IPI’s Youssef Mahmoud on Women, Mediation, and Sustaining Peace

Youssef Mahmoud, IPI Senior Adviser, spoke at a high level seminar on sustaining peace with particular focus on African women mediators. The event was convened by the African Union Commission, Belgium, and the International Peace Institute on April 25, 2018.

Reflecting on mediation processes through a sustaining peace lens, Mr. Mahmoud questioned the assumptions informing the current “mediation paradigm,” in light of the changes in the nature of contemporary conflict. Helping conflict parties move from violence to politics through mediation should not be equated with peace. Ending war and building peace, while interconnected, are separate processes.

Women mediators at the grassroots level are the “custodians of peace, even amidst devastation” he observed. They should not be invited to participate in peace processes, just to be consulted or represent women’s issues only. “If they are good enough to be at the table, why can’t they participate in designing it?”

Mr. Mahmoud added that while training may be necessary, it should be driven by the humility to recognize that women mediators are not blank pages. “They have capacities, not just needs.” Building on what they know and what they have “will unleash their leadership potential to sustain peace.”