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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Johanna Poutanen

“…my experience at Durham and IAS has been a unique opportunity for bridging the gap between theory and praxis in international peace mediation. The pioneering approach both by the IAS institute and the Durham Law School research project to engage fellows from practitioner profiles has garnered a great deal of positive attention in our field – and served as an important step (both symbolically as well as practically) in deepening connections between academic and practitioner communities.”

Ms Johanna Poutanen, Crisis Management Initiative

IAS Fellow at Hatfield College, Durham University (October - December 2019)

Johanna Poutanen is Head for Women in Peacemaking at the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI). CMI, founded by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate President Martti Ahtisaari, is one of the world’s leading independent organisations specialising dialogue and mediation. In her current role, Johanna Poutanen leads CMI’s work on strengthening women’s inclusion in peace mediation. This entails both tailored support to women’s participation in specific conflict prevention and conflict resolution processes, as well as enhancing gender sensitive mediation capacities of key actors in the field globally.

Johanna Poutanen has extensive experience in peace mediation and conflict management, with specialist expertise in women and youth participation in peace processes. Prior to her current role, she served as CMI’s Country Manager for South Sudan based in Juba 2013-2015; leading the country-level support to a high-level dialogue process within the ruling party, alongside cross-track dialogue initiatives with women parliamentarians and national youth leaders. Before joining CMI, she worked to support constructive cross-party dialogue in transition contexts with emphasis on youth and women’s participation. From 2007-2010 she was based in Kathmandu, Nepal, where she facilitated a pioneering dialogue platform among the major parties’ youth and student wings as part of the country’s peace process. She has also worked for a variety of international agencies in the field of peace and security, including the Strategic Planning Unit of the UN Secretary-General in New York and the Finnish Embassy in Nepal; and grassroots dialogue initiatives in e.g. Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Kenya.

Johanna Poutanen holds an M.Sc. degree in Diplomacy and World Politics from the University of Helsinki; and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she pursued advanced studies in conflict, democracy and negotiations as a Fulbright scholar. During her academic studies, she has received numerous scholarships for academic excellence, including Fulbright ASLA and Rotary graduate grants.

During her stay in Durham, Johanna Poutanen will take part in an IAS sponsored project, Mediation for the 21st Century: connecting the local and the global, which is led by Dr Catherine Turner (Durham Law School) and Dr May Darwich (Government and International Affairs). With an overarching focus on gender in peace mediation, her research focuses on the interplay between women’s political agency and specific mediation strategies and frameworks. Drawing on her practitioner’s standpoint and first-hand experience, she will explore the theme through empirical case studies, such as the recent mediation process in South Sudan. She is particularly interested in exploring how our understanding of modern mediation can be enriched with perspectives drawn from democratic theory. This timely project will undoubtedly provide important opportunities to inform both theory and praxis of peace mediation, and to this end, Johanna Poutanen is looking forward to collaborating with Dr Turner and Dr Darwich, and the team of esteemed scholars and other practitioners of international standing.

Public Lecture - Peace processes revisited: From negotiating conflict towards democratizing peace


Today’s peace processes have become ever more complex – involving various stakeholders negotiating multiple issues on multiple levels. Indeed, peace mediation is increasingly moving away from brokering limited deals between small groups of military and political leaders behind closed doors. The calls for inclusivity demand that a broader range of actors have a say in shaping the future of their country.

Has the increased complexity and ambition of mediation fundamentally altered the nature of peace negotiations? Can we talk about ‘negotiations’ when peace processes are increasingly about crafting a new social contract and political system for the country rather than simply negotiating the division of power? And fundamentally, is it possible to design peace processes that go beyond elite power sharing deals between armed groups, and engage a broader range of national stakeholders, such as women and youth?

This public lecture is part of broader research project on Mediation for the 21st Century and combines both theoretical and empirical insights from recent peace processes in contexts such as South Sudan and Yemen to analyze today’s mediation praxis. Whereas much of mediation scholarship has been approached from the perspective of international relations or negotiations theory, this lecture views inclusive peace mediation through the lens of democratic theory. It is suggested that applying ideas of democratic representation and deliberation to the context of peace negotiations may help to shift the focus from normative to substantive matters: what and whose interests should be represented in mediation processes? How and under which conditions?

This lecture is free and open to all.

Directions to Hatfield College

Map – Hatfield College is denoted as building No. 20.