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Straus Global Conference Considers ADR Solutions to International Stalemates

On November 11 the Straus Institute hosted a global conference titled "International Stalemate: Dispute Resolution and Diplomacy," in collaboration with the Weinstein International Foundation. The event explored how principles from mediation and dispute resolution may play a role in diplomatic interventions to long-standing conflicts on the world stage. The event drew a large number of in-person and virtual attendees, which included students, faculty, alumni, and ADR professionals from around the world. 

The day began with welcome remarks by dean Paul Caron, Sukhsimranjit Singh, and Judge Danny Weinstein (Ret.), the founder of the Weinstein International Foundation, who also serves as Distinguished Mediator-in-Residence at Straus. The first panel—featuring Ambassador David Carden, Professor Colleen Graffy, and Singh—explored conditions that contribute to stalemate. Carden discussed the conditions that led to stalemates that he witnessed as the US Representative to the Association for Southeast Asian Nations. Professor Graffy gave examples of some modern-day stalemates on maritime disputes and shared strategies from ADR that may have contributed to their resolution. Singh focused on the importance of listening, perspective taking, and empathy in his remarks, which highlighted how polarization has contributed to stalemates, both domestically and abroad. 

The second panel, was comprised of professor Trey Childress and Ambassadors Morse Tan and C. J. Mahoney. Each panelist shared ways in which they negotiated around specific stalemates in their diplomatic capacities. Mahoney discussed his work as US trade representative in negotiating the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Tan talked about how stalemates have real-life consequences for people, sharing from his family’s experience in fleeing the North Korean regime. Moderator Childress discussed his work as the 28th counselor on international law to the legal adviser at the US State Department. 

Judge Ann Williams (Ret.) shared commentary following the first panel discussion, sharing how stalemates of injustice—particularly in Africa where she has done significant work—can be resolved through dedicated advocacy and collaboration. Professor Tom Stipanowich also shared a keynote address titled, “Diplomacy: the Lincoln Way,” in which he shared lessons in diplomacy from Abraham Lincoln’s life, including how he negotiated the 14th Amendment to end slavery. 

The afternoon panel featured mediators in the field, including Sofia Ramyar and Helen Winter (LLM '17), who have worked extensively to promote conflict resolution education to refugees in Germany and from Afghanistan. Two senior fellows from the Weinstein Foundation,- Ihsanullah Khan and Mushegh Manukyan, also joined virtually from Pakistan and New York, respectively. The mediators shared their work and strategies they employed in the field to break stalemates and divisions between conflicting parties and communities. Judge Rebecca Westerfield moderated the fascinating conversation. A visiting delegation of judges and professionals from the Ugandan judiciary was in attendance, and Uganda's chief justice, Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, provided remarks to the audience, sharing his support of the partnership between his institution and the Straus Institute. 

The conference’s keynote discussion featured Carden, former US national security advisor  Ambassador Robert O’Brien, and Pepperdine University president Jim Gash (JD '93). Singh moderated the conversation. The panelists each shared their paths to peacemaking and both ambassadors shared insights from their careers in diplomatic service. Carden discussed the role that multilateral institutions can play in mitigating stalemates and the limits on their success. O’Brien discussed his work in negotiating the Abraham Accords as well as his work as special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, in which he negotiated the release of US citizens who were detained abroad. The riveting discussion enabled audience members to learn how principles in dispute resolution—listening, perspective taking, negotiation, and apology—can create momentum toward peaceful resolution.