The perceptions and challenges of a holistic aspect of mediation for effective conflict resolution

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Conflict is a social phenomenon that lives in and around people in a given society. Since conflict is an inevitable social component, it is necessary to adopt a practical mediation approach to manage it. In that sense, effective mechanisms address the conflicting situation holistically and provide sustainable solutions.

A mediator can serve as a communication liaison between the disputants throughout the mediation process, thereby facilitating a settlement. Undoubtedly, the flexible process in mediation allows the generation of innovative settlements that are not possible in other disputes resolutions mechanisms that can only provide solutions to the issues without considering the root causes or the long-term effects of such solutions.

However, considering the dynamics of conflicts and factors that manipulate the mediation process, I argue that mediation loses its nature, leading to unsuccessful and ineffective results. Therefore, it should go beyond that work and emphasize the holistic aspect of conflict resolution and reaching peace agreements. Against this background, this paper will discuss how the misperceptions of the conflict are a missed opportunity in the mediation process and outcome. It refers to how disputants and other actors miss opportunities to learn, grow, and improve the relationships by only considering the conflict a threat. Furthermore, this paper discusses the challenges related to the conflicting parties in the conduct and success of a mediation process. Their lack of sufficient consent, total commitment, identification issues, and misperceptions about diversity jeopardize the mediation process and the outcome. The mediation actors should be the catalysts of a successful mediation process by adequately undertaking the mediation initiatives at a suitable time. When the mediation actors fail effectively and inclusively to prepare the process, it will likely fail in the negotiations phase. Finally, it discusses the right path to making an implementable peace agreement and preventing conflict reoccurrence.


Mediation is a various attempt as conflict is by itself. When applying a mediation process in conflict resolution, some people can be creative in resolving the conflict beyond the sets of rules and structures, while others need rules and structures to guide them through dealing with the conflict. However, to achieve that goal, people should consider the conflict part of the life cycle and commit to addressing it positively. Otherwise, the misperception of a conflict as necessarily an adverse event and lack of clear goals to resolve it will jeopardize the process and the conflict resolution outcome.

a) Misperception of Conflict

Conflicts are a fact of life; they reveal issues by helping attitudes, behavior, and relationships change[1]. People have different desires, perceptions, backgrounds, ambitions, likes, and dislikes in any given society. These are sources of misunderstanding and conflicts, whether intrapersonal or interpersonal. Therefore, conflict results from social change and interaction between groups.

When analyzing the nature of conflict in a society, it is crucial to consider seven competing conflict approaches. According to these seven competing approaches, conflict is innate in social animals; the nature of societies generates it and how they are structured, functional in social systems, and necessary for social development. Moreover, conflict is an inevitable feature of competing state interests in conditions of international anarchy, resulting from misperception, miscalculation, poor communication, and a natural process common to all societies[2].

These seven descriptions above explain the nature of conflict in society; what turns it into a violent phenomenon is the inadequacy of the actors’ methods in regulating human relationships in the family, community, and the state. I echo the view of Freud that every man must find out for himself in what particular fashion he can be saved, and in trying to be saved, some have become rebels, criminals, and pirates, while others have become peace activists or refugees[3].

A conflict is naturally societal, but some factors can contribute to its occurrence or escalation. In this context, a conflict will mainly ensue in response to incompatibility between actors and their basic human needs, and violence is seen as more natural than peace due to scarcity[4].

b) Another Side of the Conflict: Changing the Conflict View

Though conflict is understood and perceived as a negative phenomenon and sometimes even synonymous with violence, one cannot ignore its psychological and material benefits. The optimistic view of the conflict is that it is the engine behind historical change and development. Thus, conflict is a creative and necessary means of social change[5]. However, many actors tend to divert the benefits of conflicts to more destructive and abusive advantages. These include several possibilities for the greedy to enrich themselves from chaotic situations.

The list may include arms dealers, smugglers, illegal miners, poachers, pirates, some businesses, and military leaders who do well out of war[6]. With this tendency, conflict is undoubtedly a harmful and destructive phenomenon to fight. On the contrary, the optimistic view of conflict considers it a regular and continuous dynamic within human relationships[7].

This positive aspect of the conflict guides us to take the conflict as an opportunity for personal development and social evolution, generating opportunities to learn from past mistakes, adapt to diversities and differences, and use these differences for mutual growth and benefits. It requires an optimistic approach to understanding conflict’s positive potential in all situations of discord[8].

In doing so, one must understand the three aspects of conflict mapping: people, problem, and process. Finally, though violence is likely to follow many conflict scenarios and may seem necessary to respond to social frustrations, it is not considered inevitable nor a positive dimension of human interaction. With this in mind, community members should improve their knowledge of the conflict, conflict transformation, and conflict resolution to effectively address the sources of conflict.

i) Conflict Transformation Requires the Willingness of Interveners

For effective and sustainable conflict resolution, it is essential to make the peacebuilding initiatives most fruitful to lower the possibility of conflict reoccurrence. In order to do so, it is vital to incorporate a transformational approach when considering possible options for a conflict at any stage[9].

The envision and respond approach by John Paul Lederach makes the head the conceptual view of the conflict, or the way we think and prepare to approach conflict. This transformational approach is built upon the understanding that conflict can be envisioned positively in such a way that it may create space for constructive growth but needs the willingness to act and the capacity to maximize this opportunity to create constructive change effectively[10]. In this view, for conflict to have the most potential to create positive growth, it needs to address even the slightest visible incompatible dimensions of relationships instead of just the most immediately recognizable aspects[11].

In that trend, positive conflict transformation requires us to remember that various dimensions are interrelated when striving to address conflict in a way that directly reduces the present violence while simultaneously ensuring an increase in justice, equality, and mutual respect in human relationships.

ii) The Conflict Transformation Requires to Address its Root Causes

An understanding of conflict transformational approach requires developing a well- rounded understanding of the sources of conflict that may lead to the emergence of violence to create a strategy to address these grievances adequately. Individual personalities, social processes, systems and institutions, historical coincidences, and local and global forces all shape the conflicts’ goals, dynamics, and consequences. In addition, the increase in international competition creates tensions between different groups in one society[12].

Usually, conflict resolution and peacebuilding should be long-term endeavors structured to promote sustainable peace by the state by identifying and addressing root causes or sources of conflict. It is critical to remember that the root causes will not always be one or another. In most cases, there is a higher likelihood of concurring elements present when violence breaks out. Therefore, it is crucial to adopt a strategic plan of action that addresses the unique causes of conflict to avoid using a redundant and potentially harmful set of development efforts. These may be external or international, characteristics of the state, characteristics of society, or individual orientations[13].

c) The Problem of Diversity in Conflict Analysis and Conflict Resolution

As I introduced earlier, conflict is an outgrowth of the diversity that characterizes people’s thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, social systems, and structures. Further, it is part of people’s existence as evolution is[14].

i) Diversity as a Fundamental Component of the Conflict

No society can claim to be homogenous; that is, diversity is inevitable. It can be cultural, ethnic, religious, political, family background, or economic class, to name a few. Diversity itself is not an issue; what makes it a cause of conflict is when one aspect of diversity becomes more substantial and more enduring than other collective identities, and therefore, it is most likely to provide the basis for political mobilization and conflict when it provides the basis for invidious distinctions among peoples. These distinctions are deliberately maintained through public policy and social practice with political mobilization[15]. It becomes worse when economic inequalities are politicized, and certain groups are marginalized or denied access to resources.

Another important aspect is the case of structural violence which consists of social injustice representing the systematic ways in which inequality or injustice is tied into the structure of a society. It includes instances where some portion of the public is denied equal access to opportunities, goods, or services that may make it difficult to fulfill basic human needs. This situation becomes worse with cultural violence that extends from generation to generation. Cultural violence becomes a foundational principle for extended conflict because of its ability to be reproduced across generations, further creating the argument that these beliefs are rational and absolute[16].

ii) Diversity Should Be an Asset for the Conflict Resolution

In a holistic mediation process, diversity becomes a precious asset that helps to open up possibilities and challenge actors and interveners to consider alternatives. Optimistic mediation actors and interveners celebrate diversity instead of fearing it or perceiving it as a threat[17]. More importantly, the conflict originates from diverse perceptions, needs, values, power, desires, goals, opinions, and many other components of human interactions. Therefore, these differences should serve in conflict resolution by clarifying the understanding of relationships, considering ideas and possibilities, and finding commonalities between relationships[18].

More importantly, cultural diversity is a vital aspect of conflict existence. Culture and conflict are indissociable; the way conflict is perceived and influenced, culture identifies itself inevitably[19]. An effective conflict resolution process should consider diversity as an asset instead of a threat. For example, a workplace rich in diversity has the potential for exceptional creativity and productivity in an organization, success, and competitive advantage. It is almost impossible for people with diverse backgrounds, skills, and norms to work together, make decisions, and meet the project goals and objectives without conflict.

However, in order to make diversity an asset and fruitful in a holistic mediation, it is vital to acknowledge, understand, accept, value, and celebrate differences among people concerning age, class, ethnicity, gender, physical and mental ability, race, sexual orientation, spiritual practice, and public assistance status. The mediator should learn and familiarize herself with all these to ensure effective communication and avoid unintentional damage[20]. Despite this consideration, I cannot ignore that managing diversity is a challenge because it requires recognizing the value of differences, combating discrimination, and promoting inclusiveness. However, once the conflict resolution actors reach this goal, they can fruitfully use the aspects of diversity mentioned above to creatively address the issue, generate innovative options, and reach a sustainable solution.

d) Potential Approaches to Mediation and their Impact on Real-Life Conflicts

There is no single formula by which people can manage their behaviors regarding conflicts. Often, people do not know how they react to conflict and communicate with others, yet these are essential building stones to address the underlying conflict issues and respond appropriately in a specific situation and cultural context[21]. As I discussed earlier, one of the unique traits of a mediation process is its principles of negotiation that consists of separating the people over the problem (relationship problem versus substantive problem), focusing on interests, not positions, generating a variety of possibilities before making a decision, and basing the results on some objective standard.


The conflict parties are the central actors of the conflict and conflict resolution process; they own the case and should be the source of conflict resolution. However, they are not free of critique regarding the conduct and success of a mediation process. This critique is based on the challenges related to the parties’ consent to accept the mediation attempts, external influence, identification of the parties for negotiation and their constituencies, questionable involvement of the negotiators, and the parties’ internal organization.

a) The Requirement of the Parties’ Sufficient Consent and Willingness to Cooperate

The parties’ consent and willingness to address the conflict are the foundational elements to addressing the conflict and accepting the assistance of a mediator. That is to say; parties believe that a dispute resolution process that a third party facilitates may help them produce a more favorable settlement to the conflict than would otherwise be possible[22].

However, many factors may affect the parties’ free consent and willingness to cooperate. These include the parties’ strategic and tactical considerations, leverage, and level of intensity. When making significant concessions, the parties may strategically accept a third-party intervention as a face-saving device to protect their domestic and international reputation. They may also consider mediation an occasion for improving relations between the mediator and the adversary[23].

Firstly, leverage consists of the mediator’s ability to pressure one or both conflicting parties to accept a proposed settlement. Regarding the parties’ sufficient consent and willingness to cooperate, this leverage implies that the mediator has power and influence resources that can attract the parties and increase their confidence in negotiations. These resources include adverse versus positive sanctions and material versus immaterial aspects[24]. Accordingly, I understand that the parties’ consent and willingness to cooperate must be free; leverage is a form of pressure on the parties and is indispensable for persuading conflicting parties to make concessions or ensuring disputants adhere to agreements[25]. I echo the view of Kleiboer that the long-run implications of high compensations may make the parties entirely dependent upon the mediator for further compensation in later negotiations[26].

Additionally, the level of intensity is another factor impacting the sufficiency of parties’ consent and willingness to mediate. Unavoidably, the degree of threat intensity, the magnitude of violence, and the number of fatalities affect the mediation process and the outcome. It means that the extraordinary intensity increases the parties’ polarized positions, which results in a greater inclination to reject any mediation effort and try to win the conflict at all costs[27].

Given the conflict dynamics and external players’ possible actions, it is difficult to determine the parties’ free and sufficient consent exhaustively. In other cases, parties may agree to the mediation by limiting their consent to discussions of some specific issues before accepting a more comprehensive process[28].

b) TheChallengeofIdentificationoftheNegotiators

The effectiveness and success of any mediation efforts must also stick to the actual negotiating parties; that is, mediation can only be possible if the parties in conflict are identifiable regarding group characteristics and boundaries[29]. The parties’ identification is a fundamental problem to address because, in some cases of unscheduled political violence like riots or civil, it is sometimes difficult to identify the party to participate in the negotiations. Other cases may happen when the parties are unwilling to identify and grant recognition to the other group as a legitimate participant whose needs, interests, and values they have to take seriously, though it might be straightforward for an outsider to know who the disputants are[30].

Additionally, a clear identity of a party as a requirement for the success of a mediation outcome implies the stability of the parties’ internal power structure. There is a need to have clear leaders or representatives who can authoritatively negotiate and secure the implementation of an agreement[31]. Addressing the issue of parties’ identity evokes an emphasis on cohesiveness that consists of constituencies and representation. I have stressed earlier that a successful mediation process must go beyond the traditional target of conflict resolution that limits itself to settling but should holistically address all other aspects connected to the issue.

Regarding the role of negotiators in the success of mediation, a holistic approach requires the negotiation and mediation to occur not only among the adversary parties but also among factions within the parties themselves[32]. Barbara F. Walter observes that sometimes when no legitimate government and no legal institutions exist to enforce a contract, they are asked to demobilize, disarm, and disengage their military forces and prepare for peace. Nevertheless, once they lay down their weapons and integrate their separate assets into a new state (united), it becomes almost impossible to enforce future cooperation or survive an attack[33].

Ultimately, negotiations fail because civil war adversaries cannot credibly promise to abide by such dangerous terms. Only when an outside enforcer guarantees the terms do commitments to disarm and share political power become believable. Only then does cooperation become possible[34].

c) The Negotiation Challenges and External Influence

In addition to the parties’ sufficient consent, the mediator must foster the sincere commitment of the conflict parties and other concerned stakeholders in the mediation process. The mediator must remember that various circumstances can affect every case and thus prepare accordingly.

Parties may feel it is in their best interest to do so, but many reasons make them reluctant to negotiate, though they are generally willing to find a joint solution. These include great fears, significant difficulties in communication, tension, emotions, frustrations, and fixed perceptions about opposing parties. The mediation process cannot succeed if it does not address the issues of power imbalance and manipulation by externals and significantly improve the parties’ negotiation capacities[35]. In that regard, a mediator must know that pursuing negotiations does not necessarily imply that a party sincerely wants to reach negotiated solutions but has the capacity and skills to do so.

The power imbalance and disparity between the parties significantly threaten the mediation process. When there is an extreme disparity, the stronger party feels the level of victory, while the weaker party feels humiliated (example of Iraq v Iran); negotiations cannot happen in such a situation[36]. It is sometimes helpful to train subgroups and movements to improve the negotiation capacity and skills, especially in power sharing and negotiations.

Equally, the mediator must remember that the participants in negotiations are usually not the only ones involved in making the final decision; the value of the constituencies that the participants represent in negotiations should not be ignored. These constituencies must be able to contribute to negotiations and be informed about the changes or options developed during negotiations. In addition, they must be informed about the possible solutions or agreements in the negotiation process. In that trend, the final proposed agreement that reaches them should not surprise them. In order to achieve this goal, they must understand the negotiation process, the issues at hand, interests, and expectations[37].

Finally, I must emphasize that promoting the parties’ negotiation capacity and skills includes assisting them in constructively expressing their emotions and legitimizing them. In doing so, parties can improve the quality and quantity of their communication and build trust and a positive perception of one another. The mediator should equip the primary parties and constituencies with these capacities and skills.


Conflict is a situation in which there is an incompatibility between actors and their basic human needs. Violence, in this regard, is not seen as desirable, with repercussions that will outweigh its benefits and leave long-term consequences for the parties directly and indirectly involved. Through conflict transformation as an essential part of the mediation process, by addressing the grievances within a society, the mediation actors can directly address scarcity frustrations and reduce the potential of violence[38].

So far, conflict transformation, holistic conflict approaches, mediation, and peacebuilding efforts can be utilized to address the root causes of incompatibility, allowing for conflict to serve as a mechanism to enable positive change. In this sense, peacebuilding can promote ongoing constructive dialogue that emphasizes the inclusion of actors at all levels.

a) When (not) to Mediate?

Timing is a crucial but complex element in mediation and conflict resolution. It is worth noting that not all ripe moments are so seized and turned into negotiations. Hence, it is primordial to emphasize the aspect of ripeness to determine when conflicting or third parties can fruitfully initiate negotiations.

In order to determine the ripe moments for negotiations, it is necessary to consider its objective and subjective elements. Subjective elements include expressions of pain, impasse, and inability to bear the cost of further escalation. Objective elements may include the numbers and nature of casualties, material costs, or expressions of a sense of a Way Out[39].

However, I still argue that these factors and elements are not automatic in determining the exact ripe moment for negotiations. For example, one cannot base on a certain number of casualties nor exhaustively determine the nature of pain suffered to determine the ripeness of negotiations. Another situation happens for the party’s resistance to mediation and reliance on military solutions. If this is the case, the conflict party reinforces the conclusion that mediation is bound to fail because one or both parties rely on achieving a decisive military victory[40].

i) Issue of Conflict Ripeness and Parties’ Resistance to Negotiate

The hurting stalemate becomes complex when extreme pain increases resistance rather than reducing it. As discussed earlier, it is worth recalling that while ripeness is a necessary precondition for negotiation, not all ripeness leads to negotiation. However, failing to negotiate as early as possible imposes more pain[41].

Other times, pressure on a party in conflict often leads to the psychological reaction of worsening the opponent’s image, a natural tendency that is often decried as lessening chances of reconciliation but has the functional advantage of justifying resistance. I can infer that the more pain increase, the fewer negotiations are likely to happen because pain is likely to justify renewed struggle. It means that justified struggles call for more incredible sacrifices, which absorb increased pain and strengthen determination.

I echo Zartman’s views that conflicts not treated early require many negotiation efforts to succeed. Therefore, it is critical to raise the level of conflict until reaching a stalemate to ripen for resolution at least those conflicts that have not been managed early, which in return start to hurt, ensure the perception of pain, and finally, create the perception of an impending catastrophe as well[42].

ii) Lack of Precise Determination of the Mediation Process Ripeness

Though a conflict may be ripe for negotiations and the negotiations opened, I still raise concerns about how long the negotiations should take (ripeness of the process). It means that opening the negotiations is one step in a long journey because reaching successful negotiations once they are opened is another critical phase. In this regard, there is an interrogation as to whether ripeness can be extended to cover the entire process or if the successful conclusion of negotiations requires a different explanatory logic[43].

Nevertheless, unripeness should not constitute an excuse for either party’s inaction, even if one or both conflicting parties are not hopeful of escalation and victory. In other words, the absence of ripeness does not mean walking away and doing nothing. Instead, it should be an occasion to identify obstacles and suggests ways of handling them and managing the problem until resolution becomes possible.

iii) The Manipulative Approach of a Mediator is Persuasive Option in the Absence of Conflict Ripeness

If there is no objective indicator that can serve as a reference when determining ripeness, it may involve an active engagement of the mediator. This involvement may include moving her role from communication and formulation to manipulation. When a mediator becomes a manipulator, she attracts the parties to share or limits the parties’ actions in the conflict, providing objective elements for the stalemate[44].

b) HowCanaMediatorResistPoliticalInfluenceandKeeptheProcessin Control?

Typically, mediators create an environment to facilitate exchange between the parties and develop a solution to a problem. While a mediator must understand how to navigate interpersonal situations frequently involving personal emotions, she must remain ethical in addressing potential inequalities and discrimination issues between parties. Now the concern and one of the roadblocks to effective mediation is how the mediator can resist any political influence and keep the cadence of the process.

Mainly, this concern relates to how this external influence may jeopardize her capacity to remain impartial toward all disputing parties by not allowing their personal views and biases to intervene in the mediation process. When a mediator cannot remain neutral, she must reveal any direct or indirect connections with the disputing parties[45]. Again, this requirement of revealing any connection with the parties complicates the concern; can a mediator simultaneously reveal any political influence?

c) An Improved Role of Women in the Mediation Process and Conflict Resolution

Women are the first victims of conflict and post-conflict situations; they know the reality of the conflict and the exact need to address these effects and prevent subsequent reoccurrence. Additionally and worse, there is still critique against the lack of protective international legal frameworks for women in armed conflicts[46]. More importantly, due to some cultures, the victims of sexual abuse and rape do not witness easily; thus, the authors of rape crimes are not adequately tried. In that sense, the core of the critique against international legal frameworks is that even the existing rules are not adequately implemented. According to these issues facing women in armed conflicts, there is a solid need to actively and effectively involve them in any conflict prevention and resolution efforts.

A holistic and inclusive mediation and conflict resolution process must applaud the role of women. There is a need to change the misperception about women in negotiation and conflict resolution because they cannot simply follow the traditional approaches to mediation. Women possess unique strategies related to coaching, framing communication positively, and self-reflection[47]. In that sense, mediation actors must modify their conflict resolution techniques to overcome various barriers arising from culture and gender stereotypes[48].

Though there may be views that a person’s gender has a differential impact on her negotiation style, insofar as gender norms in society may inform or be informed by specific bargaining behaviors, the role of women in negotiations should not go unnoticed. Mediation values emotions; women usually demonstrate more empathy than men while negotiating by showing how they understand someone’s feelings and backgrounds, even when they disagree with their point of view[49].

The women’s natural inclination to spend more time thinking about the impact on relationships and connections is another opportunity to grab in the negotiation and mediation process. It means that women spend more time thinking about problems and processes before arriving at a solution; this is a cornerstone in mediation[50]. These discussions reveal the necessity of active inclusion of women in negotiation, mediation, and peacebuilding, not only because of their negotiation nature but also because of their particular suffering during periods of conflict. In order to achieve a holistically improved mediation process, there is a need to increase women’s participation in conflict resolution at decision-making levels and promote women as actors and protagonists rather than a vulnerable group[51]. Finally, these efforts must focus on strengthening the women’s capacity to participate in peacebuilding initiatives in a meaningful fashion by involving initiatives or components that directly target women.


Firstly, it is essential to acknowledge that there is no one formula to apply to all conflict scenarios because each conflict has its particularities, but there are ethical and strategic standards to follow. Effective mediation requires the mediators should spend their precious time preparing before the mediation as they spend within mediation. In that sense, a pre-mediation process’s design and preparation should include substantive, emotional, attitudinal, and cooperative steps to help shift the parties’ attitudes from being ready to fight to being prepared to cooperate[52].

a) A holistic Mediation Process Should Strategically Address Emotional Challenges in Conflict Resolution

Emotions have a non-negligible value in conflict situations and resolution; they translate the wound/shock of the victims. Additionally, emotions reveal who we are and what the conflict made us. In other words, substantive and emotional components of a conflict are indissociable. Emotions are a non-negligible factor in conflict existence and conflict resolution. One aspect that makes the mediation process unique in conflict resolution is the moving part of the parties. A successful mediation endeavor must transform the intense feelings that keep both parties locked in antagonistic interdependence. Emotions such as fear, anger, and grief are the powerful forces driving most conflicts[53].

However, the main challenge leading to the failure of mediation efforts is the inability to transition from negative emotional moments into positive and constructive communications, especially in ongoing insecurity. In light of this, a holistic mediation process should make these emotional components a foundation for success. One of the strategies for a mediator to address this challenge is to learn each party’s communication style, identify specific strengths that may directly assist in the mediation-dialogue process, and encourage the expression of those strengths in mediation.

Expressing the feelings related to the conflict is vital to a humanistic mediation approach. With the extreme intensity of those feelings, the mediator coaches the disputant on helpful ways of communicating those feelings so that the other party can hear them; it is helpful to do it in separate premeditation sessions. Coaching one or both parties on communicating intense and potentially hurtful feelings may be required. This coaching focuses on how to own one’s feelings rather than projecting them upon the other party. Projecting intense feelings through aggressive communication often will trigger defensiveness in one or both parties and shut down honest dialogue[54].

b) IssueofTimeReasonablenessforCaseNegotiation

Timing is essential when discussing a holistic aspect and the success of a mediation process. However, a reasonable time for negotiations can be a topic of debate. Considering the conflict dynamics and chaotic results that the conflicts generate, I cannot hesitate to note that negotiations are difficult, if not impossible, if the mediation attempts are undertaken too late. Therefore, time reasonableness is relative since every conflict is unique.

However, considering that disputes resolution is a mutual attempt, the conflicting parties may resolve their conflict only when they feel ready to do so; that is to say, when they do not consider the cost of war as beneficial or, in other words, when they reach a mutually hurting stalemate (MHS)[55]. In this sense, ripeness refers to elements necessary to indicate that the negotiations can be initiated productively[56].

i) Emergence Cases Require Emergency Actions

As I emphasized above, time for mediation intervention is essential for the success or failure of mediation and peace agreements. Therefore, I argue that when the actors undertake the mediation initiatives when the conflict has become intense, they create other complications to the process and the outcome.

In many instances, facts signal that the situation is becoming chaotic, but the concerned actors do not react as early as needed. In that sphere, I argue that a mutually hurting stalemate should not be the basis for deciding on necessary mediation intervention. Though parties have the capacity and mandate to accept a mediation process, considering the situation’s urgency, it is beneficial to have outside solid actors who can influence the process and save the situation because their passive role worsens the conflict[57].

Worse, the mediator reacts too late without considering that the timing of proposals is critical. In that sense, proposals should be prepared in consultation with the parties before the situation becomes intense. When it is done too late and sometimes rejected by the negotiators, the situation worsens. Additionally, it is crucial to strategically involve key influencers because no actor can do it alone; the power of different actors is helpful. However, the mediator must be cautious about other actors’ involvement because if multilateral actors’ mediation efforts are not well coordinated, their intervention work becomes a competition. Therefore, in some instances, the resolutions are weighty and challenging to implement because they lack well-defined peacebuilding strategies and development plans[58].

ii) Addressing the Issues of Time Limits Versus the Societal Needs

Ending the conflict is a dynamic procedure that includes more than just the signing of a peace agreement, mainly if the root causes of the initial conflict are not addressed promptly[59]. The immediate time following the end of violent conflict is essential in establishing priority actions. These include basic security, confidence-building measures, strengthening national capacity, refugee repatriation, establishing the foundations of a functioning state, initiating reconciliation and societal integration, and commencing economic recovery[60]. In this context, timing is critical because the population will likely have high emotions and low trust right after the conflict. In these cases, they can expect change, which, if not met, creates a possibility for relapse[61].

iii) A Practical and Sustainable Mediation Process Prevents Conflict Escalation

Typically, conflict parties and other interveners in a peace process should not consider the mediation process as the last option after all else fails. Therefore, conflict ripeness and the parties’ consent to mediate are necessary but insufficient to initiate negotiations. Considering the conflict intensity and emergency, a mediator should even persuade parties to do so to avoid conflict escalation.

Additionally, when unilateral means of achieving a satisfactory result are blocked, and they feel they are in an uncomfortable and costly predicament, parties may need to resolve the conflict. When they fail to do so, while the situation becomes intense, mediation becomes a form of domination or a tool used by some powerful states to prevent changes in the structure of an international system that some forms of conflict might enable[62].

Considering the effects of violent conflicts and in a bid to protect the lives of the population, I contend with practitioners who consider that specific mediation initiatives are not advisable because the conflict is not yet ripe[63]. The catastrophe calls for emergency intervention and provides a deadline or a lesson indicating that pain can increase if something is not done as soon as possible[64].


I cannot claim to answer whether every peace agreement is implementable and an effective solution to the issue. A peace agreement may have been effectively and objectively reached, but it is possible to realize the gaps between the peace agreement and realities on the ground. Therefore, reaching a peace agreement is a critical milestone in the long significant journey; that is to say, a peace agreement is not the end of the process nor the final solution to the issue.

The reason is that there are numerous challenges related to the implementation of a peace process, and sometimes, other conflicts arise from the agreement or in connection with the implementation of the agreement. In that context, a holistic mediation approach does not seek to reach an agreement only; it goes the extra mile and anticipates these roadblocks that will hinder its implementation. The question of how to sustain the agreement and implement it, the implementors’ capacity, financial implications, external factors, and the timing for implementation become paramount to a holistic and effective mediation.

a) Strategic and Objective Involvement of External Actors in a Peace Agreement Implementation

External support is essential during the negotiation and implementation of a peace agreement. Sometimes, it can be a condition for participation because negotiators get assurance that they have enough support to implement the concessions they make during the negotiations[65]. Therefore, they will not be reluctant to make some highly demanding concessions. This support includes technical, financial, expertise, and security, to name a few.

However, one must balance the expected support and its effects, including the dependence on external support and external actors that can affect the impartiality of the process or hinder the mediation outcome. In other words, the role of outsiders should be to enhance the effectiveness of insiders and ensure that the insiders are the primary vehicles for change[66]. Spoilers are problematic in any mediation process because they try to derail a peace process or peace agreement. It can be through violent means, by attempting to discredit the peace process, or by putting obstacles in its implementation[67].

In order to make external support fruitful in the implementation stage of a peace agreement, it is vital to reach a practical, implementable, sustainable peace agreement and one that deals with the root causes of the conflict. Though negotiators can reach a peace agreement effectively, if there is no considerable degree of the political commitment of conflict parties and ownership of the population, it may not fully and effectively produce the desired results. In that sense, ownership of a peace agreement by different concerned levels, the inclusion of different levels of the stakeholders, and its effectiveness in addressing the root causes of the conflict are primordial[68].

b) Reoccurrence of Conflict After Signing a Peace Agreement or in Connection with the Implementation of a Peace Agreement

Though one of the main goals when implementing peacebuilding initiatives is to avoid the reoccurrence of violent conflict, it is unfortunate that relapse increases in some circumstances. In order to prevent this relapse, it is essential to approach peacebuilding holistically as a method to utilize conflict as an opportunity for positive change. There is a need to see how a past conflict relates to the present grievances and expand on how peacebuilding can stimulate positive growth by identifying potential relapse triggers. 

Undoubtedly, the reoccurrence of violent conflict can be triggered by past conflicts only if met with political or economic incentives to take arms. Through this perspective, there are several factors to consider when evaluating the reoccurrence of violence, some of which are. These factors include the demands of the rebel groups, remaining combat weariness, length of the conflict, cost of conflict, the reconciliation of main grievances, the geographic distribution of the combatants, and the mechanisms that influence the end of the original conflict.

c) The Negotiating Parties’ Failure to Clarify their Expectations and Outcomes

A practical and sustainable peace agreement should objectively and strategically address the root causes of the current issue(s) and adopt preventive measures for the future. In that sense, the negotiating parties must be astray from the principle of competition and adopt principled negotiations, which set the standards to achieve that goal[72]. This approach requires the mediation actors to separate the people over the problem, focus on interests, not positions, generate various possibilities before deciding what to do, and insist that the result originates from some objective standards. If the mediation actors fail to follow this approach, the negotiation outcome will cause subsequent issues.

In that sense, an effective and sustainable peace process should prevent conflict resurgence and create the conditions for a stable peace. Moreover, there is a need to repair the damage, including security, political, economic, social, and psychological spheres, and contain essential elements ensuring that violent conflict does not recur[73].

From these considerations, it follows that the approach to resolving the disputes arising from the implementation of a peace agreement is vital because if the agreement itself turns into disputes that are not immediately resolved, these disputes can worsen the conflicting situation. If an agreement cannot be reached on other sensitive issues, the mediator must help the conflict parties and other stakeholders build into the agreement options or mechanisms for these issues to be addressed later[74].

d) StrivingtoAchievetheGoalofConflictHealing

Typically, the conflict actions carry out the processes in the psychological and emotional spheres of the parties in the conflict. When resolving conflicts, actors need to go the extra mile by moving beyond conflict healing to the goal of conflict healing. The path of conflict healing consists of applying the rules and structures to deal with the conflict. Social healing is needed; that is, accountability, repair, healing, and reconciliation.

When addressing the social and psychological conflict effects, mediation differs significantly from other methods of conflict resolution. Therefore, mediation in social healing involves creating socio-psychological conditions that reduce emotional tension, adopt constructive decisions, and generally resolve conflicts[75]. In the social healing process, mediation can play a vital role in promoting a culture of constructive behavior in a conflict based on the recognition of the value of human life, the uniqueness of each individual, the acceptance and respect for the right of each person to satisfy their own needs and to defend their interests without harming others[76].

e) From Conflict Resolution to Humanistic Endeavors

Although some conflicts require a primary focus on reaching an acceptable settlement when emotional feelings about the past are not allowed to be expressed and heard healthily, actors may reach an agreement, but the underlying emotional conflict remains[77]. Little healing of the emotional wound is necessary through genuine dialogue, empowerment, and recognizing each other’s humanity despite the conflict.

The potential effective conflict resolution should promote the healing of community relationships rather than resolving individual problems[78]. The process must emphasize the importance of genuine empowerment and mutual recognition of each party’s humanity and the value of compassionate strength among parties in conflict. This humanity and healing enable the parties to regain strength, act and handle life’s problems[79]. Therefore, the mediator must facilitate a dialogue that allows the parties to discuss the full impact of the conflict, assist each other in determining the most suitable resolution, and recognize each other’s common humanity, despite the conflict.

More work must be done in line with a holistic and effective mediation process. The significant concerns consist of assessing whether things can regain their status quo while implementing a peace agreement. The major challenge concerns the process of apology and forgiveness, eradicating the culture of impunity, and reconciliation.

f) Application of International Law and Normative Frameworks as a Roadblock to an Effective Implementation of a Peace Agreement

Though international, regional, and organizational rules and regulations and other normative obligations became binding upon the parties that serve as an international legal framework basis, there are still challenges related to applying these legal and normative frameworks to some specific cases.

These challenges may include situations of the urgency of ending the violence in a context where there is a need to address human rights violations and other crimes against humanity, different applications, understanding, and interpretation of these international laws and normative frameworks by the conflict parties[80]. This dilemma makes the process more complex. However, the main gain from international laws and norms is that they set standards and uniformity to avoid equivocal application of laws and therefore contribute to reinforcing the legitimacy of a process and the durability of a peace agreement.

Moreover, an effective peace negotiation process must include an aspect of accountability and eradicate the culture of impunity; that is, the authors of war crimes and crimes against humanity must be tried. It is part of the responsibility to protect human rights. Sometimes, the ICC can become a hindrance to peace negotiations, such as in the cases of arrest warrants[81]. Therefore, it becomes a dilemma: ensuring justice by eradicating the culture of impunity (tension increases) or staying arrest warrants and increasing the chance for negotiation and reaching a peace agreement.


Conflict is inherent in how humans interact and should be understood as inevitable rather than perceived as a negative occurrence. According to its dynamics, the mediation and conflict resolution processes cannot claim to be effective and successful if they limit their efforts in reaching an agreement. Instead, the holistic aspect requires them to go the extra mile and deal with the issues’ root causes, including diversity, the party’s capacity to implement the peace agreement, and time constraints.

In addition, they must tackle the issue of inclusion in the peace process, the parties’ status, consent, willingness to negotiate, and the role of external players in the good conduct and success of the mediation process and mediation outcome. Though there is no single formula for effective and successful mediation, the mediator’s strategic planning that emphasizes social healing and the parties’ commitment to repair or improve the relationships can help to achieve that goal.

In that process, instead of actively and efficiently guiding the parties toward a settlement, the mediator should assist them in entering a dialogue with each other, experience each other as fellow human beings, despite their conflict, and seek ways to help them come to understand and respect their differences and arrive at a mutually acceptable way to deal with those differences.


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List of footnotes

[1] Daniel Erdmann, Mindful Mediation: The Shapeless Art (Independently Published, 2021), 103–106.

[2] Mark Chingono, “Violent Conflicts in Africa: Towards a Holistic Understanding,” World Journal of Social Science Research 3, no. 2 (May 9, 2016): 200.

[3] Sigmund Freud and Samuel Moyn, Civilization and Its Discontents, First edition., A Norton critical edition (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2022), 44.

[4] Johan Galtung, “Three Realistic Approaches to Peace: Peacekeeping, Peacemaking, Peacebuilding” (1976): 297, Accessed August 23, 2022.

[5] Hugh Miall, Oliver Ramsbotham, and Tom Woodhouse, Contemporary Conflict Resolution: The Prevention, Management, and Transformation of Deadly Conflicts, Repr. (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005), 96.

[6] Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler, “Green and Grievance in Civil War,” Oxford Economics Papers 56, no. 4 (October 2004): 56.

[7] John Paul Lederach, The Little Book of Conflict Transformation: Clear Articulation of the Guiding Principles by a Pioneer in the Field (New York, USA: Good Books Publishing, 2014), 1, transformation-clear-articulation-of-the-guiding-principles-by-a-pioneer-in-the-field-pdf. Accessed August 23, 2022.

[8] Dudley Weeks, The Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution: Preserving Relationships at Work, Home, and in the Community, 1st ed. (New York: J.P. Tarcher/Perigee, 1994), 7.

[9] Lederach, The Little Book of Conflict Transformation: Clear Articulation of the Guiding Principles by a Pioneer in the Field, 2–7.

[10] Ibid., 2.

[11] Ibid., 10.

[12] Gerd Junne and Willemijn Verkoren, eds., Postconflict Development: Meeting New Challenges (Boulder, Colo: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005), 6, Accessed August 25, 2022.

[14] Ibid., 7, 8.
[15] Weeks, The Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution, 7.

[16] Jeremy Lind et al., eds., Scarcity and Surfeit: The Ecology of Africa’s Conflicts (Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies, 2002), 8.

[17] Galtung, “Three Realistic Approaches to Peace: Peacekeeping, Peacemaking, Peacebuilding,” 171.

[18] Weeks, The Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution, 33. [19] Ibid., 34.

[20] Susan Fountain, “Peace Education in UNICEF: UNICEF Staff Working Papers” (United Nations Children’s Fund Programme Publications, 1999), 27–28.

[21] Amy L. Smith and David R. Smock, Managing a Mediation Process (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace, 2008), 24.

[22] Fountain, “Peace Education in UNICEF: UNICEF Staff Working Papers,” 26.

[23] Marieke Kleiboer, “Understanding Success and Failure of International Mediation,” Journal of Conflict Resolution Vol. 40, no. 2, June 1996 (1996): 367.

[24] Ibid.
[25] Ibid., 371.
[26] Ibid.
[27] Ibid.
[28] Ibid., 363.
[29] United Nations Department of Political Affairs, and United Nations Environment

Programme, Natural Resources and Conflict: A Guide for Mediation Practitioners. (New York: United Nations Department of Political Affairs and United Nations Environment Programme, 2015), 8.

Kleiboer, “Understanding Success and Failure of International Mediation,” 365. [30] Ibid.
[31] Ibid.
[32] Ibid.

[33] Barbara F. Walter, “The Critical Barrier to Civil War Settlement,” International Organization 51, no. 3 (1997): 336.

[34] Ibid., 336–337.

[35] Erdmann, Mindful Mediation: The Shapeless Art, 121–123.

[36] Jan Eliasson, “Peace-Making Under the United Nations Flag: Reflections on a Quarter Century of Mediation” (Lebanon: American University of Beirut, 2009), accessed August 13, 2022, Accessed August 13, 2022.

[37] Martti Ahtisaari, “The Role of Inter-Governmental, State and Non-Governmental Players in Conflict Resolution” (London: London School of Economics, 2007), Accessed July 27, 2022.

[38] Lederach, The Little Book of Conflict Transformation: Clear Articulation of the Guiding Principles by a Pioneer in the Field, 13.

[39] I. William Zartman, “The Timing of Peace Initiatives: Hurting Stalemates and Ripe Moments,” Global Review of Ethnopolitics 1, no. 1 (September 1, 2001): 9–10.

[40] Ibid., 10.

[41] Ibid., 11. [42] Ibid., 13.

[43] Ibid., 14.
[44] Ibid., 15.
[45] Kleiboer, “Understanding Success and Failure of International Mediation,” 369–370.

[46] Gender Aspects of Mediation Strategies for Increasing Women’s Role in Peacebuilding, 2014, Accessed August 31, 2022.

[47] R. Almas, “Promoting Conflict Management Competencies Within Informal Structures and Informal Networks” (Doctoral dissertation, Pepperdine University, 2018), 11.

[48] Daniel Del Gobbo, “The Feminist Negotiator’s Dilemma,” Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution 33, no. 1, May 25, 2018 (2018): 13.

[49] Andrea Kupfer Schneider, “Negotiating While Female,” Alternatives to the High Cost of Litigation 39, no. 2 (February 2021): 11.

[50] Ibid., 9.
[51] Gender Aspects of Mediation Strategies for Increasing Women’s Role in

[52] Harold Coleman Jr. and Neil Carmichael, “As a Person Thinketh: Preparing for

Mediation Substantively, Emotionally and Attitudinally,” Dispute Resolution Journal 73, no. 2 (October 2018): 1, mediation-substantively-emotionally-and-attitudinally-dispute. Accessed August 26, 2022.

[53] Erdmann, Mindful Mediation: The Shapeless Art, 117.
[54] L. Gold, “Influencing Unconscious Influences: The Healing Dimension of

Mediation,” Mediation Quarterly 11, no. 1 (1993): 58.
[55] Zartman, “The Timing of Peace Initiatives,” 12.
[56] Ibid., 17.
[57] Eliasson, “Peace-Making Under the United Nations Flag.”

[58] United Nations General Assembly, 2005 World Summit Outcome (New York, USA: UNGA, April 3, 2019), 2, balcompact/A_RES_60_1.pdf. Accessed August 27, 2022.

[59] Arnim Langer and Graham K. Brown, eds., Building Sustainable Peace: Timing and Sequencing of Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Peacebuilding, First Edition. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 11, http: // 1093/acprof:oso/9780198757276.001.0001. Accessed August 26, 2022.

[60] Jean Arnault, “Good Argument? Bad Argument? An Implementation Perspective,” Center of International Studies. Princeton University (2006): 13.

[61] United Nations General Assembly Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on Peacebuilding in the Immediate Aftermath of Conflict (New York, USA, June 11, 2009), 4, Accessed August 22, 2009.

[62] Kleiboer, “Understanding Success and Failure of International Mediation,” 383.

[63] Zartman, “The Timing of Peace Initiatives,” 8.

[64] Ibid., 9.

[65] Ahtisaari, “The Role of Inter-Governmental, State and Non-Governmental Players in Conflict Resolution.”

[66] Ibid.

[67] Ibid.

[68] United Nations Department of Political Affairs, United Nations Guidance for Effective Mediation, Annex to the report (New York: United Nations, June 25, 2012), 20, Accessed July 27, 2022.

[69] Barbara F. Walter, Conflict Relapse and the Sustainability of Post-Conflict Peace (Washington, DC: World Bank: World Bank, 2011), 3, Accessed August 29, 2022.

[70] Barbara F. Walter, “Https://Openknowledge.Worldbank.Org/Handle/10986/9069,” Journal of Peace Research. California, USA: Sage Publications (2004): 372–375, Accessed August 23, 2022.

[71] Walter, Conflict Relapse and the Sustainability of Post-Conflict Peace, 4. [72] Erdmann, Mindful Mediation: The Shapeless Art, 132.

[73] Ahtisaari, “The Role of Inter-Governmental, State and Non-Governmental Players in Conflict Resolution.”

[74] United Nations Department of Political Affairs, United Nations Guidance for Effective Mediation, 21.

[75] Sonya Budeva, “Mediation and Social Work,” vol. 2 (Veliko Tarnovo: Bulgaria: St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo, 2021), 41, Accessed August 27, 2022.

[76] Ibid., 44.

[77] Mark S. Umbreit, “A Transformative Journey of Peacemaking,” 1997, 2, f. Accessed August 27, 2022.

[78] Ibid., 3.

[79] R.A.B Bush and J.P. Folger, The Promise of Mediation: Responding to Conflict Through (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994), 18.

[80] United Nations Department of Political Affairs, United Nations Guidance for Effective Mediation, 16.

[81] Ahtisaari, “The Role of Inter-Governmental, State and Non-Governmental Players in Conflict Resolution.”

Jean Marie Vianney Sikubwabo

WMO Membership Level: Intern. Accredited court Mediator, university Lecturer, doctoral student (EUCLID university)

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