By Aisha Ado Abdullahi
Director, Abuja Chamber of Commerce Dispute Resolution Centre (ACC-DRC)
Preventive diplomacy may be described as action taken to prevent disputes from arising between parties or to prevent disputes from escalating into conflicts and also measures taken to limit the spread of the conflict when it arises. The actions or measures referred to here may take the form of; confidence building, fact-finding, early warning, swift response, de-radicalization and much more.
Preventive diplomacy can be informal, for instance months before the General elections in Nigeria different creative methods were adopted in anticipation of possible crisis which over the years has been characterized with the Nigerian election season. Messages were being creatively circulated in form of songs, jingles, videos clips, movies, posters e.t.c via different means of communication such as the conventional media, social media, associations platforms e.t.c on the implications or consequences of violence before, during and after the elections. The content and the methods used in disseminating the messages show clearly the powerful effect and positive impact of preventive diplomacy.
The Postponement of the elections just a few hours to the opening of the polls had serious security, economic and political consequences that would have been a trigger for serious conflict escalation around the country which would have jeopardized the peaceful conduct of the elections.
The press conference by the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission which provided a detailed explanation to the general public on the reason for the postponement and Stake holders given opportunity to voice out their grievances, to which INEC responded with an apology and assurance that the postponement was in the best interest of people. They promised to give updates on all activities to be carried out in preparation and that it will do everything humanly possible to ensure that hitch free elections were held on the new dates set. All contributed to serve as diplomatic preventive measures which resulted in general calming of the polity.
Preventive diplomacy can be formally implemented, for instance where local and international organizations participate in the electoral process as monitors and observers. A good example here will be the West Africa Network for peacebuilding (WANEP), a leading peace and security organization in West Africa working in partnership with ECOWAS and African Union to focus on monitoring and analyzing security threats including elections and electoral process in the ECOWAS member states. WANEP deployed high standard sophisticated structure and tools for observing and detecting early warning signs of violence and conflict. Where these were detected, effective, quick and swift action was taken to remedy the situation.This powerful tool for resolution of disputes can be applied in almost all circumstances where a dispute or crisis situation is anticipated, to resolve or manage it effectively and efficiently.
At the Dispute Resolution Center of Abuja Chamber of Commerce, we utilize preventive diplomacy to help parties avoid crisis that might otherwise be catastrophic to their business, causing irreparable damage. The International Trade Fair 2018 of Abuja Chamber of Commerce is usually a big event with participants from different countries and of all levels and categories ranging from large companies with presence worldwide like auto-mobile industry brands to Small and Medium Enterprises. In order to participate, every business must take up a space/stalls which was also sold according to size and location. A dispute arose between an exhibitor and an official responsible for managing and sale of space/stalls over the amount that petty traders were being charged. The matter was reported to us and we discovered that if it escalates, it may result in all petty traders being expelled from participating in the fair. We had to resort to preventive diplomacy and mediation to successfully enable the parties see that it is of utmost importance to settle the matter. The matter was settled amicably.