Academic journal article Global Governance

Mediation, Political Engagement, and Peacebuilding

Academic journal article Global Governance

Mediation, Political Engagement, and Peacebuilding

Article excerpt

This article argues that mediation and political engagement by third parties can contribute to peacebuilding by strengthening the political processes in countries exiting civil conflict. Third-party engagement can create the political space within which long-term reconstruction, development, and reconciliation issues can be discussed among national actors. Given that peace agreements are frequently mere cease-fires representing short-term deals among elites, mediation and political engagement can assist the transformation of these deals into long-term commitments and inclusive national politics. Specifically, mediation can contribute to peacebuilding in three ways. First, mediators contribute to peacebuilding by working toward peace agreements that serve as frameworks for the opening up of the political process as opposed to agreements that Jock in detailed, long-term governance models and concentrate power in the hands of the wartime elites. Second, in the period immediately following the signing of peace agreements, mediation helps parties adhere to the agreements and settle any remaining issues. Third, mediation contributes to making transitional governments workable and, as much as possible, ensures that they gradually lead to more inclusive political processes. Keywords: mediation, peacebuilding, peace agreement, transitional governments, political process.

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MEDIATION IS OFTEN SEEN BY BOTH PRACTITIONERS AND ACADEMICS AS A tool relevant to the brokering of peace agreements, but not as relevant to the long-term tasks of implementing agreements and building sustainable peace. There are indeed important differences in the priorities of peacemakers and peacebuilders. Peacebuilding addresses the deep social and political problems facing war-torn countries and requires complex policies and lengthy debates. It includes a range of long-term processes that aim at improving public security and services, building trust among elites and social groups, and constructing legitimate institutions. It therefore goes beyond the cessation of hostilities and requires more than short-term elite deals. Mediation processes, on the other hand, are often, although not always, short lived and aim first and foremost to end the conflict. These processes cannot be expected to shape societies for the long-term, especially when mediators rely on wartime leaders to craft agreements and steer transitional processes forward. However, the division between peacebuilding (implementation) and peacemaking (mediation) is, at least partly, artificial. If we define mediation loosely as political engagement by a third party aiming to assist the resolution of political disputes among parties to a conflict, then we can easily see it is an activity directly relevant to peacebuilding. Fierce political disputes persist after the signing of agreements and peacebuilders routinely use the tool of mediation to assist their resolution. We can especially see mediation as directly relevant to peacebuilding if we define peacebuilding as an essentially political endeavor and if we understand peace agreements as one of several landmarks in a long political process.

Mediation's key contribution to long-term peacebuilding is to strengthen the political processes in countries exiting civil conflict. It aims to create the political space within which long-term reconstruction, development, and reconciliation issues can be discussed among national actors. Given that the ultimate aim of peacebuilders is to assist societies to resolve disputes through the political process as opposed to violence, third-party mediation and political engagement form a key peacebuilding tool. By encouraging dialogue among all relevant parties, mediation and political engagement by third parties enable the political process in postconflict countries to tackle long-term issues. Given the importance of robust and progressively inclusive political processes for successful peacebuilding, mediation is a key instrument in the peacebuilder's toolbox. …

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