Expanding the role of mediation by the United Nations and its global partners to prevent, manage and resolve armed conflicts is essential, the UN Secretary-General told the General Assembly on Sept.13, 2012. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that mediation is not the exclusive domain of the UN, as countries and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) provide unique skills and capabilities in resolving conflicts around the world. Two days later, the General Assembly unanimously adopted a report on strengthening the role of conflict mediation in ending violent disputes.

“This diversity of actors is an asset. Each can contribute to the search for the peace, according to its comparative advantage… It is our common responsibility to work together to support the effective use of mediation,” Ban said.
The need to include regional groups and NGOs during different stages of mediation efforts is highlighted in the report.  “These mediators command local legitimacy; have in-depth knowledge of the society, its history, and local conflict resolution approaches; and often have established contacts with the conflict parties,” it says.   And since mediation work does not necessarily end with the signing of a peace agreement, local civil society groups, in places like Nepal, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, and Mali, have played a key role in supporting “compliance with and implementation of signed agreements, and routinely work with the parties to manage new sources of conflict.” Empowering these groups, the report says, “can be an effective means for building national ownership of a peace process.”
The UN Guidance for Effective Mediation is also mentioned in the report. This Guidance will be formally released at a September 27 event in New York. It will outline eight key mediation fundamentals for creating an effective process:  preparedness, consent, impartiality, inclusivity, national ownership, international law and normative frameworks, coherence and coordination among mediation efforts, and the development of quality peace agreements. It calls for all stakeholders in a peace process to “build the capacity of civil society” to maximize effective engagement, and to communicate “with any party or actor necessary to address the conflict.” This is especially important since countries like the United States have laws that prohibit any engagement with listed terrorist groups, even when such contact is intended to reduce the levels of violence perpetrated by these organizations.
The report is to serve as a foundational document for UN mediation efforts, Ban said. “I am pleased that the General Assembly is encouraging all mediation actors to make full use of it,” he told the 193-member body.
Speaking during the same session, the President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, stressed the importance of benefiting from the comparative advantages of different actors in different situations. The President added that past and current crises have shown that if mediation is used early in the process, it will be cost-effective, lead to saving innocent lives, and alleviate the suffering of civilians, particularly women and children. “It is necessary that we learn from our experiences and employ mediation in a more efficient manner, because it is the best way out in a crisis situation, if used as a preventive measure,” Al-Nasser said.
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