Oslo Forum 2019: Rebooting Mediation: Connecting Tracks, Processes and People

The seventeenth Oslo Forum brought together about 120 of the world’s leading peacemakers, decision-makers, conflict actors and academics, gathering people of 48 nationalities. This year’s overarching theme was Rebooting mediation: connecting tracks, processes and people. Participants explored how mediators can navigate a changing mediation landscape in which comprehensive agreements have become scarce. Given today’s fragmentation of conflict parties, participants were asked how mediators can better connect different peacemaking tracks to ensure coherence among them. They also reflected on how bottom-up initiatives can contribute to elite negotiations, and how peace processes can accommodate multiple armed groups. Throughout the event, participants reflected on the importance of the voices of women and young people becoming integral to high-level processes. Exploring cyber conflicts, participants noted the rapid growth in the number of countries developing offensive cyber capabilities. In order to prevent tensions in cyberspace from leading to kinetic confrontation, experts underlined the important role that discreet diplomacy and mediation can play. Participants concluded on the need for cyber-diplomats and mediators to work on strengthening norms to improve definitions of acceptable cyber conduct and unacceptable targets. In a session on climate change and mediation, experts reminded the audience that, while climate change affects conflict in many ways, the key cause of conflict is the poor management of climate change issues rather than climate change itself. During a session on Nigeria, participants reflected on the challenge posed by vigilante groups, which have emerged to fill the security void left by the government. Participants also urged governments in the Horn of Africa to consolidate the gains from recent improvements of relations between themselves, before delving into political or economic commitments with the Gulf states. Meanwhile, discussing the situation in Somalia, participants noted that many factors are preventing the emergence of stability in the country: from the interference of regional actors to the failure of self-governance of member states or the radical ideology and violent actions of Al-Shabaab.