Insider mediators: establishing a pathway to peace in the Great Lakes Region

Dialogue has the power to transform communities and build bridges of understanding. For decades, persistent conflict in the Great Lakes Region has impacted all aspects of life: stability, development and the economy. But mediators now stand firm as advocates of hope for a peaceful future.

April 3, 2023


The Great Lakes Region has enormous socioeconomic potential thanks to its abundant natural resources and youthful population. However, the region also faces severe economic and political challenges with far-reaching effects on peace, security and governance. Recurrent conflicts and crises afflict the area, with tensions exacerbated by already-existing socioeconomic and security issues. These hurdles were further intensified by health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ebola outbreak.

In this context of shared historical and societal realities, interconnected conflicts in the region pose a challenge to state-building and nation-building. The slow transition towards political freedom and economic empowerment of citizens has led to cycles of violence that affect stability, development and economic progress.

Insider mediation has been utilized as a mechanism to achieving peace and stability by complementing national efforts with more proactive, flexible and locally embedded solutions and approaches. Insider mediation can be distinguished from more traditional mediation as it targets figures, groups or institutions internal to a conflict, using their influence and credibility to mediate, advocate for and facilitate Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Resettlement and Reintegration (DDR/RR) with armed groups. 

As part of the UN’s pilot initiative ‘Support for Peace and Security in the Great Lakes Region’, UNDP partnered with the International Conference on the Great Lakes region (ICGLR) to train insider mediators from across the Great Lakes Region on DDR/RR. Eighty-seven insider mediators, including 38 women and 49 men from eight countries, participated in the training and learning programme. With deep knowledge about the roots of conflicts in the region, equipping qualified individuals with the skills to mediate disputes and restore peace is essential to providing a credible voice for effective conflict resolution.

“The training helped us understand the role of an insider mediator in conflict situations like the one we are going through in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly in Goma. We are now in the process of creating a network of women from the Great Lakes region called Femmes Médiatrices Interne de la Région des Grand Lacs (FEMIRGL) to continue training women from this region on insider mediation and the reinforcement of the economic and social capacities of young people and women,” said Linda Babingwa, Gender Specialist, Union des Juristes Engages pour les Opprimés, la Paix et le Developpement (UJEOPAD-RDC).

We are now in the process of creating a network of women from the Great Lakes region to continue training women from this region on insider mediation and the reinforcement of the economic and social capacities of young people and women
Linda Babingwa, Gender Specialist, UJEOPAD-RDC

Building on existing partnerships is essential to developing and strengthening the capacities of insider mediators to support DDR/RR processes across regional, national and local levels. 

“This session provided an opportunity to discuss joint strategic priorities. As such, it is vital to strengthen coordination between ICGLR and the UN System to tackle the challenges faced in the region, including those posed by the activities of armed groups in the Great Lakes Region,” stated Jean Eudès Bisonga, Director of Peace and Security, ICGLR.

UNDP has made progress in supporting the ICGLR in implementing its Pact on Peace, Security and Stability in the Great Lakes Region, which serves as a legal framework and agenda for the ICGLR to create the conditions for security, stability and development among the ICGLR Member States. These partnerships are integral to creating sustainable solutions that promote peacebuilding and help communities affected by conflict build resilient futures.

“UNDP has had a longstanding partnership with ICGLR, especially the Peace and Security Department. Given the importance of the work done in the Great Lakes region, it is crucial to leverage opportunities to collaborate with partners in support of the region,” said Alessandra Casazza, Manager, UNDP Resilience Hub for Africa.

A joint strategic planning meeting held in January 2023 between the ICGLR and UNDP reflected on the continuity and prospects of the next phase of this promising project.