Peacemakers call for more international cooperation to end conflicts


Around 350 high-ranking participants from more than 50 countries came together on 17 and 18 April 2024 at the Humboldt Forum in Berlin for the inaugural edition of “The Berlin Moot: Reshaping Peace”. The conference convened experts and mediators from diverse fields and world regions to develop tangible recommendations to advance traditional peacemaking approaches.

Andrew Gilmour, Executive Director of the Berghof Foundation, reiterated the urgent need for action: “At a time when there are more conflicts than any time since 1945, we need to rethink the current peacemaking approaches. And to focus less energy on coming up with new policies and more on devising fresh approaches for implementation. The so-called West has lost much to its selective approach to current conflicts – we need to invest into bridging the divide to other countries.”

Alar Karis, President of Estonia, stressed the importance of thinking peace and security together: “Every conflict and war is different. All of us have to do something, first of all to stop a war, but then to think of what is next.”

Inclusivity is key

Decreasing trust in the United Nations as a peacemaking actor, the double standards in calling out violations of international law, as well as the scarcity of resources available for peace initiatives have had massive implications on peacemaking as a foreign policy instrument.

In response, several speakers at the Berlin Moot called for a reform of the United Nations Security Council to reflect the current global order and integrate the voice of emerging powers. This would help overcome inconsistencies and double standards, and ensure accountability to the moral foundations of peace and security. Senegalese peace activist Bineta Diop concurred: “Africa needs a permanent seat on the Security Council.” (Frankfurter Rundschau) Hopes were high that a woman as the next United Nations Secretary General would make a significant difference in prioritising the needs of civilians and marginalised groups.

Despite facing a legitimacy crisis, human rights continue to serve as a robust framework for advocating and asserting universally applicable principles of dignity and fairness. Yet, it is imperative to tailor our approach to human rights according to the contexts and priorities of individual societies. The speakers at the human rights and mediation panel concluded that establishing a new, globally shared foundation for human rights and ensuring their impartial application across different regions and power dynamics are crucial steps in fortifying human rights and empowering them to serve as even more potent instruments in fostering equality and justice within societies.

The Berlin Moot also reasserted the need for inclusive methods in peacemaking, especially regarding grassroots actors as well as female voices. Local protest movements, youth or women’s groups are powerful drivers of social change. Mediators should incorporate these initiatives into formal processes to better grasp local contexts and build trust for long-lasting peace. But while doing so, mediators should avoid using protest movements as mere tokens of inclusion. They need to be acknowledged as conflict and peace actors in their own right, with their own agency.

Moreover, the debates stressed the importance of streamlining a gender-sensitive approach to mediation and actively supporting women in reshaping peace leadership through values such as empathy, sensitivity, pragmatism, and humbleness.

Forgotten crises

In addition to the conference programme, The Berlin Moot enabled gatherings and side meetings on some of the most devastating current conflicts, such as Gaza and Ukraine, as well as on those conflicts that are too often overlooked, such as Sudan, the Horn of Africa, Yemen, and Cameroon. Concrete recommendations for ongoing mediation efforts of international and regional organisations, like the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development or the European Union, were shared with diplomats, special envoys and their teams.

The catastrophic humanitarian situation in Sudan was a topic of many conversations. Janel Galvanek, Head Department Regional Peace Support at the Berghof Foundation, told the Guardian at the conference that “limited media coverage and communications blackouts had concealed the true scale of the crisis” with dramatic effects on the population.

Mediation and the Gulf

The Gulf States play a growing role in conflict mediation while perceiving this to be both in their national interest as well as rooted in their cultures. Oman supports mediation in Yemen, Qatar has been key in supporting efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza, the United Arab Emirates has recently started mediating the release of prisoners of war between Russia and Ukraine, and Saudi Arabia has hosted a peace summit on Ukraine. The discussions at the Moot stressed that regional actors should use the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) good offices for mediation and expand institutional capacities of the GCC and its member states for mediation. Conference participants agreed that it would be important to engage in confidence building between GCC members and their neighbours, especially Iran; as well as to strengthen principled and ethical orientation in foreign policy against narrow self-interest.

Moreover, the discussions brought forward the need to analyse and learn from past mediation experiences in the region, particularly positive examples, and to build the capacities of a new generation of regional mediators. The wish to recognise the importance of emerging middle powers and new actors and formats in mediation while shoring up the role of the United Nations as lead mediator in the international system was also highlighted.

Connecting the brain and peace

The Berlin Moot set out to bring various disciplines together to work on reshaping peacemaking approaches. At panel discussions and interactive workshops, peacemakers and renowned experts looked into how AI and blockchain technology can be used in peace processes and negotiations, or how the effects of climate change impact peacemaking. One session focused on how insights from neuroscience can help us understand what happens in the brain during difficult peace negotiations.

In our PeaceLab on the brain and peace, we disrupted the notion of “rational actors” meeting during high-level peace talks by unpacking how emotions and identity influence these processes. The discussion focused on the flexible nature of identity and how certain facets can be leveraged for constructive dialogues and outcomes – as was the case with women members of the Colombian government and FARC.

Against the background of insights from neuro- and cognitive science, takeaways centred on the need to rehumanise conflict parties, for example by allowing them to share grievances and vulnerability. Peace negotiations should be designed in a way that allows for acknowledging different worldviews, narratives, deeply held beliefs and identities. One way to support this is by creating shared spaces outside of formal negotiations to foster connection between conflict parties.

One outcome of these discussions – not only those on the cross-section of neuroscience and peacemaking – was the request to continue multidisciplinary exchange and foster collaboration to better understand crucial blockages in peace negotiations and find ways to overcome them.

The first edition of the Berlin Moot was supported by the German Federal Foreign Office as well as the Robert Bosch Stiftung, Stiftung Mercator, the Gerda Henkel Stiftung, the LOTTO-Stiftung Berlin and BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt.

We hope to host the next edition of the conference in 2026 so we can continue these important discussions. Please get in touch if you are interested in partnering with us.

Have a look at X, Instagram, LinkedIn and our hashtag #TheBerlinMoot for more impressions of the conference. You can also watch the livestream of day one here.

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