This section examines how mediators plan their own exit from the scene. Its objectives are to:
provide some ideas and hints about important considerations in planning the gradual withdrawal of the mediators.
Professional values and standards expect a good mediator to make her/himself dispensable and to be transparent in his/her withdrawal from the conflict management process. After the signing of the agreement (step 8), the following two steps remain to complete the conflict management cycle:
Step 9: monitoring and implementing the agreement;
Step 10: exploring strategies for the mediators' exit.
Milestone D has been achieved when the mediator (or mediation team) can leave the community. This is the case when the parties to the conflict have restored their relationships and are enabled and willing to continue implementing the agreement, possibly with increased capacity to manage future conflicts by themselves.
Implementing an agreement means that the conflict parties act to put that agreement into operation, thus ending the dispute. Most agreements require that the conflict parties continue to carry out specific actions and to behave in certain ways. The success of an agreement depends on the implementation plan and the process that puts this plan into operation. It also depends on the degree to which the parties feel a sense of ownership in the agreement, as well as on their capacity to fulfil its terms. In other words, success depends on the:
role and power of the authorities or external monitor (if applicable).
There are different ways of framing agreements. These are based on the preferences of the participants and often on the nature of what is being agreed or addressed. Sometimes people want to include an implementation plan in the detailed agreement that emerges from the conflict management negotiation process. In these cases, the negotiations finish when the agreement has been formally recognized. In other cases, people may want to plan implementation and monitoring later, during separate rounds of negotiations, or as an ongoing process of bargaining. In these cases, the agreement will commit the conflict parties to discussing and planning implementation and monitoring in the future.
Whatever the process used to obtain them, monitoring and implementation plans are first and foremost the responsibility of the negotiation parties, who must be willing and able to comply with them. Agreements must therefore always be based on the parties' realistic assessments of what they are willing and able to do. The negotiation parties may sometimes feel more confident if mediators or other trusted third parties take the role of neutral monitors who can help to sort out any problems that arise.
The specific role of a neutral monitor is decided by the conflict stakeholders. They need to decide whether or not to use a neutral monitor, and whether or not an existing mediator - or other third party - should assume this role. For the trusted third party, great care is also needed in assessing whether he/she has the ability to fulfil such a role, particularly where resources and time must be allocated.
Effective monitoring depends on parties clearly defining the performance standards by which compliance is to be measured. They need to decide which actions constitute breaking the agreement. In this process, monitors can take one of several roles, for example, they can be:
"enforcers", who have a more powerful role in overseeing implementation, and possibly participate in future negotiations over the grievances caused by non-compliance.
BOX 8.1 NINE CRITERIA FOR SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION OF AGREEMENTS
1. There is consensus about the criteria used to measure compliance.
2. The steps and resources required to implement the agreement (including provisions for obtaining any necessary local or outside resources) are clearly defined.
3. The stakeholders to be involved in the process have been identified, and they explicitly agree to engage in the implementation process.
4. If applicable, there is an organizational structure to implement the agreement.
5. There is explicit agreement on the part of outside parties, such as authorities and specialists, who may have roles in the implementation of the agreement. This is especially critical where resources need to be expended in order to fulfil the terms of the agreement; firm commitment of resources must be obtained before the agreement process ends.
6. There are provisions to accommodate future changes in the terms of the agreement and in the conflict parties themselves.
7. There are procedures to manage the unintended or unexpected problems that may arise during implementation (again, if solving these problems requires the involvement of authorities or specialists, some provisional agreement needs to be worked out with them).
8. There are methods to monitor compliance and establish the identity of monitor(s), and there is agreement on providing any resources that are needed to support monitoring.
9. The monitor's role is clearly defined.
Source: adapted from Moore, 2003.
If the negotiation parties ask the mediators to take over the monitoring functions, the mediators need to carry out the following tasks:
Clarifying and reconfirming the mediators' role in monitoring: This should already have been discussed when drafting and finalizing the agreement.
Accompanying the implementation process as a mediator according to the agreement: This may require the mediators to visit the site and/or be easily contacted in times of trouble. If a mediator is not easy to reach, it may be useful to find a local, trusted intermediary who can contact the mediator whenever necessary, and solve minor incidents him/herself.
Defining monitoring and enforcement mechanisms: Sanctioning mechanisms, communication channels and options for dealing with stakeholders that do not follow the agreement all need to be established.
Facilitating the revisiting of events to reflect on progress achieved: This can help to restore relationships, deepen trust and provide opportunities for planning joint activities for the future.
Evaluating the various costs of fulfilling the role: This includes obtaining in advance local and/or external sources' commitment to have financial and other resources available in a timely manner.
There are various commitment procedures that may help increase the probability of conflict parties complying with the agreement. These come in the following two forms:
formal procedures, e.g. written agreements (memoranda, contracts) or legal contracts that involve judicial authorities.
Public gestures may be particulary important in non-direct dealing cultures because they indicate the conflict parties' willingness to restore relationships. When restoring positive relationships is the main issue, detailed agreements may be counterproductive, because details may indicate a lack of trust.
In many cultures, settlements or agreements receive or require ritual and/or public recognition. Rituals provide a symbolic order and strengthen the importance of an agreement, thus increasing the parties' commitment to abide by it. A very wide range of actions may be taken, including visits from senior people, hand shaking ceremonies, prayers, embracing, formal signing procedures, toasts, celebration meals and gift giving.
Formal procedures, e.g. written agreements (memoranda, contracts), are equally important. Negotiated agreements do not automatically become contracts that are enforceable by law. Enforceability depends both on the laws and rules of legal jurisdiction in which a contract is produced and on the form that it takes. Although a verbal agreement might be considered a legal document (particularly when made in the presence of witnesses), a written agreement is more predictable. It can be revisited by any of the parties when necessary in the future.
Even the best monitoring and implementation mechanisms will not work if one or several of the conflict stakeholders do not want it to. This may indicate that:
stakeholders are not really satisfied with the outcomes;
people who would benefit from continuing the conflict are trying to spoil the process and spread rumours or stir up discontent about the outcomes reached;
new conflicting issues have come up, which are related to the conflict that is supposed to have been settled.
When an agreement breaks down, the interest groups (with support from mediators where appropriate) may consider restarting the conflict management process. The mediators may then convene shuttle consultation with the different conflict stakeholders, or else hold a joint meeting. This may mean re-engaging stakeholders, and starting new negotiations on some issues. Whether or not mediators are involved again depends on the conflict stakeholders' willingness to renegotiate and consider addressing the conflict collaboratively.
BOX 8.2 CHECKLIST FOR MONITORING ARRANGEMENTS
Roles and responsibilities of the various parties:
Processes of communication:
Transparency and flexibility:
After an agreement has been signed, conflicts may be settled, but are not yet resolved. There may be drawbacks when conflict parties do not comply with the agreement, or relations are not restored well enough for people to collaborate. In non-direct dealing cultures, detailed negotiations may continue for long periods of time.
While a mediator cannot solve all the problems in a community at once, he/she should ensure that the different conflict stakeholders are at least willing to comply with the agreement and collaborate with each other, i.e. there is no danger of violence breaking out. This is the minimum requirement before a mediator can slowly withdraw from the scene. Mediators must always ultimately hand over control and ownership to the community, and should know when it is time to leave.
Mediators need to develop ways of handing over the responsibility for monitoring the agreement to the stakeholders or a trusted local monitor. Mediators may also explore strategies for building communities' capacities to solve future conflicts.
These steps are not part of the core of ACM, but may be important complementary elements in broader collaborative natural resource management approaches. How mediators withdraw from the scene depends very much on the earlier conflict management process. The following are options for exit:
Option 1: If the negotiation parties are very confident that they can implement and monitor the agreement by themselves, the role and function of the mediators may end when the agreement is signed. If this is so, it must be clearly communicated to all stakeholders.
Option 2: The conflict stakeholders may want the mediators to monitor the agreement until they themselves are confident about sustaining collaborative relationships without outside support.
Option 3: The conflict management process may have encouraged stakeholders to work collaboratively towards development. Mediators may help stakeholders to link up with organizations that provide assistance in these fields.
In any of the three options, the mediators need to develop a strategy, both among themselves and with the stakeholders, about possible ways forward. They should consider:
building the stakeholders' capacity to manage smaller conflicts themselves, and strengthening local capacities for monitoring, mediation, etc.;
helping collaboration to become part of the normal way of doing things, e.g. by discussing and assessing the capacity building requirements for local peace committees;
assisting stakeholders who want to start collaborative projects for development by facilitating communication and links with appropriate organizations that may assist in the collaborative planning and implementation of projects and natural resource management;
defining ways of recognizing (benchmarks) the mediators' exit point - internally (if mediated in a team) and with the stakeholders - and the outcomes that should be achieved before the mediators leave. These benchmarks should be simple and realistic so that exit is a likely option. Otherwise, mediators bind themselves to the community and may create dependency.
At this point, the mediators' commitment to and involvement in the conflict is over. If they have struck a lasting agreement that helps the conflict parties to restore relations and provides them with a collaborative vision for the future, the mediators have been remarkably successful.
BOX 8.3 A MIXTURE OF THOUGHT AND EMOTION
As the agreement reaches conclusion, participants may experience a range of feelings - satisfaction with the work that they have accomplished, or exhaustion, frustration, uncertainty and anger from the original dispute. Mediators need to be realistic. Although their aim is to improve relations among stakeholders and ensure commitment to collaborative agreements, negotiations can leave behind a range of uncomfortable feelings. A number of actions may be needed to mend relationships.
ACM is a shared learning process. When negotiations have been effective, stakeholders may show appreciation for the conflict management process. Many groups or individuals will be satisfied with the management of differences that have been disrupting their lives and achievement of goals. They may have gained new insights on their means of influencing decisions, learned new ways of managing differences and developed a better understanding and greater respect for each other's interests in the future.
Section 8 has closed the process map and briefly examined the mediators' role in monitoring an agreement, as well as how they may prepare to withdraw. At this point, mediators' involvement in conflict management is usually over, and the conflict management process may have opened up new paths for collaboration and development.
Mediators may take over functions in monitoring agreements if the conflict stakeholders ask them to. However, such functions need to be clearly defined, and ownership for implementing the agreement must be with the stakeholders. Mediators assist with measures that help to restore relationships.
Mediators need to develop a strategy for withdrawing gradually from the scene. They may hand over responsibilities for monitoring to trusted local intermediaries. Depending on the progress in stakeholder relations, they may assist stakeholders to open up new paths for collaboration.