Building Peace by Mediating in Violent Conflict: a Workshop


Main takeaways

  • Conflict mediation and conciliation is a broad field that can be conceptualised and applied in very different ways. What matters, however, is that everyone engages in conflict mediation on an almost daily basis and usually the factors for success in mediation are similar, irrespective of whether applied to a global conflict or to the local level.


  • After all, the respect for (1) others involved in the conflict, including their perceived identity, cultural and/or religious background, and resulting priorities and objectives, (2) their ultimate freedom and liberty, as well as (3) their equality during and after the mediation process, constitute key factors of success.


  • Mediation is not negotiation: Negotiators tend to have their own concrete positions and objectives, whereas mediators usually try to distance themselves from the conflict as such by identifying the different positions from the outside and facilitating the negotiation.


  • An effective conflict mediation process requires the involvement of all layers of society, from the grassroots level in local communities to the high levels of Heads of State and Government and/or international organisations, such as the United Nations.


  • The truth of the matter is that most mediation interventions or efforts fail, as peace does not have an immediate reward, whereas violence is often perceived as generating such reward. Lasting peace may take decades to build.


On 10 and 11 October 2023, YPFP Brussels co-organised an exclusive two-day conflict mediation workshop together with its partner from the Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA). The workshop was conducted by the experienced international conciliation and conflict transformation specialist from the Quaker Peace and Social Witness International Conciliation Group Ivan Hutnik. He was supported by the Director of QCEA Tracey Martin. The workshop was moderated by YPFP Brussels Peace and Security Officer Clara Sophie Cramer.


With the workshop having taken place over two consecutive evenings, the first evening had a stronger focus on theory and introspection, while the second one focused on hands-on application. On the first evening, I. Hutnik gave a broad overview of the history, purpose and international engagements of the Quaker Peace and Social Witness Conciliation Group, and introduced participants to key theories underpinning conflict mediation and transformation, including, for instance, Johan Galtung’s conflict triangle. Interactive exercises that divided the small group of only 16 participants into even smaller groups allowed for some introspective questions, over which the participants could ponder by and amongst themselves. Broad and complex questions, such as ‘what creates war and what creates peace?’, generated engaged discussions. For the second evening, I. Hutnik and T. Martin had prepared a role play, in which the participants could try to apply and further question what they had been introduced to the day before. Bringing together the Heads of State and Government of France, Türkiye, and Ukraine, the scenario aimed at generating constructive dialogue and resolution proposals for an abstract further escalation of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The participants who rotated in playing the roles realized quickly how hard it is to distinguish between mediation and negotiation, compromise and potentially distance themselves from their original position in order to identify an effective solution.


Written by Clara Sophie Cramer, Peace and Security Officer, Security and Defence Programme, YPFP Brussels