The Oslo Forum process strives to critically examine the current practice of conflict mediation. The themes raised at each event are intended to provoke discussions, suggest interesting questions and propose new or unconventional approaches. 

Background papers and interviews are prepared prior to the retreats to set the tone for discussions and to sensitise participants to current debates and innovative ideas.

Background papers and interviews do not represent the positions of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD).

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Africa Mediators' Retreat 2013 - Briefing Paper - Lessons from African Peacemaking
Much has been made of the mantra of ‘African solutions to African problems’. This paper undertakes three brief case studies of crises in Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and Mali, to understand the extent to which: regional and sub-regional organisations in Africa have managed to mount a united front in response to these crises; Africans have been at the forefront of mediation efforts and how effective these efforts have been; and, finally, how Africa has deployed peace support operations to protect civilians.
Among other conclusions, the paper ends by identifying an increasing need for greater integration and coordination between African and international mediation and peacemaking efforts. This is particularly true for the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (AU PSC) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) who are the main actors in African conflict prevention and management. In addition, the case studies indicate that, despite manifest progress in the area of mediation where several interventions have paved the way for political settlements, Africa still has limited capacity to lead peacekeeping operations. The paper argues for the further strengthening of the comparative advantage which the AU has built over the last decade in managing peacekeeping operations.
Dr Jakkie Cilliers and Dr Paul-Simon Handy,
15 Jan 2014
Africa Mediators' Retreat 2013 - Briefing Paper - Using Force to Promote Peace
In the last two years, there has been a surge of military interventions in Africa including the deployment of new peace operations. It is part of a growing trend in the militarisation of civilian protection and even a shift from peacekeeping towards peace enforcement. Some African states and the African Union (AU) have pushed for more muscular peace operations, for at least three reasons: to fight Islamist insurgencies and prevent terrorism; to neutralise their political enemies; and to address growing frustration that traditional United Nations (UN) peace operations, even under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, have proven incapable of resolving African crises. Another important undercurrent is the desire, especially within the AU, to take the lead in responding to African crises. The international community (particularly the West) reluctant to deploy troops in Africa, has supported and even financed this more robust approach, especially when it has helped address its own security concerns. In other cases, Western countries have intervened directly in some crises, with or without the backing of African states, when they considered their national security to be directly threatened.
Whatever the ultimate objective, this willingness to use force raises fundamental questions about its utility and how to appropriately balance it with the more important goals of mediating and building sustainable peace. Tensions between the use of force and mediation have long existed, but can the use or threat of force work as a tool to promote peace or does it always act as an impediment to it? Should we acknowledge that, in some cases, the threat or even use of force is needed to stabilise the situation and create space for dialogue, to encourage factions to respect the provisions of a peace deal, or to protect civilians? What are the dangers associated with using, or threatening to use, force? Is enough done at the political level to complement or shore up military interventions? Do such interventions lay the foundations for sustainable political solutions or are they no more than containment strategies? Tied to these questions is the challenge of resolving conflicts in such a way that external actors, particularly the UN and AU, do not become substitutes for the security services of weak governments, especially those with authoritarian tendencies.
This paper addresses these issues, drawing on several specific cases: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mali, Somalia and the Central African Republic (CAR).
Dr Comfort Ero,
15 Jan 2014
Oslo Forum Papers - Mediating criminal violence: Lessons from the gang truce in El Salvador

In 2012, facilitators answerable to the Government of El Salvador mediated a controversial truce between the country’s two main gangs. The truce brought about a dramatic reduction in the country’s soaring homicide rate, but also raised many questions about the risks and benefits of direct engagement with criminal actors. In Mediating criminal violence: Lessons from the gang truce in El Salvador, Teresa Whitfield takes an in-depth look at the gang truce and seeks to draw lessons from it for consideration in other contexts. She suggests that while the Salvadoran truce has been imperfectly managed and remains fragile, it is also a considerable achievement. Although the lessons that can be derived from it are limited by its specific characteristics, they merit consideration for several reasons. The Salvadoran truce, and the arrival in Mexico of a government determined to address the country’s spiralling violence, have placed new emphasis on alternative methods of pacification across the region. Elsewhere, national and international actors are also struggling to come up with responses to post-conflict and criminal violence outside of, and mixed in with, ideologically driven conflict. The author highlights similarities but also differences in the challenges that criminal violence - as opposed to ideologically driven armed conflict – presents to mediators. Despite the complexity and moral hazard involved, she suggests that, in some circumstances, engagement may usefully complement law enforcement to reduce violence and suffering substantially.

Teresa Whitfield,
3 Jul 2013
Oslo Forum Papers - Strengthening mediation to deal with criminal agendas
The 2011 Global Burden of Armed Violence report found that 55,000 fatalities that year were the result of armed conflict – while some 396,000 were the result of criminal agendas and interpersonal violence. Mediators have long experience of working with armed groups in the context of political and ideological disputes. But what are the implications of criminal agendas – efforts to control rents from illegal activities – for the practice of mediation? When are criminal agendas best ignored by mediators? When do criminal agendas risk spoiling peace processes? What can – and should – mediators do to prevent such spoiling?
This Oslo Forum Paper seeks to begin to answer these and related questions. It suggests that mediation may suffer from a ‘blind spot’ concerning criminal agendas, and that this may lead to unintentional spoiling of peace processes. The paper also suggests how mediation might be strengthened to address this blind spot.
Section 1 reviews several cases to show how a lack of attention to criminal agendas during peace processes can lead to different kinds of spoiling. Section 2 looks at cases addressing criminal agendas directly, through negotiation and dialogue. These include gang truces in El Salvador, violence interruption in the US, and community violence reduction in Haiti and Brazil. Some of these involved mediation between groups with criminal agendas, or negotiation between those groups and the state.
Drawing on experience from specific examples, Section 3 offers recommendations on four themes for ensuring that mediation fundamentals are respected, despite the presence of criminal agendas.
Section 4 offers some broader conclusions. It suggests a need for both realism about how much mediation can achieve on its own, and optimism about mediation as a catalyst of broader processes of socialisation likely to address criminal agendas over the longer term. It also suggests that these issues may be relevant well beyond peace processes, into contexts of political and economic transition, and national development. ‘Mediation’ of differences with armed groups with criminal agendas may be an increasingly common aspect of statecraft in a transnationalised economy. Further empirical and policy
research may be needed to develop common international approaches and coordinating structures. These should allow states to manage their relationships with such groups, without abandoning territorial integrity, electoral legitimacy and human rights.
The paper is by no means conclusive. But, based on the limited evidence currently assembled, it suggests that mediation may yet prove a useful tool for dealing with criminal agendas. Mediation is by no means the only tool available for dealing with criminal agendas. Key questions are: when it is a smart tool for dealing with criminal agendas, how that tool can best be used either alone or in combination, and
what steps may be needed to allow it to fulfil that potential.


James Cockayne,
16 Dec 2013
Oslo Forum Papers - Building Peace in 2013 Reflections and Experiences from the Oslo Forum Network

The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD Centre) is pleased to present its latest publication on preventing, managing and transitioning out of violent conflict, which was written by a group of former Oslo Forum participants. 

The publication, entitled Building Peace in 2013: Reflections and Experiences from the Oslo Forum Network, consists of a series of reflection pieces from experienced mediators and policy-makers on what they see as the most pressing peacemaking challenges facing the world in 2013. It aims to serve as a resource for practitioners, stimulating debate on key issues and dilemmas surrounding mediation, challenging a number of prevailing views, and presenting new perspectives on international mediation.

The publication draws on the expertise of several prominent peacemakers in the field including Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Espen Barth Eide; Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt; Head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process in the Philippines, Teresita Quintos Deles; and Executive Director of the HD Centre, David Harland. In their reflections, the authors make specific proposals on who should have access to peace negotiations, how peace talks could be connected to wider processes of change, and what type of hybrid arrangements might help peacemakers resolve longstanding conflicts. The authors also discuss the advantages of keeping channels of communication open to a wide spectrum of actors in any given conflict. 

This publication and the re-designed Oslo Forum website form part of a series of measures to build a community of conflict mediation practitioners and stimulate peer learning around the annual Oslo Forum retreats.

Espen Barth Eide, David Harland, Carl Bildt, Jonathan Cohen, Teresita Quintos Deles and Marj Ibanez, Nicholas Haysom and Sean Kane, Florence Iheme, Carne Ross, Barnett R. Rubin,
12 Feb 2013



2nd Oslo Forum Peacewriter Prize

The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) is launching the second edition of the Oslo Forum Peacewriter Prize, an essay competition seeking bold and innovative responses to today’s peacemaking challenges.