"Inter-national" mediation for the process

Let's face it! We have a conflict! This is neither negative nor positive-- it is what it is. And this is normal between individuals and between peoples. At mediation sessions and university programs on peaceful conflict resolution they often explain the difference between problem, dispute, and conflict, as well as the dynamics generated in each case. For years now, the label "the Catalan problem" has served to minimize --and even deny-- the issue, and to attribute what is problematic to Catalonia. We're not faced with "the Catalan problem". We have a complex political conflict that affects much more than just Catalonia.

When I say "we have" I am referring to both Catalonia and the rest of Spain. And this "we have" will continue being true whether the status quo is maintained, we become a federal state, or we become sovereign states within the framework of the European Union.

It's normal that conflicts occur. The key is not so much avoiding them as managing them.

A year ago, Memorial Democràtic (Democratic Memorial) organized a symposium entitled "Catalonia in transition: from the past to the present". It was an attempt to create space for dialogue on the past Transition to democracy and the situation we are experiencing now. One of the topics covered was the question of the territorial organization of the State that emerged from the Transition. Different views were compared calmly.

Those who focus on the management of this conflict by thinking in terms of victory, or those who seek the defeat or surrender of the other party (terms that echo in more than just political circles) are mistaken. This mentality, in addition to being dualist--because if one party wins, someone must lose--, complicates an analysis depending on the time frame being looked at, which could be longer or shorter. Seventy-five years ago, General Franco proclaimed his victory over the Republic by militarily occupying Catalonia. His victory over the entire Spanish territory was made clear by an infamous dictatorship. With regards to Catalonia, this mentality focused on victory was also expressed by the suppression of Catalonia's self-rule, its institutions, and attempts to annihilate the Catalan culture and language. In the middle of the Transition and, remember, this was before the approval of the Constitution, Catalonia's Generalitat was reinstated as the only institution originating from the legality prior to the coup d'état, the civil war, and the dictatorship. What remains of the victories? Of the defeats? What came out of the failure of the coup by those fascist rebels? What do we prefer, the paradigm of force or the paradigm of negotiation / mediation / peaceful resolution of conflicts? Through experience we know that the paradigm of force doesn't work for resolving conflicts; they often just change shape and intensify. The current Catalan Statute was approved after passing through the wringer that is the Spanish parliament. The political groups that approved it had legal advisors who deemed it constitutionally valid. We all know what happened next: the people of Catalonia approved the text in a referendum, which the PP challenged in the Constitutional Court (TC), making use of the paradigm of force. It was force through the law, but force nevertheless. The paradigm of force reflects a failure of politics and of the paradigm of negotiation. Did the ruling of the TC solve our conflict? The PP, now the governing party with absolute majority, with the support of the PSOE, is using again this paradigm of force through the TC --apparently in a redoubled manner--, through other institutions and hypothetical courts of law. Can this solve our conflict?

Despite the many calls, there is no real dialogue, nor State negotiation. It's not possible to get out of this cul-de-sac by considering only each party's positions on the conflict. Only a calm approach appealing to interests and needs might generate new ways out of this blockage made up of demands, positions, and paradigms of force. The stronger-looking party in a conflict doesn't usually ask for mediation, and often, showing scant intelligence, resists participating at the beginning. If negotiation is blocked, why not look for a third party, discreet and knowledgeable, to facilitate a new dynamic for exploring new horizons? Why not bring in a mediator in conflicts? This approach was valid before 9N and is still valid today. It is even valid in unidirectional scenarios such as the imposition of the status quo by State institutions, or a unilateral declaration of independence by Catalan institutions.

Are we willing to explore new methods and contents that would allow us to negotiate and find a win-win solution, whatever the form of the State that could be adopted? There are excellent facilitators who could create the space and time for a fruitful mediation--both political and economic--, far away from offices and cameras. There are excellent international mediators who know Spain and Catalonia well, like the North American John Paul Lederach. At times, focusing intently for three days can save thirty months of dedication and energy.

This is not the time for using outdated or new stigmatizing labels. This is not the time for paradigms of force. These are times for high level politics, authentic democracy, and the paradigm of negotiation / mediation and peaceful resolution of conflicts. For our own sake and that of generations to come.