Who Mediates in Developing Countries?
By John Paul Lederach
This Article Summary written by: Mariya Yevsyukova, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: Lederach, John Paul. "Who Mediates in Developing Countries?" Conflict Resolution Notes. Vol. 6, No. 4. April 1989. Pp. 82-83.
John Paul Lederach describes the Central American model of mediation, which is different from the one used in North America. The main difference is that the mediator is not a neutral, outside party but a party known and trusted by the opponents. Usually a person in conflict looks for a third party among people of his or her network. The third party should have connections with the opponent and can help in establishing communication and understanding between the adversaries. This third person does not establish trust through neutrality but is trusted by both sides because he or she is close to both of the parties. A "network" is an important notion in Central America. It is perceived that conflict is not some isolated phenomenon, but a process developing within a network. Thus to resolve the conflict or, to put it in a Central American way, to "untangle a net" means to restore the relationships among the people and reconnect the network.
Mediation between the Miskito Indians and the Nicaraguan Sandinista Government by the Moravian church serves as an example of such a process. The Moravian church consists of Indians and Creoles: although its relations with the Sandinista government were tense especially early in the revolution, it was able to reconcile itself with the government. Although the church's position was definitely closer to that of Miskito Indians', the government trusted the church to be a third party. Thus, the mediation was based on trust rather than neutrality. Lederach calls for American support of such indigenous attempts at conflict management in Central America, because they are based on local cultural norms and thus can be more effective.