On 04 May 2015, ACCORD and the African Union (AU) convened a high-level seminar, Strengthening Mediation in Africa, at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Bringing together over 50 participants from a diverse collection of national governments, multilateral institutions, and civil society organisations, the one-day seminar strived to illuminate and consolidate critical reflections on the current state of mediation practice throughout the continent.
The seminar, which was sponsored by the Government of Finland, further allowed for key stakeholders to critically engage on some of the most pressing challenges confronting international mediation, as well as to offer constructive and actionable recommendations for the AU and its partners to strengthen these interventions.
The seminar focused on a number of critical substantive topics, including: an overview of the field of international mediation against the backdrop of evolving conflict dynamics; assessments on the concepts and practice of subsidiarity, coordination, and cooperation during mediation interventions; reflections on best practices and challenges from recent case studies of African mediation efforts; and efforts to improve how the AU, UN, RECs, international partners, and non-state actors undertake and collaborate on international mediation in Africa. Participants of the seminar included representatives from the AU Commission, Ambassadors from the countries on the AU Peace and Security Council, members of the AU Panel of the Wise, AU Special Envoys and Special Representatives of the Chairperson of the Commission, the UN Department of Political Affairs, Office of the Special Advisor on Africa, and the UN Development Programme, representatives of countries from the ‘Friends of Mediation’ grouping and the UN Security Council, members of the continent’s RECs, as well as leading African and international civil society organisations.
Mr Vasu Gounden, ACCORD’s Founder and Executive Director, delivered a presentation entitled ‘The Evolution of Conflict Management in Response to a Changing Conflict Environment’. In his presentation, Mr Gounden traced the evolution of the field since 1990, specifically examining the growth and development of African institutions undertaking mediation. Mr Gounden then juxtaposed these developments against an analysis of global and continental socio-economic and political dynamics. Through his identification of critical demographic, economic, governance, and security trends and their impacts on today’s conflict environments, Mr Gounden concluded by arguing that mediation and dialogue are even more important now than before if the continent wishes to mitigate conflicts while simultaneously undertaking structural transformations to promote sustainable and inclusive economic development.
Other prominent individuals who presented during the seminar included: H.E. former Prime Minister Edem Kodjo (AU Panel of the Wise); H.E. former President Pierre Buyoya (AU Special Envoy to Mali and the Sahel); Mr Jarno Syrjälä (Director-General, Finland Ministry for Foreign Affairs), Dr Rémi Ajibewa (Director of Political Affairs, ECOWAS); Professor Ibrahima Fall, (ECOWAS Special Representative for Burkina Faso); Hon. Lydia Wanyoto-Mutende (Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the Commission, AMISOM); Dr Ozonnia Ojielo (Regional Cluster Leader, Governance and Peacebuilding, UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa); Ms Tuija Talvitie (Executive Director, Crisis Management Initiative); and Ms Fatima Swartz (Africa Insider Mediators Platform).
The conclusions emerging from the conference proceedings will be delivered to the AU Commission, who will then incorporate the recommendations into the institution’s official submissions to the UN General Assembly debates on various resolutions concerning international mediation at the 2015 UN Summit.