Worldwide: Commercial Mediators Could Hold The Key To International Peace

Last Updated: 5 February 2019
Article by Susanne Schuler

Current conflicts around the world, such as those in Syria, Crimea and Yemen, have huge challenges in finding a resolution, with the international ramifications of multiple states exerting influence and pressing their interests. In the world of peacemaking, the reality is that the flexibility of global business, which frequently has a local presence and connections, means that it can often move quicker and more effectively to set the stage for early negotiations and even facilitate initial dialogue. Contrast this with the difficulties faced by foreign governments or regional authorities who often have to take more formal channels and build formal consensus before starting discussions. There is therefore a real requirement - in order to improve peace around the world – that there be more people in the business community able and willing to step into early and strategic negotiations in those locations where conflict may be developing. 

A conflict without a commercial mediator

In the book 'How To Master Negotiation' by CEDR (Bloomsbury Professional, 2015), in the chapter on teamwork Andy Rogers discusses the Northern Ireland Peace Accord. He notes that Khoi Tu, in his 2012 work 'Superteams', discusses a famous photograph of Tony Blair, Bertie Ahern, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness shortly before the final piece agreement was signed. Ian Paisley has told a joke and everyone is laughing. This raises the question of how a negotiation with so many participants in such a fraught, adversarial situation managed to progress to the Good Friday agreement on 10 April 1998. 

Although not by design, the Northern Ireland process worked in three phases: 

  • Neutralising phase - initially the conveners set out to neutralise the fears and paranoia of the parties. If these fears could not be mitigated the momentum would not be maintained.
  • Humanising phase - building on the neutralising stage was the second phase to make the process more human. Participants stopped demonising the other side and started to see their opponents as people they might work with albeit with very different views.
  • Functioning phase - the third phase grew organically from there - talking about common goals and transitioning from enemies into a group working together with a purpose. 

One might reflect that this particular process was maybe easier to achieve than first thought. So why did it take so long? This was a dispute where politicians were expected to find a solution and it was eventually the successful intervention of neutral Americans who helped make the difference. Had people from the business community been able to take more of a role in starting informal discussions it might have been possible to circumvent some of the formal channels needed to begin talks. 

Turning commercial mediators into International Peacemakers

The need to find mediators from business was the catalyst to getting two bodies established in their own fields - CEDR (Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution) and The Oxford Process - to collaborate on creating a programme to introduce the principles and practicalities of peacemaking to those who work in commercial mediation.  There was also a specific goal to bring into the field of peacemaking, experienced mediators who are working in the commercial sector. 

Each organisation brought its own special attributes to the collaboration: 

  • CEDR, the London-based non-profit Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre, is known internationally for its Mediator Skills Training, having trained over 9,000 individuals in over 70 countries. Its Commercial Services operation oversees the mediation of hundreds of high-value disputes every year.
  • The Oxford Process facilitates a unique type of discreet high-level dialogue between the parties to some of the world's most intractable conflicts. It uses the tools of geo-political insight, analysis, cultural savvy and human psychology to understand and manage the human relationships that underpin conflict. 

Both organisations felt that the knowledge and skills each side could bring to this approach to peacemaking would be hugely useful. November 2018 saw the first advanced programme for commercial mediators in International Mediation and Peacemaking, run by CEDR in conjunction with The Oxford Process. 

The programme they created focuses on how to analyse complex conflicts, methods of constructing and facilitating dialogue, mediating and negotiating in a peacemaking context and how individuals can contribute to current and future international peacemaking negotiations. 

Learning to use the same skills in a different context

What became  apparent during the running of the first five-day programme was the similarity between commercial mediation and the techniques used in peacemaking. In both types of negotiations, a facilitator must work adeptly with a flexible process to help build understanding between sides over their different world views and goals. A mediator will also work interchangeably both formally and informally - as necessary – in order to help the participants as respectfully as possible, whilst hopefully humanising each side to some extent. This synergy helped clarify for the commercial mediators that peacemaking is about learning the important subtleties of how to use their existing skills within a new context. 

The group heard from a number of relevant speakers who led sessions, which included: 

  • A conflict resolved through a Commercial Mediator involved – South Africa: Spending time with Michael Young, a businessman who secretly organised the meetings between the South African government and the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) that led to the release of Nelson Mandela and contributed to the end of apartheid. Michael was accompanied by movie producer David Aukin who captured Michael's story in the 2009 film 'Endgame' which dramatised the chronicle of events that led to the momentous change. These speakers gave real-life guidance of how business can, when it sees the need, move into peacemaking mode by working in small ways to increase dialogue and successfully hold informal meetings between warring interest groups.
  • Working under pressure in places such as Libya, Iraq and Syria: Former international hostage negotiator, Phil Williams, took the delegates through the scenario of negotiating with terrorist groups and how to make progress in impossible circumstances. A key for the hostage negotiator is to recognise that you do not need to agree with an individual to understand them. Once you have a comprehension of their wants and needs then that person feel 'heard' and you can start looking at what the building blocks on an agreement might consist of.
  • The importance of identity perception: The Swiss Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Alexandre Fasel, led a fascinating discussion on how perceived national characteristics have an influence on the preference for different nationalities in International Peacemaking. The lesson here was to understand how our own nationality and background will be colouring the opinions of others in a negotiation before we have even set foot in the room let alone before we have opened our mouths. 

Next steps

The programme was led by a combination of commercial mediators and international facilitators from both CEDR and the Oxford Process: Dr Andrzej Grossman, Susanne Schuler, Nita Yawanarajah, and Gabrielle Rifkind. Both CEDR and The Oxford Process look forward to repeating the programme again when it is scheduled to run in July 2019.

Both organisations are also keen to hear from others with thoughts in this area or experience of this work to help contribute to the important task of creating new building blocks for peace.

To learn more about the International Peacemaking Training, click here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions