By Jamie Arbuckle, for Peacehawks
Introduction and Background
The end of the Cold War did not, as we then so fondly hoped, usher in an era of peace. Although interstate wars may seem to have become relatively rare, intra-state conflict has become nearly constant and largely intractable. Armed force alone is of little value in resolving these lower-level but deadly conflicts – and intrastate wars have since the early Nineties been characterized by sickening casualty tolls.[ii] Alternate means of management and resolution of conflicts by non-violent methods have therefore been widely sought. These have, in some cases, offered real hope for the mitigation and even the prevention of conflict.
A resultant interest in the tools of mediation and negotiation continues to grow. The entire field which is generally referred to as alternate dispute resolution seems to present an attractive soft power tool box for the restoration and maintenance of peace. It has become an essential measure for containing, preventing and (hopefully) resolving conflict – non violently.
On 25 November 2014 Peacehawks attended a conference on Peace Mediation, jointly sponsored by the German Foreign Office and, prominently among others, the Berlin-based Zentrum fuer Internationale Friedenseinsaetze (ZIF: Center for International Peace Operations). The conference was held in the Europa Saal of the Federal Foreign Office on Unterwasserstrasse in Berlin. The conference, as it developed, was not really about mediation itself, but rather about the questions of if, how and in what cases, Germany might have a third party role in conflict intervention. As was soon pointed out by several delegates, this question has been under discussion at least since the end of the Cold War. Considered answers have ranged all the way from “Why not?” to “Of course!”
Regarding the participants of this conference from the narrow ledge of my generation gave me an almost vertiginous feeling – they were mostly 40 or a bit, mostly German, and about half women. And here they were facing up to a question, or a bundle of questions, which the graybeards of my service time in Germany had found unthinkable – when most of this audience were just in their teens. Some people have indeed come a very long way in just one generation. Nevertheless, I’d lived with these questions for a long time, and they were no longer up to me or even my generation. So I slipped away to thinking about just what mediation really means, and how it ought to work – but has, in our life and times, so seldom done.