Ramon Blecua, a Spanish diplomat, a former European Union Ambassador to Iraq and currently Ambassador-at-large for Mediation and Intercultural Dialogue. The opinions reflected in this paper are his own and do not represent the official position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain. This essay has used research and ideas developed with Dr. Claudio Feijoo and Dr. Douglas Ollivant on the subjects of AI and the role of non state actors in the current Middle East context respectively.
Mediation In A New Multilateral System
The increasingly intricate fabric of peace and conflict and the multiplicity of actors involved have made conflict resolution more complex, as the recently adopted European Union (EU) concept note on mediation states. Terrorism and radicalisation have become a more imminent security threat and tensions related to environmental degradation, irregular migration and forced displacement, are affecting the social fabric in fragile states in unprecedented manners. In its efforts to address the multifaceted challenges that conflict resolution and crisis management pose to us, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s combined foreign and defence ministries, has included cultural heritage, environmental peace building, gender equality, inter-religious dialogue and other issues previously absent of the mediation analysis as some of the new instruments in its conflict resolution toolbox.
The international system as we know it is in flux, and the rapid transformations which are currently taking place as a result of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic will have far reaching implications, not only for how international relations are conducted but for every aspect of our social and economic life. Non-state actors traditionally have been considered an anomaly or a disturbance to the existing international order, and the term is mostly applied to define terrorist groups or militias that are considered a threat to regional stability, whether they are truly non-state actor or operate at the behest of state patrons as proxies. The influence of non-state actors, however, is becoming so powerful, and so relevant in the shaping of policy in captured states, that the classic model of power competition among states does not quite work. The first systematic conceptualization of this new reality was presented back in the 1990s by the Chinese authors of the controversial Unrestricted Warfare (1999). Colonel Qiao Liang and his co-authors identified financial power, religious terrorism, organized crime, and data technology as the new battlefields of modern conflict.
The real game changer is that states are no longer the only protagonist in the global order: they have to deal with the increased power and influence of transnational corporations, of which Big Tech is the ultimate example; private military forces and militias; transnational terrorist organizations; and the staggering wealth of criminal groups and drug cartels. The privatization of surveillance technology and military services is probably the clearest symptom that even global powers need to rely on these private corporations to conduct warfare, something that is changing the nature of international relations.
According to United Nations (UN) data, over 60 percent of conflicts have relapsed in the last decade, a staggering figure that testifies of the difficulty of conflict resolution in this context. More than 80 percent of conflicts over the past thirty years have involved militias, either pro-government or insurgent groups, while the more recent rise in transnational violent extremist groups has prompted an even greater reliance on these groups. These forces have played crucial roles in helping governments win back territory or consolidate battlefield strength; simultaneously, they exploit conflict situations for their own economic and political gain. They may become spoilers to any peace process that would curtail those benefits, especially where they are excluded in political talks and integration deals. In this environment, mediation and Track II diplomatic initiatives will become increasingly relevant tools for conflict resolution. It is clear that we need a fresh approach to how these organizations become stakeholders in the increasingly common hybrid states, often ending up as the most relevant decision-makers in the security sector and even in economic and foreign policy. In our polyarchic world, crisis management and conflict resolution can’t be addressed effectively without finding new models that include those actors.
Despite all the challenges described above, effective mediation and conflict resolution mechanisms are increasingly relevant, as the number of people affected by conflict and violence grows. Civil wars are leading to more protracted conflicts with ethno-cultural components that complicate the traditional political approach. The combination of great power competition, regional struggles for hegemony, and the proliferation of non-state actors create interlocking and multi-layered conflicts that impact international peace and stability. At the same time, these elements are challenging the traditional approaches, as recognized by the new strategic plan of the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs 2020-2022. The international multilateral order is being questioned from many different quarters, while the wave of global protests shows the exhaustion of the current economic and political models, as well as the need for a new social contract.
Traditional diplomacy and intergovernmental conferences are increasingly ineffective to address the current problems of conflict resolution. The role of the UN has been weakened by the combined efforts of revisionists states and some of the traditional great powers. New alliances and more results-oriented processes have to be put in place to bridge the gap between international principles and the demands of civil society and the new international actors. Track II dialogues and mediation initiatives are increasingly used, operating through coalitions of UN agencies, international mediation actors, the EU, and like-minded states. The redefinition of the conceptual framework and the mediation toolbox that the UN and the EU are currently engaged in is a particularly important process in the foundation of a new multilateral system.
This essay will concentrate on these new instruments, with a particular focus on the Middle East, the region of the world where a disproportionate number of the conflicts outlined above take place. Paradoxically, there is a shocking imbalance between the number of mediation initiatives in the region and the local inputs and context-specific narratives in the field. Building local capacities has been largely neglected and the culturally rooted tools are often disregarded. Cultural heritage, material and immaterial, as well as environmental peacebuilding, intercultural and interfaith dialogue could be effective entry points in the conflict cycle in a new approach that includes more empathic and emotional components in the peacebuilding process.
Artificial Intelligence, Tech Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution
Rather than two “sides”, conflicts increasing consist of a multiplicity of new actors, further eroding the international system and creating a globalized environment that is increasingly disoriented. Polyarchy has replaced the structured power relations of the bipolar order. States with diminished sovereignty and powerful non-state actors are engaged in new relationships that, combined with the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and new digital tools, will change the nature of international dynamics.
The new forms of warfare are bringing information technology platforms to the forefront of regional conflicts as parties. The most novel players in this new world are technology and social media corporations. These firms specialize in surveillance—whether voluntary or involuntary. Firms such as Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn use voluntary surveillance—living on the data that users voluntarily allow them to access. However, as demonstrated on numerous occasions, this data can also be used to manipulate users by providing information that is skewed or simply false. On the other end of the technology spectrum are firms that use involuntary surveillance—using data without the user’s knowledge, whether that data is public or private, and can be accessed legally or illegally.
Though there is a distinction between voluntary and involuntary, any “big data” system can be used for predictive analytics, to surface subconscious behavior patterns. Even without hacking, the consolidated picture from correlated publicly traded data can give insights that would often disturb the individuals involved. The impact of the COVID-19 tracking of personal data is only the most recent example of the potential of these surveillance technologies. This scenario will be significantly amplified by the expansion of 5G related sensor-fed real time flows and smart cities operating on huge data collection systems.
AI is emerging as a field with a potentially huge impact on politics, society, and the economy—an influence which ultimately stretches to international and diplomatic relations. In response to AI’s widely acknowledged impact on global diplomacy, awareness must be raised about what has been defined as tech diplomacy, and especially AI’s influence on mediation, peace-making, and conflict resolution. It is becoming increasingly relevant to explore potential synergies and collaborative approaches between the diplomatic and technology communities. AI is increasingly used in the conduct of warfare, intelligence, and disinformation operations, but it could also become a powerful instrument for monitoring the effect of those campaigns that have turned social media into the new battlefield of our time and channel positive messaging that would contribute to conflict prevention and resolution.
Successful conflict resolution depends on a real understanding of the needs and desires of others, their mindset, and the cultural context. This is compromised today by human cognitive limitations and the fast pace of change within complex conflict scenarios, where decision-makers are hard pressed to acquire the required expertise. Governments and NGOs can use AI to simulate humanitarian solutions based on expert cultural and conflict resolution knowledge. AI can provide peacekeeping support tools for emergency responders on the ground. Responders can also draw on AI for training, complexity management, and knowledge sharing, ensuring effective humanitarian responses during a conflict and fair (and therefore sustainable) resolutions afterwards.
Global technological governance is still in its infancy, and the questions far outnumber the answers today. AI poses challenges to democracy, cybersecurity, cyber-diplomacy, and human rights. AI is already changing the face of conflict. As regards security and defence—including the management of insurgencies and organized non-state actors—AI technology can alter the costs of conflict, accelerate the operational tempo, raise the risk of escalation, increase the perceived risks of surprise attacks, enhance access to intelligence among warring parties, and shift public opinion about involvement in conflicts. It also brings new stakeholders into the crisis management process that have the technical expertise required to apply AI methodologies in pre-conflict, conflict, or post-conflict monitoring. Additionally, authoritarian states, where data collection restrictions are laxer, will have more access to consistent big data and be able to take advantage of AI in warfare. Therefore, new conflicts may arise about who has control over online data collection and access.
AI changes the conditions of information flow, which has major implications for conflict dynamics, often in favour of the party that controls the data. Nevertheless, it could also help redress the asymmetricity of information, which is central to mediation in conflicts where actors have imperfect information about the other party’s culture, resources and resolve. Increased transparency can then help to build trust between parties. Mediators need to have an accurate picture of what and how much information is available to the parties to the conflict, as well as whether they are applying AI-based tools to access intelligence.
AI is changing the space where conflict takes place and the form, means, and timing of responses to such disputes, through the use of computer programs that analyse huge amounts of data to discover knowledge in the shape of patterns. AI can generate scenarios to predict and/or clarify human behaviour, a potential that is already being used by companies to manage corporations and shape markets. We have also seen that it also has applications to gain political influence, conduct psychological warfare, and assist in population control. However, even if it could be equally useful for averting, pre-empting, or reshaping conflicts, it cannot replace the personal process of building trust and creating emotional bonds that is at the heart of mediation.
Foreign policy experts and mediation practitioners need to develop a conceptual framework and clear rules for this new instrument before their unregulated use distorts the whole architecture of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. There is a need to explore ethical, constructive, and transparent AI applications, and identify the possible downsides of these methods. AI technologies can be tools that help human negotiators effectively apply human skills, but they can also alter human interaction, as we have seen with the use of autonomous weapons systems in counter-terrorist operations. Their success will depend on the mediation practitioner’s ability to gain the consent and trust of the parties at conflict
The potential applications of AI by mediators could be defined as: (1) knowledge management and background research; (2) improvement of practitioner understanding of specific conflicts and actors, e.g. through social media data sentiment analysis based on natural language processing; and (3) broadening the inclusivity of the peace process by monitoring the views and opinions of the wider population.
The most promising of the three potential applications of AI by mediators is the first, knowledge management and background research. This application poses fewer problems than the other two, where, from both an ethical and a pragmatic standpoint, mediators require the consent of the parties to the conflict. Consent is at the heart of mediation, as it is the parties to the conflict that will be subject to and implement any peace agreement. Conflict solutions imposed by third parties or any other regional or international stakeholder have been found to be less likely to work.
The use of AI technologies continues to raise ethical and practical concerns but its use in active conflicts and peace processes has already begun. We only know about a fraction of those actors using this technology, such as the UN, but there are many other actors that do not declare openly when they move in this shadowy world. The UN’s Innovation and Technology Unit of the Field Technology Section has launched a Big Data Analytics and Digital Media Support Project in Somalia and the UN’s Middle East Division (MED) has already been working with a machine learning-based system for detecting and analysing public opinion in the Arab world. Apart from ethical issues, the question is whether AI-based instruments can improve peace practitioners’ understanding of conflicts and provide access to the broader population to which mediators do not have access. Still, the debate will focus on the fact that active social media users may not be representative of the population as a whole, calling into question the validity of AI-related outputs in the process and the distorting effects that its use may entail.
Hybrid States and Hybrid Medition in the Middle East
The Middle East has been in turmoil since 2011 as a result of uprisings that rocked existing political structures in the Arab world. The series of events that followed are much deeper than a change of political elites or replacement of authoritarian rulers, but rather, a systemic crisis that has shaken the foundations of the regional order and the legitimacy of state institutions. The situation in the Middle East offers a particularly stark example of how this crisis can accelerate a process of authority fragmentation, institutional collapse, mismanagement, rampant corruption, and failed governance. Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen can be considered test cases of this neo-medieval model of fragmented authorities and overlapping loyalties, in which non-state actors are already the main decision-makers.
The context in which non-state actors are operating is defined by the demise of the social contract between the citizens and the state as a result of complex socio-economic changes. The failure of the economic systems in most Arab countries to offer jobs and services to bulging populations with uncontrollable demographic growth fuels discontent that is changing political dynamics. The other factor that limits the State ability to react to those challenges is the sclerosis of political systems based on authoritarian models. The impact of social media in consolidating the recent protests movements in the region has been a surprise to the traditional elites of the States affected, who have dealt with it in the only way they know how, by the old conspiracy theories of foreign interference and destabilization operations.
Non-state actors are claiming the space left vacant in the political, security, and social arenas, creating parallel structures and organizations that can claim more effectiveness that the state. Even in the Arab political systems that survived the shocks of 2011, the growing power of tribal, sectarian, and ideologically inspired groups is changing their inner workings. In the countries where the state collapsed, like Libya and Yemen, the increasing influence of tribal warlords and ideologically motivated militias will shape regional dynamics for a long time to come.
The traditional approach to policy-making and regional security does not work in the way it used to in the dynamic and unstable situation of the Middle East today. Inter-governmental organizations, be it the Arab League, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), or the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) have been side-lined in the management of regional affairs. On the other hand, non-state actors cannot be simply dismissed as temporary anomalies or dangerous spoilers that impede effective governance. Many of these groups are sustained by occupying the void left by dysfunctional state institutions and predatory political elites. Their capacity to mobilize support among local constituencies gives them some sort of legitimacy and their ability to control a certain territory provides a quasi-state character to them. There are important differences between organizations that receive their authority from centuries old tribal traditions or religious authority and terrorist groups or criminal organizations, but often the boundaries are blurred in the conflicting political landscape and shifting alliances of the Middle East., making it difficult to design a “one size fits all” methodological approach.
What we are witnessing is a transformation of the traditional state into what is now defined as a “hybrid state” in which there is no monopoly of force from official security structures. Decision-making is channelled through state institutions but made elsewhere by actors outside the formal legal system. State institutions remain in place but the operating system has been modified to accommodate the interests of those influential players that prefer to remain in the shadows. When trying to understand hybrid actors in hybrid states, such as the Popular Mobilization Units or PMU (al-Hashd al-Sha’bi) in Iraq, it is unhelpful to think in terms of rigid binaries between state and non-state, formal and informal, legal and illicit. Armed militias, terrorist groups, and criminal organizations thrive in the gray areas of the war economy, which results from a combination of sanctions, armed conflict, and state-controlled economies that have plagued the Middle East for years.
The best example of illegal economic activities financing a political project is given by the Islamic State (ISIS), a ruthlessly effective organization that plundered and traded all the resources at their disposal using existing sanction-evading networks and creating new profitable partnerships. In Syria, conflict has paved the way for new groups and elites to control territory and generate revenues. In Yemen and Libya, armed groups have been able to capture state resources and infrastructure, developing lucrative streams of revenue. In Iraq, the grey area between groups that are nominally affiliated with the state and a well-established shadow economy continues to shape political developments. Chatham House’s Countering Conflict Economies in MENA is an important contribution to a new approach that brings the submerged world of these non-state actors into the analytical light. A thorough mapping of the extent of those connections between politics and shadowy economic systems is critical to undermining the incentive structures that perpetuate conflicts in the Middle East.
Cultural Heritage and Conflict Resolution: A New Context-Specific Mediation Approach
Cultural heritage has become part of the expanded battlefield and unrestricted warfare of the conflicts of our age, as multiple actors struggle to reshape the political narratives and the identity lines of increasingly fractured societies. The brutal actions of ISIS against minorities or against cultural heritage were neither random nor irrational, but a calculated strategy to shape a new political identity. If we ignore that or treat it as an anomaly, and do not reverse those actions decisively with well-designed initiatives, we would not only be losing memories of our past but the inspiration of our future. The project of Reviving the Spirit of Mosul, jointly implemented by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the EU is a good example of how cultural heritage can be a key component of peacebuilding and community reconciliation. As part of the overall redefinition of the role and practices of the UN in peacebuilding and conflict resolution, UNESCO launched the Cultural Heritage for Peace initiative last December, directed at articulating all the different international conventions on this matter in a more operational manner.
Tensions around cultural issues are a good indication of impending conflict, frequently becoming the catalyst for underlying conflicts to burst into the open. The are many examples of that, sometimes obscured by the later bloodbath. For example, the most brutal part of the Iraqi sectarian killings was triggered by the blowing up of the Samarra shrine, and the destruction of the Babri Mosque in India was the tool to ignite intracommunal violence that lasts until today. Destruction of religious sites in Nagorno-Karabagh became a lasting source of grievance that allowed the war to reignite. In this context, the attacks against synagogues in the West, and the dynamics that underlie this resurgence of antisemitism, augur ill if not addressed properly.
Prevention of violent conflict is fundamental in addressing the security challenges facing Europe, in its neighbourhood and beyond, and at the same time it enables political and social advancement and human security. Preventive diplomacy serves to prevent conflict from arising between parties and to avoid the escalation and spread of conflict once it breaks out. Mediated processes and dialogue can be a key pathway to peace by addressing emerging crises and conflicts at an early stage, and have the merit of handling tensions before positions have become entrenched. Preventing conflict is one of the most difficult aspects of mediation, because it requires a certain degree of foresight and anticipation.
Conflict weakens the cultural infrastructure of countries and the capacity of states, communities, and peoples to address cultural collapse. It ruptures and disconnects people from the environment in which they live, as well as fracturing society, causing instability, internal displacement, and deteriorated local economies and livelihoods. The concomitant loss of cultural heritage—viewed here as an embodiment of human development and manifested through tangible and intangible—can be permanent and the ensuing cultural erasure fundamentally changes the character of states and societies.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East, where the destruction and/or transformation of cultural heritage is an outcome of the changed politics in the region. New systems of organising state and society, and the rise of new state, quasi-state, and non-state actors are reshaping the future of the region, and as they arise they seek to creating differentiating narratives for themselves as a form of political legitimacy, whether it is around cultural, ethnic or religious identity, and to support these political objectives, cultural heritage is weaponized. The crafting of singular and non-pluralistic narratives is reflected in state policy and interventions in society, creating unprecedented cultural appropriation, neglect, and transformation of cultural sites and intangible cultures, in ways that will shape the future of our societies.
A new EU agenda based on the convergence of heritage and peacebuilding, conflict prevention, and mediation and dialogue can underpin international support to help rebuild societies. Cultural heritage heralds a new opportunity for the revitalisation of peace work. Peace-oriented heritage approaches should attempt to strengthen degraded cultural heritage infrastructures on the basis of diversity and human dignity. Anchoring international support on essential heritage priorities will support existing structures, people, and institutions, and reap visible benefits. A cultural heritage approach to peacebuilding should bring otherwise disparate themes, projects, and tools within the ambit of a guiding framework to inform the EU’s engagement in conflict resolution, as stated in the new Strategy for Cultural Heritage in Crisis and Conflict.
Inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue have been a response to the dramatic events of 11 September 2001, when the attacks by Islamist terrorists heralded to some the advent of a cultural conflict as a replacement for the ideological divide of the Cold War. The theory of a “clash of civilizations,” an endless struggle between incompatible civilizations, took root in some quarters, and for some it was the true underpinnings of the War on Terror. This was not the only approach, however. There have been different initiatives launched in the twenty years since 9/11 to try to bridge the cultural divide. The Alliance of Civilizations was established in 2005 as a key component of the peace and security agenda of the UN. The new action plan of the Alliance of Civilizations 2019/2023 is focused on conflict prevention, mediation, and the fight against radicalization and terrorism, but it is still not being effectively implemented; this has been made worse by the pandemic, though it had insufficient resources and political support before that.
Spain’s New Innovative Approach To Mediation
The EU has a comparative advantage in the field of the new conflict resolution strategies not just because of its considerable resources and expanded toolbox of mediation instruments but mostly due to its credibility as an honest broker without a hidden agenda. As one of the countries that has made the peaceful resolution of conflicts the core of its foreign policy, Spain has an important role to play in the integrated approach that defines the role of the EU as a mediation pillar of the new multilateral system. The new EU concept note on mediation, adopted on 7 December 2020 by the Foreign Affairs Council is a ground-breaking conceptual framework for the future of EU conflict resolution initiatives. Adopting new thematic lines such as environmental peacebuilding, addressing the challenges of IT and digital platforms, supporting the international agenda for women, peace and security, and incorporating cultural heritage as an effective point of entry in the conflict cycle, the EEAS is now at the cutting edge of a more holistic and comprehensive mediation handbook.
After the transition to democracy in 1976, Spain built its foreign policy around the principles of the peaceful resolution of conflicts and the promotion of democratic values and political dialogue. Using its ability to connect across cultural and geographical divides, Spanish diplomacy broke with decades of isolation and defensiveness to become an influential actor in the peace processes in Central America, support the Arab-Israeli negotiations, and promote a space of cooperation in the Mediterranean. This could be seen in the Madrid Conference in 1991 that kickstarted the Middle East Peace Process, the launching of the Ibero-American Project in 1992, the Euro-Mediterranean Summit of Barcelona in 1995 that created a space of regional cooperation, and the signing of the Guatemala Peace Agreement in 1996 that signalled the beginning of the end of one of the most cruel and bloody wars in Central America. In 2004, the Centro Internacional Toledo para la Paz became one of the leading international organizations in mediation and private diplomacy and that same year the Alliance of Civilizations, promoted by Spain and Turkey, started its first steps as part of a new UN initiative to bridge the growing cultural divide.
Spain has a long track record in the promotion of inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue. The Three Cultures Foundation, created in 1998 by Morocco and Spain with the participation of the Peres Center for Peace in Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, became a rallying point for those in favor of reviving the spirit of tolerance and cross fertilization between Jewish, Christian, and Muslim civilizations that created one of the most brilliant cultural phenomena in modern history. The Baremboin-Said foundation was another landmark project that the Andalusian regional government and the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs supported in 2004, based on the idea of Daniel Baremboin and Edward Said to use music as a bridge between Arabs and Israelis to build a new partnership that filled the gaps in the political process and promoted understanding and cooperation. The King Abdallah Center for Inter-religious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), established in 2012, was an initiative of Saudi Arabia, Austria, and Spain to promote dialogue and foster peace based on inter-faith dialogue and understanding.
The internal transformation of Spain was also inspirational for many international actors, who felt that the Spanish political transition to democracy offered a useful model to find political solutions and social consensus for creative change. All those initiatives and the political capital they created remain relevant and offer important assets for Spain to redefine its role in the new context of mediation, conflict prevention, and conflict resolution. Mediation is certainly in a process of deep transformation, and both the UN and the EU are adapting their tools and strategies to the new reality of more complex and protracted conflicts described above. Spain certainly is taking note of the need to join those efforts and participate in the new alliances that are required to push for a renewed and invigorated multilateral system with conflict resolution at its core.
The conflict prevention and conflict resolution of the next decade must be more holistic, comprehensive, and culturally sensitive. Incorporating lessons learnt and addressing the challenges that AI and digital platforms pose is no more a choice; it is a necessity.
A vital requirement is to incorporate women fully into the process of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. This begins with recognition, and must extend to the full empowerment of women and real gender equality. This element has been fully incorporated in the conceptual framework developed by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from the Feminist Foreign Policy Handbook to the multilateral and humanitarian diplomacy strategies. The proposals that Spain is putting forward in mediation and conflict resolution incorporate feminist elements as a cross-cutting issue, as well as a specific objective.
A new EU agenda based on the convergence of heritage and peacebuilding, conflict prevention, and mediation and dialogue can underpin international support to help rebuild societies. A cultural heritage approach to peacebuilding should bring otherwise disparate themes, projects, and tools within the ambit of a guiding framework to inform the EU’s engagement in conflict resolution. At this juncture, Spain is actively involved in the process led by the EEAS, supporting the multilateral agenda in the field of conflict prevention and resolution. With a unique capacity to connect different cultural systems due to its own multi-layered historical background, Spain can play a key role in mediation initiatives. The Toledo Network is a symbol of that rich and complex history that, to this day, is a reference of inter-cultural cross-fertilization and co-existence between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The Translator’s School of Toledo was the seed from which European Renaissance grew and now the Toledo Network Project brings that spirit back to life with the International Training Center of Cultural Heritage for Conflict Resolution.
Celebrating an international conference on cultural heritage in Toledo in October 2021, as a follow up of recent steps taken by EEAS and UNESCO, would be an opportunity to discuss the ways in which the role of cultural heritage can be better understood in the prevention and resolution of conflict, and the challenges and opportunities it represents to build trust between parties to conflict. Building on the EU’s experience in Iraq as a case-study, a report elaborated by the EEAS last year analyses the main components of a possible EU strategic approach to cultural heritage protection and enhancement as a tool for conflict prevention, peace building, dialogue, and mediation—in the Middle East and beyond. Council Conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) adopted a new EU concept note that includes cultural heritage as an operational tool in conflict resolution, both as a cross-cutting issue and as specific instrument in the mediation toolbox, to be followed by a EU Strategy on Cultural Heritage and Conflict Resolution. This new approach requires the development of a methodological framework, the creation of partnerships between heritage experts and mediation practitioners, and the refinement of tools to operate on the ground and identify specific initiatives to support the process in the long run. That is the foundation of the Toledo Platform for Cultural Heritage and Conflict Resolution, an innovative proposal that will be launched in Toledo, as an international hub that can contribute to the new awareness that conflict prevention and resolution requires.
European Eye on Radicalization aims to publish a diversity of perspectives and as such does not endorse the opinions expressed by contributors. The views expressed in this article represent the author alone.