"Politics is not so much the way that we agree across the gulf of our differences, but rather the way in which we can express our disagreements without killing each other."
- Lord John Alderdice
What we do
The Oxford Process is a tried and tested conflict prevention and resolution programme developed over the past two decades. It works quietly behind the scenes with parties to conflict with the aim of bringing these together in a safe environment to ripen the conditions for official negotiations.
From its inception, the Oxford Process has employed a conflict resolution model that allowed it to adopt the role of a trusted third party, who did not take sides but acted as an independent broker. Its purpose has always been simple: to contribute to the prevention (ideally), or the cessation, of conflicts. It is agile and nimble, works away from the spotlight, and involves experts with government and non-government mediation experience. The process works with groups and individuals to break the spiral of violence.
Our team of in-house experts combined experience from both inside and outside of government at the highest levels, nationally and internationally. Individuals who had been in senior official positions, including recently retired senior diplomats, special advisors on technical issues (such as nuclear weapons). Translators are used as appropriate and documents are printed in the working language of the country e.g. Arabic or Farsi. Members of the team have high-level contacts with security officials who are made aware of our initiatives as appropriate.
The team offers new creative thinking, a capacity to add wise and credible voices and ideas to deadlocked situations and to help prepare individuals for the official negotiating table. All our team members have been chosen for their proven ability to work effectively, as third parties, with both state and non-state actors. Alongside existing ORG colleagues, our expanded core team of former diplomats and intelligence officers offer a range of specialist skills, from conflict mediation, psychology and the understanding of the human mind, to counter-terrorism strategy, conflict analysis and political communications.
Getting the right balance of skills is crucial. Any preventive diplomacy project needs to include representatives with deep understanding of, and close access to, policy-making processes in the relevant countries in which we operate. Sometimes it also means talking to the informal networks, or “deep state actors” and non-state or transnational groups who have real power behind the façade of ministries and diplomatic representation. This may be best achieved through dialogue-inclusive roundtables; at other times, it can be achieved using quiet behind-the-scenes networks to bring the right people together; often one-to-one meetings are key. Our work is always conducted discreetly and beyond the pressures of media and public posturing.
Initiatives are taken in consultation with the British government, or relevant governments as appropriate. Governments often cannot be seen to be involved in supporting such initiatives, for example, talking to Hamas or engaging Al Shabaab. They therefore can only give their quiet blessing and be well briefed on the outcome.
Traditional conflict resolution has aimed to create the conditions for trust building and the search for common ground. Experience has taught us that this may not always be possible and it is more realistic not to seek to change minds, but rather to establish areas of potential mutual self-interest.