Local mediation is a flexible and low cost alternative to legal proceedings. It allows people to resolve their disputes in a safe environment with the help of neutral, trained mediators. It helps to bridge gaps in communication between individuals, groups or communities and allows them to find mutually acceptable agreements that will lead to improved relationships in the future.
The original motivation behind the community mediation movement was a desire to create not just parallel but truly alternative approaches to the traditional government-controlled and court-focused justice system. This approach was often motivated by a concern for community-building and empowerment.
Whether working in informal peace efforts or as part of a track-1 process, local mediators – sometimes referred to as ‘insider mediators’ – are able to open up political space, overcome sticking points and foster greater inclusivity in formal negotiations. They can also secure ad hoc and short-term pauses in fighting or alleviate human suffering even in the absence of a formal peace agreement.
It is vital that UN missions assess the appropriate role for local mediation initiatives, balancing their need for rapid impact with their ability to contribute to longer-term sustainable conflict resolution. This means determining if and how to link them to broader peace processes; navigating timelines that frequently do not line up; and considering the impact of each level on the other every step of the way. This requires missions to ensure that local mediation processes are relevant to the needs of broader peace operations, and that they are able to build trust and legitimacy through genuine partnership.