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Finding new opportunities for dialogue and mediation

Published on Monday, 15th of April 2019

Peace is too precious to be left to the whims and selfish endeavours of power politics.There is a growing need for organisations that facilitate dialogue without a political agenda, and persistently try out new approaches when old ones fail.

CMI’s Executive Director Tuija Talvitie. Photo: Riku Isohella.

Much has been said about the growing concerns we are facing today. Phenomena such as increasing polarisation, the global trust deficit, the risk of nuclear proliferation, fake news, rapid technological advancement and climate change are real concerns and the frequency with which they are articulated is becoming more intense. They act as threat multipliers to our common humanity, and most certainly to peace and security. Amidst the fears of seeing our multilateral, rules-based system fade away, I’m often reminded of CMI’s raison d’être.

The role of informal, private diplomacy actors grows with polarisation. We at CMI have noticed that when attitudes and politics harden and the space for diplomacy shrinks, it provides an opportunity for mediation and dialogue. It is pivotal to keep channels open and build new platforms for conversations that can happen in the quiet, away from the public eye and day-to-day politicking. These exchanges that happen under the radar with both official and unofficial actors, serve the purpose of understanding different viewpoints, building confidence and good will, preparing the ground for better times, and engaging in joint problem-solving.

On the other hand, while the informal behind-the-scenes setting enables trust-building and common understanding, links need to be established with official channels and the public in order for change to take root. A good example of such multi-dimensional work is our project in Ukraine, where informal workshops, public discourse, and official decision-making are utilised together in order to take steps towards peace. Even when times are tough, we need to ensure that there are mechanisms in place to prevent incidents from escalating to violence. We have seen the danger signs both near and far. If official diplomacy falters, we need other options. Private diplomacy actors such as CMI are used to navigating between different spaces and keeping avenues open when formal links go sour. There is a growing need for organisations that facilitate dialogue without a political agenda and persistently try out new approaches when old ones fail.

Whatever the activities are that go on behind the scenes or on the public stage, they have to be exceedingly robust and responsible. Good intentions can go horribly wrong if they are not properly and carefully validated and carried out by actors who adhere to the highest ethical and professional standards.

In the face of ever-increasing complexity through changes in the world order, the inevitable and devastating impact of climate change, and the rapid advances in technology, the nature of wars and conflicts will change. Therefore, the practice of mediation and dialogue will have to change accordingly. We have to be future-oriented and understand how these fundamental changes will impact our work.

These are momentous challenges that require coordination and cooperation. At CMI one of our central principles is complementarity: understanding our role and strengths within a community of mediation practitioners, and how that can add value when combined with the efforts of other actors. What is clear is that we build partnerships and alliances with different actors – like-minded but particularly with those who hold very different viewpoints. It’s not just about working together but learning together and shaping new approaches and insights. Peace is too precious to be left to the whims and selfish endeavours of power politics, broader society needs to step in and step up.

Tuija Talvitie, Executive Director

This article is part of our Annual Report 2018. Read the whole report here.