Obstacles to Mediation

Wallace Warfield

Former CRS Mediator, New York and Washington, D.C. Offices; Associate Professor at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Q: What about obstacles? What are the most common obstacles to success with your work, this kind of work?

A: One such obstacle is constituent groups who don't support the people who are at the table. Implementation is the biggest obstacle with the kinds of work that we're doing now. How do you get people who are involved in problem solving workshops, earnestly struggling to reach agreements? This has been true throughout the Middle East. Oslo is a perfect example of that. Following through and implementation is the biggest obstacle, because there are variables that you can't control. It's hard to control the people who aren't at the table., and you can't get everybody at the table. What do you do when there's a situation like the case of West Africa? Where it was important in the case of Rwanda, Central Africa, where the United States is eventually going to be a player in the outcome, in terms of the implementation of whatever gets done? If they don't agree to come to the table, in some form or fashion, what do you do about that? I don't have an answer for that type of situation. In a global society, where there's so much interconnectedness between layers of parties in a conflict the obstacle is how do you get representation and willingness to be participants in a process, and in the outcome?

This is really quite the challenge that we face nowadays. Particularly for those of who are Africans pushing beyond agreements. I think that in the work that we are doing at ICAR is we have a responsibility for moving parties beyond just simply the agreement. If you do that, then it gets really complicated, in terms of how it gets implemented; who has responsibilities in the outcome; and getting people to own up to those things is really difficult. So that's a big obstacle I find.