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Mediation and Governance in Fragile Contexts: Small Steps to Peace

Dekha Ibrahim Abdi and Simon J. A. Mason
Mediation and Governance in Fragile Contexts: Small Steps to Peace
ISBN: 978-1-62637-776-9
ISBN: 978-1-62637-787-5
2019/241 pages
A Kumarian Press Book
"Few books tell one how to do things in reality—this book is one of them." —Sergio Jaramillo, high commissioner of peace in the Colombian peace negotiations, 2012‒2016

"An important book because of the wealth of practical insights regarding mediation, but also because it shows how a qualitative approach that strikes a balance between a focus on context and a focus on generic mediation theory can move mediation research closer to practice."—Allard Duursma, Conflict Trends

"For those of us who had the privilege of working with Dekha Ibrahim Abdi, Mediation and Governance in Fragile Contexts is a wonderful chance to hear once again the clarity, vision, and persuasiveness of her voice for peace. For those who never had the privilege of knowing her, this book is the next best thing."—Ken Menkhaus, Davidson College

"With this extraordinary book we finally have an embodiment of the voice of Dekha Ibrahim Abdi, whose charisma, persistence, and openness touched those she encountered, shifting destructive conflict patterns. Respectfully coauthored by Simon Mason, the book shows us how to use mediation as a grounded, well-networked, and strategic response to repeating patterns of local to national violence. I hope it is read far and wide." —John Paul Lederach, University of Notre Dame

"An absolutely brilliant book! Mediation and Governance in Fragile Contexts reveals a powerful, holistic framework for helping divided societies bridge their differences—showing how to create sustainable peace through linkage between short-term settlements and long-term structural solutions. In a world too often stuck in the myth of the quick fix, this book should be required reading by peacemakers of every ilk."—Daniel L. Shapiro, Harvard International Negotiation Program

"Mediation and Governance in Fragile Contexts shows us clearly how to involve all levels of society when working toward just and sustainable peace. I highly recommend it to all mediators and peacebuilders around the world."—Lt. Gen. Lazaro K. Sumbeiywo (Rtd.), mediator of the Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement, 2005

"At last there is a book that provides practical and complementary non-Western and Western approaches and strategies for mediation to address and resolve violent ethnic and political conflicts. Mediation and Governance in Fragile Contexts: Small Steps to Peace should be on every peacemaker's and peace researcher's desk … and in their briefcases and backpacks!" —Christopher W. Moore, CDR Associates, author of The Mediation Process: Practical Strategies for Resolving Conflict

"Dekha Ibrahim Abdi has been an enormous inspiration for peacebuilders in Kenya and beyond; may this book be read widely and deeply so her voice of wisdom continues to guide our struggle for peace and justice." —Tecla Namachanja Wanjala, former acting chair of Kenya's Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission

"This is a rare opportunity to read articulate and gripping grassroots stories about resolving violent conflict, and to get the inside track on what is actually involved in achieving sustainable peace. The case studies, complemented by a powerful, practical theoretical framework for international mediation, demonstrate the importance of engaging all levels of society [in the process]."— Pat Johnson, formerly Interpeace Somali Region


The result of a long collaboration between a Kenyan-Somali mediator and a Swiss scholar-practitioner, Mediation and Governance in Fragile Contexts introduces an innovative, practical approach to resolving an enduring issue: How can conflicts be resolved in polarized societies?

This approach breaks out of the insider/outsider dichotomy to develop a framework for achieving peace in the most challenging of contexts—a framework that unites outsider perspectives on mediation methodology with the rich experiences and reflections that only local peace practitioners can provide. The authors lay out the framework step by step, present case studies that show it in action, and clarify how local peace and security structures can act as a bridge between short-term mediation and long-term state-building efforts around the world.

Click here to explore more resources related to the book, including interviews and supportive documents, provided by coauthor Simon Mason.


Dekha Ibrahim Abdi’s path took her from teaching at a rural Kenyan school to being renowned as a global peacemaker. In 2007, she received the Right Livelihood Award (often referred to as the Alternative Nobel Prize), which honors "those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today." Simon J. A. Mason is senior researcher and head of the Mediation Support Team at the Center for Security Studies, ETH Zurich.


  • Foreword— Ambassador Heidi Grau.
  • Mediation and Governance in Fragile Contexts.
  • The SMALL Framework in a Nutshell.
  • Short-term Responses: Contextualized Mediation and Process Design.
  • Medium-term Responses: Developing Interim Peace Structures.
  • Long-term Responses: Toward a Peaceful State for All.
  • Linking Inner and Outer Peace: Effective and Authentic Peace Practitioners.
  • The Kenyan-Somali Context.
  • The Wajir Peace Process.
  • Mediating the Pokot-Samburu Conflict.
  • Mandera: Supporting a Mediation Process.
  • Mediation in the Kenyan Election Crisis.
  • Key Messages and Their Transfer to Other Contexts.