Dr. Doga Eralp (DE), Professorial Lecturer of the School of International Service at American University was interviewed by Anna Milovanovic-Fazliu (AMF), Communications & Operations Manager of Mediators Beyond Borders (MBBI), on 18 October 2016. Responses have been shortened for clarity.
AMF: How long have you been a member of MBBI and what do you enjoy most about the organization?
DE: It’s been more than three years since I joined MBBI. The footprint it leaves in the field– in terms of bringing together local stakeholders on the ground and empowering them as active agents of peace and change– indicates that MBBI is incomparable.
AMF: What have you worked on with MBBI?
I am part of MBBI’s Nepal project team. We partnered with the Nepal Mediator’s Society (NEMs), and the result of our cooperation is that the Supreme Court of Nepal recognized the importance of mediation–not only court based but also community mediation– as a tool for Nepalese citizens to access justice. We encouraged lawyers to get mediation into practice in Kathmandu and in the provinces of Nepal. Our work, supported by the Prime Minister and President’s office, as well as the Supreme Court, up until recently, showed constructive relations in Nepal. The next step in leveraging the Nepal project, which involves looking into who can build more accessible community mediation in Nepal’s East. And we’re reaching out to Rotary International and extending partnerships to achieve this.
Now, I am excited about working with the UN-trying to be more active in MBBI’s United Nations Working Group (UNWG) as I contribute to the preparation of the UN Women’s summit [CSW61] in March 2017. As part of the UNWG, I am drafting a resolution to ECOSOC-and the SDG working group—a good venue to push for a taskforce on peace entrepreneurship. This type of entrepreneurship is the emerging track in international development and conflict transformation and there is a role mediators can play in encouraging businesses to be constructive in the 2030 agenda—especially Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 that aims to reduce violence by 2030. What MBBI does with the UN is an important contribution to global peacebuilding efforts.
AMF: MBBC received a request from a multinational for-profit management consulting firm and an NGO working in Sub-Saharan Africa to develop a tool to determine the extent to which they can form partnerships. What work have you done with MBB Consulting to this end?
DE: For MBBC and MBBI I have been working on a conflict audit—a taskforce on business and social entrepreneurship. It is an interesting instrument for encouraging businesses to have a peace-oriented perspective—especially businesses that work in fragile and conflict- affected societies. The UNWG sees to what extent MBBI can reach out to business partners to encourage them to live up to SDG 16 on Peace and Social Justice. Both contribute to building peace on the ground and still making profits.
We can create audit tools and partnerships to do no harm. That’s the key. Businesses are engaging in business practices in fragile and conflict-affected states. This conflict audit tool looks into extractive industries, upstream and downstream—including stakeholder mapping and how to engage them. Having worked with World Bank Group as a public-private dialogue specialist, most of work there was creating partnerships in civil society—what resulted from that was the dire need to have more standardized tools for international operations to audit themselves (internally and externally) and their partnerships. MBBI conducts external audits on the footprint corporations need to engage in Burundi, Rwanda, etc. This will benefit societies dependent on primary exports and suffer civil war or instability so businesses understand context they operate in.
The conflict audit tool is a set of ideas that could be streamlined across corporations. It will have the capacity to customize itself to the needs of clients. Clients may be more engaged with the service sector, or investment—like in the garment industry in Bangladesh or extractive industries in Sub Saharan Africa. Each partnership requires different approaches/audits.
Additionally, I have worked with MBBC and local partners to prepare a Department of State grant looking for ways of delivering different forms of justice to different parts of South Sudan through community mediation channels.
AMF: How did you become involved in the mediation field?
I am an international mediator and have facilitated dialogue processes over 15 years in different countries—places such as Cyprus, Macedonia, and Bosnia. Also, the Syrian diaspora during the conflict—bringing in key stakeholders in protracted conflicts to engage with each other constructively at the community and political level. I have worked on peace initiatives in Middle East and Southeast Europe—with the intention of transforming destructive relationships and restorative justice in locations where civil wars ended decades ago but the sources of the conflicts have not been addressed.
I worked with Search for Common Ground [in Macedonia] in 2003, two years after the 2001 ethnic tensions—when there were skirmishes of Kosovo border. With SFCG, I researched the constructive role of the media—bringing in different media personalities, and identifying ways through which comprehensive understanding of citizenship could be integrated into programming for children. The show Nasa Mala included narratives on childrens’ lives speaking other languages Roma, Turkish, Macedonia, and Albanian.
I spent a year in Bosnia-looking into the European Union’s (EU) role as an actor of peace, and how EU membership could transform societies. In 2012, I researched the effects of EU law in transforming Bosnia, Kosovo, and Macedonia—whether they do transform themselves by signing Stabilization and Association agreements.
I am now a Professor at American University, the School of International Service, and my research interest is how emerging powers are building peace; for example, the case of Brazil and South Africa whether they have alternative views for peace and transforming conflict. Aside from this, as an international mediator and dialogue facilitator for MBBI, I participate in 2nd track and 3rd track initiatives that bring stakeholders together, addressing root causes of conflict.
My work in the Balkans and on fragmented societies has made me think more about how we can transform this fragmentation into a new, appreciative, sense of diversity—seeing differences as an asset or rather than a deficit. This would change mindsets of how we view people and others. For this reason, I value what MBBI is doing—the level of dedication its members show on the ground. It is needed, and for that reason I wanted to be part of the Nepal project.
AMF: Who should join MBBI and why?
DE: MBBI is right in reaching out into other audiences and constituencies, but at same time should be careful and selective in terms of who will reach out to. Anyone who wants to work for peace? I’m not sure if I buy into this. Be part of a peace-related initiative, or mediation or dialogue, but at least recommend some prior experience, practical experience at least to be an active member of MBBI. We cannot expect people to have complete set of tools at their disposal. One way of leveraging this strategy could be looking for those willing to learn to be involved as third-party conflict and peace processes, mediation and other means. Social media-recruitment of peace activists might be a start.
AMF: You wrote the book on Turkey as a mediator. Since the book has been published, there has been an attempted coup in the country and an intensification of war in Syria. Has the role of Turkey as a regional mediator changed?
Regardless of political changes in Turkey, sooner or later, the country has to fulfill a more constructive role in the region. Until very recently, it showed ways it could contribute to regional peace. Turkey was an effective mediator in Somalia; it also oversaw an exchange of diplomats between Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and facilitated the Serbian Parliament issuing an official apology for the crimes committed in Srebrenica. It was effective at 3rd-party conflict resolution. Turkey can go back to this role, but it must first deal with its own democratic deficit. The attempted coup and the government’s backlash in its wake have dealt a serious blow to Turkey’s peace activism.
AMF: What is an experience in your mediation career that has surprised you or informed best practices in other contexts?
DE: My experience in South Africa and Northern Ireland. Seeing these transformed conflict relationships gives me hope to the capacity of peace.
During a conference in a country I was working in, I presented a local case study as though the society was a divided society like Cyprus or Macedonia—but the participants were taken aback and said they were not divided. I saw that some groups do not want to be seen as divided society, and learned that some societies are more aware of their experiences with identity-based politics than others.
Mediators should bring in new consciousness for those out there. If those in the mediation don’t know where they stand, there’s not much we can do. It is our job to bring about consciousness. In South Africa, they are aware. It is better to be aware. To deny having had a civil war is not productive and 3rd party actors should encourage transparency. South Africans are not pretending to be who they aren’t . The same goes for Northern Ireland and other societies. When societies say there is no problem, they are more afraid of their vulnerabilities.
Dr Eralp is a scholar-practitioner of international conflict resolution with more than a decade of experience in international dialogue facilitation. His work focuses on international conflict, culture, human rights, collective memory, international development and democratization. Dr. Eralp has also been a consultant for various international organizations such as the World Bank, NED and the UNOPS. He is the author of a number of articles and book chapters on the Western Balkans, Middle East, Cyprus, European Union and Turkey. He is the author of the 2016 Turkey as a Mediator: Stories of Success and Failure, and 2012 Politics of the European Union in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Between Conflict and Democracy .