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Question: Can longstanding violence be helped by someone from outside? CPNN article: Confronting violence: experiences in a South African home for abused c
CPNN Administrator
Posted: Dec. 31 1999,17:00

This discussion question applies to the following articles:

Experiences in a South African home for abused children
Promoting Paradigms that Promote Peace
Search for Common Ground: Vision for 2018
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Matthew Krnich
Posted: Dec. 07 2012,22:57

The Art of Mediation

Comprehending a culture is absolutely pivotal for a third party to successfully mediate a peace between individuals, countries, and political entities. After all, everyone is unique and views the world differently, influenced by their language, beliefs, customs, environment, heritage, upbringing, family, and morality. While there are definitely similarities between cultures and some universal principles, it would be foolish to assume that societies are interchangeable, especially when attempting to overcome feuds. When conflicts arise, each party feels that their stance is legitimate, even if their point of view can seem absurd to outside observers. Therefore, in order for negotiate a peace between hostile bodies all parties must feel that their cultural ideals and beliefs will be respected.

Politics and cultural differences are one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome when attempting to reach a settlement between conflicting parties. Mediators need to carefully examine the reasons for each group’s actions and responses in order to discover a commonality. If a powerful enough shared belief can be discovered, such as establishing peace for an equal share of economic and political growth, violence might be subdued. Yet to accomplish such a difficult task, it is pivotal for mediators to have a strong comprehension of the diverse viewpoints. Some of the most common reasons for failures of negotiations are the fear of appearing weak, catering to factions, concerns about being manipulated, and having distinctive competing ideologies on how an organization/nation should be governed. (Crocker et al. 2004, 83-86) Negotiations become even further complicated when adding the personal agendas of the mediators, which are not always honorable. If either side believes that the mediators have secondary interests that are linked to their enemy, trust will not be established.
Ultimately, mediators will be unsuccessful in their attempts to broker peace if they are unable to find a common bond between the parties, cannot discover a means to switch the historical viewpoints of policy, lack of respect for the different cultures, and personal interest interfering with building trust. Only by finding a strong similar agenda that is in the best interest of the parties can the steps toward peace progress.

Crocker, Chester A., Fen Osler Hampson and Pamela Aall. Taming Intractable Conflicts: Mediation in the Hardest Cases. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2004.
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