Geopolitical Mediation & Peace Building

Contents:

  • The idea of Geopolitical Mediation.
  • Publications & Talks.
  • Blogs [Scroll down to find].

– ‘Cultural Heritage Diplomacy/Mediation as a geopolitical tool of environmental protection.’

– ‘Concerted diplomacy is necessary to bring peace to Sudan.’

– ‘If a proxy war requires a proxy solution, then a proxy solution may also avoid a proxy war.’

– ‘Is the potential for “convergence” in MENA a geopolitical “pivot” upon which war can be avoided in the South China seas?’

– ‘Structuring as a tool of mediating peace?’

The Idea of Geopolitical Mediation

My thesis is that ‘Geopolitical Mediation’ is a facilitated dialogue between ‘stakeholders’ [‘S‘] to:

(i)  discuss the existence of shared/common interests; and

(ii) negotiate the accommodation of competing interests, by jointly developing and implementing, a strategy of ‘convergence’, built upon the foundation of common ground.

In other words, GM is a process through which S can engineer a new ‘political order’ that is: (i) mutually beneficial; and (ii) more productive to each S, than the individual pursuit of their own competing interests. This is achieved by transforming geo-political ‘competitors’ into ‘partners’.

Geopolitical Mediation precedes and facilitates the Negotiation of Political Order, see the ‘Negotiation of Political Order’ page of this website.

Where an independent Mediator [‘M‘] is appointed by a non-state actor (‘NSA‘) e.g. UNESCO or a corporation/consortium of multinational companies, then facilitation of GM is a form of ‘Track 2 Diplomacy.’

The premise underlying the idea of ‘Geopolitical Mediation’ [‘GM‘] , is that where a geopolitical conflict is primarily the result of a ‘clash’ of divergent values, the solution, i.e. peace, hinges upon evolving/engineering a method of convergencebased upon shared/common interests.

For an example of potential convergence’, see the blog below, ‘Is the potential for “convergence” in MENA a geopolitical “pivot” upon which war can be avoided in the South China seas?’ On 16 May 2023 Carl Islam put this question to Professor Anoush Ehteshami (Professor of International Relations in the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University), following a talk he gave to the Centre for Geopolitics at Cambridge University about ‘The Geopolitics of China’s Belt & Road Initiative and Western Focus’.

To hear the full answer Professor Ehteshami gave, click on the link to his talk on the ‘Geopolitical Challenges’ page of the ‘Diplomatic Law Guide’ (under ‘Articles & Talks’) and then fast forward to the Q&A at 58:02 to 1.11 using the progress bar underneath the video or on your smart TV search You Tube for ‘Anoush Ehteshami’ + ‘China’s Belt & Road’.

Where the potential exists for each S to maximize their individual strategic gains by working together instead of against each other, then foreign policy may conflict with domestic politics. Therefore, the leadership and political elite in each S must make a choice about which comes first, i.e. about their ‘priorities’.

Articles & Talks

Please note that links to Foreign Affairs articles are only available to view on my PC and are not accessible to visitors to the webiste. They are assembled here for my future research and writing.

Michael Young discusses his role as facilitator in anti-apartheid negotiations – Harvard Law School | Harvard Law School

Middle Eastern and Eurasian Research Strand | Centre for Geopolitics (cam.ac.uk)

Talking to the Enemy: Track Two Diplomacy in the Middle East and South Asia (rand.org)

Track One and Track Two Diplomacy (un.org)

Track II Diplomacy: How Can It Be More Effective? (mecouncil.org)

Track II diplomacy – Wikipedia

A Primer on Multi-track Diplomacy: How Does it Work? | United States Institute of Peace (usip.org)

track two diplomacy – Bing video

Blogs

‘Cultural Heritage Diplomacy/Mediation as a geopolitical tool of environmental protection’

There is a relationship between the human environment, development and culture. The commentary to the preamble to the Draft International Covenant on Environment  and Development (5th edition, IUCN Switzerland 2015) states:

‘All civilisations spring from and are shaped by the quality of their surrounding natural elements [and that] the histories of different peoples are inseparable from the natural conditions in which they have lived for millennia. … Art, literature and science cannot be understood, or even imagined, without acknowledging the influence of nature and its components. Thus, cultural diversity, like biological diversity, emerges from the various ecosystems.’ Since the Declaration of the UN Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm, June 1972  (the ‘1972 Stockholm Declaration’) stated that ‘Man has a special responsibility to safeguard and wisely manage the heritage of wildlife and its habitat which are now gravely imperilled …’, and this ‘special responsibility’ includes a duty to restore and maintain the integrity of the environment, the existence of fiduciary duties in relation to cultural heritage is linked to wider: environmental; strategic; security; legal; and policy issues, i.e. international law applying to activities on the high seas and on the continental shelf. In my essay ‘Transforming Conflict Through Humanitarian Mediation & Cultural Heritage Diplomacy’ on the Geopolitical Challenges page of this website I argue that ‘Universally recognised fiduciary principles for the protection and preservation of Cultural Heritage [including the environment] exist under International Humanitarian Law [‘IHL’] … [and] that these fiduciary principles can cohere as an ethical foundation for … the development of an integrated strategic framework for the protection of Cultural Heritage [including the environment].’

I conclude that ‘universal ethical values’  which are the foundation of IHL can be applied through Mediation to reduce divergence by demonstrating compatibility. With some creative thinking, IHL can therefore be used to create a road-map for the negotiation of peace in order to protect and preserve the environment. In other words, Cultural Heritage Diplomacy/Mediation is a universal geopolitical tool of environmental protection.

Why is encouraging ‘convergence’ through ‘Cultural Heritage Diplomacy’ not a pillar of British Foreign Policy under the Conservative Government, or as a future foreign policy initiative, an election manifesto pledge of the Labour Party?

Concerted diplomacy is necessary to bring peace to Sudan

It appears that another opportunity for ‘convergence’ is the ongoing conflict in Sudan. Today in their article published in Foreign Affairs – ‘Sudan and the New Age of Conflict How Regional Power Politics are Fuelling Deadly Wars’, the authors, Comfort Ero and Richard Attwod argue: ‘There is, perhaps, a sliver of hope in the geopolitics of Sudan’s crisis. The mood in Arab capitals is more measured than it was a few years ago. Riyadh, in particular, has recalibrated, turning the page on its 2017 spat with Qatar and even seeking to re-establish diplomatic relations with Iran, including through a deal brokered by China in March. Moreover, the regional powers most involved in Sudan—Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt—belong to what has traditionally been the same bloc. The Saudis, whose development plans hinge on stability around the Red Sea, have especially strong motives to halt the fighting. Riyadh’s influence with both Burhan and Hemedti and its close ties to the UAE and Egypt probably give it the best shot of reining in the warring parties, particularly with U.S. support. … The array of actors with influence and competing interests makes coordination among Arab, African, and Western actors crucial. Critically, as efforts to stop the fighting continue, more concerted diplomacy, including from the United States, is necessary to avert a proxy free-for-all among outside powers that would stifle all hope of a settlement anytime soon. No one should underestimate how disastrous a slide toward a protracted, all-out conflict in Sudan would be—primarily for the Sudanese but also more broadly. At a time when other crises are stretching the world’s humanitarian system to the breaking point and many capitals are consumed by the conflict in Ukraine or its knock-on effects, the world can ill afford another catastrophic war.’
See also: https://lnkd.in/enUueT7f‘Despite the above reservations, China retains clear strategic advantages and wherewithal in Sudan. It possesses strong political capital to work cohesively with the African Union, which has been fundamentally more responsive to Beijing than Washington over the past decade. When fully employed, Beijing’s long-term engagement, and active on-the-ground presence in Sudan can make a significant difference to the country’s desperate search for stability and transitional justice. The ball is now in China’s court to deliver upon its oft-touted vision of peace-making diplomacy.’
‘Is the potential for “convergence” in MENA a geopolitical “pivot” upon which war can be avoided in the South China seas?

In my draft essay –  ‘Transforming Conflict Through Humanitarian Mediation & Cultural Heritage Diplomacy’ (see ‘Humanitarian Mediation’ page of this website) I wrote, ‘Where a conflict is primarily the result of a “clash” of divergent values, the solution, i.e. peace, hinges upon evolving a method of convergence.’ On Tuesday, Professor Jonathan Fulton, gave a talk to the Centre for Geopolitics at Cambridge University about the ‘Geopolitical Challenges of China’s Growing Influence in the Gulf.’ During the talk, I wondered whether an opportunity exists for ‘convergence’ between US and Chinese interests in MENA, as a diplomatic tool (along with the participation of regional partners), for engineering stability and peace in the region? In his article, ‘China is trying to create a wedge between the US and Gulf allies. Washington should take note.’ (See the link above), Professor Fulton observes that ‘recent events indicate that leaders in Beijing are no longer satisfied with the logic of strategic hedging and are pursuing a more muscular approach to the Gulf’. On 9 May, Tong Zhao wrote an article in ‘Foreign Affairs’ – ‘How China’s Echo Chamber Threatens Taiwan,’ warning that, ‘the main factor that will determine whether Washington and Beijing come to blows over Taiwan is not necessarily Xi’s strategy for unification but the idiosyncrasies of China’s political system. The dynamics among China’s political leadership, its policy elite, and the broader public have generated an internal feedback loop that is not entirely within Xi’s comprehension or control. This could result in China’s being fully mobilized for war even without Xi deciding to attack Taiwan.’ (See link above). For ‘homoeostasis’ to re-assert itself and supplant the internal ‘feedback loop’ about Taiwan in ‘domestic’ and international policy making, is it possible to diplomatically engineer ‘convergence’ in MENA to: (i) bring about a re-orientation of China’s strategy in the region (i.e. so that US preponderance in MENA is not threatened); and (ii) generate economic and cultural benefits for China (i.e. through increased trade and cultural exchange with Europe and MENA) that will outweigh/’trump’ domestic political imperatives about reunification with Taiwan in the psychology of China’s political elite, i.e. because China can either prosper through Belt & Road or risk war? That is a question I will put at the forthcoming talk about ‘The Geopolitics of China’s Belt & Road Initiative and Western Focus’ on 16 May by Anoush Ehteshami (Professor of International Relations in the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University): https://lnkd.in/e4bTe_Vz

The question I put at the talk was – ‘Is the potential for a strategic “convergence” of US and China’s competing interests in MENA – linked to Belt & Road, a geopolitical “pivot” upon which war can be avoided in the South China seas, i.e. because China can either prosper through Belt & Road or risk war in the South China Seas?’ For the answer listen to the answer to the second question in the Q&Q session in the recording – which I will post here when I receive it. In short, the US and China do have common strategic interests in MENA, which could be explored in a constructive dialogue e.g. about how to resurrect the JPOA and open the door to infrastructure investment in Iran, which is sitting on approximately 29.6 trillion cubic meters of proven gas reserves which accounts for 16% of the world’s total reserves. This places Iran behind Russia with the second largest gas reserves worldwide. Iran also has more mineral deposits than Russia, which could be mined and exported. Iran is also uniquely situated at the confluence of Europe, MENA, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Therefore, if my Theory about ‘Convergence’ is intellectually robust, a ‘convergence’ of US and Chineese interests in MENA could:

  • avoid war in the South China Seas/Taiwan, by enabling China’s economic expansion through BRI in MENA, i.e. if economic expansion can thereby overtake China’s domestic politics of reunification in the psychology of China’s leadership and political elite – as it did under Deng (which is why the West did not fear China’s rise);
  • restore US-Iran relations, by opening the door to business through e.g. US/European/Chineese/Iranian commercial joint-venture infrastructure projects;
  • bring peace, affluence, and stability througout the MENA region (and eventually throughout the continent of Africa?); and
  • thereby curb migration i.e. if economic migrants from MENA/Africa, seek jobs where the money is in MENA, instead of migrating to Europe.

Note added 31.05.2023:

To hear the full answer given by Anoush Ehteshami (Professor of International Relations in the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University) to my question – ‘Is the potential for a strategic “convergence” of US and China’s competing interests in MENA – linked to Belt & Road, a geopolitical “pivot” upon which war can be avoided in the South China seas, i.e. because China can either prosper through Belt & Road or risk war in the South China Seas?’ , click on the link to his talk on the ‘Geopolitical Challenges’ page under ‘Articles & Talks’ at the top. Then fast forward to the Q&A at 57:56 using the bar underneath the video.

See also:

The BRI and Its Rivals: The Building and Rebuilding of Eurasia in the 21st Century > National Defense University Press > News Article View (ndu.edu)

Middle East/North Africa (MENA) | United States Trade Representative (ustr.gov)

‘Structuring as a tool of mediating peace?’

‘A common thread links many of our contemporary anxieties about the future, from authoritarian backsliding in Russia to corruption in India, to failed states in the developing world, to entrenched interest groups in contemporary American politics. It concerns the difficulties of creating and maintaining effective political institutions, governments that are simultaneously, powerful, rule-bound, and accountable. This might seem like an obvious point that any fourth grader would acknowledge, and yet on further reflection it is a truth that many intelligent people fail to understand . … There is in fact a curious blindness to the importance of political institutions that has affected many people over the years, people who dream about a world in which we will somehow transcend politics.’ (‘The Origins Of Political Order’, by Francis Fukuyama volume 1 (2011), pages 10 and 11. If this analysis is correct, then it follows that an instrument/tool for creating political order out of anarchy is institution building. ‘Liberal democracy is more than majority voting in elections: it is a complex set of institutions that restrain and regularise the exercise of power through law and a system of checks and balances. In many countries, official acceptance of democratic legitimacy was accompanied by the systematic removal of checks on executive power and the erosion of the rule of law. … There had been a broad assumption in the years following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that virtually all countries were transitioning to democracy and that failures of democratic practice will be overcome with the simple passage of time. Carothers pointed out that this “transition paradigm” was an unwarranted assumption and that many authoritarian elites had no interest in implementing democratic institutions that would dilute their power.’ (Fukuyama, page 4). If a proxy war requires a proxy solution, then a challenge for mediators in a contemporary ‘Westphalian’ process, is to facilitate the design/structuring/engineering of a new ‘political order’, that results in a sustainable peace, which is secured/guaranteed by the ‘key stakeholders’ with the participation and consent of their ‘proxies’. In other words, in their ‘toolkit’ mediators need the ability to facilitate ‘structural’ thinking about institution building – which like any form of structuring, requires ‘imagination’. Democratic institutions cannot be parachuted onto a tribal society. While countries are not trapped by their pasts, in many cases things happened hundreds or even thousands of years ago which continue to exert a major influence on the nature of local politics. Therefore, in seeking to understand the functioning of contemporary institutions, a mediator needs to look at their origins and to understand the often accidental/contingent forces that brought them into being. See also – https://digitalcommons.lasalle.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1146&context=the_histories