The practical guidance in this publication – the latest in HD’s flagship Mediation Practice Series – provides peace mediation and dialogue practitioners with ideas, options and strategies for finding creative entry points when launching peace processes or trying to break deadlocks in existing efforts.

Drawing on a wide variety of case studies and experience by seasoned peacemakers, the publication and three-page toolkit help peace practitioners design innovative and pragmatic responses to enter a context, start a new dialogue or mediation process or unblock a stalled process.

Essential points for practitioners

  • Look at creative entry points as strategic endeavours. Set clear objectives and strategies in advance (who to talk to and about what), while keeping a “trial-and-error” mindset.
  • Create and seize opportunities. Try different approaches to create an entry point, while maintaining awareness of opportunities for political momentum, but stay patient to avoid jumping into negotiations prematurely.
  • Apply methods and instruments that help your entry point develop into a process but be aware that changes in the context and the approaches of actors involved can dictate the pace, and the potential success and failure, of any entry point.
  • Be transparent towards the parties and give a clear prospect on what can be achieved when parties engage. This will help to avoid misperceptions and create trust. But maintain confidentiality as a prerequisite to protect this early stage. 
  • Be clear what to offer to the parties in order to get them, and keep them, engaged.
  • Be aware that entry points come with their own risks and limitations. These commonly include reputational, legal, political, security and process design issues. A risk mitigation strategy should therefore be part of your approach.
  • Look at entry points as valuable in their own right, separate from the main political process. By enabling a minimum engagement or progress on a less political or side issue, entry points can sometimes contribute to producing real (and unexpected) benefits for people affected by conflict.
  • Designing and using entry points might be challenging due to the necessity of using two or more different, sometimes contradictory, approaches at the same time or in sequence. Your overall consideration should be to balance various entry points carefully in order to stay flexible to changes in the context.