With armed conflicts trending upward and proving increasingly complex, the challenges are also mounting for mediators working to resolve them through negotiations. Guidance now available from the United Nations can help them to succeed, providing practical advice for navigating mediation processes effectively.
The UN Guidance for Effective Mediation, presented in September 2012 at a high-level event on the sidelines of the 67th United Nations General Assembly, is the first broad UN guidance of this kind available to mediators. It reflects the experience of mediators over more than six decades and was developed in close cooperation with United Nations partners including member states, regional and subregional organizations.
The Guidance is located at http://www.un.org/wcm/webdav/site/undpa/shared/undpa/pdf/UN%20Guidance%20for%20Effective%20Mediation.pdf
Here are just a few of the points of guidance that are also relevant to all mediations including commercial mediations.
Responsible and credible mediation efforts require good preparation. Preparedness combines the individual knowledge and skills of a mediator with a cohesive team of specialists as well as the necessary political, financial and administrative support from the mediating entity
Mediation is a voluntary process that requires the consent of the conflict parties to be effective. Without consent it is unlikely that
parties will negotiate in good faith or be committed to the mediation process.
Understand whose consent is necessary for a viable mediation process to start. If only some of the conflict parties have agreed to the mediation, the mediator may need to engage with the consenting parties and gradually expand the consent base. Such a judgement of “sufficient consent” should be based on an analysis of the different constituencies and
an assessment of the possible impact of an initially limited mediation process, as well as the potential for excluded parties to derail the process.
Cultivate consent, in order to create the space for, and a good understanding of, mediation. Informal contacts allow parties to test the waters without committing to a fully
fledged mediation process; this can help address possible fears or insecurities
Impartiality is a cornerstone of mediation – if a mediation process is perceived to be biased, this can undermine meaningful progress to
resolve the conflict. A mediator should be able to run a balanced process that treats all actors fairly and should not have a material
interest in the outcome. This also requires that the mediator is able to talk with all actors relevant to resolving the conflict.