30 November 2015 - On the same day when world leaders meet in Paris to launch the Climate Change negotiations, Clingendael Academy welcomed a delegation of representatives from the ECOWAS Commission and the African Union for a one-week intensive mediation and negotiation training. Academy Director Mr. Ron Ton referred exactly to this climate-security nexus in his opening address, since the pressure of climate change on scarce resources could increase the potential areas of conflict in the region, making effective mediation capacity of ECOWAS of vital importance.
Building bridges and learning from each other
“This training is unique as it brings together Special Representatives, Members of the Council of the Wise as well as policy advisors of ECOWAS in one training programme” stated Mr. Ron Ton. Two representatives from the African Union (AU) also attend the training to reinforce synergies between ECOWAS and the AU. The goal of the training is to reinforce both individual mediation skills and the institutional mediation capacity of ECOWAS. Several participants have extensive mediation experience in for instance Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. However, even highly experienced mediators face constant pressing demands in their daily work, and rarely have time to reflect upon their skills and further sharpen them. Moreover, this joint training initiative aims to offer mutual learning opportunities and build bridges between different actors involved in mediation efforts.
The way ahead
The focus of the training programme lies on skills training to increase the personal effectiveness of participants during moments of crisis. Naturally, also the institutionalisation of mediation support and connected strategic discussions are a part of the programme, including a panel discussion later in the week with representatives from different international organisation to discuss best practices in setting up mediation support units/ teams.
There is tremendous support to reinforce the mediation capacity of ECOWAS, from for instance the AU and the EU. There is also a renewed impetus to strengthen the PanWise, the pan-African network of the Wise. However, several challenges lie ahead, including:
- positioning ECOWAS as a more strategic mediation act;
- the profile of the mediators available to ECOWAS (which profile and expertise is where and when needed?);
- sustainable cooperation between ECOWAS and the AU and the relationship between Special Envoys and the Council of the Wise;
- And, also with Paris and climate change in mind, how can ECOWAS move more from a logic of reaction to prevention? In this regard, the training also complements the training for the ECOWAS Early Warning Directorate that Clingendael organized earlier this year.
These, and many more issues will be discussed throughout this week.
The training facility
The training is organised under the framework of Clingendael Academy's Training Facility "Negotiation and Mediation as a Conflict Resolution Instrument", with funding from the Dutch MFA. This autumn Clingendael Academy trained amongst others the technical gender committee of Cyprus and a delegation of African women mediators under the same facility.