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Decolonizing Mediation: Exploring Questions of Knowledge and Power Shaping African Mediation

Thursday, 8th February 2019

"When debating questions about the failures and successes of African mediation, an incisive analysis of power and knowledge hierarchies is usually absent. Furthermore, there is no direct discussion of whether mediation needs to be decolonized. African mediation would benefit from interrogating whose knowledge and power influences mediation processes and how this shapes mediation. Providing answers to questions about how decolonizing mediation can help solve emerging conflicts, address existing gaps in the literature, and promote a better understanding of African mediation. While this essay cannot close these gaps, it aims at pointing them out, arguing that decoloniality approaches can help transform African mediation.

Central to decoloniality approaches is the concept of “coloniality,” which refers to the unequal relations of power and knowledge between the Global North and the Global South which persist even after the end of colonialism.1 These hierarchies of knowledge and power can be identified in various aspects of African mediation. While most African societies historically relied on mediation to resolve conflicts, there is a lack of confidence in African approaches to conflict resolution which is rooted in colonial thinking. This partly explains the tendency of some of the African Union (AU) mechanisms to reflect knowledge taken from conflict resolution theories from the Global North—as well as international organizations like the United Nations (UN), World Bank, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)—which is apparent in the AU’s Mediation Support Handbook. The AU’s Standard Operating Procedures for Mediation Support includes a list of lessons learned from the UN instead of lessons learned from its own practices, experiences, and African thinking.2 Regarding AU mediation, it is useful to address questions relating to how knowledge on mediation relates and speaks to people on the continent."

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Language: English
Contact: Robin Faißt

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