The Mediative Side of a Chief Negotiator: Challenges and Benefits of Insider Mediators

By 2 May, 2015Publications
Publication date: May 1, 2015
Publication author: Brendan McAllister

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“The first rule of diplomacy is that the really difficult negotiations are with your own side.”

The Mediative Side of a Chief Negotiator: Challenges and Benefits of Insider Mediators

Summary and key lessons from a debrieng with former Downing Street chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, on the Northern Irish peace process

Mediators do not resolve conflicts; rather, people within conflicts solve them. Mediators simply make a contribution to the management or resolution of conflict. The evolution of peace in Northern Ireland moved incrementally over decades. Like the conflict, peace was primarily rooted within the people of Northern Ireland and their leaders. However, as the sovereign authority, the British government had a particular responsibility to resolve a prolonged political breakdown within its borders.

This paper emerges from a debrieng of someone who acted on behalf of a prime minister in the hybrid role of diplomat, negotiator, problem solver and, at times, ‘mediator’. In this regard, Powell is an interesting case study of the reality of mediation as an adjunct activity carried out by individuals with offices in the corridors of power.

About mediatEUr’s Debriefing Mediators Series

The EU is becoming increasingly active as a global peacemaker, supporting peace processes and also directly mediating between conflict parties in several instances.

It is important to create systems that will allow synthesis and management of the knowledge and learning from these engagements with the aim to further improve and strengthen the EU’s engagement in peace mediation in other parts of the world. The aim of this new publication series is to capture and present key practice and policy lessons from the work of EU mediators. Each debriefing report is based on a semi-structured debriefing seminar with one EU mediator.

Objectives of the Series

  1. To provide an interactive debriefing for EU mediators to support the generation of insights on EU peace mediation lessons and challenges in specific geographic regions.
  2. To produce generic insights for peace mediation and to refine debriefing techniques for EU mediators.
  3. To produce a toolkit in order to systematise debriefings with EU mediators in the future, based on existing debriefing good practice and experiences gathered by the project.
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