Adapting Community Mediation for Colombian Forced Migrants in Ecuador

AuthorDavid Sulewski,Jeffrey Pugh,Julie Moreno
Date01 June 2017
Published date01 June 2017
C R Q, vol. 34, no. 4, Summer 2017 409
© 2016 Association for Confl ict Resolution and Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley Online Library ( • DOI: 10.1002/crq.21184
Adapting Community Mediation for Colombian
Forced Migrants in Ecuador
Jeffre y Pugh
David Sulewski
Julie Moreno
is article addresses the challenges of using mediation in confl icts
involving immigrants and refugees by examining the case of Colom-
bian migrants in Ecuador. It proposes ways to adapt the community
mediation model to better serve migrants in confl ict, enhancing media-
tors’ awareness and capacity to navigate cross-cultural diff erences, power
imbalances, distrust of state institutions, and other common challenges.
Trust, access, form, and capacity of the mediation and the mediator are
key dimensions of host-migrant confl ict resolution.  e article suggests
that using nonstate confl ict resolution organizations and emphasizing
relationships more than technical neutrality can improve the eff ective-
ness of mediation involving migrants.
I nternational migration has been a key factor accompanying the global-
ization of the past half-century. As cheaper and faster transportation
and communication technologies have made it logistically easier to cross
borders, more people have begun to look for economic opportunities or
ee violent threats in their own countries. However, this displacement of
people into new contexts has led to diff erent cultural assumptions, shifting
social hierarchies, and changes in the political economy, all of which can
escalate confl ict between migrants and their host communities.  e state
is not necessarily a neutral actor in this confl ict, and it often has a politi-
cal incentive to favor citizens (who vote) and scapegoat migrants (who
often do not), blaming them for social problems. Formal state institutions
charged with protection and dispute resolution, such as the courts and
410 P, S, M
C R Q • DOI: 10.1002/crq
the police, may be viewed with such suspicion by migrants that their abil-
ity to intervene successfully and deescalate confl icts between migrants and
citizens is diminished. As such, community mediation and the nonstate
organizations that engage in this process represent a potentially important
avenue for building the capacity to handle community confl icts peacefully
and constructively in the future.
In this article, we examine host-migrant social confl icts, conceptual-
ize the institutional and social processes that shape their resolution, and
propose a concrete framework for understanding the factors that infl uence
the potential eff ectiveness of mediation in deescalating and managing these
confl icts. We argue that bicultural mediators who can fl exibly adapt the tra-
ditional mediation model to accommodate cultural diff erences are critical
to the success of a host-migrant peacemaking intervention. Nonstate orga-
nizations have important comparative advantages over the state in trust,
access, form, and capacity to intervene in host-migrant confl icts. Orga-
nizations that coordinate eff ectively with other state and nonstate actors
in a governance network are best positioned to foster sustainable peace in
migrant-receiving communities. By analyzing in depth the case of Colom-
bian forced migrants in Ecuador, we test the empirical plausibility of this
argument and identify key challenges and lessons that might be useful for
mediators who are asked to intervene in host-migrant confl icts elsewhere.
Importance of Nonstate Institutions for Refugees and Migrants
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) play a critical role in serving
the needs of migrants and refugees, who are often marginalized within
their host communities or lack the types of social networks and resources
to which citizens may have greater access. Given their private, nonprofi t
nature, their fl exibility of scope, resource base, infl uence, and functional
orientation, nonstate institutions have often been more eff ective than states
when it comes to providing assistance and support for the most vulnerable
populations, especially refugees and other migrants (Collingwood 2006 ).
According to Goodwin-Gill ( 2001 ), the human rights dimensions
of cross-border migration have been increasingly downplayed. Although
responsibility to victims of forced displacement falls to the state, NGOs
have played a complementary role in situations where the state is unable or
unwilling to safeguard the rights of vulnerable populations. Unfortunately,
governments have often failed to muster the political will to fulfi ll their

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