Partnerships: The Folke Bernadotte Academy
In the Steps of the Count
The Department of Political Affairs (DPA) is the UN’s hub for conflict prevention, mediation and peace-making. But its work would not be possible without the cooperation and assistance of a wide range of partners: member States and regional organizations primarily, but also research bodies, civil society groups and others. Today, as we resume publication of Politically Speaking for 2017, we kick off a series of profiles of these partners in peace by looking at Sweden’s Folke Bernadotte Academy.
In December 2016, the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA), the Swedish government agency for peace, security and development, and the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) celebrated ten years of partnership. FBA was named after Count Folke Bernadotte, the United Nations Mediator for Palestine killed on 17 September 1948 in Jerusalem.
The DPA-FBA partnership draws inspiration from the example of Count Bernadotte and many other United Nations mediators who came after him. Its main objective is to build the capacity of UN staff to act as bridge-builders, be this at the international, national or local level. In particular, the partnership seeks to strengthen the mediation and prevention capacity of the United Nations.
FBA’s course on Designing and Supporting Dialogue and Mediation Processes has become one of the cornerstones of DPA training. More than 200 participants, mainly from DPA and special political missions, but also from other UN entities and regional and subregional partner organizations, have participated in the course, which is now in its eleventh year.
While many other courses in this area focus on how to lead a mediation effort, the FBA course is specifically tailored to increase the skills and knowledge of junior and mid-level staff to both contribute to the design of a mediation process and substantively support a lead mediator. This is especially important as mediation has increasingly become a complex team effort often involving multiple institutional actors.
DPA and FBA have also collaborated in other areas, such as the UNDP-DPA Joint Programme on Building National Capacities in Conflict Prevention, for which FBA has designed and delivers an induction programme for Peace and Development Advisers. More recently, FBA has begun offering capacity-building for field missions, delivering tailored-made trainings directly to staff at their duty station.
In the spirit of SCR 1325 and in line with Sweden’s “feminist foreign policy”, FBA also runs a Female Mediator Programme and supports the Nordic Women Mediators Network. Programmes such as these can help continued UN efforts to increase the number of women SRSGs in the system.
The benefits of such a partnership have become more evident as the number and complexity of conflicts where the United Nations seeks to play a mediation role have increased. Crises such as those in Syria, Mali and Libya illustrate the challenges that state fragility, the regionalization of conflict, and the blurring of political, criminal, and ideological interests of increasingly fragmented armed actors pose to efforts to resolve conflict through political processes.
At a discussion at UN headquarters on 1 December 2016 to mark the ten-year anniversary of their partnership, DPA and FBA brought together Member States, United Nations staff and NGO representatives to reflect on how and when the United Nations should engage with non-state armed groups for the purposes of conflict prevention and resolution.
Although engaging non-state armed groups is not a new topic in debates regarding mediation and the peaceful settlement of disputes, the changing nature of these groups and the challenge of engaging with “proscribed” or “extremist” groups, does pose new challenges to the United Nations and the broader international community. Some of the challenges discussed by the panellists included security risks for mediators, the rise of ideologies, which are more difficult to engage with, transnational agendas of armed groups and the impediments to engagement posed by a hardening discourse on terrorism.
For a partnership built on the conviction that it is necessary to engage with those who, unless included, will remain an obstacle to peace, addressing these challenges is of paramount importance. DPA and FBA have pledged to continue working together to ensure that UN mediators around the globe have the necessary skills and knowledge to engage all actors whose inclusion is needed for a sustainable peace.