The AU and the Drive for Mediation Support

In the past 15 years mediation support structures have proliferated throughout the world. While mediation is effective in preventing and peacefully resolving conflicts there has been little focus on building the capacity to develop a unified approach to it. The AU must ensure that the African Union Mediation Support Unit, which was established in 2016, responds effectively to increasing demands for mediation. This report recommends ways in which the AU can make the best use of the unit. This paper examines key trends in mediation support in the light of current challenges and opportunities for the AU. After analysing some mediation support structures (MSSs) globally it outlines key takeaways that may elucidate the ongoing process of putting the AU’s mediation skills into practice. The research draws on an extensive desk review of the academic literature on mediation support, primary data from the AU and other MSSs and the insights of practitioners, scholars and AU staff based in Addis Ababa, interviewed in August 2019. The study argues in favour of seizing the opportunities offered by the growing political momentum to augment the AU’s mediation capacity to prevent and manage violent conflicts. Particular attention should be given to enhancing the political will of AU member states, shown by their commitment, coordination and cooperation, ultimately the key enablers of building support for mediation.