In following the world of mediation over the past few months, I’ve noticed an interesting shift by United Nations officials. It seems Ban Ki-moon is on what some might call a “Mediation Kick.”
In international circles, Mediation is quickly becoming recognized as a way to prevent conflicts globally. Ban Ki-Moon recently said, “I am pleased to note how far we have come in recognizing mediation as an invaluable tool for conflict management and resolution.” Mediation is one of many tools the UN employs as part of professional and effective support to complex peacemaking processes. While mediation is only a small fraction of the $7 billion peacekeeping general spending budget, the international community is slowly expanding these programs. Mediation stands out in many ways as a cost effective peacekeeping tool and preventative measure.
In his address to the 66th session of the UN General Assembly, Ugandan Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi emphasized the importance of mediation to avert crisis before it becomes violent. Ssekandi notes that mediation is a worthwhile investment and is relatively inexpensive compared to other peacekeeping efforts without the prospective loss of life. In countries where the cost of diplomacy is too high, mediation is a realistic alternative within reach of most governments and can be utilized to facilitate solutions.
In light of Liberia’s disastrous 14-year civil war, Vice-President Joseph N. Boakai told the General Assembly that the international community must focus on preventative measures before crisis erupts by employing tools like mediation as soon as signs of conflicts begin to emerge. Not only can mediation help prevent conflicts but its unique approach may also help alleviate tensions and restore stability in a post-conflict country.
With mediation in the international spotlight, there may be a new role for women. Foreign Minister Aurelia Frick of Liechtenstein told the General Assembly that the international community must do more to encourage women to participate in conflict prevention and resolution. Women are often perceived as peacemakers. From the family to the workplace, women often find themselves facilitating conversations between people. If I may speak in generalities, women often focus on communication and strive to listen to others. Likewise, women are often astutely aware of the various emotions and interplay of feelings in the room. Male or female, these skills make an individual a better mediator. In terms of preventing explosive conflicts, we need people around the table who are adept at engaging in dialogue and likely to help others reach resolution. Frick says, “The UN must lead by example and appoint more women as leaders in mediation and other transitional processes.”
Mediation is all about using untapped resources. Employing more women in the peacemaking process is just one example of how to effectively utilize available resources. Mediation can help parties engage in dialogue and prevent conflict from escalating. Given the economy, governments and countries may not have the budget to create expansive programs to both deal with conflict and to try to prevent conflict. Mediation programs offer a cost-effective method that can be implemented that effectively do both.
Mediation has great potential to help “keep the peace.” It is refreshing to see officials from the United Nations and around the globe recognize mediation as the powerful tool that it is.