Intermediary Roles

Intermediaries can play many roles. Some are familiar: mediator, arbitrator, facilitator. Others are less familiar: national therapist, and confidant, for example. The following segments describe differences between various intervention roles, characteristics of intervenors, suggestions for intervenors from people with a great deal of experience, and lastly, a couple of important observations about possible ill-effects intervenors can have.

Intervention Roles

Helen Chauncey describes the different kinds of people and organizations that work in conflict areas.
Louis Kriesberg talks about the cross-cutting roles he has played in conflicts over the years. His academic role helped give him access and credibility, and his intervention activities enriched his research.
Mari Fitzduff describes which she calls as a "knowledge intervention," when people are encouraged to look at other cases to learn about their own situation and possible ways to address it.
Mari Fitzduff believes the military can learn new roles, if trainers understand their culture.
Wallace Warfield discusses the role of the mediator and says sometimes the mediator's role is simply to help people find ways of being good to each other.
S.Y. Bowland tells a story of confusion about what mediators do and what they do not do.
Louise Diamond comes from a spiritual background and brings this to bear on her work, which she sees as a kind of "national therapy."
Silke Hansen describes how she has to explain her role carefully when she is doing her conflict assessment.
Silke Hansen goes into all disputes aiming for mediation, she says.
Nancy Ferrell explains that some situations call for "technical assistance," while at other times, "table mediation" is necessary. The existing level of communication is one determining factor.
Community Relations Service Mediator Silke Hansen describes how it helps to level the playing field by helping community groups prepare for mediation.
Bob Hughes talks about a situation where he became a community organizer.
CRS mediator Ozell Sutton tells how he works with parties to prevent violence during marches and demonstrations.

Intervenor Characteristics

Dick Salem talks about the qualities that make a good mediator.
Peter Coleman says that intervenors in intractable conflicts have no magic bullets. Instead, they need a great deal of humility.
Jane Docherty says, "Nobody's perfect. Hard as we try, no one can run a perfect process."
Mari Fitzduff suggests that the peacemakers with the most credibility often come from the inside.
Peter Coleman says that neturality is a myth.
Wallace Warfield, Professor and civil rights mediator, observes most standard mediation courses teach practitioners to separate parties during difficult portions of a mediation in order to gain more trust with parties or to try to influence them in some way. Warfield finds himself opposed to the common wisdom in the field, as he believes that separating parties misses an important opportunity for change.

Suggestions for Intervenors

Dick Salem explains some basic rules for mediators and/or trainers working in cultures other than their own.
Suzanne Ghais, program manager at CDR Associates in Boulder, Colorado, recommends that mediators coach parties on how to discuss the past in a constructive way. This requires setting ground rules, one of which is to describe behavior rather than attributing motives.
Elise Boulding speaks about listening and learning for intervenors.
Peter Woodrow observes that personal interactions, more than technical expertise, is key to intervenor effectiveness.
Helen Chauncey observes much could be learned if different types of intervenors would learn from each other.
Wallace Warfield discusses how much personal information the mediator should share with the disputants.
Marcia Caton Campbell advises that mediators should not overlook disputants' own approaches to conflict resolution.
Wallace Warfield says, "If you don't understand what's going on, ask!"
Herb Kelman describes the Israeli-Palestinian problem solving workshop he has held over a 35-year period.
Civil rights mediator Silke Hansen describes how she builds trust with minority groups even though she is white.

Intervenor Effects

Mari Fitzduff tells an anecdote about how one bad experience can have a long effect.
Wallace Warfield tells a story that illustrates how sometimes police force, not mediation is more appropriate.
Barry Hart of Eastern Mennonite University discusses how practitioners involved in trauma healing can take care of themselves in the course of their work.
William Ury says the biggest obstacle to implementing the third side approach, is awakening it, getting everyone to realize that they have an important role to play and that they can and should make a difference in the world around them.