Talk about an idea that’s time has come. The American head of the UN’s Department of Political Affairs (which is sort of like the UN’s State Department) announced yesterday the formation of the long awaited UN Mediation Standby Team. The idea behind this initiative is to have a reserve of experts on call so political disputes do not erupt into violence, or if violence has already broken out, to manage ceasefire negotiations.

Demand for mediation assistance has grown steadily in recent years, [UN Political Affairs Chief] Lynn Pascoe said, noting the long list of recent talks, in particular those that set up power-sharing arrangements to end the post-election violence in Kenya and attempts to end the armed activity of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda.

And the situations are becoming increasing complex. “These are not places where you can go out and begin a negotiation by the seat of your pants,” the Under-Secretary-General noted. Even the most seasoned UN envoys usually need specialized advice.

Norway footed the $1 million bill to keep fund this new initiative through its first year. Takk!

Get occasional updates from UN Dispatch

* indicates required

Want Our Social Media List?