Successful conflict mediation requires an adequate support system providing envoys with the proper staff assistance and advice, and ensuring that talks have the needed logistical and financial resources. Over the past several years the United Nations, led by the Department of Political Affairs, has moved to sharpen its ability to provide such support to its own mediation efforts as well as to those of partner organizations.
DPA's Mediation Support Unit, established in 2006, works closely with the Department's regional divisions to plan and support mediation efforts in the field. Among its functions, MSU provides advisory, financial and logistical support to peace processes; works to strengthen the mediation capacity of regional and sub-regional organizations; and serves as a repository of mediation knowledge, policy and guidance, lessons learned and best practices.
The Department manages the United Nations Standby Team of Mediation Experts – an "on call" group of experts established in 2008 that can be deployed individually or as a group to assist mediators in the field. Team members have provided support in dozens of negotiations, and hold expertise on issues including power-sharing, natural resources and conflict, constitution-making, cease-fires and other security arrangements, and gender issues as they relate to conflict. With support from donors, the Department has also established a rapid response fund to start up mediation processes at short notice. Advance planning and ready resources are a key to effective early mediation when crises are brewing.
DPA also developed and maintains the online mediation support tool UN Peacemaker. Intended for peacemaking professionals, it includes an extensive database of more than 750 peace agreements, guidance material and information on the UN’s mediation support services.
Progress and ongoing challenges facing United Nations mediation efforts were summarized in a 2009 report of the Secretary-General (S/2009/189) to the Security Council on enhancing mediation and its support activities.