The Center for Empathy in International Affairs, in collaboration with the European Institute of Peace, held a full day consultation with 18 mediators and experts in Brussels on Friday, 4 March 2016.

The participants included individuals from a range of institutions including: the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue – HD, Crisis Management Initiative, European External Action Service, European Institute of Peace, European Parliament Mediation Support Service, King’s College London, Oxford Research Group, Peaceful Change Initiative, Swisspeace and the United Nations.

Their diverse views and insights are captured in this CEIA paper: Changing Minds: Briefing on Empathy in Mediation.

Briefing summary:

Empathy is a critical resource for mediators and peacebuilders. It draws attention to human psychology and emotions, can counteract demonization, and helps adversaries see others’ perspectives and motivations. Empathizing can help mediators better understand conflict, especially the tumult in people’s hearts and minds, and can enhance self-awareness. Empathy has cognitive and affective elements, is versatile and interactive, and can be regulated. The relative distribution of empathy is crucial: intense empathy for an in-group can motivate violence.

Empathic accuracy is difficult in conflict and requires considerable effort, information and resilience. Institutional biases and bureaucratic constraints must be overcome. Empathizing also entails risks that must be carefully managed. Mediators can misjudge others or become partial to one side. A party that empathizes may face personal costs, or may become more aware of an adversary’s hatred and less amenable to dialogue. Looking ahead, drawing on research, analysis and experience, empathy should be incorporated into mediation theory, training and practice.

To read the full report click here.

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