I have just witnessed in Colombia the violent aggression and brutal forces used against the Venezuelans a few days ago. Armed forces and pro-government gangs known as “colectivos” were shooting against their own people and burning the humanitarian aid! They were only trying to bring into the country the food and medicines needed by more than 300,000 people in critical conditions. 

The current debate taking place about this situation in the international arena is about whether there should be a military intervention or not. I honestly think that you cannot resolve anything in life with violence. I am conscious of the fact that military intervention should always be avoided, and that military intervention has never been proven to be a good option to resolve conflicts. 

Which other options are there really on the table?

As a true believer of the Power of Mediation and Negotiation, and as someone who practices these on daily basis, and trains professionals around the world to do so, I would like to think that at least one of these processes is being considered as an option. However, for these to work, parties need to understand that:

1 - The nature of this process is voluntary. Parties must come to the table on a voluntary basis, and more importantly with goodwill.

2 - The purpose should be to reach an agreement, and for this parties must come with an open mind, be ready to do some active listening, and find a way to trust each other; and,

3 - The subject of discussion must be of something negotiable

Round tables of negotiations have happened in Venezuela in the past and consistently failed. Mediation attempts - even with the Pope - have also failed. Not one of these agreements was honoured, and there is nothing to suggest any of the principles mentioned above were present back then or would be in the future.

The truth is that when disputes have escalated to this level, and with such an absolute lack of trust, it is very difficult (not to say nearly impossible) to be able to get the parties to find a resolution, let alone a peaceful one.

Different options have been considered and applied. Diplomatic measures; economic sanctions against individuals connected to the government; international pressure by different States - none of these options seem to end in a solution.

At this point, it seems like the only option on the table, and one that remains available to Venezuelans to resolve this conflict, is military intervention; unless the Venezuelan Army as a whole decides to WAKE UP and finally comply with their constitutional duty to protect and defend their people by acting against the regime.

And so I wonder, in Mediation: 

How do you bring back to the table parties who are clearly in deadlock, and don't realise that what they think to be their BATNA (Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement) is actually worse than their WATNA (Worst Alternative to Negotiated Agreement)? 

Ana Virginia Bauder is an ADR Consultant, Trainer and Mediator at CEDR. To book her for a mediation email adr@cedr.com