Below is a press release from the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, an organization I respect.

Leading Conflict Mediators Convene in Oslo, June 2008

Conflict ‘hot spots’, such as Darfur and Chad, Iran and Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Lebanon, Kenya, Congo and Cyprus, sit high on the global agenda of mediators.Many of the peace-makers in these conflicts will be among the approximately 100 senior mediators who will assemble in Oslo on 24 to 26 June (Tuesday to Thursday). Their purpose is to exchange experiences, examine critically their mediation practices, consider how to adapt to new mediation perspectives, and to build ties with fellow international professional peacemakers.

The OSLO Forum, as this annual gathering is called, has come a long way in its 6-year history. From just a handful of conflict mediation practitioners at the first meeting in 2003, the Forum has developed into what is now widely acknowledged as the leading global assembly of the world’s top mediators.

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  1. The annual Forums in Norway are part of an on-going process which involves regular regional meetings in Asia and Africa. The most recent Asian Mediation Retreat took place in China in cooperation with the China Institute of International Studies last March.The OSLO Forums are jointly sponsored by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Geneva -based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD). Martin Griffiths, Director of HD, will open the Forum, and Jonas Gahr Store, Foreign Minister of Norway, will address the Forum on Wednesday.A keynote address will be made by Mohammad Khatami, former President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His theme will be the challenge of bridging major ideological and other deep differences when seeking a dialogue. He will be introduced by Erik Solheim, Minister of the Environment and International Development of Norway and responded to by Sir Kieran Prendergast, Senior Adviser, to the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue; and former UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs.International efforts to mitigate and prevent conflict can only be effective if they involve different actors, each bringing their comparative advantages.Martin Griffiths points out \”Actors like the UN and individual governments have different roles to play at different times, and bring different resources to bear in efforts to solve and mitigate violent conflict. None-state actors, like the HD Centre, also have an important role to play. Often they can go where the official institutions cannot. The challenge is to combine these efforts in a meaningful way. Networks like the Oslo Forum are crucial to bring different perspectives together.\”One of the major questions confronting mediators today is this: with whom can you talk? Throughout history dialogue has proved one of the most efficient means of increasing understanding and reducing conflict. This is a fundamental tenet of all faiths and value systems. Yet it seems that the value of dialogue is being debated and questioned. The idea of \”no contact with terrorists\” is popular in many countries.\”The notion of a terrorist is notoriously subjective. Furthermore, it is the overwhelming view of mediators that isolating, ignoring terrorists is never an effective way to end an insurgency and violence.\”We don\’t feel we are giving credibility to terrorists by talking to them. We will talk with anyone if it means that it can end the conflict. Acting discreetly, makes it easier for us to talk with terrorists.\” Griffiths said.Mr. Griffiths, who led the HD Centre\’s support to Kofi Annan\’s mediation during the recent Kenya crisis will be participating in an interview session with Mutula Kilonzo, the Governments chief negotiator in the talks to draw out their direct experience and perspectives on the mediation process.Among the well-known participants are Gareth Evans, the former Foreign Minister of Australia and President, International Crisis Group, Ian Martin, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Nepal, Carolyn McAskie, UN Assistant Secretary General for Peacebuilding Support, Ms Pampha Bhushal, Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare, Government of Nepal and Central Committee Member of the Communist Party, Nepal/Maoist, Jonathan Powell, former chief of staff, to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Ms Sarah Cliffe, Director for Strategy and Operations, East Asia and Pacific Region, World Bank.The subjects on the agenda include a Spotlight on Future U.S. Foreign Policy and Mediation, Gender Sensitivity as a Mediation Tool, Non-International Mediation, Negotiating Disarmament: Perspectives of Former Combantants, Shooting While Talking – Changing Attitudes to Dialogue in Iraq.A new environment for mediation is emerging. Major new regional players are appearing – China, India, Nigeria, South Africa, Turkey and Brazil among many others. Several conflicts today are being mediated principally by local actors with limited or no major international support or role.*** ENDS ***Chatham House Rules prevail at the OSLO Forum: the discussions are completely private and quotes during the meetings may not be attributed. However, virtually all of the participants have agreed to be interviewed by journalists.If you would like to arrange for an interview, for photographs of participants and the event or to know more about the work of the HD Centre, please contact Flore Brannon on +41 22 908 1157, +41 79 479 4225 or write to brannon@hdcentre.org Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue 114 rue de Lausanne | Geneva 1202 | Switzerland http://www.hdcentre.org

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