An Introduction to Mediation: Peaceful Intervention in Conflict

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    • 00:10

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN: My name is Han Doressen.I'm a professor of International Relations and ConflictResolution at the University of Essex.This lecture is an introduction to mediation,or which was called peaceful intervention in conflicts.In this particular lecture, I'm goingto focus on two key questions.The first one is when mediation is being offered.

    • 00:34

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: The second one is why people, parties offer to mediateand also why mediation is accepted.Mediation is I said it's the intervention of an outsideror a third party into a conflict.That could be a cause of a conflict that only involvesoriginally two parties, but it could possibly alsobe the intervention into a conflict that

    • 00:55

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: involves multiple parties.Fortunately for mediation is that's seenas an extension or continuation of peaceful conflictmanagement.It's non-coercive.Whenever it is coercive, we tend to talk about interventionor maybe arbitration.

    • 01:15

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: We think that-- it's definite that arbitration becomes evenmore obvious in the next point.Mediation is seen as being voluntary.It's a voluntary form of conflict management.This means that ultimately the parties thatare involved in the conflict, theyare accepting the mediation attempt.Also, the party that is mediating

    • 01:35

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: is volunteering to do so.And then finally, the solution that'sbeing proposed by the mediator is ultimately--it's only there-- it's only consideredto be a real solution if the parties arewilling to accept it.So it's not being imposed on the warring parties.In that sense, that's where the key of distinction

    • 01:56

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: between arbitration comes out.In arbitration, you hand out the ultimate decisionto a court or a third party.Slightly more controversially, mediationhas a goal to transform the conflict.So it's not necessarily simply about reaching a ceasefireagreement, although quite often mediation attemptsare-- they first start off with trying to halt fighting,

    • 02:19

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: but they also try to ultimately solve the con-- createa resolution of the conflict, which goes beyond simply endingthe fighting.An extensive definition of mediationhas been given by Jacob Bercovitch.But it kind of highlights the sides again.It's something that is solved by the parties in the agreement.

    • 02:42

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: It's accepted.It's built on the existing relationship and the resourcesthat the mediator has with the various parties.It's not simply the two parties negotiating a solution.When we start thinking about what mediation isand when and why it would happen,it's helpful to think about something

    • 03:03

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: that's called the contingency model of mediation.The contingency model of mediationactually distinguishes between whatwent prior, the antecedent conditions, what'sgoing on currently, and also what would be eventuallyresult from mediation.Or in other words, what's the context of the conflict?What's the process of the mediation?

    • 03:24

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: And what is the ultimate outcome of mediation?And particularly, in the context,we want to think about what's the nature of the mediator?Who is the mediator?Why does a mediator mediate?What are the parties?What are decorate to.And ultimately, what's the great risk of the conflict?The process is very much about the behavior of the mediatorduring the attempts to mediate and any outcome

    • 03:46

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: you can think about.Is it successful or is it a failure?These things are connected to each other as you may expect.Let's start early on with thinkinghow often it's being used.In a study done by Bercovitch and Jackson,they find that mediation is used in almost 75% of all the casesthat they observed.

    • 04:07

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: So among the various attempts to resolveconflicts is a very commonly used form of mechanism.The next one-- the next mechanism following mediationis draw direct negotiations, and those are in only 12%of the cases.So it is indeed very commonly used.

    • 04:27

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: Ultimately, mediation is something that is voluntary.It needs to be accepted by the warringparties-- the parties in conflict--and it needs to be forthcoming, as it is somethingthat the mediator is willing to do.So then we can think about why and when mediationis being offered and when it's being accepted.

    • 04:49

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: Think about acceptance.Why do parties actually accept mediation?There's a number of items that are being suggested.And the first one is that the conflict is consideredto be long and complex.So the parties themselves recognize that simply fightingis not an option because it's not definitely necessarilygoing to lead to a solution.

    • 05:10

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: But also, there are a number of issuesthat are linked in a difficult way,and they have a hard time actually solving it outand they expect that-- they welcome the help.That recognition that a conflict actually is complexand that they are not able to settlethe conflict by themselves-- maybe partially because they

    • 05:32

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: have already tried to negotiate--and they've basically discovered that they're notfinding a solution.If all these attempts were accompaniedby actual fighting still ongoing or a constant threatthat fighting might flare up again,it could well be that the costs of war

    • 05:54

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: are being now recognized as having become prohibitive.These three things together are sometimesdiscussed under the technology of the rightnessof the conflict, where indeed, the emphasis ison the length of the conflict, the complexity of the conflict,and the cost of the conflict.And when these aspects have become sufficiently painful,

    • 06:18

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: parties are looking for a way out.And they are looking for somebodyto help them find a way out.Before the argument on the why parties accept mediationis because ultimately the issues that they are fighting aboutconceived to be intangible rather than tangible.Tangible issues are issues that are resource-driven.

    • 06:43

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: These are who controls a particular land, whocontrols a particular economic valuable part of a country.Intangible resources are very much moreabout intangible issues about identity,about what are the rights and the obligations

    • 07:03

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: of a particular group of people.And it turns out that these latter onesare much more difficult to find formulas to resolve them.And that kind of highlights another important aspectof mediation.Median to a large extent is about findingthe right formula.Finding the right way to phrase a particular solution.

    • 07:24

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: And that is a process by which external help can indeedbe helpful.That kind of slows the process down some people have argued,or it also allows parties to think about problemsin new and innovative ways.So why parties accept mediation alsotells us something about when they would accept it.

    • 07:46

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: So the theory as it stands, at the moment, basicallysays mediation will be accepted when partieshave an interest in accepting it--when they notice there's a value in finding a compromise.They also might be more willing to accept mediationwhen the uncertainty of the alternativesare still-- the surrounding uncertainty are still

    • 08:07

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: quite massive.And so given that the cost of just going on as youare with all the issues that you have to face then,or you have the ultimate mediation--that parties may prefer to go for mediation as a morecertain, a more predictable route of action.

    • 08:27

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: They also will accept it when there'ssome kind of a change in how costly the conflict isperceived to be.And then finally, parties will tend to accept mediationwhen they come to realize that there is a need to maintainan ongoing relationship.Quite often the context of mediation of course,

    • 08:47

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: is not only used in a situation of war.Conflict is also used in more person situationslike divorces.And a very typical need for mediationis when people realize, for example, that thereare children involved.And therefore, their relation cannot be breaking downcompletely because there has to be interest of another partyto be considered.In the case of countries, it's fairly

    • 09:08

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: common for neighboring countries to end up fighting.Wars and-- once applied countries realizethat regardless of the outcome of the conflict,there still will be a neighboring countrywith whom to have to deal.That sets up the situation very nicely in that, well,there is a need for maintaining the ongoing relationship.

    • 09:28

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: I already mentioned the concept of ripeness-- the ideathat the conflict goes through a number of stagesand that in a particular involvement of the conflict,mediation is considered to be an appropriate way out.So how can we think a little bit harderabout these conditions of ripenesswhen we think about the aspects of the conflict, the actors

    • 09:49

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: and possibly the process.If you think about conflict, ripenessis particularly associated with the ideaof a hurting stalemate.A hurting stalemate is when there is fighting going on,parties are able to inflict pain and sufferingon the other side, but it's not reallychanging the military situation on the ground.

    • 10:11

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: When this goes on for a long time,the attractiveness of fighting and possibly evenof the value of fighting diminishes and peopleare starting to look for an alternative outcome.Hence, mediation becomes attractive.The other thing might be when therehas been a rather dramatic change in the balance of power.

    • 10:32

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: So the fighting went on the assumption of the fightingcapacity of one or both sides.But if these things start to change,then that may actually change the willingness of partiesto look for outside actor.Now, it might be actually because thereis another intervening power.And we may, as an example, use the conflict

    • 10:56

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: in Syria, where it does actually matter at a certain momentwhen other parties start affecting the conflicts-- startbombing one of the parties in a conflict.So the role of the external partiesmay change the balance of power.And that may actually change the perception of the parties,whether or not mediation is necessary or not.

    • 11:16

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: Kind of a problem with this couldbe that if one side becomes more willing to accept mediation,the other side becomes less willing to accept mediation,we end up in a situation that is notfundamentally different than where we were before.Another way of thinking about that a conflict isripe for mediation-- is ripe for resolutionin that sense is when something happens to the actors.

    • 11:39

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: Now, sometimes there's a change of leadership,or sometimes public opinion seems to be changing.And when the parties kind of see that either on their own side--the positions are moving-- or they expectthat on the other side there might be a willingnessto reach for a different type of outcome,

    • 12:00

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: that sets up the situation in which mediation can actuallymove a situation forward in a helpful way.Part of that is not only that new leaders or shiftingpublic opinion may be changed perceived interestsor see what countries are fighting for,it may also mean a change of the patterns of behavior.

    • 12:25

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: So where originally an actor may have been consideredto be very uncompromising, very unwilling to contemplatepossible solutions, a different leadermay have a different style, may be more open to compromise,may simply be more willing to engage in debate.Of course, it's not just the nature of the parties that

    • 12:46

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: hold the conflict that matter, it'salso whether there is anyone willing to mediatewhen the parties are willing to step up and geta hold of conflict.And it is about the kind of mediator that you find,how creative the mediator is.But also, what kind of resources the mediatorbrings to the table.

    • 13:06

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: Finally, there is the idea of the process.So can we think about the conflict evolving this in a waythat the process starts to changeand becoming making mediation more acceptable.One way would be that the partiesstart to share the perceptions or the perceptionof the conflict.

    • 13:27

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: So the desirability of finding a solution where one side maythink like originally, like well, I'mnot particularly interested in negotiatingand the other side may have a willingness--if both sides become more willing to negotiate,then they move together to what'ssimilar on the standing of the conflict.

    • 13:47

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: It may be that the parties actually find themselvesin a new type of compromise.So actually, the terms of the agreementstart-- proposals start changing whatparties think is a way out.And once they start recognizing that there is a way out, thatmakes again, the conflict more-- makesthem more willing to go on the route of finding a solution.

    • 14:10

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: So ultimately, this may well dependon the availability of formulas to settle the compromise.And I mentioned this before, an important role of mediatorsis to actually formulate possible solutions-- to findnew ways of thinking about the problemand finding new ways of analyzing the problem.

    • 14:31

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: I haven't said much about whether mediation islikely to be successful or not.And I will literally postpone this question to later on.But there's an interesting problemif we think about it ripeness.If it's indeed the case that mediation tends to take placewhen a conflict is ripe to be resolved, in order

    • 14:52

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: for mediation to be acceptable, the partiesneed to recognize that the conflict has to be eithera mediation has to be found or they'restarting to notice that there might bea possible solution out there.So if that kind of influences when mediation will take place,then that actually makes mediation quite--

    • 15:16

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: creates a favorable circumstance for mediation to succeed.So if mediation is seen as dependingon the ripeness of conflict we mayget a very positive assessment of the successrate of mediation.If mediation would take place among conflicts all along

    • 15:37

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: or a different stage of the conflict,maybe mediation isn't such a strongor such a powerful mechanism as we would think otherwise.And there is a very simple take home storythat I have at this point that I want to bring across.Mediators should not be expected notto have an interest in the ultimate settlementof the conflict.

    • 15:58

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: Mediators, in that sense, they are not directly involvedin the conflict.But they will have some stake in the conflict.Mediators will have their own interests.They may be aware of it, or they may be less aware of it,but it's very unlikely to assume that theyhave no interest in a particular solution being reached.

    • 16:21

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: So what kind of motivation can weattribute or can we think about when we talk about mediators?Well, they may have individual personal motivationsto intervene.And this may be linked to the actual officethat they're are holding.It may allow them to spread what they consider

    • 16:41

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: to be their ideas on how conflicts should be resolvedor ideas about how the world should look like.Think, for example, about a very important mediator--the Secretary General of the United Nations.The Secretary General of the United Nationsis not only interested in advocating

    • 17:01

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: the importance of the United Nations and his organization,the Secretary General also has particular ideasabout how a peaceful world should look likeand how conflicts should be avoided.And by mediating this is an opportunityto bring those ideas into practice.For other mediators, that are maybe not immediately

    • 17:23

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: associated with certain powerful political roles,the actual ability to mediate-- to become part of the conflictresolution-- opens up channels of communication for them.So in that sense, it's an important career move.It also may simply be a continuation of earlier careermoves.A famous example of a mediator was former President Carter,

    • 17:47

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: who used his period of his presidencyto set up mediation services.For him this was not unlikely.It can be seen as a way to continuemaking use of the conflicts that he had,and at the same time realizing some of the idealsthat he holds.And then finally, why people may mediatemay simply be because they have a real personal interest

    • 18:10

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: in a particular outcome.So they may well be biased towards a particular partyeven, so we talk about biased or unbiased mediators.But even if we ignore that for a minute,simply, they may have a personal interest in populations thatare considered to be at risk.They may have a historical interestin finding a solution to the conflict.

    • 18:32

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: So apart from individual interest or personal interest,there are also quite often state or collective interests.As I said, quite often mediators do not necessarilyrepresent simply themselves.They actually represent organizations or countrieseven.And some of these interests are simplylinked with the organization that they are.

    • 18:52

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: United Nations has a mandate to mediate.The Organization of Security and Cooperationin Europe as a mandate to mediating conflictwithin the European context.So both national, and international, and regionalsecurity organizations part of their rolesis seen to solve conflicts.

    • 19:15

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: There might be security interests,both national or international security interests involvedin the ongoing conflict.And therefore, the willingness to intervene in the conflict,to mediate in the conflict and to try to find a solutionis to protect their own security interest.There may also even be-- go beyond security interestto economic interests.If a country has extensive trading relationships

    • 19:37

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: with a country in conflict, and there's a civil war going onin that country, ending the civil warmay safeguard those economic interests.And ultimately, countries or organizationshave an interest in housing their position,their reputation in the world.And mediation's one way-- successful mediationof course in particular-- one way

    • 19:58

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: of enhancing that reputation.I already talked about the ripeness of a conflictand how that may affect our willingness or evaluationof the success of mediation.There's something similar going onif we think about why particular parties mediate.And particularly, if we recognize that quite often

    • 20:19

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: these parties have an interest in how they mediate.Some people have argued for a long timethat actually by using mediation it's possibly problematic.They will steer a conflict into a particular--towards a particular solution to a solution thatis favored by a particular side, making it lessacceptable for the other side.

    • 20:42

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: However, we also just argued that quite often it'sexactly the stake that parties have in the conflict thatmotivates them to mediate.So here, we have a slightly different problempossibly at hand.Whereas, we would prefer to have unbiased mediators,

    • 21:05

      PROFESSOR HAN DORESSEN [continued]: we tend to find mediators that are at least somewhat biased.Maybe not always completely biased, but at least havea certain stake in a conflict.

An Introduction to Mediation: Peaceful Intervention in Conflict

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Professor Han Dorussen introduces the concept of mediation, or peaceful intervention in conflicts. He focuses on the circumstances which give rise to mediation, as well as why parties offer or accept mediation.

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An Introduction to Mediation: Peaceful Intervention in Conflict

Professor Han Dorussen introduces the concept of mediation, or peaceful intervention in conflicts. He focuses on the circumstances which give rise to mediation, as well as why parties offer or accept mediation.

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