Tag: <span>mediation</span>

Horace Alexander Portraits of World Citizens.

Horace Alexander: Unofficial Diplomacy and Mediation.

Featured Image: Photo by Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash.

At this time of increased tensions and armed conflits in different parts of the world; it is useful to recall the positive possibilities of unofficial diplomacy.  Unofficial diplomats recognize that the suspicions of government officials are a major hurdle to overcome; and that they must emphasize their impartiality and independence from governments.  Preparing the way for official policy changes; or for improved interstate relations is a slow-building evolutionary process.  Personal contacts across borders hold the potential for influencing the knowledge and attitudes of those involved; as well as the ability to gain information.

Horace Alexander.

Horace Alexander (1889 – 1989); the British Quaker and friend of Mahatma Gandhi is a good example of the unofficial diplomat and mediator.  Horace Alexander was born in an English Quaker family.  His father was a lawyer deeply involved in peace efforts; and in opposing the opium trade active between India and China.  Horace Alexander was a Cambridge University graduate; who went on to teach international relations at Woodbroke; an adult education center run by Quakers.  Alexander was very active in efforts to support the League of Nations.

Mahatma Gandhi.

In 1926 and 1927; there was increased agitation and repression in India; as the Indian National Congress became increasingly active.  Thus in 1928; Horace Alexander was sent to India by the British Quakers; to see if relations between the Vice Roy Lord Irwin and Mahatma Gandhi could be improved.  Alexander saw the spiritual dimension of Gandhi; but also his political impact and suggested to the British government that Gandhi be invited to the Roundtable on Indian politics; which was to be held in London in 1931.

Alexander developed close relations with Gandhi; and divided his time between India and England.  He was active in relief work during the famine in Bengal in 1943-1944; and was active with the Indian National Congress during the negotiations; which led to independence in 1947; but sensed the birth pangs of the creation of the two states of India and Paxistan and the terrible days of partition; when fighting between religious communities took a deadly toll in human life and spirit.

Mahatma Gandhi

Studio photograph of Mahatma Gandhi, London, 1931. By Elliott & Fry (see [1]), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

While he was with Gandhi in India; seeing the growing divide between Hindus and Muslims; he created the Fellowship of Friends of Truth. As he wrote:

“The basis and goal of the Fellowship of Truth will be a common striving toward fuller knowledge of the Truth that is God.  Members will commit themselves to learn with and from one another of the things that are eternal, through common acts of quiet worship and meditation and through other forms of communion with God and man.” 

Horace Alexander lived his later years in the United States and died at the age of 100.

Unofficial diplomacy rarely creats a breakthrough; as situations can be completely blocked; and even minimal proposals are unacceptable at the time.  However small steps can be useful if taken in the right direction. Unofficial Diplomacy; which is increasingly called Track II diplomacy; is growing in importance and merits support.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Jerusalem-Gaza Cease-fire. Appeals

Jerusalem-Gaza Cease-fire: Broad Negociations Are Now Needed.

Featured Picture: Al Jazeera English, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The efforts of mediation in the recent Jerusalem-Gaza conflict by the Egyptian President Abdel Fettah El-Sisi and Egyptian diplomats is a good example of action by one state when the United Nations Security Council is blocked by a veto by one of the Permanent Five – in this case the U.S.A. There were some suggestions that the « Uniting for Peace » mechanism, a shift of the issue from the Security Council to the U.N. General Assembly would be a possibility.

However bringing the General Assembly into action since it was not in session could take a good bit of time and could be slowed by long debates. Quick action was necessary as there were real dangers that violence could spread or create even greater divisions within Israeli and Palestinian society. Fortunately, the Egyptian authorities had lines of communication open to Hamas, to the Israeli government and to the Palestinian Authority.

Calls for a cease-fire had been made earlier by governments, by the Pope as well as by non-governmental organizations. A cease-fire is only a first step ; fundamental issues remain requiring renewed negotiations in good faith. However, without a cease-fire no negotiations were possible.

Mediation is only one possible form of intervention in a political conflict.

As Sue and Steve Williams with experience in peace efforts in the Middle East on behalf of U.S. And British Quakers have written 

« Mediation is only one possible form of intervention in a political conflict. Other choices including assisting a weaker party to become stronger in order to balance power (empowerment), training local people in conflict resolution skills, strengthening a peace constituency, and appealing for a judicial settlement to the dispute (international courts and arbitration). A continuing need is the importance of valuing and supporting all these ways of working rather than emphasising one to the exclusion of others. It may never be clear which approach, which activity, which structure gave the final push to bring about change. What is vital is to work together as well as possible, humbled by the efforts of others but also encouraged. »

There are mediators who represent significant power of their own. The efforts of Henry Kissinger in the Middle East or Richard Holbrook in the Yugoslav conflicts are examples. As Sydney Bailey has written 

« Weaponless mediation and mediation-with-muscle have distinct but complementary roles. If the Middle East is any guide, the main rôle of the weaponless mediator is to identify and clarify issues, remove misperceptions, convey information and ideas, and promote goodwill to negotiate. »

Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger: LBJ Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A mediator needs to listen to all without taking sides.

It is not clear what rôle the Egyptian diplomats will play after this first step of getting a cease-fire. Mediation can be a long process. A mediator needs to listen to all without taking sides. He must build relationships of trust with significant individuals on all sides and be able to move back and forth between these individuals without much publicity. As Everett Mendelsohn, a Harvard professor involved in non-governmental mediation efforts in the Middle East has said 

« In this kind of work, you have to be able or willing to live with a lot greater ambiguity than you like. Not only the intellectual or substantive ambiguity, but also the ambiguity of the interaction, of whether something is happening in the best way. »

It is in the interest of Egypt that there be a reduction of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. Secretariat members of the United Nations as well as U.S. President Biden also worked for the cease-fire, but Egypt is a « frontline state » and the tensions will remain at the top of the Egyptian government agenda. Moreover, Hamas is not a government making its presence in U.N.-led efforts more difficult. Hamas is even considered by the U.S. Government as a « terrorist organization » making public discussions by U.S. diplomats difficult.

Thus Egypt is the government best placed to continue playing a vital mediation rôle. We must hope that the cease-fire holds and that steps for broad negotiations can be undertaken.

President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden: Adam Schultz, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Note.

Sue and Steve Williams. Being in the Middle by Being at the Edge (York : William Sessions Ltd).

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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