central African Republic, have seen old wounds re-opened. In Asia, chronic sub-national conflict seems to defy prolonged mitigation efforts in India, much of Southeast Asia and the fringes of China.

National Dialogue Processes in Political Transitions
23 January 2014 by Katia Papagianni

National dialogue processes have taken place in a number of countries going through political transitions: several West African countries held national conferences in the early 1990s and so did Afghanistan following the 2003 Bonn Agreement. A National Dialogue Conference was also concluded in Yemen on 21 January 2014 as part of the country's political transition. National dialogue processes are designed to expand participation in political transitions beyond the political and military elites. Their ambition is to move away from elite-level deal making by allowing diverse interests to influence the transitional negotiations.

This paper discusses a number of issues related to the design of national dialogue processes, namely their size and composition, their power and mandate, and their relationship to existing institutions. The paper examines how different countries have approached national dialogues, how they have prepared them, and what mandates they have given to them. It focuses on countries where national dialogues played a key role in influencing decision-making during political transitions or were mandated to play such a role even if ultimately they failed.

The paper has been produced in the framework of the Civil Society Dialogue Network, a three-year project aimed at facilitating dialogue on peacebuilding issues between civil society and EU policy-makers. It is managed by the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office (EPLO), in co-operation with the European Commission and the European External Action Service. The paper is also accessible through the EPLO website.