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MEDIATION IN THE PROCESS OF EXITING POLITICAL VIOLENCE – CALL FOR PAPERS

Violence: An international journal is launching a call for papers on the theme “Mediation in the process of exiting political violence”. This theme section will be coordinated by Michel WIEVIORKA (EHESS) and Jérôme FERRET (Ut Capitole, MSHS T, CNRS).

For its general articles’ section, Violence: An international journal is also welcoming papers that deal with issues of violence and exiting violence. Each issue will be coordinated by its two editors-in-Chief: Scott STRAUS (UW-Madison) and Michel WIEVIORKA (EHESS).

Dossier: Mediation in the process of exiting political violence

Sooner or later, campaigns of political violence—whether civil war, terrorism, guerrilla warfare, or revolution—come to an end, more or less completely and permanently. This has happened recently with Colombia (following the negotiated agreement reached in Cuba between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas) and Spain (where ETA has abandoned armed struggle). Looking further back, there are also the Northern Ireland peace process in the 1990s and the “Matignon Agreements” in the case of New Caledonia.

In some instances, the exit from violence comes as the result of the military or the police victory of one side overcoming the other. In other cases—and these are the chief focus of this article—it is achieved only with the intervention of a third party. This can imply the diplomatic involvement of a third country, an NGO, or other organization—religious or humanitarian, for example—, or even individuals who have worked to achieve a compromise through a more or less publicly visible mediation.

Straightaway, we must emphasize the importance of this last concept, which we wish to distinguish from that of “negotiation”, which is higher-profile and more formalistic, particularly when seen in the context of international relations (political science and the political sociology of trans-national relations). Nevertheless, mediation and negotiation can easily be confused. These two processes can of course come together and complement each other, but it seems to us, in light of our extensive reading in political philosophy, ethics, criminal mediation, public policies, and so on, that these two terms are clearly distinguished by their natures.

Negotiation is undoubtedly a more prescriptive, strategic, formalistic process, built on objective concerns. It implies an institutionalized power relationship and aims, at very least, to impose an alternative outcome, by threat or by force if necessary (i.e., through diplomacy). Mediation is based rather on the more peripheral aim of allowing the actors in a conflict to begin a process of reflection—by inviting them to talk to each other, to put themselves in the psychological position of understanding the other’s viewpoint, to agree among themselves. In both configurations, the role of the third party is not the same, or, at least, so it seems to us.

Paradoxically, little is known about the complex mechanics of these mediation dynamics, which are generally secret and therefore outside the purview of scientific observers. So, the preparation of a compromise may involve the prior intervention of mediation with both sides, or between them. In concrete terms, then, what are the areas (intermediate, official, unofficial, friendship networks, family, emotional, and so on) where mediation processes emerge; where do networks and/or individual actors—whatever their status— come into play?

What are the timelines of these mediations? Long, or short? At what point in the process do the mediators intervene? Can we learn a little more about the social origins and identities of these experts in de-escalation?

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