The 2018 Asia Mediation Retreat took place in Beijing from 16 to 17 October bringing together Asian peacemakers from governments, international institutions and non-governmental organisations.
Norway’s Foreign Minister, Ms Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide, delivered the opening remarks and underlined the centrality of mediation in preventing, de-escalating and resolving conflict. She said that the fact that the Retreat was taking place in Beijing was in itself an inspiration given China’s increasing engagement in the field of mediation.
The Retreat provided space for participants from China and the wider Asian region to mingle and debate how best to tackle violent conflict using the tools of mediation. The event reaffirmed the commitment of Asian peacemakers to core mediation principles, including trust building, willingness to engage all actors relevant to the resolution of a conflict, discretion and patience.
Progress in the Myanmar, North Korea, Afghanistan and Philippines peace efforts was examined. China’s role in mediation was also discussed throughout the event. Its capacity to influence the political economy of some of its neighbours was highlighted, as was the significance of its presence in Myanmar and how its influence can encourage parties to engage in the current political dialogue process. It was considered that dialogue on the issue of North Korea’s denuclearization would continue, as would the current shift of focus by North Korea’s leadership on economic development, if not economic reform.
Participants also agreed on the fact that there is no one mediation approach that applies to all conflicts and actors. Building on core mediation principles, mediators devise creative approaches and search for entry points for engagement. Thematic sessions at the Retreat elaborated in particular on the creativity derived from convening parties around technical and non-political issues. Such encounters allow them to build networks, to develop trust and understand each other’s positions while at the same time achieving agreements on concrete issues such as resource management, fisheries and codes of conduct for border management or encounters at sea. Collaboration between international mediation actors and local, ‘insider’, mediators, some of whom attended the Retreat, was additionally highlighted as a significant innovation in the field of mediation in Asia.
Co-hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) and HD, the 2018 Asia Mediation Retreat was organised as part of the Oslo Forum, a series of informal retreats for peacemaking practitioners, which also features an annual international gathering in Oslo, Norway. Launched in 2003, the Oslo Forum Series is today regarded as the leading international event for, and network of, mediators and actors in peace processes. The retreats, which are held behind closed doors, provide a discreet and informal space to reflect on current mediation practice and collaborate across institutional divides.