States and their foreign ministries are key players in designing, implementing and monitoring third party
interventions in mediation and conflict resolution more broadly. Different states have different profiles and approaches; some countries rely more on private diplomacy actors, while others may have more functional and official structures and channels in their governments to conduct or support peace mediation. Some countries act mostly through multilateral organizations such as the EU and the UN, whereas other countries may also initiate activities more independently.
The aim of the seminar is to identify and analyse what kinds of profiles and approaches states and their governments can have in third-party interventions, and especially in peace mediation. Rather than analysing and debating the official statements of countries on peace mediation, the aim of the seminar is to discuss concrete examples and case studies where governments have had different kinds of roles, and analyze what kinds of structures are needed for successful mediation processes in different settings. The purpose of the seminar is also to assess what types of leverages and different tools states can use in peace mediation: incentives, deterrents and different mediation techniques.
9:00-9:05 Welcoming remarks: Mika Aaltola, Programme Director, the Finnish Institute of International Affairs
9:05-9:10 Opening remarks: Jaakko Laajava, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland
9:10-9:30 Setting the scene – different actors in mediation processes
Tuija Talvitie, Executive Director, CMI
9:30-10:00 African Perspectives on Peace Mediation
El Ghassim Wane, Director of Peace and Security Department, African Union
Vasu Gounden, Founder and Executive Director, the African Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD)
10:00-10:45 Case studies
Sweden – presented by Ragnar Ängeby, Head of Conflict Prevention in Practise – programme, Folke Bernadotte Academy
Germany – presented by Oliver Wils, Executive Director, Berghof Foundation for Peace Support
Switzerland – presented by Simon Mason, Senior Researcher, Mediation Support Project, Center for Security Studies, ETH Zürich and David Lanz, Program Officer, Swisspeace
10:45-12:00 Panel discussion
Chair: Tuija Talvitie, Executive Director, CMI
Pertti Joenniemi, Senior Researcher, Danish Institute for International Studies
Heli Kanerva, Representative for Mediation and UN Resolution 1325, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland
Ragnar Ängeby, Head of Conflict Prevention in Practise –programme, Folke Bernadotte University
Oliver Wils, Executive Director, Berghof Foundation for Peace Support
Simon Mason, Senior Researcher, Mediation Support Project, Center for Security Studies, ETH Zürich
David Lanz, Program Officer, Swisspeace
Summary of the seminar
Dr. Mika Aaltola opened the seminar and welcomed the audience. He described the importance given to international peace mediation in the visions of future Finnish foreign policy. Finland as a state is willing to develop itself to become an important actor and a specialist in conflict resolution. Aaltola also talked about the importance of mediation in building sustainable peace in the world. Ms. Tuija Talvitie from Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) took the stage as chair.
The first speaker, Andrew Marshall senior adviser to CMI, set the scene for the day’s topic and for the following discussion by talking about different actors in mediation processes. Undoubtedly mediation is not a new thing. It has been practiced for centuries, however, the last decades in this field have seen a change in mediation practices in the sense that more conflicts have been sustainably solved trough this negotiation instrument. This is also due to the international pressure given to conflict parties to settle the disputes peacefully. But Mr. Marshall underlined the fragile nature of the mediated peace agreements. Conflicts and thus also peace agreements are often taking place in countries which are simultaneously experiencing changes in the society in every aspect: politically, economically and socially. Subtle changes in the societies make the conflicts and their expected outcomes more complex.
Third party conflict management has brought real advances to international peace building and also a shift among the practitioners of mediation. The United Nations is still the most important actor but regional and private diplomacy actors have now emerged in the mediation field. The role of states in the meaning of classical diplomacy has lost ground to the private sector. Mr. Marshall highlighted that the multiplicity of conflicts requires multiple players for manifold reasons. He also briefly went through the geographic layout of mediation actors in the world, complimenting the active role of African organizations and the efforts of the African Union in building capacities to mediate. Mr. Marshall named Asia as still being problematic in the field, because of the lack of regional actors and the conflict resolution architecture in ASEAN. Mr. Marshall concluded by stating that the monopoly of state diplomacy in mediation is shifted by private players entering the game.
The second speaker was Mr. Vasu Gounden from ACCORD, who shared his vast expertise and experience of mediation in Africa. He spoke about the wider African perspective to peace mediation. Mr. Gounden began by clearly depicting the difference in context and in the situation of Africa by comparing it to a European state structure. He emphasized that the difference of perspective is very important to understand when discussing or practicing conflict resolution in Africa. Gounden stated that Europe went through centuries of war and development to get to the current point, unlike Africa where the state systems are still weak and the distribution of power uneven. The continent is still undergoing transition. Mr. Gounden pointed out that also inside the African continent there are huge differences between countries. As an example he compared South Africa and Burundi where Mr. Gounden and the ACCORD office have been involved as mediators. The situation in South Africa is still manageable and state institutions function rather well, whereas, in Burundi unless a political group is linked to the government it has no chances of survival. In this context elections often turn into violent conflicts when power struggles and disputes occur. This is the context that one should bear in mind also in mediation efforts.
Mr. Gounden applauded the efforts of the African Union in developing its peace and security architecture relatively actively. There has been a lot of progress and political will in this but still a lack of resources is apparent. In regional organizations the situation is slightly better. Gounden named South Africa as a good example in mediation. He stated that South Africa has a history of dealing peacefully with conflicts and currently mediation is a cornerstone of South African policies.
Mr. Gounden named a few challenges for mediation in the African framework. Firstly, there is a political challenge. The means of classical diplomacy do not work in a conflict between a state and a rebel group. Usually a state does not want to give the floor to the rebel groups. Therefore, a non-governmental organization as a mediator is more neutral and impartial towards the conflict parties. Secondly, there is the practical challenge of a lack of resources. Mr. Gounden stated that ACCORD alone has given mediation training to 16000 people in the African continent, which is a major contribution to peace building efforts. ACCORD together with CMI is also working with the AU to build conflict management capacities. Mr. Gounden specified two important concerns within the African perspective, that of local ownership and the question of foreign interference. Often countries involved in conflicts possess large amounts of raw materials, in which case foreign interference and multinational companies may step in and complicate and fuel disputes.
In conclusion Mr. Gounden stated that conflicts in the world will continue to take place. Their scale will vary from small areal disputes to full war. Efforts to resolve conflicts require commitment and long-term structural change. In the meantime, mediation is the right instrument in conflict management.
The seminar continued with a presentation of case studies as examples of mediation practices of certain states. Ambassador Ragnar Ängeby from Sweden introduced his organization, the Folke Bernadotte Academy, a government agency aiming to improve the quality of conflict resolution. Sweden and Finland have been and will be in the future closely cooperating in this field. Mr. Ängeby went through the historical background of Sweden from this perspective. In the past Sweden has been at war for centuries and therefore diplomatic skills have developed to today’s high level. Sweden has had active foreign ministers who have supported peace building efforts. Also the moral basis and high value of human rights within the Swedish society have been a good seeding ground for such practices. Non-use of force has become one of the leading principles in peace building activities. Thus the prevention of escalating conflicts is highly important. Mr. Ängeby emphasized that once violence breaks out, it is difficult to return to a normal way of life. Conflicts have several causes and we have to learn to look at disputes from different perspectives. A holistic approach to conflict resolution is an imperative. Mediation takes time but the result is sustainable and transparent. More focus should also be given to elaborating further the role of economic factors in conflicts. Swedish peace building activities are globally appreciated, and Sweden will continue to collaborate in the mediation field, Ängeby concluded.
The next case presented was that of the German state in peace mediation and Mr. Oliver Wils took the floor. Germany has had a role for example in peace mediation in Caucasus and Georgia, capacity building for all conflict parties in Sri Lanka and supporting national dialogue in Lebanon, just to name a few. However, Germany should still move towards a more active role in mediation and mediation support. Mr. Wils recognized this as an emerging trend in foreign policy planning.
Mr. Wils elaborated on what makes Germany a potential mediation actor. He named among others economic potential, the role in the EU, and the positive perception by others as factors which make Germany a trusted partner. The reason why Germany has not been as active as a mediator even though it has the potential for it is that the state still has a rather traditional and bureaucratic approach. It is state centered and focused in classical diplomacy. Germany has developed a strong multilateral profile and has supported mediation for example by contributing to the work of the UN. Wils pointed out that Germany has a good infrastructure and beneficial political foundations for a more active mediation role. The German state strongly supports political dialogue. In Germany there is also an active NGO-scene, a civil peace service program and the budget was recently increased for civilian crisis management. In conclusion Mr. Wils stated that he still waits and hopes for Germany to become more involved in the field of international peace mediation and mediation support.
The last case study was Switzerland. It was presented by Mr. Simon Mason and Mr. David Lanz. Switzerland as a state has a vast experience in mediation. The key message of this presentation was that small states, such as Switzerland, Finland or Norway, have unique features in regards to mediation practices: they are non-threatening, flexible, and neutral and in this sense nearly non-state like. Small states do not possess hard power and thus they have to seek other means in conflict resolution. The Swiss delegation highlighted the complexity of the dynamic of conflicts and their mediation due to many different types of actors in the field. Therefore the flexibility and adjustability of a small-state mediator can be beneficial.
Mr. Lanz went through the Swiss position in the field. Peace mediation has become one of the most important elements of Swiss foreign policy. The country has not traditionally been part of supranational political organizations and has taken neutrality to be a big part of its identity. It has instead, taken a leading role in supporting humanitarian action (e.g. the Red Cross). Its political infrastructure and humanitarian values create a favorable framework for peace mediation. Mediation principles resonate well with Swiss policies and public opinion and therefore the budget contributions for this purpose have been significant. Since the year 2000 the Swiss government has taken part in over twenty operations in fifteen different countries. Switzerland uses different tools depending on the type of conflict. Negotiations can take place on the ministerial level, through diplomats, on lower levels or through NGOs. Instruments of mediation are divided into direct and indirect involvement. Direct involvement includes facilitation of official peace forces, informal processes that lead to peace talks and secondments for supporting mediation activities. Indirect involvement includes e.g. mediation support and capacity building, funding, collaboration with other actors and grass root peace building through local advisors. Mr. Mason concluded the Swiss presentation by stating a few key points on the topic. Firstly, what is the motivation for a state to mediate? Mr. Mason named the convergence of interests and values as the main motivator. Another point he made was for a state to avoid cherry picking. This means that one should be fully involved in the mediation process, in order for participation to be credible. The third key question is that of coordination. Collaboration with like-minded small states is the key to the professionalization of mediation.
After the case studies a panel discussion took place. Ms. Heli Kanerva reflected on Finland’s role in peace mediation based on the previous case examples. Kanerva stated that mediation has partly been a success story but there is still progress to be made. She elaborated on how Finland as a state can still improve its practices in the mediation field. According to her, Finland has had longstanding commitments to multilateral institutions and relies strongly on, for instance, the UN. The need remains to increase the input of the EU and support for the AU in peace mediation. Finland needs to be active in increasing the EU’s role as a global actor in peace mediation because this further enhances Finland’s global presence through EU-delegations. Finland has also launched new bilateral cooperation plans together with Sweden in track two mediation. Finland has a long history of involving civil actors in foreign policy issues, but still the practical dialogue with non-governmental actors need further development. The Finnish state is building up a national capacity to take part in mediation. In conclusion, Ms. Kanerva stated that Finland is keen to take part in mediation processes also as a state actor but usually the state is involved in peace meditation through supporting other actors.
The second commentator was Pertti Joenniemi who took a more research oriented approach to the topic. According to him the international security system is radically changing and there have been changes also in mediation practices. The international state-based security system is equipped for major power-related wars when conflicts tend to be not even pure civil wars but instead complex, asymmetric and escalated intra-state disputes. Joenniemi pointed out that we have to construct capacity and structures to deal with these arising issues in order to create competencies for new kinds of conflicts. The process is underway but still insufficient. In addition to the system, the mode of thinking is in need of radical changes as well. There is a need to deal with conflicts that do not raise as much media interest and which are invisible to the European eye.
The last commentator was UN representative Roxanne Bazergan. While other speakers promoted the flexibility of small actors in peace mediation, Bazergan wanted to emphasize the fact that despite the size of the UN as an institution it is not every time the whole orchestra is sent to the scene. Whether a UN delegation needs to be engaged has to always be decided on a case by case basis. Participation can also, depending on the situation, mean only sending one or two specialists to the field.
The presentations was followed by a rich discussion which proved that the topic of international peace mediation is important, interesting and that it is necessary to keep it on the foreign policy agendas of states and in multilateral and supranational organizations. In addition, improving the status of smaller, independent actors in international peace mediation is crucial for successful mediation outcomes.