UN Missions and Local Mediation

Local mediation involves individuals and/or communities using a variety of models and styles to resolve disputes. These disputes may involve property, family, business, community and criminal issues. Mediators help parties discuss their issues and find solutions that work best for them. Mediators are trained to facilitate discussions and not impose solutions or take sides.

A key strength of local mediation is its closeness to a specific context and the knowledge that mediators gain through their networks. This often makes them better positioned to identify and intervene in the risk of violence escalation, as well as to support conflict management.

In addition, local mediation can be more culturally relevant and responsive than externally driven efforts. For example, in north-east Kenya, Somali local mediators use a mix of modern formal laws (based on individual rights) and customary laws (eg regarding collective land use). Local culture also shapes methods of relationship building and communication style (eg poetry and storytelling).

While many local mediation initiatives are ad hoc and short-term, they have helped deescalate and alleviate human suffering, even if only temporarily. Moreover, they complement track-1 peace processes by opening political space, helping to overcome sticking points and fostering inclusiveness. Despite these successes, local mediation is complex to design and implement. To improve and expand the impact of their activities, UN missions need to understand local contexts, assess when and how they should engage in local mediation and make this engagement sustainable, and navigate timelines that frequently do not align.

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