Whether a Native American tribe fighting to protect your water in Standing Rock, North Dakota, or a coal mining community desperate to preserve your jobs in Morgantown, West Virginia, issues around environmental protection and economic security are intricately intertwined and high in intensity, sometimes even escalating into violent clashes.
To help restore constructive dialogue between marginalized communities and decision-makers on environmental issues, Communities in Transition (CIT) is seeking to operationalize the deployment Mediation Surge Teams (MST) in areas of violent conflict in the United States to address the threats posed by violent activists and/or repressive state tactics.
- Objective 1: To provide multi-stakeholder conflict resolution dialogue processes that resolve environmental conflicts; and
- Objective 2: To establish conflict resolution mechanisms that promote cooperation and prevent future violence.
In addition to bridging local divides, this project seeks to link multi-stakeholder community dialogues to the policy-making process at the Congressional-level.
MEDIATION SURGE TEAMS’ (MST) MANDATE
During rapid deployment periods lasting between 3-4 months and triggered by incidents of violence (by state and/or non-state actors) around environmental issues, MST composed of 4 senior mediators each will be sent to the conflict area with the following mandate:
- Assess: in collaboration with affected stakeholders, MST will conduct rapid conflict assessments and stakeholder mapping to identify game-changing interventions that will leverage the networks of relationships of local peacemakers to help lower tensions and protect civilians;
- Train: informed by our assessments, MST will train local peacemakers on conflict analysis, complex conflict dialogue facilitation and other conflict transformation approaches as required by the context;
- Coach: MST will provide short-term technical support to local peacemakers as they seek to engage conflict parties, design peacemaking activities, facilitate problem-solving dialogues, document and follow-up on post-agreement activities as they move parties towards collaborative action;
- Integrate (exit strategy): MST will integrate conflict resolution mechanisms horizontally within the appropriate local peace infrastructure and vertically within national networks of effective action who are addressing the conflict issues on Capitol Hill to ensure the sustainability of all peacemaking activities.
CIT will conduct the following activities to build, train and deploy Mediation Surge Teams (MST):
- Create a referral process: CIT HQ will develop guidelines for selecting the types of conflicts MST are apt to mitigate and develop partnerships with local mediation centers in 4 pilot areas prone to violence;
- Build MST’ mediation surge capacity: CIT HQ will train a cohort of mediators and reinforce their conflict resolution capacity in complex multi-stakeholder facilitation as well as provide additional training in risk management and crisis negotiation in preparation for their deployment;
- Deploy and support the MST’ conflict resolution activities: CIT HQ will conduct pre-deployment briefings on the conflict dynamics in the target area, connect with local counterparts and create a preliminary engagement strategy with team members and partners. CIT HQ will provide leadership and strategic guidance during all phases of the MST mission while in the field;
- Identify lessons learned and best practices for crisis mediation work: CIT HQ will provide ongoing support and post-mission briefs to identify lessons learned and make recommendations for future deployments.
- Year 1: CIT will build the capacity of our surge teams by training community mediators to facilitate increasingly complex conflicts. Mediators primarily based in D.C. will initiate community dialogues in high-crime areas around issues that have policy implications. CIT will provide coaching and support to them as they test and fine tune our methodology in the U.S. At the same time, CIT will consolidate its partnerships with US-based mediation networks such as the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD) and the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM) and begin to nurture relationships with local mediation centers in areas of the U.S. where CIT’s own network does not reach. This partnership building process is already underway. CIT will develop deployment criteria and, in collaboration with our local partners, begin to elaborate a referral process.
- Year 2-3: CIT’ MST will deploy in 2 areas of conflict per year. CIT will generate lessons learned after each deployment
Overseas, CIT worked with the Salaam Institute, Mercy Corps and the U.S. Institute of Peace just to name a few of our partners. We are currently part of a consortium who’s applying for a $24Million grant to deploy our MST in LRA-controlled areas over the course of 5-year. We’ve mediated between various ethnic and religious groups with a variety of social structures and cultural backgrounds, such as Muslims and Christians and herders and farmers and people from different economic backgrounds such as peacekeeping forces and displaced communities and diverse economic actors. Our mediation framework has proven extremely adaptable to each one of these communities.
One such example of success occurred after a violent confrontation between Congolese peacekeepers and local anti-Balaka rebel forces in the Central African Republic (CAR) which led to the death of an anti-Balaka leader. In response, anti-Balaka elements and their supporters went on the rampage attacking the homes and businesses of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The refugees from the DRC had simply been mistaken by the anti-Balaka to be nationals of the neighboring Republic of Congo, whose contingent they were fighting against.
To escape the violence, about 100 of the victims (including, 19 women, and 49 children) fled and took refuge inside a nearby Catholic Church. At the request of regional authorities operating in the area, a team of mediators was deployed to the area, to initiate and support a dialogue process. At the time of the intervention, many of the victims were still traumatized by the violence and wanted an escape route back to the home country. However, the team was able to work with all relevant stakeholders including UN peacekeepers and an understanding was reached, leading to the gradual and safe return of the Congolese refugees back to their homes in CAR, as well as formal apology by anti-Balaka leaders to the Congolese community for their actions.
Modeled after the Department of Justice Community Relations Service (CRS) first responder strike force for civil disorders, this project addresses the need to lower tensions around environmental conflict; provides opportunities for cooperation by helping parties in conflict find common ground; and transforms conflict dynamics by empowering marginalized communities to affect the policy-making process.