Some Reflections on the Role of Power in Track II Mediation




Hoffman, Evan A.

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Ottawa Dialogue


Power is a central feature of both Track I (formal) and Track II (informal) mediation. Power intersects the mediation process at every stage and is deeply embedded in the process, its design and structure, as well as who facilitates it. This paper addresses the question of how to manage these and other power dynamics and what can be done to alter them. Four key insights are presented based on the author’s personal experience undertaking peacemaking and mediation in Canada and overseas over the last twenty years. The four insights are that: (1) Convening power is shaped by the type of process and who is running it; (2) The mediator has procedural power but exercising it might create a reputational cost; (3) Power imbalances are likely to occur and the mediator needs to make a conscious effort to address them; (4) Power, which is often deeply embedded in the social institutions where the conflict is occurring, can be used for either constructive (peaceful) or destructive (violent) purposes and that decision is influenced by leaders from different sectors (political, military, etc.). Based on these four key insights, several recommendations for mediation and peacemaking actors to address power dynamics are developed.



Mediation, Track II, Diplomacy, Power