Thursday, September 24, 2009

Words from George Mitchell

George Mitchell is the current Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. Very recently, he briefed reporters about the trilateral meeting President Obama had with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. The transcript of Mr. Mitchell's briefing can be found here.

Mr. Mitchell made some interesting comments about conflict resolution--regardless of one's view of the situation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority--and I'd like your comments.

The tone was positive and determined. The President made clear his commitment to moving forward, and the leaders shared that commitment.
Q: What is the importance of having initial commitments to the success of resolving conflict? How do you achieve these initial commitments?

The President told them that we cannot restart talks from scratch. That said, neither side should hold out for the perfect formula. Painful compromise by all will be necessary. This was a message that the President conveyed to each of the leaders in private as well.

Q: What are the advantages of reminding parties where they have been? And the advantages or disadvantages of taking a firm position, such as talks cannot be restarted from scratch? How do you deliver the message that "painful compromise" may be necessary to resolve a dispute?

So yes, we haven’t gotten everything we wanted, we haven’t gotten it as fast as we want it. But in conflict resolution, if one adopts the standard that one must always get 100 percent of what one seeks at every stage of the process, otherwise you’re failure, well, then of course, there would never ever be a resolution of any conflict. Painful compromises are necessary for everybody. So we are determined to proceed. We will not be deterred by – I don’t want to say accusations, but criticisms, by descriptions of failure. We believe that we are doing the right thing. We believe we have made substantial progress and we intend to continue with full determination until there is comprehensive peace in the region.

Q: Often during negotiations, one of the parties will say "we're not making any progress, we're out of here." How do you keep parties at the table during times when seemingly no progress is being made? How do you educate parties to a negotiation that resolving conflict is process, often times not a quick one?

Conflict Resolution Day Approaches

October 15 is Conflict Resolution Day, sponsored by an organization that I belong to and respect, the Association for Conflict Resolution. As Conflict Resolution Day approaches, a number of local ACR Chapters begin publicizing the day as well as local governmental units and agencies.

Here's the first article that I've come across, it's from the Maryland Gazette, announcing that Maryland's Judiciary's Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office is sponsoring a Conflict Resolution Day Student Bookmark Art Contest.

Congratulations to the Maryland Judiciary's Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office in kicking off Conflict Resolution Day, and what a great way to start--by inviting children to think about resolving their conflicts peaceably.

We'll keep posting on Conflict Resolution Day activities as they become available.