Dedicated to preventing and ending conflict

by Salman Shaikh |

As Chloe Cornish has admirably documented in the case of Syria’s war profiteers, there is no end of actors looking to “cash in on conflict”. But to cast the expanding field of independent mediation organisations in a similar light would be misguided (“Industry of peacemakers capitalises on global conflict”, Notebook, October 22).




The increase in the number of Track II initiatives reflects the growing complexity of conflicts around the world — and their resistance to traditional mediation. Track IIs have tangibly positive effects, multiplying the voices involved in political processes, providing access where more formal mediators are constrained, and creating quiet spaces for engagement.

The Shaikh Group is one such organisation, running not-for-profit dialogue initiatives focused on the Middle East. Our small team is dedicated to preventing and ending conflict by raising the voices of local actors themselves, which are too often an afterthought in internationally-driven peacemaking efforts. Our Syria work has incorporated actors formerly under-represented in the formal process — armed opposition groups, civil society, women, representatives from the north-east — and resulted in consensus-driven ideas for local de-escalation, stabilisation and political process design.

The Syrian case also shows, however, the indispensability of empowered Track I mediation and its rarity in today’s geopolitical environment. Today’s would-be peacemakers face stark challenges, from addressing the impact of technology to preserving a rights-based approach in a multipolar world. The variety of actors and expertise out thereshould be embraced (and yes, where appropriate, more transparently and deftly managed) as a source of innovation, not labelled “conflict entrepreneurs”. Salman Shaikh Founder and CEO, The Shaikh Group, Limassol, Cyprus, Former director, Brookings Doha Center