Local mediation is a dispute resolution process where mediators help people in conflict understand each other’s perspectives and work toward a mutually acceptable solution. Mediation is voluntary and confidential. Cases are referred to mediation by police, pastors, counselors, doctors, attorneys, judges, friends and disputants themselves.
Traditionally, local mediation efforts complement national peace processes, such as those conducted by the United Nations. This is because local conflict dynamics often inform the course of such efforts.
In addition to their deep knowledge of the context in which a conflict arises, local mediators are also trusted in their communities and may be in a position to intervene when a dispute escalates. They are often able to identify points of convergence and build relationships among the actors in a conflict, including community leaders, local government officials and security sector representatives. They can facilitate discussions among communities, armed groups or state structures and representatives, as well as with non-state actors such as regional and international NGOs.
Local mediation can be a powerful tool for conflict prevention, but it can also serve as a platform for conflict transformation and political change. In some cases, it can even lead to a negotiated settlement or agreement that binds the parties to the terms of the agreement. This can be a major accomplishment in situations where it would be very difficult to reach a negotiated settlement through traditional court litigation.