The Oslo Forum 2009 took place against the background of a new optimism, largely heralded by the new US administration and its emphasis on civility in international relations. After a period of confrontation marked by the ‘war on terror’ and weakening of mediation efforts, there is now a renewed demand in many areas for diplomacy and negotiation. Yet, recent developments in Sri Lanka, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan demonstrate the concurrent strand of scepticism about the usefulness of dialogue in resolving some of today’s conflicts.