The normalization agreements realized between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, through diplomatic mediation, can serve as a model for business leaders for the use of mediation not only in high conflict circumstances but also merely for exploiting the potential of relationships and upgrading of existing ties.
The normalization agreements that were recently signed between Israel, and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, with the assistance of an American diplomatic mediation team, demonstrates the benefits of initiating mediation even in the circumstances of no active conflict.
Mediation is a management tool that can serve as a catalyst to improve existing sub- optimal relationships in cases of failure to realize the potential for collaboration between parties or in circumstances where communication issues arise, even when parties are not (yet) in dispute.
Due to a veil of confidentiality that protects civil, commercial and personal mediations, there are no published protocols of mediations, that can serve as case analysis in order to validate the advantages of mediation at pre- or non-conflict stages.
Fortunately, however, the global political arena has recently provided an illustration of the benefits of mediation, purely for the purpose of upgrading existing relations. On the 15th of September 2020, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed agreements for full normalization of the ties with Israel. These agreements demonstrate that successful mediation efforts, (in this case, a diplomatic mediation mission), can serve as a powerful tool for upgrading those relations.
While the agreements were labelled by many as peace agreements, it must be noted that the parties, were never in a situation of war with each other. On the contrary, there is a long track record of unofficial ties between the countries, and even low-level informal cooperation.
Until recently, the main theme of ties between these countries, the most developed in the region, was the endless unfulfilled potential for business opportunities.
Following the normalization agreements, the previous period of non-recognition and low-level economic and political cooperation, will be superseded by advanced ties with far reaching implications in economic, security, tourism, high-tech, health and many other aspects. The agreements represent both a win-win outcome for the signing states and a beacon of hope for a region that yearns for a vision of a more optimistic future.
The normalization (diplomatic) agreements are expected to create a "mediation effect" - a wider impact that is greater than the immediate understandings that are detailed in the agreements themselves. It is already expected that other neighboring countries will join the vision of peaceful prosperity, and millions of citizens and businesses will be able to expand the already existing cooperation and create new ventures. Moreover, working together, business people from different cultures and religions can also assist in disabling the inter-cultural suspiciousness that serves as a barrier to international collaboration and realization of business potential in complex, multi-cultural regions.
No need to wait for a crisis
Whereas mediation has proved to be highly effective in upgrading both conflictual and non-conflictual yet not-optimal relations in the global political arena, mediation is correspondingly relevant for the business world.
This article aims to increase awareness of the advantages of mediation as a management tool, for upgrading the quality of existing relations in a non-conflict context, either as a preventive instrument for avoiding escalation or, preferably, as a growth catalyst for productive relations.
The global business community is already making vast use of mediation as a default choice for dispute resolution, instead of long and expensive legal proceedings. Following the recent, inspiring examples from the Middle East, it seems reasonable that parties should most commonly seek the assistance of a mediator at the earliest possible opportunity, just for upgrading the quality of existing ties. Mediation in such circumstances is a highly efficient platform for the evolution of all parties involved.
However, despite the growing awareness and use of mediation, when it comes to resolving the most complex disputes, some of the benefits of the process still go unexploited.
Since the normalization agreements demonstrate the advantages of using mediation as the fastest and most effective route for overcoming impediments, one may wonder why some parties still refrain from initiating mediation for improving unexploited relations at pre-conflict stages.
Those who choose not to seek the assistance of a professional mediator in such circumstances likely hope that the issues will be resolved on their own with no extra effort. Unfortunately, many problems in business and other aspects of life do not simply fade away. In fact, they usually have a tendency to escalate.
Relations between shareholders, business partners or board members can become challenging and tense, in a manner that may inhibit the chances of success for their organization or project.
In such situations, a skilled mediator can assist the parties to reach a higher level of communication that improves operations of those organizations long into the future.
The mission of business and diplomacy mediatons- similar yet different
Before concluding, it is important to differentiate between the role and tool kits of diplomatic and commercial mediators. Whilst all mediations are similar, as they are all led by a 3rd party who assists the participants to overcome difficulties and differences, the two processes are not identical. For example:
- Most commercial mediations are conducted mostly by one or two mediators, whereas diplomatic mediations are seldom a one man show: instead they are typically led by a multidisciplinary team of professionals.
- A commercial mediator must be impartial and must not have any personal interests involving any of the parties or in the outcomes of the process. However, diplomatic teams are often led by envoys from sovereign countries that sometimes have vast interests in the region affected by the conflict. There are many examples of diplomatic mediation achievements that, while addressing the interests of the countries involved, they also address the interests of the mediating nation.
- A commercial mediator leads the parties through an interest-based negotiation towards an agreement. The commercial mediator should refrain from using any aggressive measures. Conversely, there are many illustrations of successful diplomatic mediations in which the mediating team’s tactics encompassed persuasive measures, potential sanctions or other forms of leverage, in order to coax the parties to "voluntarily" commit to the emerging agreement and make the conflict ripe for resolution.
- Moreover, a commercial mediator is entitled to fees and will never finance the economic outcomes agreed between the parties or, otherwise, take an active role in the execution of the mediation undertakings.
The diplomatic arena provides numerous examples in which financial benefits, political support, security assurances, or military assistance were supplied by the sovereign country that had provided the mediating team, as part of the understandings achieved between the parties.
The normalization agreements realized between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, through diplomatic mediation, can indeed serve as a model for business leaders for the use of mediation not only in high conflict circumstances but also merely for exploiting the potential of relationships and upgrading of existing ties.