Commercial Mediators Could Hold The Key To International Peace

Author:Ms Susanne Schuler
Profession:Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR)

Current conflicts around the world, such as those in Syria, Crimea and Yemen, have huge challenges in finding a resolution, with the international ramifications of multiple states exerting influence and pressing their interests. In the world of peacemaking, the reality is that the flexibility of global business, which frequently has a local presence and connections, means that it can often move quicker and more effectively to set the stage for early negotiations and even facilitate initial dialogue. Contrast this with the difficulties faced by foreign governments or regional authorities who often have to take more formal channels and build formal consensus before starting discussions. There is therefore a real requirement - in order to improve peace around the world - that there be more people in the business community able and willing to step into early and strategic negotiations in those locations where conflict may be developing.

A conflict without a commercial mediator

In the book 'How To Master Negotiation' by CEDR (Bloomsbury Professional, 2015), in the chapter on teamwork Andy Rogers discusses the Northern Ireland Peace Accord. He notes that Khoi Tu, in his 2012 work 'Superteams', discusses a famous photograph of Tony Blair, Bertie Ahern, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness shortly before the final piece agreement was signed. Ian Paisley has told a joke and everyone is laughing. This raises the question of how a negotiation with so many participants in such a fraught, adversarial situation managed to progress to the Good Friday agreement on 10 April 1998.

Although not by design, the Northern Ireland process worked in three phases:

Neutralising phase - initially the conveners set out to neutralise the fears and paranoia of the parties. If these fears could not be mitigated the momentum would not be maintained. Humanising phase - building on the neutralising stage was the second phase to make the process more human. Participants stopped demonising the other side and started to see their opponents as people they might work with albeit with very different views. Functioning phase - the third phase grew organically from there - talking about common goals and transitioning from enemies into a group working together with a purpose. One might reflect that this particular process was maybe easier to achieve than first thought. So why did it take so long? This was a dispute where politicians were expected to find a solution and it was...

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