Towards Preventive Diplomacy: promoting prospects for mediation and peaceful settlement of disputes in the Asia-Pacific


CSCAP EU, CSCAP Malaysia, CSCAP New Zealand, and CSCAP Singapore

Introduction and significance of the study

Rising tensions in East Asia, stemming mostly from protracted and unresolved territorial disputes, represent a tangible threat to regional security as well as global stability. Given the common interest in mitigating current and containing future sources of conflict, regional multilateral organisations, especially the ARF, have emphasised the need for dedicated mechanisms for conflict prevention, including instruments for mediation, facilitated dialogue and conciliation. 

While examples of successful use of international legal mechanisms exist within the ARF region - such as the ICJ ruling on the dispute between Cambodia and Thailand, and mediation in Aceh and Mindanao - a number of issues remain contentious and, therefore, worth addressing. In full awareness of the varying interests and sensitivities among ARF member states, CSCAP should keep highlighting and documenting concrete Preventive Diplomacy (PD) mechanisms that have been accepted by the parties and should keep exploring and developing new concrete PD mechanisms that could be acceptable to all parties.

The CSCAP Study could be considered in view of the progress made at the forthcoming EU/ Brunei training event (September 2014), of the preparations for the ARF Track 1.5 Preventive Diplomacy symposium (proposed by Thailand and New Zealand) for 2015, and also of the 2015 Helsinki meeting of the ARF Expert and Eminent Person Group - which is set to provide recommendations for a manual on Preventive Diplomacy for the ARF.

Objectives of the study

The overall objective of the Study Group is to contribute to the ARF’s ambition to “move towards Preventive Diplomacy”, as defined by its 2013 Concept Paper. Given ARF progress to date it is now time to progressively move towards Phase II of the Preventive Diplomacy approach and focus on the specific tools that could be developed in consideration of the region’s unique diplomatic culture, and on their implementation.

This proposal would continue earlier CSCAP initiatives in this domain, specifically on the results of the recent ‘one-off’ Study Group on Preventive Diplomacy held in Myanmar in December 2013. Specifically, it builds on the ‘next steps’ from the report of that meeting and is intended to bolster the ARF’s knowledge of the training necessary to undertake Preventive Diplomacy through an examination of regional case studies and the lessons to be learned from them.

Anticipated output

·         An inventory of case studies relevant to the Asia-Pacific region with appropriate lessons learned taken from them;

·         An assessment of what works and what doesn’t based on the inventory;

·         A gap analysis matching current regional instruments against past PD activity;

·         Material to support ARF PD training and capacity-building activities in mediation and Confidence Building Measuress; and

·          Suggestions for new approaches to PD if these can be derived from the analysis

How does this proposed study group differ from previous studies undertaken by CSCAP in the past?

Previous CSCAP Study Groups have done substantial work on confidence building and preventive diplomacy (PD). The last initiative, co-chaired by US CSCAP and CSCAP Singapore, examined the evolution of preventive diplomacy in the ARF including its conceptualization, the status of the ARF Work Plan on Preventive Diplomacy, the institutional framework associated with its implementation, and practical examples of preventive diplomacy activity in the Asia-Pacific region.

The proposed Study Group would follow up on those past efforts by further elaborating on the prospects, drivers and challenges for the use of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes in the region. In other words, it would not differ from the previous study groups but rather provide continuity and flank the Preventive Diplomacy process within the ARF.

How does this study group relate to the on-going concerns of ARF ISMs? (for extension of completed mandate only)

The ARF Inter-sessional Support Group (ISG) on CBM and PD continues to emphasize the need to intensify study work on PD and to develop more specific recommendations and actions for governments to adopt. The ARF Preventive Diplomacy Work Plan of 2011 underlines the importance of partnering with mutually agreeable organisations on preventive diplomacy capacity-building programmes, experience-sharing, and training. The 2013 “Concept Paper on moving towards Preventive Diplomacy” further re-emphasises the need for familiarisation with PD mechanisms through learning and sharing before any implementation of activities in areas such as mediation, facilitated dialogue and conciliation. The proposed Study Group would seek to provide more specific guidance for facilitating the implementation of the Work Plan in the field of preventive diplomacy capacity-building.


Start: November 2014   End: November 2015


A Memorandum by this Study Group on Preventive Diplomacy: Promoting Prospects for Mediation and Peaceful Settlement of Disputes in the Asia-Pacific Region was approved. Download Memorandum No.30

1st Meeting: 27-29 April 2015, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Download the co-chairs' report.