In June 2018, Laurie Nathan, Professor of the Practice of Mediation and Director of the Kroc Institute’s new mediation program, was the lead designer and trainer at the United Nations High Level Mediation Course, a program run annually in Montreux, Switzerland. The course is hosted by the UN in partnership with the Swiss government and participants are senior officials from the UN, regional organizations, and member states involved in mediation.
The course aims to deepen participants’ knowledge and skills relating to mediation in high intensity conflicts like those in South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
Nathan observes that mediation in these conflicts is extremely complex. “It’s a deadly game of chess played rapidly and ferociously in multiple dimensions, with no agreement on the rules of the game and the boundaries of the board,” he said.
“In situations like these, the mediator struggles to get the attention of the warring parties, led alone secure their consent to dialogue and negotiations,” he said.
The UN Course covers a range of skills related to mediation: conflict analysis for the purpose of peacemaking; developing strategies to prevent and resolve conflict; getting the conflict parties to the negotiating table; facilitating dialogue and negotiations; overcoming deadlocks and finding common ground; and supporting the implementation of peace agreements.
These skills are taught through role-plays and an extended simulation exercise. The exercise is supplemented by input from experienced mediators who reflect on their experiences in Syria, Uganda, South Sudan, Guinea, Mozambique, Madagascar, Colombia and other conflicts.