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This section examines how mediators plan their own exit from the scene. Its objectives are to:

8.1 Why an exit strategy is important

Professional values and standards expect a good mediator to make her/himself dispensable and to be transparent in his/her withdrawal from the conflict management process. After the signing of the agreement (step 8), the following two steps remain to complete the conflict management cycle:

Step 9: monitoring and implementing the agreement;
Step 10: exploring strategies for the mediators' exit.

Milestone D has been achieved when the mediator (or mediation team) can leave the community. This is the case when the parties to the conflict have restored their relationships and are enabled and willing to continue implementing the agreement, possibly with increased capacity to manage future conflicts by themselves.

8.2 Step 9: monitoring and implementing agreements

Implementing an agreement means that the conflict parties act to put that agreement into operation, thus ending the dispute. Most agreements require that the conflict parties continue to carry out specific actions and to behave in certain ways. The success of an agreement depends on the implementation plan and the process that puts this plan into operation. It also depends on the degree to which the parties feel a sense of ownership in the agreement, as well as on their capacity to fulfil its terms. In other words, success depends on the:

There are different ways of framing agreements. These are based on the preferences of the participants and often on the nature of what is being agreed or addressed. Sometimes people want to include an implementation plan in the detailed agreement that emerges from the conflict management negotiation process. In these cases, the negotiations finish when the agreement has been formally recognized. In other cases, people may want to plan implementation and monitoring later, during separate rounds of negotiations, or as an ongoing process of bargaining. In these cases, the agreement will commit the conflict parties to discussing and planning implementation and monitoring in the future.

Whatever the process used to obtain them, monitoring and implementation plans are first and foremost the responsibility of the negotiation parties, who must be willing and able to comply with them. Agreements must therefore always be based on the parties' realistic assessments of what they are willing and able to do. The negotiation parties may sometimes feel more confident if mediators or other trusted third parties take the role of neutral monitors who can help to sort out any problems that arise.

The specific role of a neutral monitor is decided by the conflict stakeholders. They need to decide whether or not to use a neutral monitor, and whether or not an existing mediator - or other third party - should assume this role. For the trusted third party, great care is also needed in assessing whether he/she has the ability to fulfil such a role, particularly where resources and time must be allocated.

Effective monitoring depends on parties clearly defining the performance standards by which compliance is to be measured. They need to decide which actions constitute breaking the agreement. In this process, monitors can take one of several roles, for example, they can be:


1. There is consensus about the criteria used to measure compliance.

2. The steps and resources required to implement the agreement (including provisions for obtaining any necessary local or outside resources) are clearly defined.

3. The stakeholders to be involved in the process have been identified, and they explicitly agree to engage in the implementation process.

4. If applicable, there is an organizational structure to implement the agreement.

5. There is explicit agreement on the part of outside parties, such as authorities and specialists, who may have roles in the implementation of the agreement. This is especially critical where resources need to be expended in order to fulfil the terms of the agreement; firm commitment of resources must be obtained before the agreement process ends.

6. There are provisions to accommodate future changes in the terms of the agreement and in the conflict parties themselves.

7. There are procedures to manage the unintended or unexpected problems that may arise during implementation (again, if solving these problems requires the involvement of authorities or specialists, some provisional agreement needs to be worked out with them).

8. There are methods to monitor compliance and establish the identity of monitor(s), and there is agreement on providing any resources that are needed to support monitoring.

9. The monitor's role is clearly defined.

Source: adapted from Moore, 2003.

If the negotiation parties ask the mediators to take over the monitoring functions, the mediators need to carry out the following tasks:

There are various commitment procedures that may help increase the probability of conflict parties complying with the agreement. These come in the following two forms:

Public gestures may be particulary important in non-direct dealing cultures because they indicate the conflict parties' willingness to restore relationships. When restoring positive relationships is the main issue, detailed agreements may be counterproductive, because details may indicate a lack of trust.

In many cultures, settlements or agreements receive or require ritual and/or public recognition. Rituals provide a symbolic order and strengthen the importance of an agreement, thus increasing the parties' commitment to abide by it. A very wide range of actions may be taken, including visits from senior people, hand shaking ceremonies, prayers, embracing, formal signing procedures, toasts, celebration meals and gift giving.

Formal procedures, e.g. written agreements (memoranda, contracts), are equally important. Negotiated agreements do not automatically become contracts that are enforceable by law. Enforceability depends both on the laws and rules of legal jurisdiction in which a contract is produced and on the form that it takes. Although a verbal agreement might be considered a legal document (particularly when made in the presence of witnesses), a written agreement is more predictable. It can be revisited by any of the parties when necessary in the future.

Even the best monitoring and implementation mechanisms will not work if one or several of the conflict stakeholders do not want it to. This may indicate that:

When an agreement breaks down, the interest groups (with support from mediators where appropriate) may consider restarting the conflict management process. The mediators may then convene shuttle consultation with the different conflict stakeholders, or else hold a joint meeting. This may mean re-engaging stakeholders, and starting new negotiations on some issues. Whether or not mediators are involved again depends on the conflict stakeholders' willingness to renegotiate and consider addressing the conflict collaboratively.


Roles and responsibilities of the various parties:

  • Who will be responsible for implementing the various components of the agreement?

  • What specific responsibilities will they have?

  • How will it be ensured that these roles and responsibilities are met?

  • What back-up support should be in place in case there is a problem, such as someone being unable to finish a task?

  • Is there any legal backing?

  • Are local or other authorities involved?

Processes of communication:

  • How will the parties keep each other informed about progress made?

  • Should periodic meetings, telephone calls or more formal mechanisms (such as newsletters or fact sheets) be scheduled?

  • How will other people's inputs and responses be handled?

  • What if someone disagrees with the approach adopted?

Transparency and flexibility:

  • What mechanisms or procedures are needed to ensure transparency in carrying out the agreement?

  • Would it be worthwhile to revolve duties among stakeholders?

  • Should an independent person be called on periodically to serve as an outside assessor?

  • Are the parties willing to be flexible about certain components of the agreement? Are there any areas where flexibility is undesirable or impossible?

  • What happens if factors beyond the parties' control make it impossible to implement or maintain the agreement? Is there a procedure for calling the parties together for future negotiations?

8.3 Step 10: exploring exit strategy

After an agreement has been signed, conflicts may be settled, but are not yet resolved. There may be drawbacks when conflict parties do not comply with the agreement, or relations are not restored well enough for people to collaborate. In non-direct dealing cultures, detailed negotiations may continue for long periods of time.

While a mediator cannot solve all the problems in a community at once, he/she should ensure that the different conflict stakeholders are at least willing to comply with the agreement and collaborate with each other, i.e. there is no danger of violence breaking out. This is the minimum requirement before a mediator can slowly withdraw from the scene. Mediators must always ultimately hand over control and ownership to the community, and should know when it is time to leave.

Mediators need to develop ways of handing over the responsibility for monitoring the agreement to the stakeholders or a trusted local monitor. Mediators may also explore strategies for building communities' capacities to solve future conflicts.

These steps are not part of the core of ACM, but may be important complementary elements in broader collaborative natural resource management approaches. How mediators withdraw from the scene depends very much on the earlier conflict management process. The following are options for exit:

In any of the three options, the mediators need to develop a strategy, both among themselves and with the stakeholders, about possible ways forward. They should consider:

At this point, the mediators' commitment to and involvement in the conflict is over. If they have struck a lasting agreement that helps the conflict parties to restore relations and provides them with a collaborative vision for the future, the mediators have been remarkably successful.


As the agreement reaches conclusion, participants may experience a range of feelings - satisfaction with the work that they have accomplished, or exhaustion, frustration, uncertainty and anger from the original dispute. Mediators need to be realistic. Although their aim is to improve relations among stakeholders and ensure commitment to collaborative agreements, negotiations can leave behind a range of uncomfortable feelings. A number of actions may be needed to mend relationships.

ACM is a shared learning process. When negotiations have been effective, stakeholders may show appreciation for the conflict management process. Many groups or individuals will be satisfied with the management of differences that have been disrupting their lives and achievement of goals. They may have gained new insights on their means of influencing decisions, learned new ways of managing differences and developed a better understanding and greater respect for each other's interests in the future.

Section summary

Section 8 has closed the process map and briefly examined the mediators' role in monitoring an agreement, as well as how they may prepare to withdraw. At this point, mediators' involvement in conflict management is usually over, and the conflict management process may have opened up new paths for collaboration and development.

Mediators may take over functions in monitoring agreements if the conflict stakeholders ask them to. However, such functions need to be clearly defined, and ownership for implementing the agreement must be with the stakeholders. Mediators assist with measures that help to restore relationships.

Mediators need to develop a strategy for withdrawing gradually from the scene. They may hand over responsibilities for monitoring to trusted local intermediaries. Depending on the progress in stakeholder relations, they may assist stakeholders to open up new paths for collaboration.

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