Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Shifting the focus from how to mediate in conflicts to what peace mediators do in practice, this anthology deserves its name as a 'rethinking' of the field. This is primarily done through qualitative studies of policies and cases, and several of the authors also draw on personal experience. In their introduction, the editors convincingly outline how contemporary mediation is characterised by increasing professionalisation and a diversification and multiplication of actors. As they argue, this relates to a broadening of the goals and scope of mediation: from ending war to the initiation of a just and sustainable peace, and 'from the model of a single high-level mediator towards the institutionalisation of multi-track mediation in which mediation occurs simultaneously across different levels of society and includes a broad range of actors' (p. 3). The 16 chapters reflect how this development also involves what the editors call 'a normative turn' where the values and legal norms of the mediators play a more important role – in particular norms of inclusion of women and civil society. The book is divided into three parts: (1) normative influences on mediation, (2) inclusion in theory and practice, and (3) strategies of engagement. It ends with a thoughtful summary and discussion by Anne Holper and Lars Kirchhoff on positive and negative sides of professionalisation. More could have been said about partisan political roles and motives of mediators as well as of how their practices result from the conflicts in which they operate. Indeed, more studies of mediation should start from the perspective of the conflict parties themselves. With its focus on actual practices, this book lays the foundations of such a further shift.