Related Training

The Mediation Support Project (MSP) offers tailor-made trainings for NGOs, states, international organisations, and negotiating parties. MSP adapts the content, methodology, and trainers to the specific needs and requirements of the trainees. The participants enjoy individual and web-based support before and after the course, including reading material and resources on the topics included in the course.

Trainings for negotiating parties

Training for negotiating parties is often referred to as capacity building. The concept of capacity building is not uncontroversial, though, in particular, when only some parties in a process are included in this kind of activity. The danger is that one then becomes perceived as biased. The concept mainly rests upon three premises, each of which may be justified in a certain context, yet challenged in another:

  1. The aim of mediation is not just to get a pro-forma agreement in a pro-forma process. Mediators should rather look for lasting solutions that rest on the principle of voluntary participation and agreement.
  2. Today’s conflicts are more and more characterized by asymmetry between the conflicting parties, whereby one party dominates the other in terms of negotiation skills, tactical experience, topical and juridical knowledge, or simply in terms of material resources. Such situations typically appear when governments are confronted with armed rebellion they cannot control. Armed non-state actors are often less skilled in negotiations and experienced than trained diplomats and government officials.
  3. Such asymmetry hampers both voluntary participation in negotiations and the process of reaching an agreement. Armed groups might reject talks for fear of being manipulated at the table; uncertainty about what they can expect from negotiations; ambiguous or unarticulated requests; distrust towards foreign governments and the international community. The consequence is often unyieldingness or even refusal to talk, they simply say “no” to all suggestions.

As a consequence, weaker parties might feel the (sometimes unspoken) need for some kind of preparation to the talks.

Parties might want to discuss a comprehensive political agenda, become accustomed to the mediation process, or enlarge the number of possible delegates at the talks. Sometimes the topic that is to be negotiated is so technical, the basic knowledge to understand it is simply missing.

Ideally, this kind of preparation needs to be done with all parties, in order to avoid the perception that one party is favoured over the other. The advantage of joint capacity building workshops, is that it may also act as a confidence building measure – both parties meet, but do not speak explicitly about the conflict they are involved in. This inclusive approach was taken in the MSP engagement in Central African Republic.

Yet, in an early phase of the process, when parties are not yet ready to meet, parties may be approached individually, as was the case in the MSP engagement for the Darfur peace process that was part of a longer series of workshops offered by the Swiss FDFA to all Darfur movements.