Norway shares facilitation experiences from Colombia at high-level mediation conference

On 14 February, the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a high level conference on mediation entitled “Mediation: possibilities and limits. Recent experiences in the pursuit of peace”. The discussions were led by Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Didier Reynders. Contributing to the promotion of mediation in the United Nations is an important feature in Belgium’s candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2019.



The seminar explored many of the key challenges facing today’s mediation practitioners, including the possibilities and limits of mediation in extreme circumstances – what is there to mediate about and with whom, given the emergence of game changers such as hybrid warfare, violent extremism and radicalization. The co-existence, complementarity and possible division of labor between various types of mediators was also examined – including how to interconnect mediation instruments when confronted with the globalization of security threats.

Participants included the Ministers of Foreign Affairs from Algeria, Malaysia, Nepal and Uganda. Former president of Finland Martti Ahtisaari, when referring to his experiences in the Aceh peace process, underlined the importance of mediators acting as honest brokers, as well as the importance of understanding local history and traditions when intervening as a third party to a conflict.

Both senator George Mitchell, former special envoy for Northern Ireland and the Middle East, as well as United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, noted the importance of a coordinated and coherent international peace architecture to support international mediation efforts. The ownership of the peace process should always however lie with the conflict parties, and be at the heart of any mediation effort.

Rita Sandberg, former deputy special envoy to the Colombian peace process, participated in a panel on Colombia, sharing Norway’s experiences as facilitator in the peace processes with the FARC and the ELN respectively. The discussions had a particular focus on the challenges with regards to implementing the peace agreement with the FARC that was reached late 2016.

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